From now through the election there is a lot happening. I am resuscitating the weekly “Political Calendar” to highlight efforts and groups we ought to pay attention to. You can subscribe to this calendar in your favorite calendar app and you can always find the latest version at https://ehrens.org/calendar.
Sunday September 20
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Malcolm Gracia Story: part 3
In 2012 fifteen year-old Malcolm Gracia was shot three times in the back and once through his head during the course of a "stop and frisk" later ruled illegal. Although both civil and legal options have already been exhausted, on August 30th Gracia family attorney Don Brisson began a four-part series presenting the entitled "The Malcolm Gracia Story: A Presentation of Evidence." There are two more presentations: September 20th and 27th.
On September 20th evidence on Malcolm’s stop by the NBPD gang unit and the “altercation” that purportedly occurred between Dct. Barnes and Malcolm will be presented. Please register for each week’s virtual presentation by emailing:
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II ─ We Can Not Accept This Anymore: The Price of Inequality
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President, Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign talks with the Watson Institute's Catherine Lutz, Professor of International Studies, Professor of Anthropology and one of the project directors for the Costs of War Project.
As protests, inequality, and anger continue to roil the United States, Rev. Barber will talk with Professor Lutz and the Brown community about building a broad-based grassroots social justice movement to confront systemic racism, poverty, environmental devastation, and the war economy in America today. He will discuss nonviolent civil disobedience, the problem of militarism and the misplaced priorities of federal spending on war, and the Poor People's Moral Budget.
Paramilitaries and the Far Right: Advancing a Vision of Civil War
Since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, PRA has documented over 180 incidents of armed far-right actors showing up at racial justice protests. They have threatened, harassed, and killed racial justice protesters, collaborated with the police, claimed to support police accountability, and shot and killed law enforcement personnel. We have been here before. Far Right paramilitaries have been a part of the American landscape since slave patrols, anti-Indian militias, “rangers,” and private company security forces evolved into modern day police departments.
Join us as we discuss how paramilitaries have recently become more numerous, visible, and active under the Trump administration. To keep our movements safe, we all need to better understand who these paramilitaries are, what threats they pose, and what to do when they are present.
Community Action Meeting on Racial Equity and Police Reform
United Interfaith Action of Southeastern MA in Partnership with the NAACP New Bedford Branch invites You to a Community Action Meeting on Racial Equity and Police Reform on Thursday, September 24, 6:30 - 8:00pm.
Join us with the Police Chiefs of New Bedford and Fall River as we begin our conversation and work together moving from protest, to policy, to power!
The 2020 Green-Rainbow Party convention will take place online via Zoom, due to the pandemic. The convention will consist of a series of exciting weekly workshops, beginning Saturday, August 8. These will be followed by a business meeting, including keynote speakers, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
In 2012 fifteen year-old Malcolm Gracia was shot three times in the back and once through his head during the course of a "stop and frisk" later ruled illegal. Although both civil and legal options have already been exhausted, on August 30th Gracia family attorney Don Brisson began a four-part series presenting the entitled "The Malcolm Gracia Story: A Presentation of Evidence." This is the final presentation.
On September 27th evidence surrounding the shooting and death of Malcolm will be presented. We encourage all to attend. Please register for the virtual presentation by emailing:
Within weeks of Joe Biden announcing a $3.5 trillion economic plan, the head of his transition team, former senator Ted Kaufman, told the Wall Street Journal: “When you see what Trump’s done to the deficit … forget about Covid-19, all the deficits that he built with the incredible tax cuts. So we’re going to be limited.” With Kaufman sounding the death knell of Biden’s economic plan and mentions of austerity cropping up across Europe as a possible approach to post-COVID recovery, the further dismantling of welfare programs, when people will need them most, seems imminent.
Join us for a deep dive on U.S. austerity with experts and movement organizers advocating for investment, not divestment, in the American people.
Mobilizing Misogyny in the Service of Authoritarianism
Mobilized in the 2016 election, misogyny has become a defining characteristic of the past four years. Manifesting in mass shootings, endemic in the treatment of prominent female political leaders, and bolstering White supremacy, misogyny is contributing to the steady rise of authoritarianism in the U.S. and abroad.
Join us for a discussion on how misogyny unites disparate sectors of the Right with experts and movement organizers who center feminist practice in building democracy.
Christian Zionism: The End Times Agenda in U.S. Domestic and Foreign Policy
President Trump’s administration flaunted numerous political norms and regulations during this year’s Republican National Convention; one of the most conspicuous instances was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s pre-recorded participation broadcast from the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. A clear violation of diplomatic norms, Pompeo’s participation sent a clear message to Trump’s evangelical Christian base: Christian Zionists occupy and will continue to occupy a place of influence in his administration.
Join us as experts and movement leaders discuss the deeply antisemitic, anti Muslim, and anti-democratic Christian Zionist movement, its outsized influence in the Trump administration, and the significant impact it has on domestic and foreign policy.
Democratic backsliding has accelerated in the U.S. over the past four years under a presidential administration and congress that has worked diligently to reverse environmental protections, civil and reproductive rights, diplomacy, and welfare programs, to name a few. During a global pandemic and recession, millions more Americans have entered an indefinite state of precarity with inconsistent messaging, inadequate protections, and condescending treatment ranging from disinterest to contempt being delivered from on high.
Join PRA on the eve of the 2020 election for a comprehensive look at the last four years under President Trump and his administration and the “what-ifs” of four more years to come.
Ballot Question 1 “would require manufacturers of motor vehicles sold in Massachusetts to equip any such vehicles that use telematics systems — systems that collect and wirelessly transmit mechanical data to a remote server — with a standardized open access data platform. Owners of motor vehicles with telematics systems would get access to mechanical data through a mobile device application. With vehicle owner authorization, independent repair facilities (those not affiliated with a manufacturer) and independent dealerships would be able to retrieve mechanical data from, and send commands to, the vehicle for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.” Massachusetts is just one of seventeen states where such legislation has been proposed.
As a former software developer this seems pretty reasonable to me. Most software services provide APIs (applications programming interfaces) that let developers and even normal users access that data. Such APIs give consumers access to their own data and provide the ability for third-party developers to create useful software.
But the “Coalition for Safe and Secure Data” (Safeandsecuredata.org) opposes open access to automotive repair data. Waving away the consumer’s right to their own data, the “Coalition” instead has decided to make it all about fear and danger. And they have chosen to disguise their real identities, portraying themselves as defenders of data privacy:
Question 1 has nothing to do with fixing cars. Question 1 is a data grab by third parties who want to gather your personal vehicle information and access it remotely, including location data in real time. Domestic violence advocates warn how dangerous this information could be. Jane Doe, the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, wrote, “Access to vehicle data, particularly call logs and GPS location, enables persons who perpetrate abuse to possess the tools necessary to track and monitor their victim.” A similar proposal failed in California after the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault warned, “from this information, a third party, such as a sexual predator, could stalk and/or harm victims.” Privacy advocates, cybersecurity experts, and domestic violence advocacy groups urge you to vote NO on Question 1.
Who the “Coalition’s” privacy advocates and cybersecurity experts are, they don’t say. But one search of opponents turned up the Security Industry Association, Apple, and the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA), which claims open standards in medical imaging “would increase the risk to patient safety.” These are all corporations and industry associations.
These scare tactics are what Apple Computer used when Nebraska wanted to make it easier for consumers to repair their own laptops. If Nebraska passed the legislation, Apple argued, the sky would fall and the state would become a haven for hackers. The tactics worked. Legislators abandoned their bill.
A camera slowly stalks a woman walking to her SUV in a desolate, empty parking garage. “If question 1 passes in Massachusetts, anyone could access the most personal data stored in your vehicle,” a narrator says. “Domestic violence advocates say a sexual predator could use the data to stalk their victims. Pinpoint exactly where you are. Whether you are alone …” The woman’s keys jingle as she approaches her car. The camera gets closer. The woman whips her head around. The stalker has found her. The screen flashes to black. “Vote NO on 1,” the narrator says.
But it turns out the real predators are America’s automotive giants.
The Alliance For Automotive Innovation seeded the “Coalition” with $42,672 and the Association of Global Automakers invested another $90,000. The remaining donors are exclusively North American automobile giants: BMW ($238,453); Chrylser ($2,190,919); Ford ($4,458,776); General Motors ($5,462,880); Honda ($2,966,420); Hyundai ($724,969.50); Jaguar ($15,687); Kia ($1,190,611); Mazda ($31,871); Mercedes-Benz ($200,000); Mitsubishi ($17,260); Nissan ($2,406,924); Subaru ($716,125); Toyota ($4,519,009); Volkswagen ($298,307); and Volvo ($10,710). All totaled, opposing Question 1 will cost the automotive lobby about $25 million.
Refuting the auto industry’s scare tactics, dozens of cybersecurity experts from securepairs.org, including cryptologist Bruce Schneier and former DOD security expert Robert Ferrell, dismiss industry fear tactics and support Right to Repair legislation.
securepairs.org views repair and re-use as rights of owners and regards obscurity and proprietary interfaces as the real security risk. For securepairs.org, open access is like open source: review and repair actually increase security, and it ought to be designed into the product in the first place not “provided” by creating vulnerable data interfaces and giving only manufacturers access to them. ACLU technologist Jon Callas agrees, and has lobbied Congress to make the Right to Repair a federal issue.
