There have been four wars for slavery conducted by the USA: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and the Civil War. When American children like me were taught American history, we were told that the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the rebellious states of the Confederacy and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution freed them everywhere in the USA. That was a very effective lie. It told part of the truth, but left out the part that is most important. The 13th Amendment reads:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
The phrase “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” meant that African-Americans could be arrested and convicted of failing to pay rent when they were sharecroppers, looking at or touching a white woman, observing a white man commit a crime and then testifying in court, trying to vote, for being a judge who had sentenced a white man for a crime (during the 12 years of Reconstruction after the Civil War), or for just being black. Today, African-Americans are being arrested for protesting peacefully, running from the police, driving while being black or just being “uppity” or “resisting arrest”. This has expanded into a prison-industrial complex in which prisoners work under inhumane conditions, subject to punishment without cause (except “being uppity” or resistant). They earn no money and can be transferred to other jails after the receiving jail pays the jailers from where the inmate came. Meanwhile, the corporate stockholders and executives get rich – just like the Plantation owners in the Old South.
After the end of the Civil War, there was a time during which all African-Americans could vote, hold political office, arrest, prosecute and pronounce sentence on white people. This stopped in 1876, when Reconstruction ended. I call this the beginning of the fifth war for slavery in the USA. Southern Democrats promised to protect civil and political rights of African-Americans. They lied. Soon, African-Americans lost the right to vote and found themselves in financial debt to their former masters, as they worked the same fields that they worked before “Emancipation”. The slave owners may have lost the Civil War, but they won the peace. Slavery became widespread and still exists. At the beginning of the Civil War there were about four million slaves in the USA. At the end of 2018, there were about 465,200 African-American inmates in state or federal prison, a 21% decrease from 590,300 at the end of 20061. During this time, the number of Latino inmates increased 5%, from 313,600 to 330,2001. In 2018, 8.9 million African-Americans and 10.5 Latinos lived below the poverty limit2. Those numbers have increased rapidly during the Covid-19 pandemic2. Native Americans live on reservations that don’t have running water. They can’t wash their hands, making them especially vulnerable. Native Americans and Native Alaskans had the highest rate of substance abuse and dependence in 2017, at 12.8%3. About 6.8% and 6.6% of the African-American and Latino populations struggled with substance abuse disorders. Even though very poor people and addicts are not owned by anyone, they suffer terribly. Whether one calls this slavery or not, this should be stopped – not increased.
For centuries, there has been an ongoing struggle between abolitionists and slave masters, and between powerful leaders committing crimes against humanity and those who try to change the system and elect good, honorable leaders. It continues. Perhaps the most crucial contest will be the national elections on 3 November of this year. In my opinion, the fate of civilization and the lives of our children lie in the hands of the voters or the Republicans who will do all they can to suppress the vote and contest the results, should they lose. Sadly, the fates of countless millions of people were sealed when the Republicans won in 2016. We must do all we can to save our children’s and grandchildren’s generations from a cruel, tragic and premature end.
The first war for slavery. The Revolutionary War
Three of the reasons why slave masters rebelled against England were to protect their ‘rights’ to kill Native Americans, own slaves and protect ‘their’ women. It’s widely recognized that almost all of the founding fathers owned slaves. However, some, like Ben Franklin, are considered to have been enlightened. He was honored by putting his face on the $100 bill. However, his letters in his autobiography portray his racism and disregard for human rights4. Also, all white men (slaveholders as well as non-slave holders) were made collectively responsible for the control and regulation of blacks. It was the civil duty of all white men to enforce slave laws. To help them with their ‘duty’, the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. It said “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. Of course, the word ‘people’ meant white men. They needed to have rifles and pistols so they could shoot any escaped slave or any Native American on sight.
Ben Franklin wrote that he feared that the British would not protect them from Native Americans and would be too nice to African-Americans4. Of course, he didn’t call them Native Americans or African-Americans. Certainly, the success of the Revolutionary War and the emergence of the first hints of Democracy in the USA had many very positive results. However, when American history was taught to children like me, we were told that George Washington was the Father of Our Country as well as a good, honorable man. Teachers ignored the fact that he owned slaves. Many of us were taught that either slavery wasn’t that bad or was actually good for the victims. We were never told that a married woman had no control over her property, could not execute an enforceable contract or initiate legal action without her husband’s permission. The husband owned and controlled all the property that his wife brought to the marriage with her. Any dowry was merged with the husband’s property and did not go to her upon his death. Moreover, women could be convicted of witchcraft and burned alive. In the Massachusetts colony, a law was passed in 1662 which stated that women would be subjected to the same treatment as witches if they lured men into marriage via the use of high-heeled shoes. Women’s sexuality and reproductive abilities were targets of white men who prosecuted and executed ‘witches’. Women were considered to be a separate species. Supposedly, they were more carnal and perverted by nature5,6. Of course, it’s men who were (and too often still are) the ones who are carnal and perverted. Sadly, this continues to this day. Donald Trump calls women who oppose him ‘nasty’, even though he has had at least five children in three marriages and had unprotected sex with a prostitute while being married.
