John Curl: Work as employee vs. as a free laborer

“The vast majority of working Americans today are employees, and most spend their entire occupational lives as one. Yet, only 200 years ago, just a tiny percentage of the workforce were employees, and the vast majority of free working people were self-employed farmers, artisans, and merchants […] Being an employee was considered a form of bondage, only a step above indentured servitude. One submitted to it due to economic hardship for as short a time as possible, then became free once more, independent, one’s own boss. As the country industrialized during the 19th century, the transformation from a nation of self-employed “free” people to a nation of employees took place relentlessly, and continued through the 20th century. In 1800, there were few wage earners in America; in 1870, shortly after the Civil War, over half the workforce consisted of employees; in 1940, about 80 percent; in 2007, 92 percent of the American workforce was employees and the number of self-employed was under 9 percent.”

–John Curl, For All The People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America

Charles E. Cobb, Jr: Guns kept people in the black freedom movement alive

“I’m very much concerned with how the history of the southern freedom movement or civil rights movement is portrayed. And, I’m very conscious of the gaps in the history, and one important gap in the history, in the portrayal of the movement, is the role of guns in the movement. I worked in the South, I lived with families in the South. There was never a family I stayed with that didn’t have a gun. I know from personal experience and the experiences of others, that guns kept people alive, kept communities safe and all you have to do to understand this is simply think of black people as human beings and they’re gonna respond to terrorism the way anybody else would. …The southern freedom movement has become so defined, the narrative of the movement has become so defined by non-violence that anything presented outside that narrative framework really isn’t paid that much attention to. I like the quip that Julian Bond made…that really the way the public understands the civil rights movement can be boiled down to one sentence: Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”

–Charles E. Cobb Jr., “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible”

On this day in history (September 3, 1838): Frederick Douglas escapes from slavery

frederick douglas“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.”

— Frederick Douglas

On this day in history, September 3, 1838: Frederick Douglas escaped from slavery in Maryland, and fled to New York. Born in 1818 to a slave mother, Douglas was sent to work in the Baltimore shipyards as a caulker. He secretly learned to read and write during this time period, and was ultimately able to escape using forged identity papers. After his escape, Douglas became one of the leading abolitionists in the United States, writing prolifically on the subject of slavery, editing an abolitionist newspaper, and traveling all over the country to raise awareness . After chattel slavery was made illegal and replaced by Jim Crow segregation and lynchings, he spent the rest of his life actively resisting the racist exploitation of black folks, as well as standing up for the rights of women and immigrants.Douglas died on February 20, 1895 and was buried at Mount Hope Cemetary in Rochester, New York.

The Holocaust as a justification for the mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza

The claim that Europeans colonized what is now known as “Israel” in response to the Holocaust is false, just like the historical myth that claims the English colonizers came to the U.S. seeking “religious freedom”. The Zionist ideology has been around since the late 1800s, and the first large waves of European Zionist settlers had already arrived in Palestine long before the Nazis came to power. The violence in Palestine is the result of racist European colonizers displacing and killing (with U.S./British military support) large numbers of (Arab) people who they think are subhuman, enslaving the survivors, and stealing their land and resources (much as the Europeans did in the Americas and Africa).

And even if the Israeli nationalist mythology were true, and Israel actually had been created because European Jews were fleeing Nazi persecution, that still doesn’t justify what they’ve done to the people of Palestine. If I’m experiencing violence in my own home, does that make it OK for me to go next door and kill all of my neighbors and take their house to “protect myself”? Of course not. … Did religious persecution in 16th/17th century England justify the colonizers coming over here and killing millions of Native Americans and stealing their land? Of course not. … Did the persecution of Jews (and Communists, disabled folks, homosexuals, Eastern Europeans) in Nazi Germany justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during the Nakba or the current slaughter in Gaza? Of course not. … It’s horrible that so many people accept Nazi violence in the 1940s as a justification for the murder of hundreds of Palestinian children in 2014.

I think what is really causing most of the Israeli violence is not a fear of Nazis or homemade rockets; it is a toxic mix of racism, nationalism, religion and capitalism. The Israeli politicians, just like those in the U.S. are mostly corrupt puppets of the wealthy capitalist class. Their motivations are primarily to dispossess, enslave and kill off as many Palestinians as possible so their corporate cronies will get rich from the stolen land resources and slave labor. As far as the combat soldiers on the ground, though, I think that their motivations are a bit more varied (like the soldiers who are employed by the US capitalist/political class) — some are there because it’s a decent-paying job, some are there because they were conscripted, some are virulent racist religious zealots who think they’re doing God’s work by murdering “barbaric” Arabs …. The same goes for the Israeli people. Like the U.S., Israel is a thoroughly racist society, where it’s socially acceptable to express joy at the sight of dead Palestinian babies. In addition to the racism which is the norm in Israel, I think there are many other factors (economic, cultural, etc.) that lead the Israeli public to support the mass murder of Palestinians. Whatever their varied motives are for supporting the mass murder of Palestinians, I think that we all need to stop accepting their justifications and find ways to work together to end it.

