The Modern Day U.S. Slave


While most Americans spent this past weekend focused on memorials of the tragedy of 9/11, the gringa found herself getting educated at a prison protest Saturday on the anniversary of the Attica Uprising 45 years ago.  I’ll give you a rundown of a bit of history and then share some details of today’s U.S. prisons that shocked the gringa when she came to a fuller understanding.

Attica Maximum Security Correctional Facility, New York, September 9, 1975

  • 1,281 prisoners take over D yard, an exercise field.
  • 39 prison employees & guards are held hostage.
  • 13 state police & prison officers launch a raid.
  • During the raid 10 hostages & 29 prisoners are killed, 89 seriously injured

Why did this happen? Frustration over deplorable living conditions:

  • Overcrowding
  • Censorship of mail
  • 1 weekly shower
  • 1 single roll of toilet paper for an entire month (the gringa goes through a single roll PER DAY)

Personal perspective of the prisoners began to change in the radicalized climate of the late 60’s and early 70’s. They began to see themselves as political prisoners rather than just convicted criminals. After all, isn’t our nation’s law enforcement, judicial and prison systems highly politicized? Aren’t convicted criminals often used as political pawns? Of course they are. And Attica’s inmates decided it was time to participate in the political system the only way a disenfranchised citizen can, through radical, attention getting protest.

Once the more than 2,000 inmates mobilized, a riot quickly ensued that included beating guards, acquiring weapons of any sort, and torching the chapel. One guard was thrown out a second-story window after a beating and died from his injuries days later. As state police struggled to regain control of the prison, D yard became the final scene of the showdown with a hostage situation that lasted four long days.

The prisoners requested U.S. Representative Herman Badillo to lead negotiations and offered their list of demands:

  • Improved living conditions.
  • Religious freedom.
  • No more censorship of personal mail.
  • More phone privileges.
  • Amnesty for prisoners in D Yard.
  • Safe passage to a non-imperialist country for any who desired to go.

Although negotiations were on-going and none of the hostages were being harmed, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller mobilized hundreds of state troopers and the National Guard which all soon descended upon the prison. Civilian observers who were present were dismayed by the Governor’s overt show of force and asked for him to personally appear as a sign of good faith. Rockefeller refused. Instead he gave the order for an act of force that resulted in a massive and tragic loss of life. The gringa thinks this was totally unnecessary and quite typical of the cowboy mentality that seems to take hold of the wrong kind of people who come into positions of power over other people.

Many would argue that strong leadership means being forceful and making a powerful display of strength and authority when challenged. The gringa disagrees. When in a role of managing the care of fellow human beings, even if they are convicted criminals, a strong leader must be a wise and humble benefactor. Human beings are complicated creatures with complex needs. Rockefeller was wrong to do what he did. Going in with guns blazing is absolutely the wrong approach to solve any crisis where human lives are at stake.

Rather than continue negotiations Rockefeller demanded the inmates’ surrender. They responded to his challenge by holding knives to the throats of their hostages. In short order 3,000 rounds of bullets tore through clouds of tear gas and killed not only inmates, but one fourth of the hostages. Emergency medical responders testified that some of the prisoners were shot and killed as they lie on the ground after surrendering or being wounded.

In light of this disastrous plan implemented by New York’s governor, Rockefeller tried to deflect blame with false stories fed to the press that the inmates had slit the throats of the hostages and even castrated one. Rockefeller was either extremely ignorant or extremely arrogant if he thought autopsy reports would not expose his lies. There was an eventual Congressional investigation into this cover-up and frame job of the inmates as brutal executioners.

The final aftermath of the Attica riot has reserved its place in history as the worst prison riot the United States has ever seen:

  • 43 people killed.
  • Weeks of reprisals against prisoners with torturous treatment involving nightsticks, broken glass and other measures.
  • Substandard medical treatment if it was administered at all.
  • $2.8 billion class-action lawsuit filed by 1,281 prisoners against Attica & state officials.
  • $8 million awarded to prisoners in 2000 & divided among 500 inmates.
  • By accepting death benefit checks or paychecks, prison officers & their survivors unknowingly forfeited their right to sue the state for its debacle of a rescue plan.

Today’s Prisons

The gringa can’t speak on behalf of prisons in every state, but will share two distinct and troubling characteristics of prisons in her home state of Texas:

  • Prisoners are expected to work for zero pay & can expect retribution if they refuse, often being placed in solitary confinement.
  • Prisoners must pay a $100 co-pay in order to receive medical treatment.