Another group, repair.org, which consists of mainly service repair professionals, regards the Right to Repair as a simple consumer issue: “You bought it, you should own it. Period. You should have the right to use it, modify it, and repair it wherever, whenever, and however you want.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees. It also supports both Massachusetts Right to Repair legislation and the ballot initiative: “If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it.”
With misleading language an issue in the disqualification of previous ballot initiatives, it is shocking that the Massachusetts Attorney General and Secretary of State permitted such misleading claims on a ballot question from opponents of Right to Repair.
Police Accountability legislation, which was expected to die in the Massachusetts legislature this Summer, has been given a surprising reprieve. In the wake of George Floyd’s asphyxiation murder by a Minneapolis cop, while three others stood around watching Floyd die, the Massachusetts House has been unable to pursue its usual tactics of deep-sixing progressive legislation. Members of a conference committee are still hammering out differences between a thoughtful Senate version of the Reform, Shift + Build Act and a toothless House version apparently edited by police unions.
Police unions have lobbied hard to neuter any legislation for reining in police excesses. They don’t appreciate being held accountable to the public — or to courts — for the felonious assaults and murders committed while on duty. Unions object to limits on “Qualified Immunity,” bans on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and are only truly happy when legislators offer them more cash for “training” intended to make them sweeter, gentler souls — but never to hold them accountable by discipline or termination.
Angry that such legislation was ever filed in the first place, Boston Police Patrolman Association President Lawrence Calderone said, “Angry would be an understatement.” And dismissing the need for legislation, Calderone added, “We’re angry about it. Boston, Massachusetts in general is not Minneapolis.” State Senator Ryan Fattman echoed the sentiment, saying that Massachusetts cops aren’t like bad cops elsewhere: “… our Massachusetts law enforcement officers are the best trained, well educated, and well-meaning in our nation, bar none. […] The egregious sins of other law enforcement in other parts of our country should not be their burden to bear.”
This is, of course, absolute nonsense. Massachusetts has plenty of police abuse horror stories. Most recently, in July 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded an investigation of the Springfield Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau. Undercover police in Springfield were routinely beating suspects about the head, using immediate force without identifying themselves as police, and routinely lying in statements and in court.
Closer to home, where people are still calling for the release of details on Malcolm Gracia’s killing — the details of which are subject to a gag order related to the City’s $500,000 settlement with the Gracia family — we only have to look back two years earlier to find a case similar in many ways to George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
No, Massachusetts is exactly like Minneapolis. We have a breathing problem in New Bedford too.
* * *
At about 4:17 am the morning of July 22, 2010 Erik Aguilar, 42, walked into the New Bedford XtraMart gas and convenience store and asked for help. Aguilar said someone was about to kill him. The store clerk called police for help. The store’s security footage captured Aguilar’s subsequent killing by one officer and a civilian, and the contempt for human life shown by five more officers who arrived on the scene and did nothing to try to revive Aguilar.
Seven minutes after entering the XtraMart Aguilar exits the store and is seen wandering around the parking lot when Officer Paul Hodson arrives. At 4:25:28, with the store clerk looking on, Hodson gets out of his car, playing with his baton, wedging Aguilar between himself and his cruiser. Hodson reaches into Aguilar’s pockets and conducts some sort of inspection. Aguilar looks uneasy, as if he is about to run off.
At 4:26:40 — only slightly over a minute after arriving — Hodson grabs Aguilar by the arm and wheels him around onto the hood of the police vehicle. Aguilar, who has committed no crime, resists. At 4:27:29 Hodson pepper-sprays Aguilar in the face after taking him down onto the pavement. At 4:27:41 Hodson flips a handcuffed Aguilar onto his stomach and both Hodson and a civilian passer-by kneel on Aguilar’s back with his face pressed into the pavement. From about 4:27:48 forward in the video the civilian can be seen kneeling on Aguilar’s neck. For the next minute we see Aguilar’s legs move a little, then his struggling ceases at about 4:29:44.
Aguilar is either dying or is already dead only three minutes after police arrive.
At around 4:29:57 a second officer shows up. He looks at Aguilar’s immobile body. Hodson and the civilian release their hold on Aguilar, though Hodson keeps kneeling on him. At 4:31:28 three more officers show up and the civilian leaves. A sixth officer appears. Not one of them at any point makes any effort to resuscitate Aguilar. At 4:33:36 Hodson stands up. He has been kneeling on Aguilar for a full seven minutes.
For the next 18 minutes the five officers stand around talking. At 4:51:40 an ambulance finally pulls up in front of the XtraMart. At 4:54:09 Aguilar’s body is placed in the ambulance. At 5:09:03 the ambulance leaves the convenience store. At 5:11:52 the last of the police cruisers leaves the scene.
* * *
Attorney Howard Friedman, who previously took on the NBPD in the case of Morris Pina, filed a lawsuit, naming five of the stand-about officers as defendants in Aguilar’s wrongful death: Paul Hodson, Antonio Almeida, Damien Vasconcelos, Roberto DaCunha and John Martins.
The usual machinations of the state kicked in to exonerate the officers. Former Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett was tasked with an “independent” investigation. Bennett concluded that alcohol and cocaine were responsible for Aguilar’s death. However, he did note that “the failure to detect that Aguilar needed immediate medical care and the miscommunication and time wasted waiting for a van that never arrived are troubling circumstances of this tragic loss of life.”
Police Chief Provencher refused comment, as did City Solicitor Markey — three separate times. And Mayor Jon Mitchell — about to become a recurring fixture in New Bedford police abuses cases — refused to talk to the press. No one wanted to take responsibility, especially city officials.
The Bennett report — to the surprise of no one — did not recommend prosecution. Jon Mitchell, apparently satisfied that no one would have to take the heat, issued a statement: “New Bedford residents can take confidence in knowing that the New Bedford Police Department will demand that its officers hold themselves to the highest standards of professionalism and respect for our citizens now and in the future.”
Bennett’s report was naturally seen as a betrayal by Aguilar’s family : “We are not surprised that Mr. Bennett did not recommend criminal prosecution of the police officers. Police officers are almost never charged with crimes. The video shows the officers disregarded police policies. The police were called to provide assistance. Eric needed immediate medical attention. Instead of providing care, the police officers left Eric handcuffed lying face down on the ground. They finally provided emergency medical care after it was too late to help. We believe the police officers violated Eric’s civil rights.”
Strangely enough, the New Bedford Police Department — not the police union — agreed with the Aguilar family. Lieutenant Robert Aguiar [no relation] of the New Bedford Police Department’s Division of Professional Standards wrote, “I would classify this event as a tragedy for the family of Erik Aguilar, an embarrassing disgrace to the New Bedford Police Department, and a case of absolute negligence on the part of the … police officers on scene, as well as their supervisor Lieutenant Michael Jesus. [… They] “had the training, the duty and the obligation as police officers to help and protect Erik Aguilar, and they undeniably failed to do so.” An internal investigation recommended disciplinary action, though not termination, for seven officers involved in the Aguilar case. Their slap on the wrist — four day suspensions.
The New Bedford Police Department’s Division of Professional Standards maintains a spreadsheet of case files which the NAACP New Bedford was finally able to obtain. In it, Officer Hodson, appears twice in June 2019 for “sustained” disciplinary action.
Neither lawsuits, video, nor even the Police Department’s own disciplinary mechanisms were sufficient to get rid of the Department’s “bad apples,” much less punish them adequately. Officer John Martins left the New Bedford Police Department in 2012 after being charged with drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident. The rest stayed on the force after receiving their four-day suspensions.
It wasn’t until December 18, 2019 that Hodson pled guilty — in the United States Attorney’s office in the District of Massachusetts — and not for killing Aguilar, but for the distribution of child pornography.
Hodson is now serving a sentence of five to twenty years in federal prison.
After decades of shielding police from prosecution for the murders of Black and Brown people, and four centuries of systemic racism, many Americans have had enough of police impunity.
But state violence is just one symptom of a society founded on white supremacy. The upwelling of protests demanding police reform is not simply about the police. After four years of unprecedented presidential criminality and corruption, the protests are as much about the Trump administration’s impunity as they are about his friends in law enforcement.
Since the George Floyd murder there have been over 100 days of protests. Despite the rare occasions of rioting, almost all have been peaceful. To White America, however, such unrest is a frightening reminder that white supremacy’s days are numbered. Race, like the Coronavirus, is on everyone’s mind.
But having failed to save the lives of what are projected to top 400,000 COVID-19 victims by year’s end, Trump is (again) running on race and avoiding the subject of his incompetence in dealing with a national emergency.
Racialized Law and Order
In June Trump announced “I am your president of law and order.” Forget the pandemic, Trump was saying. What White America should really fear is accountability for both his administration and America’s unfettered Police State. Accordingly, “gun couple” Mark and Patrica McCloskey were invited to address the July GOP convention after they aimed weapons at Black Lives Matter protestors in Saint Louis, Missouri. Other GOP speakers, including Rudi Guilani and Michael McHale, president of the National Association of Police Organizations, painted an apocalyptic image of America under Biden and Harris. Mike Pence comforted the white base: “We will have law and order on the streets of this country.”
So, if anti-racism is anti-American, what then is “American?”
The Killer of Fifth Avenue
Maya Angelou had it right when she said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” In January 2016 Trump made the now-famous statement: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, ok? It’s, like, incredible.”
