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Our Racial and Ethnic Roots in all their Tangled Diversity are What’s Best about this Country

Trumpian White Supremacy has it All Wrong

In this Trumpian era of glorification of an imaginary purely white past — the one Trump’s speechwriters conjured up when he read from his teleprompted State of the Union address, claiming we Americans are uniquely fearless: “…If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there is a frontier, we cross it. If there is a challenge, we tame it…” — it’s important to recognize that when “we” crossed those frontiers it was go enter lands that were already occupied by the original Americans. We stole those lands from native peoples, killing most of them by weapons, disease, forced relocation and starvation. Meanwhile, for many of our ancestors, including many of mine, the challenge they faced was being accepted by the ones who came before.

My Mayflower ancestors, contrary to the official mythology taught in grade school, came to America not to escape from religious persecution (the Netherlands, from which many of the pilgrims and Puritans came to settle in the New World, was one of the freest countries in Europe when it came to religion). Rather, they came here to America to establish a theocratic society — one that rejected, on pain of whipping, stocks and even death, any heretical beliefs. So extreme was their religious intolerance that Roger Williams by 1636, just 16 years after the Mayflower’s arrival, felt the need to flee religious persecution and lead a group of those heretics to Narragansett Bay and to establish the colony of Rhode Island — on land purchased, not conquered by force, from the resident Narragansett Indians.

A century and more later and on into the 19th century, the descendants of those white European settlers from England or from England via Holland, and their fellow settlers up and down the coast of North America, including Virginia, made life miserable for the waves of those who followed, including another strand of my ancestors, coming from Ireland and Scotland, and later Germany.

My two kids can write someday about an additional strand of our family, since the ancestors of my Jewish wife all arrived in the US in the early 20th century from Russia (Odessa, now part of Ukraine), and from what is now northeastern Poland, both sets of ancestors fleeing brutal pograms launched by local slavic majorities. Once in the US they endured a new round of repression, rejection, discrimination and hatred from those who were already here, including I’m sure my people from Scotland, Ireland and Germany.

It’s not the pretty picture painted by Trump’s speechwriters, or in the florid history books foisted on our children in our public schools.

Yes Americans crossed frontiers — The Native Americans who crossed frontiers in our own land in order to escape being slaughtered by waves of grasping, greedy and bloodthirsty Europeans, and waves of Europeans who crossed our own nation’s borders, some legally, and many illegally, in order to escape wars, oppression and poverty in Europe )including Norway!), and later people from Asia, Africa and South America, coming here for the same reasons. It’s a story that continues today, as Trump struggles to win the money in Congress to erect a “giant beautiful wall” along the US border with Mexico, in hopes of keeping out immigrants from Latin Americans and elsewhere who are trying to flee the same scourges that led white Americans’ ancestors to flee here from Europe.



story | by Dr. Radut