The gringa is struck by many shocking conclusions upon becoming aware of these facts:

  • A for-profit prison system benefitting from productivity from enslaved Americans creates a society where there are incentives in place for the justice system to generate as many arrests and convictions as possible.
  • The common thread among prisoners is financial status. Whereas the slaves of America’s past were defined by race, today’s slaves are defined by lacking the funds to launch an aggressive legal defense, which still results in minorities being over-represented in U.S. prison populations.
  • By targeting the poor as easy to imprison & profit from, a capitalist society is further growing the impoverished slave class by fracturing families and extracting breadwinners. The fractured family is further burdened by creating a single parent who needs to provide for herself, her children and her imprisoned loved one who, because enslaved and performing prison labor without pay, cannot provide for his commissary needs. The loved one on the outside must also pay for their imprisoned loved one’s toothpaste, socks, toilet paper, medical care, etc.
  • The ugly laws of the 1920s, designed by America’s elite class to rid public streets of the unsightliness of undesirables by criminalizing behaviors typical to impoverished people, have simply been reinstated through various other laws that target the poor American.

The gringa has no solutions. I have only just now had my eyes opened to the complexity of this disturbing issue. Like a good, little patriot I have been conditioned by my society to believe it is acceptable that prisoners should have, at the very least, an uncomfortable time of it. I have also been conditioned to believe that complaints by prisoners are always a con job, they are simply not to be trusted. However, by conditioning Americans to ignore the plight of prisoners, capitalists have been empowered to pursue policies that have targeted the weakest among us in order to create a slave class they can profit from.

The gringa heard the story of one mother who was visiting her 19 year-old son on the one day weekly he is able to see his loved ones. I listened in horror as she told me a tale that could have happened to my own son. A tale of a teenager arranging to purchase some expensive sneakers he had seen online. However, when he met the individuals to exchange his money for the shoes, they took his money and basically ran. It was a scam. Incensed, he tracked down the individuals and gave them a beat down to get the shoes he had paid for. He was charged not just with assault, but also with robbery. Being high end sneakers, the sale price constituted a felony. This young man was facing 8-25 years of hard time and having to place his trust in a court appointed attorney. Unlike many others like her son, this mother was very fortunate to work out a deal with a youth program yet he will still serve 6 months in prison that will certainly be a harrowing experience that will change him forever. Because he beat up a con artist and took back his shoes.

Might an affluent teenager with a hotshot lawyer have gotten off with a fine and probation or perhaps even an aquittal? It’s highly likely. However,  a low-income, minority teen is advised by a court appointed attorney to work out a plea deal, securing, at the very least, 6 months of free labor for a capitalist prison system model to profit from. And the young and strong are who the for-profit systems want for slave labor. Even a minimal sentence is a good thing for prison profiteers. It increases the chances that a 6 month slave will return for a longer stint of labor in the future. The system is ensuring that as much of the poverty rabble as possible is kept off of America’s streets and enslaved for the profit of corporations. This is outrageous.

What is the interest of a court appointed attorney who takes on a case for free? His interest is to get the case over with as soon as possible so he can get back to jobs that pay. This is not justice. Consider just a few very telling statistics and see if the gringa is right when she says that the United States should be very ashamed:

  • U.S. population of nearly 320 million.
  • In 2014 more than 2 million Americans were in prison & nearly 5 million were on probation or parole.
  • 1 in 5 prisoners are convicted of a drug related offense.
  • The underprivileged are disproportionately imprisoned, marked by the following factors: income status, race, & level of education.

The gringa does not believe any of this is an accident. Re-designing prisons as modern day plantations is purposeful. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed. This had an incredible economic impact for bad or good depending on where a person stood. For minorities it was an economic boon, finally having their right to equal job opportunity and equal pay protected. For businesses that had enjoyed the freedom to pay as little as they pleased to minorities, they suffered. Imbittered, it did not take long for American businesses to devise a work around.

Within 7 years President Nixon announced the U.S. War on Drugs. Within another 7 years America’s prison systems were privatized to deal with exploding prison populations as a result of the War on Drugs. A war that has been effectively proven to disproportionately incarcerate poor, non-violent, drug offenders that are more of a threat to themselves than society, and most are capable of complete rehabilitation. American business preserved their slave class despite the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act. And it continues today.

Although the average citizen is conditioned to point the finger at inmates for their less than humane living conditions, what of the creators and enforcers who have the power and resources to implement change that would be decidedly better? What about other first world countries who are successful with humane, rehabilitative prison systems that are minimally populated and experience extremely low rates of returning inmates?