And it was incredible. The Killer of Fifth Avenue was letting everyone know that laws and norms — which everyone else is obliged to follow — don’t apply to him or his base.
No one should have been surprised then by the epidemic of corruption and criminality that followed.
Donald Trump is “a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”
These are the words of Trump’s own lawyer, Michael Cohen.
“All he wants to do is appeal to his base. […] He has no principles. None. None. And his base, I mean my God, if you were a religious person, you want to help people. Not do this. […] His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God. […] The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit. […] It’s the phoniness of it all. It’s the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel.”
Those were the words of Trump’s own sister, Maryanne Trump Barry.
Trump’s astounding collection of criminal associates
The assortment of con men and sociopaths who committed crimes in Trump’s behalf is astounding: Cohen, who pled guilty to tax evasion, lying to a bank, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress; former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI; ex Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, convicted of “conspiracy against the U.S.” and lying to the FBI; former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, conspiracy against the U.S., tax evasion, bank fraud, hiding bank accounts, and obstruction of justice; former Trump campaign advisor George Papadapolous, lying to the FBI; former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering; and most recently, Steve Bannon, Trump campaign manager and White House advisor, arrested and charged with defrauding investors in a border wall crowdfunding scheme.
Pardon me — and my pals
Even if you wave away the Mueller investigation or ignore the astounding collection of criminals Trump has hired and surrounded himself with, then look at his presidential commutations and pardons — beginning with the murderers and war criminals.
War crime and murder
In May 2019 Trump pardoned war criminal Michael Behenna, who had been convicted of committing murder and assault in Iraq. In November 2019 Trump pardoned Mathew L. Golsteyn, convicted of another war crime, a murder in Afghanistan. The same day Trump also pardoned Clint Lorance, convicted of killing two Afghanis and ordering his unit to shoot civilians. And, to highlight that impunity for murder was the basis for his pardons, Trump just slapped economic sanctions on International Criminal Court officials investigating American war crimes.
Civil rights abuses
If war crimes deserve impunity, then why not civil rights abuses too?
Trump’s first Presidential pardon in August 2017 was for Joe Arpaio, convicted not of the many civil rights abuses and racial profiling he committed over decades as Maricopa County Sheriff but ultimately for contempt of court. By pardoning Arpaio Trump was signaling to a white supremacist base that laws don’t apply to them. Senator John McCain noted that Trump’s pardon “undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law “
Treason and sedition
Trump, who was photographed fondling an American flag at a CPAC Convention, and whose faux Christianity seems equally dubious, may play an uber-patriotic Commander-in-Chief on TV, but the evidence suggests he has stronger attachments to cronies who actually undermine national security.
In April 2018 Trump pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted for “outing” CIA agent Valerie Plame for political purposes, and whose sentence was commuted by George W. Bush. Most recently, Trump pardoned Libby for convictions on obstruction of justice and perjury. Likewise, Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, who was a Trump operative coordinating 2016 Russian election interference and was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice.
Trump may scream “law and order” at the sight of unruly people protesting police murders, but Trump’s actual support for sedition by far-right white people casts the whole “law and order” shtik into question.
In 2012 Dwight Hammond and his son Steven were convicted of arson on federal property. Their sentences were stiffened in 2015, which led to the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by far-right extremists, including milias and sovereign citizen groups. Trump pardoned the Hammonds in July 2018.
Election fraud and interference
Trump claims that GOP voter suppression and the rejection of absentee ballots is done to protect the sanctity of the voting booth. But it’s clear he has no respect for election integrity.
In May 2108, Trump pardoned Dinesh D’Souza, a Fox News crony, who was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to a Republican Senate campaign. In May 2019 Trump pardoned Pat Nolan, another Republican, who was convicted of soliciting illegal campaign contributions. And in February 2020 Trump pardoned Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy, attempted extortion, perjury — all related to his offer to literally sell the gubernatorial Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.
Looting and lying
And despite Trump’s staged tour of the site of arson and looting in Kenosha, he doesn’t oppose corporate looting — or individual acts of looting committed by his cronies.
In December 2017 Trump commuted the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, who ran America’s largest kosher meat-processing plant in Iowa. Rubashkin had been charged with immigration violations, sexual harrassment, and child exploitation, but it was the 86 counts of bank fraud that did him in. Son-in-law Jared Kushner pushed Trump for Rubashkin’s commutation. Another of Trump’s cronies, Conrad Black, former media mogul and author of a glowing biography of Donald Trump, was pardoned (only after the book appeared, of course) in May 2019 for mail fraud and obstruction of justice related to embezzling funds from the newspapers he owned. Edward DeBartolo, Jr., was pardoned in February 202 after being convicted of extortion and a quid-pro-quo involving a casino license. Michael Milken, whose name is virtually synonymous with financial corruption, was pardoned the same day for securities, mail, and tax fraud. To these names add Paul Pogue (tax fraud), disgraced cop Bernard Kerik (tax fraud), Ted Suhl (bribery), and Judith Negron (health care fraud and money laundering).
There are two Americas. One is the idealized America taught in Social Studies and naturalization classes. In this version, government operates like a well-oiled machine, humming along nicely thanks to fail-safe checks and balances. In this America everyone is equal under the law. This fictional America has never really existed. But there’s no reason this “more perfect union” should and could not exist.
But in the twisted kleptocratic oligarchy that does exist, big cats prey upon smaller animals. The only real law is the Law of the Jungle. Power and privilege, and maximizing that power and privilege, strangle democracy. Checks and balances only get in the way. Laws are insults and inconveniences to white men in power. And their power is only sustained by impunity for those who wield power in their name.
We can thank Donald Trump for making it undeniably clear what type of America we really live in — a nation where the President has completely corrupted the legislature, the judiciary, and his own executive office. Where personal loyalty subverts Constitutional accountability. Where presidential crimes go unpunished and where the President’s cronies and bag men literally receive “Get out of Jail” cards. A nation on the brink of fascism, if it hasn’t already arrived.
The 2020 election boils down to a simple choice between the aspirational America most of us want — an imperfect, loud and messy democracy with accountability for public servants — or a police state in bed with a kleptocracy.
This is the simplest and most stark choice any American voter will ever have to make.
Three Massachusetts school districts retired their Native American mascots last week.
But Dartmouth was not one of them.
On August 5th Barnstable School Committee member Kathy Bent described her town’s decision: “I think it is time to retire the Red Raider as our mascot” she said. “We can take our time coming up with a new mascot, but that certainly should not be a decision we make as a school committee, but one that the community makes.”
That same day Hanover Schools retired its “Indian.” Libby Corbo, a member of Hanover’s School Committee said, “My opinion as a white person as to whether the sacred symbol of Native American heritage is offensive or not frankly doesn’t matter,” said Corbo. “I think the days of the white majority telling minorities what is best for them or how they should feel… it needs to end today with our voice saying this is no longer acceptable in our community.”
Hanover’s decision had been informed by a virtual public meeting on July 29th at which Indigenous people, including a Hanover Middle School teacher, explained why their Indian mascot was so offensive.
Again on the same day, North Quincy announced a new mascot would replace “Yakoo,” a racist depiction of a Native American which North Quincy’s School Committee had retired the previous Monday. The team name, like Barnstable’s, is the “Red Raiders,” but no decision has been announced on a name change.
In June, while opponents of racist mascots were still gaining steam, Faries Gray, sagamore (war chief) of the Massachusett tribe, explained: “These mascots create such a negative environment for the indigenous [people], it is ridiculous that we even have to have a discussion about why this is a racist thing. That is not our culture. It is really disrespectful to us.”
Ridiculous though it may be, Dartmouth school board members would like this whole issue to just magically disappear. This time around they have decided to hand off their hot potato —apparently it’s not a human rights or moral issue — to a yet-to-be-named “diversity committee” that will consider the mascot and an anti-racism resolution being voted on by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. And report back. At some unspecified date in the future.
Last October 2019 the Dartmouth School Committee fended off demands to bring the issue of the mascot before a community hearing, promoting an account of how the present-day mascot had been designed by Native American students. In this tale, the logo the children designed is still used today. Also in this tale, Native Americans approve of how delicately Dartmouth White People have “honored” and “respected” their heritage..
Problem is, last November the Standard Times asked Bonnie Gifford, the school superintendent, if she had actually spoken with any Native Americans lately. Nope, was the answer. “We have never had any response from anyone from the tribes,” she told a reporter by email.
But Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, of the Aquinnah tribe, somehow managed to take questions from reporter Jennette Barnes of the Standard Times, noting that, although she helped redesign the Dartmouth “Indian” image as a teenager, years later she believes there should be a public discussion of its use.
The Standard Times also managed to ring up Chief George Spring Buffalo of the Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation, who told the same reporter that the Dartmouth mascot issue should have been dealt with years ago. “It’s all about cultural respect, so children who go to your school don’t have to feel like they are cartoon characters when it comes to Halloween or Thanksgiving.”
With the Washington Redskins, Aunt Jemima, Land o’ Lakes, and Uncle Ben all scrapping their racist images, and legislation to ban school mascots gaining traction, it would seem to be a good time to reconsider Dartmouth’s racist mascot. But the Dartmouth Schools — which had plenty of time to plan, and plenty of cash to fund, a $1.8 million football stadium upgrade last Fall — simply decided to punt the issue to a committee for, ahem, “study.”