Welcome to “post-racial” America …

Happy Black History Month, everyone, courtesy of last night’s all-white ‘College Jeopardy panel’! In the second round of play, the contestants sailed through five of the categories—including “International Cinema Showcase,” “Weather Verbs,” and “Kiwi Fauna”—but avoided the sixth like the, ahem, black plague. That category was “African-American History.” 
In other words, these kids were more confident in their knowledge of weird animals in New Zealand than black human beings in America.

(via Jezebel)

Recently jeopardy show where "African American History" category didn't have a single question answered until the very end ...

A genocidal smörgåsbord for Thanksgiving Day

Family feasting on Thanksgiving, with the results of genocide beneath the floorThanksgiving to me represents a day of opportunity — the opportunity to expose a history of genocide and white-supremacist domination of Native American and African peoples. First, let’s take a look at the history of Thanksgiving:

‘[What is erroneously considered to be] the first feast was not called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; no further integrated dining occasions were scheduled; and the first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New England celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots. […]

Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned their growing force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the Pequot’s sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River meets the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians bypassed the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full of women, children and old people.

William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand for the great massacre of 1637:

‘Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.’

The rest of the white folks thought so, too. ‘This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots,’ read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation. The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.’

Glen Ford, “The End of American Thanksgivings


That is, Thanksgiving is not only a holiday that hides or ignores the Native American holocaust, but was actually created to celebrate it. The fact that millions of people celebrate such a holiday each year is thoroughly disturbing:

‘In recent years I have refused to participate in Thanksgiving Day meals, even with friends and family who share this critical analysis and reject the national mythology around manifest destiny. In bowing out of those gatherings, I would often tell folks that I hated Thanksgiving. I realize now that “hate” is the wrong word to describe my emotional reaction to the holiday. I am afraid of Thanksgiving. More accurately, I am afraid of what Thanksgiving tells us about both the dominant culture and much of the alleged counterculture.

Here’s what I think it tells us: As a society, the United States is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt. This is a society in which even progressive people routinely allow national and family traditions to trump fundamental human decency. It’s a society in which, in the privileged sectors, getting along and not causing trouble are often valued above honesty and accountability. Though it’s painful to consider, it’s possible that such a society is beyond redemption. Such a consideration becomes frightening when we recognize that all this goes on in the most affluent and militarily powerful country in the history of the world, but a country that is falling apart — an empire in decline.Thanksgiving/Genocide -- Which crime are you thankful for? Rape? Colonization? Torture? Theft of Land?

Thanksgiving should teach us all to be afraid.

Although it’s well known to anyone who wants to know, let me summarize the argument against Thanksgiving: European invaders exterminated nearly the entire indigenous population to create the United States. Without that holocaust, the United States as we know it would not exist. The United States celebrates a Thanksgiving Day holiday dominated not by atonement for that horrendous crime against humanity but by a falsified account of the “encounter” between Europeans and American Indians. When confronted with this, most people in the United States (outside of indigenous communities) ignore the history or attack those who make the argument. This is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.

In left/radical circles, even though that basic critique is widely accepted, a relatively small number of people argue that we should renounce the holiday and refuse to celebrate it in any fashion. Most leftists who celebrate Thanksgiving claim that they can individually redefine the holiday in a politically progressive fashion in private, which is an illusory dodge: We don’t define holidays individually or privately — the idea of a holiday is rooted in its collective, shared meaning. When the dominant culture defines a holiday in a certain fashion, one can’t pretend to redefine it in private. To pretend we can do that also is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.

I press these points with no sense of moral superiority. For many years I didn’t give these questions a thought, and for some years after that I sat sullenly at Thanksgiving dinners, unwilling to raise my voice. For the past few years I’ve spent the day alone, which was less stressful for me personally (and, probably, less stressful for people around me) but had no political effect. This year I’ve avoided the issue by accepting a speaking invitation in Canada, taking myself out of the country on that day. But that feels like a cheap resolution, again with no political effect in the United States.