The gringa believes this is all by design as well. By creating and enforcing conditions that dehumanize even a non-violent drug offender who originally was no real threat to the public at large, for-profit prisons can damage a human so badly that person is incapable of living successfully and independently as a free man or woman. They ensure their slave workforce by intentionally designing living conditions that psychologically ruin a human being’s ability to ever have healthy emotional and working relationships. In the gringa’s opinion, this places every prison official in the category of guilt of crimes against humanity. And it seems that the United Nations agrees with the gringa, making it very clear that the United States is not living up to UN standards of humane treatment of incarcerated peoples.

I urge my dear readers who are as alarmed and as concerned as the gringa to use whatever is your gift or talent to help bring about awareness and change. The U.S. model of how criminals are dealt with is barbaric. No other civilized, first world nation operates in such a way. Human beings that are poor, or of the wrong ethnicity, are considered disposable in the United States. You only get one chance and if you make a mistake and end up in the prison system, there is no rehabilitation, only living conditions that reduce human beings to their basest instincts for survival. U.S. imprisonment is modern day slavery that creates a social stigma that prevents any success once free, only recidivism just to survive, where a person is then guaranteed a return to the plantation.

The gringa has provided below some video and photos from the rally.

Chants of the protestors:

Judy Kotun who told me the story of her 19 year-old son:

Samsung
Samsung

 

Sources:

www.history.com

www.prisonpolicy.org

Incarceration on Wikipedia

www.bloomberg.com

stanford.edu

www.un.org

Image Credit: tse1.mm.bing.net

 

 

 

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1917: The Year I Would Have Been Banned From The U.S.


Chapter 29 of the Second Session of the Sixty-Fourth Congress of the United States of America, February 5, 1917, passed “An Act To regulate the immigration of aliens to, and the residence of aliens in, the United States” (also called the “Asian Barred Zone” if you want to do some research yourself). If I had been alive and not a U.S. citizen at the time this legislation took effect, I would have been among the immigrant hopefuls who would have been banned from entry. I would have been a “defective” person on the “prohibited” list, an “undesirable”.  That’s what this piece of law was all about. The United States was expanding its category of people to discriminate against. Rather than list all the legal rigmarole that are the basic nuts and bolts of the wherefores and heretofores, the gringa will get to the heart of the matter. I will focus on the sections that express the minds and wills of the white majority of the United States in 1917.

Section one defines the term “alien” as any person not a native-born or naturalized citizen of the U.S., but specifically excludes the Native Americans of North America and the Native Islanders of U.S. territories. At this time the Philippine Islands and Hawaii were U.S. territories. Once the term alien was defined, the U.S. could then make it clear who was, and who was not, invited to the party. The following were to be banned from entry into the United States:

  • Idiots (good thing all those legislators got here before 1917)
  • Imbeciles
  • Feeble-minded
  • Epileptics (that would be me)
  • Insane persons
  • Anyone who had a single attack of insanity at any point in their life (that rules out pretty much everyone I know here in the barrio where shit gets real from time to time)
  • Persons with a “constitutional psychopathic inferiority” (At first I thought that must mean psychopaths, until I looked up the definition of those words according to that time period. “Constitutional” means a condition you are born with. “Psychopathic” means regarding the realm of the mind or emotions. “Inferiority” means sub-standard in function, adaptability and self-progress. So, persons who were born with a mind, or set of emotions, that was below average were prohibited.)
  • Alcoholics
  • Paupers
  • Professional beggars
  • Vagrants
  • Persons sick with a contagious disease
  • Persons with a mental or physical defect that would affect the ability to earn a living
  • Convicted felons of moral crimes
  • Polygamists (again, the Mormons)
  • Anarchists
  • Prostitutes
  • Contract laborers
  • Persons likely to become a public charge
  • Persons who had their passage paid for by another party
  • Stowaways
  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Asians not originating from a U.S. territory
  • Prior deported persons
  • Illiterates, unless returning residents or immigrating to escape religious persecution

The classifications of some of these people, such as, idiots, imbeciles, beggars, epileptics, feeble-minded, physically defective, etc., became the basis for a following trend in American municipalities to pass what were commonly called “ugly laws”. Not only did the white majority in America want a “white” America, they also wanted a “pretty to look at” America. It remains ironic that these same classes of people who were prohibited from entering the country would often pass by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, an icon of hope, bearing a plaque which read:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

What a big, fat, American lie. And America’s been lying to everyone since the day the Puritans first set foot on the shores of Plymouth. The immigrants here in my barrio, however, are nobody’s fools. What I find incredibly interesting is that most of my immigrant neighbors are better educated on the true history of America than most native born Americans. Where they got a stiff dose of startling truth in mandatory world studies of their country of origin’s education systems, we native Americans get brainwashed with the propaganda machine our country created to make us good little American boys and girls, isolated from the rest of the world, and puffed up with a sense of superiority. Being a gringa in the barrio is a humbling experience. Especially when I realize that many of my immigrant neighbors were not on my country’s reject list like I, myself, would have been.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/39%20stat%20874.pdf

http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2850&context=jclc

https://books.google.com/books?id=pXW69O5po3AC&pg=PA165&lpg#v=onepage&q&f=false

Photo credit:  en.wikisource.org

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, The Racist Agenda Behind American Propaganda of Liberty and Equality