Their “diversity committee,” which will include two members of the School Committee, two faculty members, two students, two community members, and two administrators, will now consider both the mascot and a racism referendum. All members of the committee must be Dartmouth residents. And committee member John Nunes made a special point of mentioning that he didn’t want any members from New Bedford.
Ironically, the “Dartmouth only” rule will exclude the very student who designed one of the Dartmouth images — because she now lives on tribal lands outside Dartmouth. And with virtually no Native American students in any of the Dartmouth schools, this is one more pesky constituency the School Committee doesn’t have to listen to.
As one Dartmouth resident who was disappointed with the School Committee’s decision to block public comment last Fall put it succinctly: “Ah, the SouthCoast region of Massachusetts, where we take pride in our ignorance.”
Some of that ignorance is still to be found in the District’s curriculum. It is fortunate that diversity curriculum is on the way because at least one lesson plan on the DPS website is guaranteed to insult Native American children. The objective of “Rate the Colony” is to attract more European settlers to your 18th Century colony (many of which were operated with slaves). The exercise actually describes Indians as a potential danger to one’s health and the entire colonial enterprise. So much for honor and respect.
The account of how today’s “respectful” mascot came into existence, repeated on occasion by a couple of committee members, has never been adequately fact-checked. In this slippery tale, two children design a logo used to this very day and they continue to support its use, and a majority of local Native Americans concurs.
But we now know that the children have changed their views and most Massachusetts tribes are opposed to the mascot — thanks to a piece in the Standard Times. And a search on Dartmouth High yearbook covers debunks the rest of the tale by showing that the design the children created was actually scrapped — only to be replaced with one that Dartmouth College abandoned in 1974 because so many people thought it was racist.
In 1970 the Dartmouth Schools “Indian” was a cartoon character that looked suspiciously like it had been lifted from Quincy’s now-retired “Yakoo.”
By 1975 the Dartmouth Public Schools were using a newer Indian image with a Western headdress. In 1977 the Pathfinder Indian was designed by Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, now Chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah, and her brother while they were students at Dartmouth High School. This may be the only true part of the tale.
The Pathfinder appeared on yearbooks until at least 1988 (and possibly longer) but that image bears no resemblance to the one used today. At some point, the Dartmouth Schools replaced the Maltais Pathfinder with almost exactly the same image rejected by Dartmouth College in 1974. College on the left, High School on the right:
This Dartmouth College version is the one that now brings in royalties for the Dartmouth Schools — royalties not shared with any tribe.
The Massachusetts House just passed their own police accountabily bill — long on police concessions and short on accountability. Despite language that says Qualified Immunity will be “studied,” everybody knows what that means. This is House Speaker Bob DeLeo’s way of strangling progressive legislation — even reforms that a majority of the public supports. As a lobbyist once said of the Massachusetts Legislature, “Don’t confuse what goes on in this building with democracy.”
Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, released the following statement on the House bill:
“For months, people across the country and the state have been marching in the streets to demand systemic change. Unfortunately, this bill does not reflect the fierce urgency that deadly police violence against Black people demands. Instead, it reflects the depth of entrenched opposition to necessary police reform. Police unions and officers used the weapon of fear to maintain the status quo and undermine even very moderate reforms.
“Ultimately, this piece of legislation misses the mark, because it will not help victims of violence hold police accountable. Let’s be clear: Massachusetts is not immune to police misconduct. In order to make any laws about excessive use of force or other police abuses meaningful, Massachusetts must reform our civil rights laws – including by ending qualified immunity, which denies victims their day in court. When the final bill is negotiated, it should empower victims of police violence to seek justice for the harms they have suffered and to hold abusive officers directly accountable.”
When it comes to supporting wars and the police state, we can usually count on the media to tell us a plastic fork is silver cutlery. Several media outlets have described the House bill as “sweeping” when in fact it sacrificed critical police accountability measures to police union lobbying.
Let’s be honest. neither political party wants police reform — even in supposed Liberal bastions like Massachusetts. What just happened in the Commonwealth has played out all over the nation. In Missouri, for example, when Kansas City Mayor David Alvey assembled his Task Force on Community and Police Relations, he invited Police Chief Michael York and Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash — but snubbed Kansas City’s reform District Attorney Mark Dupree, a Black man, because he wasn’t sufficiently “objective.”
Finally, no discussion of police accountability would be complete without the local press quoting a man who is neither a police officer nor has ever been held accountable to the Massachusetts legislature.
In the last few weeks Aunt Jemima ditched the mammy on its syrup bottles with a press release explaining why images from slavery’s past were no longer in fashion. Perhaps it finally occurred to them they had been selling, as author M.M. Manring put it, a “Slave in a Box.” Uncle Ben’s retired its house servant because “now is the right time to evolve the Uncle Ben’s brand, including its visual brand identity.” And Land O’ Lakes dropped its Native American maiden, saying only “we need packaging that reflects the foundation and heart of our company culture.” Soon Mrs. Butterworth and Cream of Wheat followed suit.
On July 1st ADWeek reported that “three separate letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate their business relationships with the NFL’s Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its controversial name.” ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the franchise was “undergoing a thorough review of the team’s name. And let’s be clear: There’s no review if there’s no change coming. Redskins on way out.” But the mother of all surprises was Mississippi’s abandonment of the Confederate flag.
One would think that in “liberal” Dartmouth, we could at least do as well as Mississippi. But one would be mistaken.
The Dartmouth Schools have kept their “Indian” mascot — the same one shared with Dartmouth College until 1974, when the college abandoned it because it was racist. Superintendent Bonnie Gifford and Board Chair Kathleen Amaral — both white — claim that the “Indian” and the greenface that “honors” it at sports events are townfolk’s way of “respecting” people murdered and sold into slavery when this area was colonized in 1619. And Dartmouth children contribute to “The Weekly Tribe” — a student showcase featuring mainly white faces.
To add injury to insult, Dartmouth pockets royalties it receives from a mascot merchandising agreement with OhioPyle Prints, which according to the District’s lawyer are not shared with any tribe. Dartmouth “Indian” gear is sold locally in drugstores and supermarkets, and Prep Sportswear, Spirit Shop Custom Apparel & Sportswear, Jostens, Inc., and Apparel Now all resell Dartmouth Indian gear online, though the District claims to know only of OhioPyle.
Last year the School Committee voted to block public hearings on mascots. Committee member John Nunes thought it was an insignificant issue, declaring at an October 28th meeting that he “bleeds Green” — the color of “war paint” students smear on their faces at sports events.
If Aunt Jemima was a “slave in a box,” all this is nothing more than an “Indian in a box.” For residents who cling to the lie that such cultural expropriation honors Native Americans, it’s the same lie slaveowners repeated of slaves enjoying being “cared for.”
A 2020 study at UC Berkeley found that 57% of Native Americans and 67% who engage in tribal cultural practices are insulted by mascots. The Chappaquiddick, the Herring Pond, and the Mashpee Wampanoag have all called for banning them.
But in Dartmouth you’d think that Sherman was marching on Atlanta. A recent letter to the editor by Harvey Ussach asks, if we get rid of mascots, how are kids going to learn history? Well, why not teach kids the real history of genocide and enslavement and stop pretending that exploiting Native Americans is respectful?
It’s time to quit humoring clueless townies and immediately drop the Dartmouth Indian and hundreds like it. Senate Bill S.2593, “An Act Prohibiting the Use of Native American Mascots by Public Schools in the Commonwealth,” just moved out of committee. Legislators need to pass this bill to do what Superintendent Gifford, Committee Chair Amaral, Committee members Oliver and Nunes, and others entrusted to ensure a safe environment for all children simply refused to do — ban racist mascots.
Today is not a day for tanks and flyovers and a would-be Caesar’s notion of American greatness. A nation in crisis cannot honestly celebrate its hollow promises of democracy when they actually pertain to so few, and when more of them disappear with every passing day. Rather than the hollow rhetoric of the nation’s founders, today is a day to listen to the words of someone who actually fought for independence but never fully received it.
On the day after Independence Day 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered the following speech in Rochester, New York. It is a fiery reproach of American independence — “your 4th of July” not “ours” — demanding that White America keep its unfulfilled promises. A century and a half later Douglass’s words still resonate, but White America’s only answer to them, so far, is tanks in the streets and concentration camps.
Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:
He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country school houses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.
The papers and placards say that I am to deliver a Fourth of July Oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for me. It is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gauge I think I have of Corinthian Hall seems to free me from embarrassment.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable-and the difficulties to he overcome in getting from the latter to the former are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence I will proceed to lay them before you.
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the Fourth of July. It is the birth day of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, as what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. l am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young. Seventy-six years, though a good old age for a man, is but a mere speck in the life of a nation. Three score years and ten is the allotted time for individual men; but nations number their years by thousands. According to this fact, you are, even now, only in the beginning of your national career, still lingering in the period of childhood. I repeat, I am glad this is so. There is hope in the thought, and hope is much needed, under the dark clouds which lower above the horizon. The eye of the reformer is met with angry flashes, portending disastrous times; but his heart may well beat lighter at the thought that America is young, and that she is still in the impressible stage of her existence. May he not hope that high lessons of wisdom, of justice and of truth, will yet give direction to her destiny? Were the nation older, the patriot’s heart might be sadder, and the reformer’s brow heavier. Its future might be shrouded in gloom, and the hope of its prophets go out in sorrow. There is consolation in the thought that America is young.-Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages. They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship. They, however, gradually flow back to the same old channel, and flow on as serenely as ever. But, while the river may not be turned aside, it may dry up, and leave nothing behind but the withered branch, and the unsightly rock, to howl in the abyss-sweeping wind, the sad tale of departed glory. As with rivers so with nations.