The next step for me is to seek creative ways to use the tension around this holiday for political purposes, to highlight the white-supremacist and predatory nature of the dominant culture, then and now. Is it possible to find a way to bring people together in public to contest the values of the dominant culture? How can those of us who want to reject that dominant culture meet our intellectual, political, and moral obligations? How can we act righteously without slipping into self-righteousness? What strategies create the most expansive space possible for honest engagement with others?

Along with allies in Austin, I’ve struggled with the question of how to create an alternative public event that could contribute to a more honest accounting of the American holocausts in the past (not only the indigenous genocide, but African slavery) and present (the murderous U.S. assault on the developing world, especially in the past six decades, in places such as Vietnam and Iraq).

Some have suggested an educational event, bringing in speakers to talk about those holocausts. Others have suggested a gathering focused on atonement. Should the event be more political or more spiritual? Perhaps some combination of methods and goals is possible.

However we decide to proceed, we can’t ignore the ugly ideological realities of the holiday. My fear of those realities is appropriate but facing reality need not leave us paralyzed by fear; instead it can help us understand the contours of the multiple crises — economic and ecological, political and cultural — that we face. The challenge is to channel our fear into action. I hope that next year I will find a way to take another step toward a more meaningful honoring of our intellectual, political, and moral obligations.

As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I’m eager to hear about the successful strategies of others. For such advice, I would be thankful.’

Robert Jensen, “How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving and Learned to Be Afraid

Thanksgiving Day is not a day for celebration or rejoicing. Find another day for that. Thanksgiving is a fundamentally racist and genocidal holiday that we should utilize as a chance to inform people about white supremacy and the history of the colonization of the Americas.

“I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

U.S. soldiers posing over the mass grave at the Wounded Knee Massacre
U.S. soldiers posing over the mass grave at the Wounded Knee Massacre

On this day in history (March 8, 1782): The Gnadenhutten massacre

On this day in history — March 8, 1782 the Gnadenhutten massacre (also known as the Moravian massacre) took place. It was the killing of ninety-six Lenape (Delaware) by colonial American militia from Pennsylvania during the American Revolutionary War. The incident took place at the Moravian missionary village of Gnadenhütten, Ohio, near present-day Gnadenhutten. The Lenape were going hungry because of insufficient rations, so in February 1782, more than 100 returned to their old Moravian villages to harvest the crops and collect stored food they had been forced to leave behind. In early March, the Lenape were surprised by a raiding party of 160 Pennsylvania militia led by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson. The militia rounded up the Lenape and accused them of taking part in raids into Pennsylvania. Although the Lenape denied the charges, the militia held a council and voted to kill them. The next morning on March 8, the militia tied the Lenape, stunned them with mallet blows to the head, and killed them with fatal scalping cuts. In all, the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. They piled the bodies in the mission buildings and burned the village down.

The End of American Thanksgivings (Glen Ford)

“The Thanksgiving story is an absolution of the Pilgrims, whose brutal quest for absolute power in the New World is made to seem both religiously motivated and eminently human. Most importantly, the Pilgrims are depicted as victims – of harsh weather and their own naïve yet wholesome visions of a new beginning. In light of this carefully nurtured fable, whatever happened to the Indians, from Plymouth to California and beyond, in the aftermath of the 1621 dinner must be considered a mistake, the result of misunderstandings – at worst, a series of lamentable tragedies. The story provides the essential first frame of the American saga. It is unalloyed racist propaganda, a tale that endures because it served the purposes of a succession of the Pilgrims’ political heirs, in much the same way that Nazi-enhanced mythology of a glorious Aryan/German past advanced another murderous, expansionist mission. […]

[What is erroneously considered to be] the first feast was not called a “Thanksgiving” at the time; no further integrated dining occasions were scheduled; and the first, official all-Pilgrim “Thanksgiving” had to wait until 1637, when the whites of New England celebrated the massacre of the Wampanoag’s southern neighbors, the Pequots. […]

Having subdued, intimidated or made mercenaries of most of the tribes of Massachusetts, the English turned their growing force southward, toward the rich Connecticut valley, the Pequot’s sphere of influence. At the point where the Mystic River meets the sea, the combined force of English and allied Indians bypassed the Pequot fort to attack and set ablaze a town full of women, children and old people.

William Bradford, the former Governor of Plymouth and one of the chroniclers of the 1621 feast, was also on hand for the great massacre of 1637:

‘Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire…horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.’

The rest of the white folks thought so, too. ‘This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots,’ read Governor John Winthrop’s proclamation. The authentic Thanksgiving Day was born.”

— Glen Ford, “The End of American Thanksgivings” (Read the full article at: http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/then-end-american-thanksgivings-cause-universal-rejoicing)

Thanksgiving genocide -- bones under the table