After the United States had passed the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, declaring that all persons born in the United States are citizens, entitled to equal liberty and protection, then later passed the Naturalization Act of 1870, specifically section 7, declaring all African descendants the right to citizenship, this gringa thought that the U.S. was moving away from creating immigration policies that were motivated by power and greed politics. Unfortunately, the administrations of Presidents Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) and Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) seemed to follow a capitalist economic agenda that profited from racist policies designed to exploit a specific immigrant labor class.

The image the United States portrayed to the world of having the moral high ground as a nation of liberty built on Christian principals was, in reality, a sham to dupe the masses. The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, along with friendly political conversations between Hayes and a racist national labor party leader, reveal the truth behind the wholesome propaganda America peddled to an unsuspecting China during the time of Reconstruction.

Immigration requirements in effect before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were:

  • Eligible for citizenship were free, white, male immigrants, both genders of African descendants of U.S. slaves, and both genders of Chinese peoples.
  • Specifically excluded from immigration were felons (except for political prisoners), prostitutes of all races, and Chinese men, commonly called “coolies”, who immigrated under a labor contract

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was a series of stipulations to affect the conditions of the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868, signed under President Andrew Johnson’s term. That treaty, establishing favored nation status for China, opened up the borders of the United States in order that the Chinese could freely immigrate. In the course of the fourteen years that elapsed between the Treaty and the Exclusion Act, what happened for public sentiment to become so hostile to the Chinese peoples? To understand, we must go back in time seventeen years prior to 1882.

1865 was the year of Union victory over the South in the Civil War. However, this was no time for celebration. The end of the war simply meant that the nation had to be rebuilt. Half of the nation, the South, had been stripped of the labor force that had created its wealth when slavery was abolished. Property values plummeted and vital railroad arteries were damaged. The administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, elected in 1868, would be responsible for overseeing the rebuilding of a nation.

How, then, would the country be able to afford to rebuild? President Andrew Johnson’s great idea was to turn to China and import cheap labor, hence the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868. When Grant took office the following year, his ideas on how to fund the rebuilding of a nation either failed or were exposed for their corruption. One of his first bright ideas was to sign the Public Credit Act in March 1869. Yes, President Grant, let’s solve the problem of not having enough money by paying for goods and services with imaginary money. The gringa thinks Grant might have been a great general, but he obviously never balanced a checkbook.

Later in the same year, Grant would get himself in trouble again by enabling guys, who were already millionaires, to artificially inflate the gold market so they could make themselves some more money. One million dollars in 1869 would be worth about $17.5 million today. Gee, I guess Grant’s buddies, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, were high maintenance if what they already had was not enough so they felt it was okay to rip off a nation of people who were struggling to recover from the destruction of their country. Does the term “war profiteer” come to mind? Yep, it’s nothing new. So, as Grant went along with the plan and the price of gold rose, he ordered the Treasury to sell a big mess of it which then caused the bubble to burst. Wham, take that hard-working Americans scraping to make a dime.

And if that wasn’t a big enough insult to the whole of America that Grant was supposed to be working for, he then got into bed with Union Pacific Railroad during the 1872 re-election campaign, which he needed lots of money to fund. As President, Grant was the leader of the Republican party, thus, whether directly involved or not, he was still accountable for the actions of the other Republicans in office. Oakes Ames, Republican House member from Massachusetts, distributed amongst fellow Congressmen shares of the construction company Credit Mobilier, a company contracted to build a large portion of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ames stated that the stock was “where it will produce the most good to us.” Among the recipients of these shares was the incumbent Vice President, a Vice Presidential candidate, the current Speaker of the House, and future President James Garfield. All being Republican cronies of Grant’s, I find it hard to believe Grant didn’t know how his campaign was being bankrolled.

Shortly after Grant won Presidential re-election in 1872, the railroad building business roared into a construction frenzy. No big surprise there. Unfortunately, this was the catalyst for one of the worst, and longest, economic depressions the U.S. had ever experienced up to that time. The gringa says, “Muchas gracias, Grant.”