Fellow-citizens, I shall not presume to dwell at length on the associations that cluster about this day. The simple story of it is, that, 76 years ago, the people of this country were British subjects. The style and title of your “sovereign people” (in which you now glory) was not then born. You were under the British Crown. Your fathers esteemed the English Government as the home government; and England as the fatherland. This home government, you know, although a considerable distance from your home, did, in the exercise of its parental prerogatives, impose upon its colonial children, such restraints, burdens and limitations, as, in its mature judgment, it deemed wise, right and proper.
But your fathers, who had not adopted the fashionable idea of this day, of the infallibility of government, and the absolute character of its acts, presumed to differ from the home government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of some of those burdens and restraints. They went so far in their excitement as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to. I scarcely need say, fellow-citizens, that my opinion of those measures fully accords with that of your fathers. Such a declaration of agreement on my part would not be worth much to anybody. It would certainly prove nothing as to what part I might have taken had I lived during the great controversy of 1776. To say now that America was right, and England wrong, is exceedingly easy. Everybody can say it; the dastard, not less than the noble brave, can flippantly discant on the tyranny of England towards the American Colonies. It is fashionable to do so; but there was a time when, to pronounce against England, and in favor of the cause of the colonies, tried men’s souls. They who did so were accounted in their day plotters of mischief, agitators and rebels, dangerous men. To side with the right against the wrong, with the weak against the strong, and with the oppressed against the oppressor! here lies the merit, and the one which, of all others, seems unfashionable in our day. The cause of liberty may be stabbed by the men who glory in the deeds of your fathers. But, to proceed.
Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated, by the home government, your fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. Their conduct was wholly unexceptionable. This, however, did not answer the purpose. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.
As the sheet anchor takes a firmer hold, when the ship is tossed by the storm, so did the cause of your fathers grow stronger as it breasted the chilling blasts of kingly displeasure. The greatest and best of British statesmen admitted its justice, and the loftiest eloquence of the British Senate came to its support. But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.
The madness of this course, we believe, is admitted now, even by England; but we fear the lesson is wholly lost on our present rulers.
Oppression makes a wise man mad. Your fathers were wise men, and if they did not go mad, they became restive under this treatment. They felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity. With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression. Just here, the idea of a total separation of the colonies from the crown was born! It was a startling idea, much more so than we, at this distance of time, regard it. The timid and the prudent (as has been intimated) of that day were, of course, shocked and alarmed by it.
Such people lived then, had lived before, and will, probably, ever have a place on this planet; and their course, in respect to any great change (no matter how great the good to be attained, or the wrong to be redressed by it), may be calculated with as much precision as can be the course of the stars. They hate all changes, but silver, gold and copper change! Of this sort of change they are always strongly in favor.
These people were called Tories in the days of your fathers; and the appellation, probably, conveyed the same idea that is meant by a more modern, though a somewhat less euphonious term, which we often find in our papers, applied to some of our old politicians.
Their opposition to the then dangerous thought was earnest and powerful; but, amid all their terror and affrighted vociferations against it, the alarming and revolutionary idea moved on, and the country with it.
On the 2nd of July, 1776, the old Continental Congress, to the dismay of the lovers of ease, and the worshipers of property, clothed that dreadful idea with all the authority of national sanction. They did so in the form of a resolution; and as we seldom hit upon resolutions, drawn up in our day, whose transparency is at all equal to this, it may refresh your minds and help my story if I read it.
“Resolved, That these united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, dissolved.”
Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, there fore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history-the very ringbolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.
Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ringbolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.
From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be seen. Heavy billows, like mountains in the distance, disclose to the leeward huge forms of flinty rocks! That bolt drawn, that chain broken, and all is lost. Cling to this day-cling to it, and to its principles, with the grasp of a storm-tossed mariner to a spar at midnight.
The coming into being of a nation, in any circumstances, is an interesting event. But, besides general considerations, there were peculiar circumstances which make the advent of this republic an event of special attractiveness. The whole scene, as I look back to it, was simple, dignified and sublime. The population of the country, at the time, stood at the insignificant number of three millions. The country was poor in the munitions of war. The population was weak and scattered, and the country a wilderness unsubdued. There were then no means of concert and combination, such as exist now. Neither steam nor lightning had then been reduced to order and discipline. From the Potomac to the Delaware was a journey of many days. Under these, and innumerable other disadvantages, your fathers declared for liberty and independence and triumphed.
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too-great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.
They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country. In their admiration of liberty, they lost sight of all other interests.
They were peace men; but they preferred revolution to peaceful submission to bondage. They were quiet men; but they did not shrink from agitating against oppression. They showed forbearance; but that they knew its limits. They believed in order; but not in the order of tyranny. With them, nothing was “settled” that was not right. With them, justice, liberty and humanity were “final”; not slavery and oppression. You may well cherish the memory of such men. They were great in their day and generation. Their solid manhood stands out the more as we contrast it with these degenerate times.
How circumspect, exact and proportionate were all their movements! How unlike the politicians of an hour! Their statesmanship looked beyond the passing moment, and stretched away in strength into the distant future. They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defence. Mark them! Fully appreciating the hardships to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep, the corner-stone of the national super-structure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.
Of this fundamental work, this day is the anniversary. Our eyes are met with demonstrations of joyous enthusiasm. Banners and pennants wave exultingly on the breeze. The din of business, too, is hushed. Even mammon seems to have quitted his grasp on this day. The ear-piercing fife and the stirring drum unite their accents with the ascending peal of a thousand church bells. Prayers are made, hymns are sung, and sermons are preached in honor of this day; while the quick martial tramp of a great and multitudinous nation, echoed back by all the hills, valleys and mountains of a vast continent, bespeak the occasion one of thrilling and universal interest-nation’s jubilee.
Friends and citizens, I need not enter further into the causes which led to this anniversary. Many of you understand them better than I do. You could instruct me in regard to them. That is a branch of knowledge in which you feel, perhaps, a much deeper interest than your speaker. The causes which led to the separation of the colonies from the British crown have never lacked for a tongue. They have all been taught in your common schools, narrated at your firesides, un folded from your pulpits, and thundered from your legislative halls, and are as familiar to you as household words. They form the staple of your national po etry and eloquence.
I remember, also, that, as a people, Americans are remarkably familiar with all facts which make in their own favor. This is esteemed by some as a national trait-perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact, that whatever makes for the wealth or for the reputation of Americans and can be had cheap! will be found by Americans. I shall not be charged with slandering Americans if I say I think the American side of any question may be safely left in American hands.
I leave, therefore, the great deeds of your fathers to other gentlemen whose claim to have been regularly descended will be less likely to be disputed than mine!
My business, if I have any here to-day, is with the present. The accepted time with God and His cause is the ever-living now.
Trust no future, however pleasant,
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present,
Heart within, and God overhead.
We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future. To all inspiring motives, to noble deeds which can be gained from the past, we are welcome. But now is the time, the important time. Your fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. You live and must die, and you must do your work. You have no right to enjoy a child’s share in the labor of your fathers, unless your children are to be blest by your labors. You have no right to wear out and waste the hard-earned fame of your fathers to cover your indolence. Sydney Smith tells us that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers, but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own. This truth is not a doubtful one. There are illustrations of it near and remote, ancient and modern. It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, we have “Abraham to our father,” when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great. Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country to-day? Need I tell you that the Jews are not the only people who built the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of the righteous? Washington could not die till he had broken the chains of his slaves. Yet his monument is built up by the price of human blood, and the traders in the bodies and souls of men shout-“We have Washington to our father.”-Alas! that it should be so; yet it is.
The evil, that men do, lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.
Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fa thers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, and denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They ac knowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may con sent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding.-There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.
Take the American slave-trade, which we are told by the papers, is especially prosperous just now. Ex-Senator Benton tells us that the price of men was never higher than now. He mentions the fact to show that slavery is in no danger. This trade is one of the peculiarities of American institutions. It is carried on in all the large towns and cities in one-half of this confederacy; and millions are pocketed every year by dealers in this horrid traffic. In several states this trade is a chief source of wealth. It is called (in contradistinction to the foreign slave-trade) “the internal slave-trade.” It is, probably, called so, too, in order to divert from it the horror with which the foreign slave-trade is contemplated. That trade has long since been denounced by this government as piracy. It has been denounced with burning words from the high places of the nation as an execrable traffic. To arrest it, to put an end to it, this nation keeps a squadron, at immense cost, on the coast of Africa. Everywhere, in this country, it is safe to speak of this foreign slave-trade as a most inhuman traffic, opposed alike to the Jaws of God and of man. The duty to extirpate and destroy it, is admitted even by our doctors of divinity. In order to put an end to it, some of these last have consented that their colored brethren (nominally free) should leave this country, and establish them selves on the western coast of Africa! It is, however, a notable fact that, while so much execration is poured out by Americans upon all those engaged in the foreign slave-trade, the men engaged in the slave-trade between the states pass with out condemnation, and their business is deemed honorable.
