Written by Don and Peggy Doman
Immigrants, slaves, illegal residents and indigenous people all have reason to share bad memories of our American history. The land of the free has as many nightmares as it has dreams of success. How do we work our way through our past, our present and enter into the future? I’m not sure, but I think we are going to need time, to recognize our faults, and accept who we have been, who we are now and who we can become.
The movement Black Lives Matter is pushing a number of people’s buttons currently, and I think that’s a good thing. Currently, I am producing five videos for the Chinese Reconciliation Park Foundation. In case you know nothing about the history of Chinese residents in Tacoma, I’ll lightly skim over the incident. In 1885 incident, Tacoma’s mayor with business owners and other “upstanding” citizens ran as many Chinese residents as they could find out of town, uprooting their lives and businesses, strictly because of their race. They were taken to the train, then in Lakewood, and sent to Portland. Their homes and businesses were burnt down the next day. Of course, as we all should know, there is no such thing as race. We are all the same people.
On a recent Saturday morning I was listening to NPR on KUOW. It was about two sisters of Cherokee heritage who drove and visited places along the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of approximately 60,000 Native Americans in the United States between 1830 and 1850. The Cherokee were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States in 1838 and moved to the Indian Territory, which became Oklahoma in 1907. They walked all the way. Of the sixteen thousand Cherokee starting the journey, a quarter of them died on the way. The two sisters who look completely different from each other (their grandfather nicknamed them Injun and Swede) undertook a journey of the Train of Tears. If you have the opportunity, listen to them describe their journey on the Trail of Tears.
Injun and Swede – https://www.thisamericanlife.org/107/transcript –
It seems like every week we hear about one of our national heroes being excoriated for having faults. I think we all have faults in our past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are bad people. However, I do think we need to recognize that times change and what was acceptable a few years ago or two hundred years ago or thousands of years ago are not acceptable now.
The Biblical Israelites had slaves, and many of our founding fathers had slaves. We should find that abhorrent, but it doesn’t make them any less a hero for creating our country. America was almost torn apart and destroyed because of slavery and those states that withdrew from the nation in order to fight for enslavement. I had relatives who fought on both sides in the Civil War and other relatives that probably were forced to walk on the Trail of Tears. I think it was past time to remove the Confederate statues throughout the South. I can understand the resentment of those who have long carried and endured hatred and prejudice over the color of their skin. To fear the police because of the color of the skin is reprehensible.
What I find even more reprehensible is the fact that our “Land of the Free” incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. Our prison population is 2,193,798 people, which is 500,000 more than #2 – China, and two and a half times more than #3 – Russia. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2018 Black males accounted for 34% of the total male prison population, white males 29%, and Hispanic males 24%.
This is the total make-up of the U.S. population:
- Hispanic and Latino (of any race): 15.3%
- Non-Hispanic white: 63.4%
- Native Americans and Alaska Natives: 1.3%
- Black or African American: 13.4%
- Other designations: 5.6%
“Prison costs taxpayers $80 billion a year. It costs some families everything they have.” – https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/12/17/the-hidden-cost-of-incarceration
Think what $80 billion dollars a year could do to help our country.
A growing trend is profiting from locking people up: “The United States has the world’s largest private prison population. Of the 1.5 million people in state and federal prisons in 2016, 8.5 percent, or 128,063, were incarcerated in private prisons.1) Another 26,249 people -73 percent of all people in immigration detention- were confined in privately-run facilities on a daily basis during fiscal year 2017.2)” – sentencingproject.org/publications/capitalizing-on-mass-incarceration-u-s-growth-in-private-prisons/
Fact: 6.1M Americans are barred from voting due to felony disenfranchisement laws.
With 34% of our Black population spending their lives in prison and the another 66% worrying about being stopped for “driving while black” is it any wonder that a few Black Lives Matter supporters are angry? Really angry? And as a whole, they are not being listened to. Ignoring the problem only exacerbates the problem. It festers and eventually erupts. President Trump is using the anger to further himself by appealing to white voters. He claims we will see more rioting by BLM crowds if Biden is elected. The contradiction is that the rioting right now is happening while Trump is in office, while he ignores the problem by blaming Black, indigenous people and immigrants while positioning himself as the Law and Order Candidate. If Donald J. Trump is not re-elected and Biden and Harris are, then we will probably see some real dialog and change. I call it living while reasoning and planning . . . with an eye to the future . . . and a better world.
I still honor the contributions of our forefathers and foremothers to build our country. I also think we need to acknowledge their failings and faults, just as we need to fess up to ours. But I also think we need to remember them as creatures of their time. We need to strive to do better in our time.