Now, what would be the big plan to get all of these angry Americans off the backs of the political leaders? Hmm, how about fanning the flames of a race and labor war? That might do the trick! Seems to me that was the strategy of the Grant administration, and, later, President Rutherford B. Hayes followed his lead. I think, perhaps, presidential thinking went something like this, “So, after reaching out to another nation and selling them on the propaganda that America is the land of the free, where everyone is equal and enjoys equal protection of their liberty, thus tricking them into immigrating so we could exploit them for cheap labor, now we don’t need them for labor anymore. Instead, to get the heat off our backs, we can use them for a scapegoat and get rid of them for good. I mean, after all, we are actually capitalist racists, aren’t we? We don’t really like their kind anyway, do we? I mean, that was how we were able to exploit them in the first place without bad feelings weighing down our conscience, wasn’t it? We made a huge profit, after all, didn’t we?” Yep, that seems to me to be the very line of logic all of America eventually followed thanks to the leadership of President Ulysses S. Grant. What a model of all things American.

In 1868 when the treaty was signed allowing for open immigration of all Chinese, Reconstruction was in full swing but, soon after, the country was beginning to feel the sting of Grant’s cronyism that drove his economic policy. The California Gold Rush was winding down and the Chinese were finding work in the construction of the railroad. Despite the fact that only about .002 percent of the American population was Chinese, they were still blamed for dropping wage rates and all the problems with the American economy. Sounds familiar to the cries heard round the country today about how the undocumented workers are “stealing” all the jobs. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to political disinformation campaigns.

I mean, I see plenty of “for hire” signs and want ads. I’m pretty confident there are enough jobs to go around. If you are having trouble getting a job, rather than poke your finger at an undocumented worker, go take a good hard look in the mirror. If an undocumented worker can travel to another country, not speak the language, and have no legal identification yet still manage to find a job, then why the heck can’t an American citizen, with all the privileges and advantages that goes with such a position, find a darn job? Methinks the problem is NOT with the undocumented worker. But, I digress, back to the Chinese labor problem of the 1880’s.

So, now it’s been established that the country, after the economic distress of the Reconstruction period, is slowly starting to enjoy a little progress. With the construction of the railroad and what that will mean to moving goods across the country, hopes are high for the economy to grow. The racist opportunists in Washington were now primed to get rid of the Chinese so the real Americans could keep the expected future wealth amongst themselves. So, by the time 1878 rolled around and President Grant had been replaced by President Hayes (big difference), how do we know Hayes felt this way? Well, he had a meeting with firebrand, labor leader, Dennis Kearney, who was well known for his passionate racism against the Chinese. This meeting, as well as many of Dennis Kearney’s stirring speeches, became a recorded, historical document. Back then, political correctness was not around so U.S. politicians opined freely and openly about racism, as indicated by the following excerpts from Kearney’s book “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion”:

  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “The workingmen of California are becoming overpressed. The capitalistic thief and land pirate of California, instead of employing the poor white man of that beautiful and golden State, send across to Asia, the oldest despotism on earth, and there contracting with a band of leprous Chinese pirates, brought them to California, and now uses them as a knife to cut the throats of honest laboring men in that State. A Chinaman will live on rice and rats… They will sleep one hundred in a room that one white man wants for his wife and family… and every man for the past fifteen years… that was elected upon the workingmen’s platform… was chosen upon an anti-Chinese plank.”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 5, 1878: “by the earth and all its inhabitants, and by hell beneath us, the Chinese must go”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “Let me caution working men not to employ Chinese laundry men. They are filthy; they spit on clothes, and if they have any disease it is transmitted to men and women through such washed clothing when the body perspires. Do you want leprosy here?”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Boston Workingmen’s party August 8, 1878: “We will do it with our bullets if our ballots fail. We will drive these moon-eyed lepers back by steamship and by sail”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “They are going to import 1,500 pig-tailed lepers into Chicago”
  • From Kearney’s speech to Lynn, Massachusetts, Workingmen’s party August 12, 1878: “All we ask of you is to help us to rid that beautiful golden State of these lepers”
  • August 28, 1878, discussion between President Rutherford B. Hayes and Dennis Kearney: “Kearney – ‘Well, Mr. Hayes, how do you account for the depression in business?’ Hayes then with a great many graceful gestures, and with much earnestness, discussed the subject, speaking about the war, the extravagance of flush times, and the reaction. ‘I think’, he [Hayes] continued, ‘it is at its lowest ebb. I think the tide will soon turn, even without a war. Every fifteen or twenty years, as regular as the ebb of the tide, there is a depression in business that is hard to account for…’ Hayes nodded, and answered, ‘Yes, Mr. Kearney, and without agreeing with you in a great many propositions you advance, I wish to say this: That your going about the country and speaking in the manner you do you are doing good work, noble service. You are concentrating the minds of the people on these evils, and the people are bound to rectify the great wrongs perpetrated by the system growing out of the war.’”