Behold the practical operation of this internal slave-trade, the American slave-trade, sustained by American politics and American religion. Here you will see men and women reared like swine for the market. You know what is a swine-drover? I will show you a man-drover. They inhabit all our Southern States. They perambulate the country, and crowd the highways of the nation, with droves of human stock. You will see one of these human flesh jobbers, armed with pistol, whip, and bowie-knife, driving a company of a hundred men, women, and children, from the Potomac to the slave market at New Orleans. These wretched people are to be sold singly, or in lots, to suit purchasers. They are food for the cotton-field and the deadly sugar-mill. Mark the sad procession, as it moves wearily along, and the inhuman wretch who drives them. Hear his savage yells and his blood-curdling oaths, as he hurries on his affrighted captives! There, see the old man with locks thinned and gray. Cast one glance, if you please, upon that young mother, whose shoulders are bare to the scorching sun, her briny tears falling on the brow of the babe in her arms. See, too, that girl of thirteen, weeping, yes! weeping, as she thinks of the mother from whom she has been torn! The drove moves tardily. Heat and sorrow have nearly consumed their strength; suddenly you hear a quick snap, like the discharge of a rifle; the fetters clank, and the chain rattles simultaneously; your ears are saluted with a scream, that seems to have torn its way to the centre of your soul The crack you heard was the sound of the slave-whip; the scream you heard was from the woman you saw with the babe. Her speed had faltered under the weight of her child and her chains! that gash on her shoulder tells her to move on. Follow this drove to New Orleans. Attend the auction; see men examined like horses; see the forms of women rudely and brutally exposed to the shock ing gaze of American slave-buyers. See this drove sold and separated forever; and never forget the deep, sad sobs that arose from that scattered multitude. Tell me, citizens, where, under the sun, you can witness a spectacle more fiendish and shocking. Yet this is but a glance at the American slave-trade, as it exists, at this moment, in the ruling part of the United States.
I was born amid such sights and scenes. To me the American slave-trade is a terrible reality. When a child, my soul was often pierced with a sense of its horrors. I lived on Philpot Street, Fell’s Point, Baltimore, and have watched from the wharves the slave ships in the Basin, anchored from the shore, with their cargoes of human flesh, waiting for favorable winds to waft them down the Chesapeake. There was, at that time, a grand slave mart kept at the head of Pratt Street, by Austin Woldfolk. His agents were sent into every town and county in Maryland, announcing their arrival, through the papers, and on flaming “hand-bills,” headed cash for Negroes. These men were generally well dressed men, and very captivating in their manners; ever ready to drink, to treat, and to gamble. The fate of many a slave has depended upon the turn of a single card; and many a child has been snatched from the arms of its mother by bargains arranged in a state of brutal drunkenness.
The flesh-mongers gather up their victims by dozens, and drive them, chained, to the general depot at Baltimore. When a sufficient number has been collected here, a ship is chartered for the purpose of conveying the forlorn crew to Mobile, or to New Orleans. From the slave prison to the ship, they are usually driven in the darkness of night; for since the antislavery agitation, a certain caution is observed.
In the deep, still darkness of midnight, I have been often aroused by the dead, heavy footsteps, and the piteous cries of the chained gangs that passed our door. The anguish of my boyish heart was intense; and I was often consoled, when speaking to my mistress in the morning, to hear her say that the custom was very wicked; that she hated to hear the rattle of the chains and the heart-rending cries. I was glad to find one who sympathized with me in my horror.
Fellow-citizens, this murderous traffic is, to-day, in active operation in this boasted republic. In the solitude of my spirit I see clouds of dust raised on the highways of the South; I see the bleeding footsteps; I hear the doleful wail of fettered humanity on the way to the slave-markets, where the victims are to be sold like horses, sheep, and swine, knocked off to the highest bidder. There I see the tenderest ties ruthlessly broken, to gratify the lust, caprice and rapacity of the buyers and sellers of men. My soul sickens at the sight.
Is this the land your Fathers loved,
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?
But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented. By an act of the American Congress, not yet two years old, slavery has been nationalized in its most horrible and revolting form. By that act, Mason and Dixon’s line has been obliterated; New York has become as Virginia; and the power to hold, hunt, and sell men, women and children, as slaves, remains no longer a mere state institution, but is now an institution of the whole United States. The power is co-extensive with the star-spangled banner, and American Christianity. Where these go, may also go the merciless slave-hunter. Where these are, man is not sacred. He is a bird for the sportsman’s gun. By that most foul and fiendish of all human decrees, the liberty and person of every man are put in peril. Your broad republican domain is hunting ground for men. Not for thieves and robbers, enemies of society, merely, but for men guilty of no crime. Your law-makers have commanded all good citizens to engage in this hellish sport. Your President, your Secretary of State, your lords, nobles, and ecclesiastics enforce, as a duty you owe to your free and glorious country, and to your God, that you do this accursed thing. Not fewer than forty Americans have, within the past two years, been hunted down and, without a moment’s warning, hurried away in chains, and consigned to slavery and excruciating torture. Some of these have had wives and children, dependent on them for bread; but of this, no account was made. The right of the hunter to his prey stands superior to the right of marriage, and to all rights in this republic, the rights of God included! For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave Law makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!
In glaring violation of justice, in shameless disregard of the forms of administering law, in cunning arrangement to entrap the defenceless, and in diabolical intent this Fugitive Slave Law stands alone in the annals of tyrannical legislation. I doubt if there be another nation on the globe having the brass and the baseness to put such a law on the statute-book. If any man in this assembly thinks differently from me in this matter, and feels able to disprove my statements, I will gladly confront him at any suitable time and place he may select.
I take this law to be one of the grossest infringements of Christian Liberty, and, if the churches and ministers of our country were nor stupidly blind, or most wickedly indifferent, they, too, would so regard it.
At the very moment that they are thanking God for the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and for the right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, they are utterly silent in respect to a law which robs religion of its chief significance and makes it utterly worthless to a world lying in wickedness. Did this law concern the “mint, anise, and cummin”-abridge the right to sing psalms, to partake of the sacrament, or to engage in any of the ceremonies of religion, it would be smitten by the thunder of a thousand pulpits. A general shout would go up from the church demanding repeal, repeal, instant repeal!-And it would go hard with that politician who presumed to so licit the votes of the people without inscribing this motto on his banner. Further, if this demand were not complied with, another Scotland would be added to the history of religious liberty, and the stern old covenanters would be thrown into the shade. A John Knox would be seen at every church door and heard from every pulpit, and Fillmore would have no more quarter than was shown by Knox to the beautiful, but treacherous, Queen Mary of Scotland. The fact that the church of our country (with fractional exceptions) does not esteem “the Fugitive Slave Law” as a declaration of war against religious liberty, im plies that that church regards religion simply as a form of worship, an empty ceremony, and not a vital principle, requiring active benevolence, justice, love, and good will towards man. It esteems sacrifice above mercy; psalm-singing above right doing; solemn meetings above practical righteousness. A worship that can be conducted by persons who refuse to give shelter to the houseless, to give bread to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and who enjoin obedience to a law forbidding these acts of mercy is a curse, not a blessing to mankind. The Bible addresses all such persons as “scribes, pharisees, hypocrites, who pay tithe of mint, anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”
But the church of this country is not only indifferent to the wrongs of the slave, it actually takes sides with the oppressors. It has made itself the bulwark of American slavery, and the shield of American slave-hunters. Many of its most eloquent Divines, who stand as the very lights of the church, have shamelessly given the sanction of religion and the Bible to the whole slave system. They have taught that man may, properly, be a slave; that the relation of master and slave is ordained of God; that to send back an escaped bondman to his master is clearly the duty of all the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this horrible blasphemy is palmed off upon the world for Christianity.
For my part, I would say, welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything! in preference to the gospel, as preached by those Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done! These ministers make religion a cold and flinty-hearted thing, having neither principles of right action nor bowels of compassion. They strip the love of God of its beauty and leave the throne of religion a huge, horrible, repulsive form. It is a religion for oppressors, tyrants, man-stealers, and thugs. It is not that “pure and undefiled religion” which is from above, and which is “first pure, then peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and with out hypocrisy.” But a religion which favors the rich against the poor; which exalts the proud above the humble; which divides mankind into two classes, tyrants and slaves; which says to the man in chains, stay there; and to the oppressor, oppress on; it is a religion which may be professed and enjoyed by all the robbers and enslavers of mankind; it makes God a respecter of persons, denies his fatherhood of the race, and tramples in the dust the great truth of the brotherhood of man. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation-a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God. In the language of Isaiah, the American church might be well addressed, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me: the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts my soul hateth. They are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them; and when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you. Yea’ when ye make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed; judge for the fatherless; plead for the widow.”
The American church is guilty, when viewed in connection with what it is doing to uphold slavery; but it is superlatively guilty when viewed in its connection with its ability to abolish slavery.
The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission. Albert Barnes but uttered what the common sense of every man at all observant of the actual state of the case will receive as truth, when he declared that “There is no power out of the church that could sustain slavery an hour, if it were not sustained in it.”
Let the religious press, the pulpit, the Sunday School, the conference meeting, the great ecclesiastical, missionary, Bible and tract associations of the land array their immense powers against slavery, and slave-holding; and the whole system of crime and blood would be scattered to the winds, and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.
In prosecuting the anti-slavery enterprise, we have been asked to spare the church, to spare the ministry; but how, we ask, could such a thing be done? We are met on the threshold of our efforts for the redemption of the slave, by the church and ministry of the country, in battle arrayed against us; and we are compelled to fight or flee. From what quarter, I beg to know, has proceeded a fire so deadly upon our ranks, during the last two years, as from the Northern pulpit? As the champions of oppressors, the chosen men of American theology have appeared-men honored for their so-called piety, and their real learning. The Lords of Buffalo, the Springs of New York, the Lathrops of Auburn, the Coxes and Spencers of Brooklyn, the Gannets and Sharps of Boston, the Deweys of Washington, and other great religious lights of the land have, in utter denial of the authority of Him by whom they professed to be called to the ministry, deliberately taught us, against the example of the Hebrews, and against the remonstrance of the Apostles, that we ought to obey man’s law before the law of God.
My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how such men can be supported, as the “standing types and representatives of Jesus Christ,” is a mystery which I leave others to penetrate. In speaking of the American church, however, let it be distinctly understood that I mean the great mass of the religious organizations of our land. There are exceptions, and I thank God that there are. Noble men may be found, scattered all over these Northern States, of whom Henry Ward Beecher, of Brooklyn; Samuel J. May, of Syracuse; and my esteemed friend (Rev. R. R. Raymond) on the platform, are shining examples; and let me say further, that, upon these men lies the duty to inspire our ranks with high religious faith and zeal, and to cheer us on in the great mission of the slave’s redemption from his chains.
One is struck with the difference between the attitude of the American church towards the anti-slavery movement, and that occupied by the churches in Eng land towards a similar movement in that country. There, the church, true to its mission of ameliorating, elevating and improving the condition of mankind, came forward promptly, bound up the wounds of the West Indian slave, and re stored him to his liberty. There, the question of emancipation was a high religious question. It was demanded in the name of humanity, and according to the law of the living God. The Sharps, the Clarksons, the Wilberforces, the Buxtons, the Burchells, and the Knibbs were alike famous for their piety and for their philanthropy. The anti-slavery movement there was not an anti-church movement, for the reason that the church took its full share in prosecuting that movement: and the anti-slavery movement in this country will cease to be an anti-church movement, when the church of this country shall assume a favorable instead of a hostile position towards that movement.
Americans! your republican politics, not less than your republican religion, are flagrantly inconsistent. You boast of your love of liberty, your superior civilization, and your pure Christianity, while the whole political power of the nation (as embodied in the two great political parties) is solemnly pledged to support and perpetuate the enslavement of three millions of your countrymen. You hurl your anathemas at the crowned headed tyrants of Russia and Austria and pride yourselves on your Democratic institutions, while you yourselves consent to be the mere tools and body-guards of the tyrants of Virginia and Carolina. You invite to your shores fugitives of oppression from abroad, honor them with banquets, greet them with ovations, cheer them, toast them, salute them, protect them, and pour out your money to them like water; but the fugitives from oppression in your own land you advertise, hunt, arrest, shoot, and kill. You glory in your refinement and your universal education; yet you maintain a system as barbarous and dreadful as ever stained the character of a nation-a system begun in avarice, supported in pride, and perpetuated in cruelty. You shed tears over fallen Hungary, and make the sad story of her wrongs the theme of your poets, statesmen, and orators, till your gallant sons are ready to fly to arms to vindicate her cause against the oppressor; but, in regard to the ten thousand wrongs of the American slave, you would enforce the strictest silence, and would hail him as an enemy of the nation who dares to make those wrongs the subject of public discourse! You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a three-penny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe “that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,” and hath commanded all men, everywhere, to love one another; yet you notoriously hate (and glory in your hatred) all men whose skins are not colored like your own. You declare before the world, and are understood by the world to declare that you “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; and are endowed by their Creator with certain in alienable rights; and that among these are, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and yet, you hold securely, in a bondage which, according to your own Thomas Jefferson, “is worse than ages of that which your fathers rose in rebellion to oppose,” a seventh part of the inhabitants of your country.
Fellow-citizens, I will not enlarge further on your national inconsistencies. The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie. It destroys your moral power abroad: it corrupts your politicians at home. It saps the foundation of religion; it makes your name a hissing and a bye-word to a mocking earth. It is the antagonistic force in your government, the only thing that seriously disturbs and endangers your Union. it fetters your progress; it is the enemy of improvement; the deadly foe of education; it fosters pride; it breeds insolence; it promotes vice; it shelters crime; it is a curse to the earth that supports it; and yet you cling to it as if it were the sheet anchor of all your hopes. Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in your nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of your youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from you the hideous monster, and let the weight of twenty millions crush and destroy it forever!
But it is answered in reply to all this, that precisely what I have now denounced is, in fact, guaranteed and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States; that, the right to hold, and to hunt slaves is a part of that Constitution framed by the illustrious Fathers of this Republic.
Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped
To palter with us in a double sense:
And keep the word of promise to the ear,
But break it to the heart.
And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest impostors that ever practised on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape; but I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe. There is not time now to argue the constitutional question at length; nor have I the ability to discuss it as it ought to be discussed. The subject has been handled with masterly power by Lysander Spooner, Esq. by William Goodell, by Samuel E. Sewall, Esq., and last, though not least, by Gerrit Smith, Esq. These gentlemen have, as I think, fully and clearly vindicated the Constitution from any design to support slavery for an hour.
Fellow-citizens! there is no matter in respect to which the people of the North have allowed themselves to be so ruinously imposed upon as that of the pro-slavery character of the Constitution. In that instrument I hold there is neither warrant, license, nor sanction of the hateful thing; but interpreted, as it ought to be interpreted, the Constitution is a glorious liberty document. Read its preamble, consider its purposes. Is slavery among them? Is it at the gate way? or is it in the temple? it is neither. While I do not intend to argue this question on the present occasion, let me ask, if it be not somewhat singular that, if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slaveholding instrument, why neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave can any where be found in it. What would be thought of an instrument, drawn up, legally drawn up, for the purpose of entitling the city of Rochester to a tract of land, in which no mention of land was made? Now, there are certain rules of interpretation for the proper understanding of all legal instruments. These rules are well established. They are plain, commonsense rules, such as you and I, and all of us, can understand and apply, without having passed years in the study of law. I scout the idea that the question of the constitutionality, or unconstitutionality of slavery, is not a question for the people. I hold that every American citizen has a right to form an opinion of the constitution, and to propagate that opinion, and to use all honorable means to make his opinion the prevailing one. Without this right, the liberty of an American citizen would be as insecure as that of a Frenchman. Ex-Vice-President Dallas tells us that the constitution is an object to which no American mind can be too attentive, and no American heart too devoted. He further says, the Constitution, in its words, is plain and intelligible, and is meant for the home-bred, unsophisticated understandings of our fellow-citizens. Senator Berrien tells us that the Constitution is the fundamental law, that which controls all others. The charter of our liberties, which every citizen has a personal interest in understanding thoroughly. The testimony of Senator Breese, Lewis Cass, and many others that might be named, who are everywhere esteemed as sound lawyers, so regard the constitution. I take it, therefore, that it is not presumption in a private citizen to form an opinion of that instrument.
Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading, and I defy the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.
I have detained my audience entirely too long already. At some future period I will gladly avail myself of an opportunity to give this subject a full and fair discussion.
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery.
“The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated.-Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hand unto God.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign.
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
With many white people suddenly taking an interest in structural racism and with Mississippi now about to remove the Confederate bars from its state flag, maybe it’s time for Bay State residents to think about replacing our flag and seal — a white man’s sword hovering over the neck of a Native American. Gone now are Aunt Jemima, the Land O’ Lakes maiden, Uncle Ben, and a slew of other racist caricatures. Maybe now it’s finally time for the people of Dartmouth to rid their schools of their own racist mascot — one copied from Dartmouth College, which banned it in 1974 because… it was too racist. The following is based on a post from September 2019.
If you haven’t looked closely, both the Massachusetts seal and the state flag feature a belt modeled after one worn by Wampanoag Chief Metacomet (beheaded by Puritans) and a white artist’s conception of Wampanoag Chief Ousamequin (Massasoit) standing in submission beneath the sword of Miles Standish. A shortened version of a Latin aphorism — manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (this hand, an enemy to tyrants, seeks with the sword a quiet peace under liberty) — accompanies the image, conflating Native Americans with tyranny.
The original version of the seal bears no trace of tyrants or Miles Standish, but instead depicts a naked man with a cartoon bubble saying “come over and help us.” For a few short years around the time of American Independence the seal depicted a white man holding the Magna Carta and a sword, after which both versions were combined into what is more-or-less today’s seal. The history of the seal thus charts an arc from a patronizing White Man’s Burden to triumphant White domination. The new seal is one of many images throughout the United States depicting the defeat and humiliation of Native Americans, such as this WPA-era mural by Victor Arnautoff at George Washington High School in San Francisco.
In order to better understand the seal and its symbols, it may help to review some of the Massachusetts history you never learned in school.
The Puritans, named for their intent to “purify” Protestantism of Catholic influences, arrived in Provincetown Harbor in 1620 in a ship owned by the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, the Mayflower, accompanied by an English-born Dutch mercenary named Miles Standish. Many regarded this group of religious zealots as quite extreme, even for England in the midst of the Protestant Reformation. Religion certainly played a part in the Puritan’s appearance in the New World; but colonial avarice was what brought them to it.