Hayes was more than willing to let the Chinese be the scapegoat for the failure of the American economy to thrive. If he had been more interested in dealing with the truth in an effort to correct the real reasons for the depressed national economy, the need to deflect the anger of the masses toward the Chinese might not have been necessary.

The treaty with China had enabled American industry to profit during Reconstruction by effectively enslaving the Chinese with extremely low wages. These fiscal politics resulted in labor class competition between the Chinese and the homegrown U.S. labor class, a class with a standard of living that could not be maintained if they accepted lower pay on par with what the Chinese were making. Rather than American labor recognize the right for any person, Chinese included, to determine what they will or will not find acceptable as a wage, they chose racist demonization of the Chinese. Although the Chinese were made out to be the villains, it was American politics of greed and power that were actually to blame for America’s economic woes.

What has the gringa learned from all this?  It’s all propaganda that America is equal opportunity. This is a bill of goods sold to the average working person who is too busy grubbing away at their regular jobs, paying the bills and tending to their family to bother with effecting change of the real America, a nation designed and orchestrated by wealthy elites who continue to capitalize off the backs of the working class. And if they get exposed and the labor class brings down the heat on them, they in turn sow the seed of conflict in order to create class wars so that the population starts blaming each other rather than staying focused on the truth.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I enjoy my working class life. I’m just tired of die-hard Patriots getting apoplectic and calling people nasty names like “unpatriotic” when someone speaks the truth about how America really operates and how it was really designed. I’m not advocating class warfare, I’m just saying the labor class has been purposely created and carefully groomed and maintained for the purpose of enriching those who created it and their successors. The truth is the truth whether it’s a pleasant truth or a harsh truth. Stating a harsh truth is not criticizing, it’s simply pointing out what’s true. I, for one, do not go around setting myself up to be lied to. I’ll be the first to tell you to shut up if I think I’m being fed a line of horse crap. So, the propaganda that the founding fathers of America were these high-minded, religious freedom fighters who were wanting to build a new nation where everyone could be equal and free is a bunch of nonsense. I say, “Shut up! No they were not!”

In my opinion they were a bunch of rebellious British subjects who had wealth that they wanted to protect and keep private rather than let the King claim it as crown property. The only way to do that would be for them to flee the kingdom with their wealth and travel to a place out of the King’s reach. The best chance they had to leave the country with all of their wealth in their possession, would be to go with the King’s blessing. I think their cunning plan was to convince the King that they were volunteers who wanted to settle the colonies of the New World. And, so, they ran off, far off, far enough that their king could not effectively monitor what they were actually up to. Then, upon arrival,  they cried foul due to religious oppression and began the propaganda campaign to brainwash the masses into cooperating with their desire to create a capitalist nation.

Why do American historians try to convince us of untruths simply because they sound more noble? Is there anything so terribly wrong with the Puritans running off in order to keep their hard earned money to themselves? I don’t see the need to lie about the Puritans’ motives.

A careful study of Britain’s religious climate at that time tells a different story than the one our historians credit to the Puritans. The reality is that the first colonial arrivals at Plymouth in 1620 were ruled over by King James I who was a devout Protestant. He desired to blend the faiths of Anglicanism, Catholicism and Presbyterianism in order to create a sense of national unity.  The Puritans real issue of religious intolerance was not that England was intolerant, but, that they, the Puritans, were intolerant of anything resembling Catholicism. The religious intolerance argument then falls flat with the gringa. So, if they didn’t come here to escape religious intolerance, it had to be the money. Nothing else makes sense.

Judging by the subsequent actions throughout the years of colonization in the New World, it would seem that the true motivator for the Puritans was that they wanted to keep their personal wealth. The Puritans were not victims. They ran off to the new world, seeded their wealth in the fledgling economies of new colonies, then nurtured these economies until they were strong enough to finance a war in order to completely break the yoke of the crown. And, they designed the laws of the colonies, and eventually the country, to benefit the wealthy in order that they maintain their wealth and power by the fruits of the labor class. And political power was also vested in the same people who controlled the wealth. That is the truth about America. It’s always been about the money, and it always will be.

And it was all about the money, with a side order of racism, in 1882 with the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Sources:

www.ourdocuments.gov, Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, (transcript)

http://racism.org, Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868 (transcript)

www.american-historama.org, “Credit Mobilier Scandal”, by Linda Alchin

www.history.com, “Chinese Exclusion Act”, “The Reader’s Companion to American History”, by Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors

archive.org, “Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion (1878)”, by Dennis Kearney

http://www.oxfordreference.com/, “James I & VI – Religious Policy”

Photo credit: http://cndls.georgetown.edu

 

14th Amendment, Equal by Law, But Law Can’t ChangeThe Heart


July 9, 1868 the United States formally adopted the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (www.ourdocuments.gov). This particular piece of legislation is considered to be the first Civil Rights legislation ever instituted by the United States and was in direct response to the social climate of Reconstruction after the Civil War ended in 1865. Considering all conditions of the naturalization of immigrants according to the Naturalization Act of 1802, the specific changes rendered by the Fourteenth Amendment are:

  • Section 1 declares that all persons born in the United States are citizens. This inclusive statement finally makes citizenship attainable for women and non-whites who are born on U.S. soil after the amendment is adopted. Such citizens enjoy equal liberty and protection. However, naturalization of immigrants is not amended so citizenship through naturalization is still exclusively for free, male, white immigrants.
  • Section 2 establishes the ratio of State Representatives with respect to population, making a point to exclude Native Americans from the population count. Phraseology also indicates that adult males who are considered criminal or involved in rebellion are not considered a part of the voting population.
  • Section 3 denies government office to people who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion or given aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States.
  • Section 4 establishes that lawful debt incurred by the United States shall not be questioned. United States assumes no financial responsibility for any act of insurrection or rebellion against the United States. The United States accepts no financial responsibility for the financial loss created by the emancipation of a slave.
  • Section 5 empowers the United States Congress to enforce through legislation the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What was the social, political and economic climate of the United States leading up to the adoption of this legislation? The United States was in the midst of reconstruction, the Civil War having ended three years prior to the date of the Fourteenth Amendment’s approval. The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment resulted in thousands of people freed from slave status yet left to wonder what exactly that meant.

In the 1857 case, Dred Scott v. Sandford, the Supreme Court ruled that American descendants of African slaves could not attain U.S. citizenship. Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment definitively overruled that Supreme Court decision. The Southern states vehemently opposed the Fourteenth Amendment and only ratified the amendment in order for their states to continue being represented in Congress. In the December 1, 1866 issue of Harper Weekly, editor George William Curtis responded to the resistance of the Southern States acceptance of the Fourteenth Amendment by posing this question, “After a tremendous struggle to overthrow a Government in which you fail, how can you be humiliated by accepting, as the condition of resuming a share in that Government, that it shall be upon equal terms with others?” The common social perception of the Fourteenth Amendment is that it established equality amongst all United States citizens regardless of race or gender (www.14thamendment.harpweek.com).

For the first time in the history of the United States, Congress had enacted citizenship legislation that was not motivated by deceptive exploitation, power or greed. The Fourteenth Amendment was the first step taken by America to create an equal society. By granting citizenship status to thousands of freed slaves who continued to live in the Southern states, a dramatic shift in power would be created in the House of Representatives where power was population-based. The Southern states would have the advantage. Knowing this, Congress still acted to grant citizenship to these Southern freed slaves and accept the political fall out. Considering the political implications it is then truly indicative that the U.S. Congress approached this legislation from a humanitarian perspective.

In the years immediately following the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, there were several civil rights cases that were brought before the Supremem Court. The Supreme Court held that the amendment did not outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals or organizations, but, rather, was a “state action”. It would then seem that, although the United States can pass laws to create a nation that grants equal status to all citizens regardless of race, there is no law that can compel personal opinion. That would take the work of generations to bring about such social change. And, as the gringa  can see for herself within her own barrio, the work ain’t finished yet.

 

 

1798, Immigrant Until Death


The 1740 Naturalization Act was normal operating procedure for creating a new nation. New nations need new laws, and lawmaking is a very complicated process. First, legislators have to become aware that there is a need for such action. If even one legislator takes up a cause to propose a new law, or repeal or amend an existing law, the next step is extensive research before the writing of an introductory bill can even begin. Once the bill is finally composed and introduced to Congress, lawmakers then have to reach a consensus in order for it to become the law of the land. Thus, any change in immigration policy is preceded by a significant event, whether social, political or economic, that would motivate lawmakers to invest such time and effort in order to bring about change. Therefore every immigration law reflects the motivating public sentiment, political benefit or economic incentive that was originally behind it.