Upon their arrival, the Puritans swore allegiance to the English King, James (for whom a version of the Protestant bible is named) and signed the Mayflower Compact, “having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia [the Hudson Valley, now in New York].” With supplies running low and winter approaching, they never made it to the Hudson Valley and instead established the “Plimoth” colony.
Forget the communal First Thanksgiving potluck you learned about in school. It was war against brown people from the moment the Puritans arrived. Miles Standish had a well-earned reputation, even among some of the colonists, for brutality and slaughter of Native Americans. Hartman Deetz, of the Wampanoag Nation, notes that in 1623 Standish committed “one of the first recorded egregious murders of native people by colonists in north America. […] the murder of a man, Pecksuot, just south of Boston. Standish […] lured him into a house under the premise that they were going to conduct trade. And when he got into the house, they barred the doors, and he stabbed [Pecksuot] through the heart with his own knife.” Standish also killed and beheaded another warrior named Wituwamat, slaughtered his family, and brought Wituwamat’s head back to Plymouth and displayed it on a wooden pike.
In New England the genocide and enslavement of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans are bound together in a history that began almost simultaneously.
In 1633, European slave-hunters came to Southern New England to look for Native Americans to press into slavery. Two of them were killed by the Pequot and the Puritans demanded that the killers be turned over for colonial justice. The Pequots refused. In May of 1637 English troops set fire to a Pequot village near Mystic River in Connecticut killing 700 women, children, and elderly; the survivors were enslaved. William Bradford, the governor of the colony, reported, “It was a fearful sight to see them [Pequots] thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them […]”
In 1638, the Puritans began trafficking enslaved survivors of the decimated Pequot nation, trading them for African slaves from the West Indies. Historian James Drake notes that “the war produced hundreds of Indian refugees, who lived as vagabonds within or on the edges of New England towns.” Slavery “[…] helped satisfy the dilemma of what to “do” with them.”
It is understandable that a flag consisting of a subservient Native American, a colonial mercenary’s sword hanging over his head, and a Latin phrase insinuating that he is a tyrant would surely offend people in the 21st Century. More importantly, the sentiments on the seal and flag no longer represent the aspirations of a 21st Century democracy.
For this reason there are currently two resolutions in the Massachusetts legislature, both entitled “Resolve providing for the creation of a special commission relative to the seal and motto of the Commonwealth” — a House version, H.2776, sponsored by Reps. Lindsay N. Sabadosa and Nika C. Elugardo; and S.1877, sponsored by Senator Jason M. Lewis. Rep. Sabadosa told WGBH that “the legislation does not spell out what we want to change the seal and logo to, […] It just says that we need to put together a commission really composed of native voices so that we can find a symbol that represents the values of Massachusetts that’s true to our history but is also respectful at the same time.”
The current state seal was created in 1908 — eighteen years before the Wounded Knee Massacre and sixteen years before Native Americans were given American citizenship. 1908 was not a time of great sensitivity to Native Americans, who were not even regarded as fellow citizens when the “new” seal was created.
In parallel with calls to change the state flag, there is also a national movement to end the use of “Indian mascots” on school sports teams. Maine just became the first state in the nation to throw racist mascots into the dust bin of history. Nationally, over 2000 schools have mascots with names like Warriors (#1), Indians (#2), Raiders, Braves, Chiefs, Redskins, Redmen, Savages, Squaws, Shaman, or specific tribal names — like the Braintree Wamps (named for the Wampanoag).
As with the cigar store Indian, Native Americans have been frequently de-humanized and reduced to avatars and mascots for commercial products — on the same low level as the Geico gecko or the Aflac duck. And yet — here we are at the beginning of the 21st Century! — the Land o’ Lakes maiden still serves alongside Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima as a racist mascot for corporate America.
But corporate exploitation just echoes the widespread racism in society. Caricatures of Native Americans join the lawn jockey, the sleepy Mexican, Sambo, Chief Wahoo, mammies, Golliwogs, tar babies, pickaninnies, hooked-nosed Jews and Arabs, squinting Asians, and countless racist depictions of non-white people on White America’s lawns and curio shelves. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) created a poster to try to convey to White America how racist the Cleveland Indian mascot was — but the lesson was apparently too difficult, or too subtle, to comprehend.
On June 25th, 2019 the Massachusetts legislature will conduct joint hearings on two bills prohibiting the use of racist mascots. House bill H.443 sponsored by Reps. Nika C. Elugardo and Tami L. Gouveia joins Senate bill S.247 sponsored by Senator Joanne M. Comerford in charting a path for the phase-out of offensive mascots without imposing financial hardships on the schools that have them. Local schools include: the Barnstable Red Raiders; the Braintree Wamps; the Bristol Aggie Chieftains; the Dartmouth Indians; and the Middleborough Sachems.
Closer to home, the Dartmouth Schools don’t understand how redface and caricaturing Native Americans actually undermines their own anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies: “The school system shall establish and maintain an atmosphere in which all persons can develop attitudes and skills for effective cooperative living in our culturally diverse society.”
Unless, of course, you go on Twitter.
A frequent justification for not retiring Native Indian mascots is that schools are somehow honoring Native Americans rather than simply turning them into cartoons. Dartmouth High School’s mascot is the “Indian,” patterned after Dartmouth (NH) College’s. The nickname “Big Green” remains the same for both schools, and the green letter “D” is still exactly the same. But in 1974 the College decided it was time for their racist mascot to go. Not so for the eponymous high school.
A number of Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda, and the Nipmuc nation, reject mascots outright. In Oregon one school district negotiated with a tribal council to set parameters for the use of tribal imagery. In Utah a tribal council took to social media to slam a parody of a tribal dance done by cheerleaders with wigs on a basketball court. Tribes are being consulted, or at least being heard, in other states.
Why not Massachusetts?
In 2005, when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) looked at offensive mascots, 14 schools decided to drop them altogether, 19 were cited for abusive names and imagery, and many were prohibited from participating in tournaments. Several schools which previously used the name “Indians” changed them to: the Arkansas Red Wolves, Indiana Crimson Hawks, McMurry War Hawks, Midwestern State Mustangs, Newberry College Wolves, and so on. Change can be easily, and quickly, accomplished.
It is not known if the Dartmouth High School Student Manual’s “respect” rationale for continuing to use the “Indian” mascot was based on approval from local tribal councils or if they were ever consulted. The School Committee controls the mascot logo as if they held a copyright on Native Americans. I emailed and then followed-up with a call to Dr. Bonnie Gifford, Dartmouth’s Superintendent of Schools, passing along several questions to her assistant. But as of publication time I have not received a reply. Likewise, emails to every member of the town School Committee have gone unanswered.
When it comes to respecting or honoring tribes, “honor” is not a verb white people get to define. Tim Giago, an Oglala-Lakota from South Dakota, has his own definition:
“If the white race wants to honor Native Americans, start by honoring our treaties.”
“And please, please keep in mind; there is no difference between wearing Blackface than there is in wearing “Redface.”
The Massachusetts Indigenous Legislative Agenda supports both the flag and seal and mascot legislation. It is also supported by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Both bills are before the legislature and both bills need your support.
It’s 2020. There has been a recent shift in thinking about racism. Here in New England, and particularly the SouthCoast, we ought not congratulate ourselves for our supposed tolerance, given that even Mississippi has now retired their racist flag and a New Hampshire college banned Dartmouth’s identical racist mascot — 46 years ago. Let’s get rid of these insulting reminders of our white supremacist legacy and build on this first step by working to rid the rest of our institutions of the structural racism that is America’s most serious pandemic.
The following is reposted with the author’s permission from a letter to the editor in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. If, after reading this, you are more disturbed by the use of the word “defunding” than of the consequences of “overfunding” a police state — then you are disturbed by the wrong thing.
Lois Ahrens: Defund the police and break the chain
I want to talk about one long chain. Starting in this tiny city and in every city where mayors and councilors decide on policing budgets. Here the amount for police is almost $7 million a year. A big chunk considering there is almost no crime. But like everywhere, it starts with mayors and city councils giving too much money and too much power to too many cops.
The money goes to cops in schools where Black children and Latinx children get disciplined, suspended and expelled at much higher rates than white children. It moves on to racial profiling with stops of drivers and people walking down the street.
And, sometimes policing and especially over-policing leads to arrests and then charges and then over-charging by district attorneys, including Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. That means piling up so many charges that people have little choice but to take a plea bargain out of fear of a longer sentence if they risk going to trial.
From there, the chain goes to prisons and jails. In Massachusetts, we pay $1.2 billion to keep about 14,000 people caged in jails and prisons, overstaffed by guards with unions as powerful as the ones police have. Like police outside, they are trained in the same us versus them “warrior “mentality.
When you add this up — too many police, racial profiling, cops in schools, district attorneys and plea bargains — what we get is a state where more than half of the prison population is Black and Latinx, even although those groups account for 17% of Massachusetts’ population.
And, right now prisoners, that is people, in state prisons have been locked down for months. This is really a “lockdown,” not just being unable to eat in a restaurant or take a trip to California. This is being locked in a cell the size of a parking space. This is locked down where social distancing is impossible. This is locked down, where in the Framingham women’s prison, 85 of 180 women have COVID.
It starts here. In this city council and in every city council, which is why we need to defund the police and start breaking the chain.