On June 18, 1798, the Congress of the United States passed legislation that repealed the 1790 Naturalization Act.  Now, rather than have a simple immigration policy, the United States embarked on the path of detail, detail, detail, by creating a citizenship policy that had many more conditions.  The only requirements of the 1790 act were to (a) be white, (b) be “free”, (c) live in the United States for two years, and (d) live in a particular state for one year. The new legislation created a completely new path to citizenship with more documentation, fees, demands of much longer residency and the creation of a new waiting period. According to United States Congressional Records (www.memory.loc.gov), The United States 1798 Naturalization Act stipulated:

  • All white persons and aliens (except for foreign ministers, consuls, agents, their families & domestics) who continued to live within United States territory after arrival, and were at least 21 years old, were required to report to the clerk of the court that was within ten miles of the port or place in which they arrived in the United States and register as “free” immigrant arrivals (if the immigrant was younger, or a servant, they had to appear with a parent, guardian, master, or mistress)
  • Immigrant registration must be completed within 48 hours of arrival to United States territories
  • The immigrant must pay a fifty cent fee to the court for registering (fifty cents would be equivalent to about $10 today)
  • After registration, the immigrant is admitted into the United States with a 14 year period of residency required before application of citizenship can be made
  • After the 14 year residency is completed, the immigrant must make a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen and wait another four years
  • The application of intention to become a U.S. citizen must include proof to the court that the minimum 14 year residency has been fulfilled
  • The immigrant applicant cannot be a citizen or native of any state or country the U.S. is at war with
  • The immigrant applicant must pay a $2 fee (equivalent to about $40 today) to the court for the “abstract of such declaration” document to be filed and recorded with the court
  • After the immigrant applicant successfully fulfills all residency, waiting period and documentary proof requirements, United States citizenship is granted
  • Another $2 fee is paid to the court to file a certificate and record the court decree of the proceedings regarding the alien

What did all of this really mean to an immigrant in 1798? Why such a significant change in the period of time for residency? Why was a new waiting period of five years created? What happened in the eight years that transpired from the simple Naturalization Act of 1790 to this new, complicated process of 1798 that increased the residency period by 700%?

1790 census reports reflect a dramatic increase in immigration. Pre-1790 immigration numbers were 950,000. Post-1790 immigration numbers totaled 3,900,000. This is a bit more than a 400% increase. The following countries and ethnic and religious groups are representative of the new arrivals to the United States of America:  African, British, Scottish, Irish, German, Netherlands, Wales, France, Sweden,  and Jewish (www.wikipedia.org).

Passenger lists from ship manifests bound for the United States in the mid 1770s reflect an average age of 21 years for the typical immigrant arriving to the New World (www.olivetreegenealogy.com). According to the Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 131, 2004 lectures, “We know now that in 1798 life expectancy in Britain was around 40”. The website, Stokesfamily.org, confirms this finding by stating in reports that in the 1750’s the “average person would live to only 36.9 years of age”. If, then, the average immigrant arrived in the United States at the age of 21, by the time the residency and declaration waiting period requirements were fulfilled, this same immigrant would be approximately 39 years old. It would seem highly likely that death would then prevent many immigrants from ever becoming United States citizens.

Did the United States Congress design an immigration law that created a substandard class of people to be exploited for the benefit of the upper classes? Did this same law engender a false hope that inspired many people to immigrate to the United States never understanding the New World’s open arms received them as laborers who had no hope of ever having rights, representation and property? Did these immigrants truly perceive that this new law would probably mean they would die before ever achieving their dream of becoming an American? Does the dear reader see the same thing I see: the first step of a suspicious pattern in the United States where citizens of means and property exploit immigrants of all races and both genders in order to profit from their labor? Did the government of 1798 America intentionally design legislation to create the illusion of possible citizenship to hopeful immigrants when actually the design was to achieve national prosperity on the backs of an imported labor class who could never hope to change their lot in life, most likely dying before they gained the right to vote? If so, why would the United States do such a thing?

Although slavery was alive and well in the southern settlements, African enslavement was on its way out in New England by the 1780’s (www.wikipedia.org). This translated into a great need for cheap labor in the northern states. This economic need could then very well be the mitigating factor for a new Naturalization Act. The enslavement of the African was switched for a more politically correct form of enslavement. Create a labor class of immigrant who, without citizenship, has no rights, no vote, no property and no hope of ever having such until the day he dies. This was a very clever plan, indeed.

In a nutshell, the simple “whites only” Naturalization Act of 1790 is replaced in 1798 with a new “whites only” naturalization formula that prevents the likelihood that the people who comprised the immigrant labor class would ever have a voice and be represented in government through the power of casting ballots as legal citizen voters. It seems the Congress planned it this way. This gringa is very disappointed with her country. I can only hope there is a change in how the immigrant is perceived by the powerful and influential within the United States. As I observe the people of my barrio, their work ethic, their desire to have a better life than the one they left behind in their native country, and I see how they are affected by current immigration law, I’m not so sure that much has changed.

(photo by fincher.house.gov)