Male slaves were valued for their use as free labor7. Female slaves were useful not only for their use as free labor, but also as bodies that could be used as sexual outlets. The enslavement of girls and women was a total horror7.
When white American women arrived as representatives at an Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, they were told that “women formed no part of the constituent elements of the moral world5,8. Supposedly, marriage is the foundation of family, as well as the legal and cultural basis for society5. However, patriarchal marriage and family is NOT a potent force for good. Instead, women have seldom been free to walk away from a bad, abusive marriage. They should be able to enjoy “full and equal access to mobility, justice, divorce, contraception, abortion and child care” – whether they are citizens or immigrants. In such a society, gender should be “emptied of social and political significance”5.
In 1661, the Virginia State Assembly declared that the word ‘slave’ was ‘synonymous with African/Black’. Then, in 1664, they passed a law incorporating the principle of partus sequitur ventrem. That is, children of enslaved mothers would be born into slavery, regardless of their father's race or status. This was in contradiction to English common law for English subjects, which based a child's status on that of the father. In the Maryland colony, any English woman who married a slave had to live as a slave of her husband’s master. In 1807, the British Parliament outlawed the slave trade and in 1838, chattel slavery in its colonies. However, there is a report that was published in 1847 in the Stamford Mercury of a man selling his wife to another man at a public auction in Lincolnshire5,9.
It wasn’t until 1894 and 1895 that the states of Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah and Washington allowed women control over their earnings, have a separate economy and allowed to have a trade license. As late as 1961, in the case of Hoyt v Florida, 368 U.S. 57, an appeal by Gwendolyn Hoyt was denied. She had killed her husband. She was convicted of second degree murder. Although she had suffered mental and physical abuse in her marriage, and showed neurotic, if not psychotic, behavior, a six-man jury found her guilty after deliberating for just 25 minutes. The male judge sentenced her to 30 years of hard labor. The appeal claimed that her all-male jury led to discrimination and unfair circumstances during her trial. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice John Marshall Harlan II of the Supreme Court of the USA, it was ruled that the Florida jury selection statute was not discriminatory.
Fortunately, I took American history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). On the first day of class, the professor told us that he was going to expose and correct the many lies that we were taught as children. Since then, I have read much more. As described by Kevin Bales, slavery and environmental destruction go hand in hand7. They spring from the same roots: greed and the consumer culture. We extract commodities from the Earth and Sea, then dispose of them when finished – into the increasingly polluted environment. Consumer spending drives a vicious cycle of slavery and destruction. “Shrimp, fish, gold, diamonds, steel, beef, sugar and the other fruits of slavery flow into the stores of North America, Europe, Japan, and increasingly into China”. “The foundations of our new economy rest on the forceful extraction of minerals in places where laws do not work and criminals control everything”. “If slavery were an American state it would have the population of California, the economic output of the District of Columbia, but it would be the third largest producer of CO2, after China and the United States” 7.
The War of 1812
Like so many students before and after me, I was taught that the main cause of the War of 1812 was that the evil British stopped American ships on the high seas and impressed (forcibly enlisted) sailors. The issue of slavery was never mentioned. We only learned the first stanza of the poem written by the slave owner, Francis Scott Key. The first stanza became the National Anthem of the USA. We never learned these lines in the second stanza:
No refuge could save the hireling and slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
The words ‘slave and hireling’ referred to the escaped slaves who joined the Colonial Marines. They helped defeat the slave owners and their supporters in the Battle of Bladensburg, just outside Washington, D.C., a few weeks before the British bombardment of Fort McHenry.
Nor were we told that the British offered military support to Native Americans who were resisting the expansion of the American frontier into the northwest. The American General Andrew Jackson was honored as a war hero when he defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans. In popular movies, he was called “Andy, by God Jackson”. That is, he was blessed by God. He showed that any common man who owned enough slaves and killed enough Native Americans (called Indians) could become President.
In fact, in April 1814 Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane made the British position official: All those who may be disposed to emigrate from the United States, will, with their Families, be received on board of His Majesty's Ships…. They will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty's Forces, or of being sent as FREE Settlers to British possessions, … where they will meet with all due encouragement. Cochrane then ordered Rear-Admiral George Cockburn to form the Colonial Marines, fighting units made up of refugee slaves.
More than 4000 African-Americans were freed from slavery – the largest emancipation that took place in the USA before the Civil War. At the end of the War of 1812, Americans demanded either the return of ex-slaves or monetary reparations for the loss of property. With few exceptions, the British refused. According to custom, a slave arriving on British soil was free. A British ship at war had the status of British land itself.
A book by Alan Taylor entitled The Internal Enemy sheds more light on this10. The title refers to white Virginians’ awareness that “their exploitation and domination” of blacks “had bred an internal enemy who longed for freedom”. It explores how (and why) during this war thousands of slaves in the American South took flight, transforming their own lives and British military strategy, while undermining the economic well-being of white male slaveholders. Taylor described the role that slavery and the international slavery debate played in inspiring white Virginians’ commitment to the American Revolution. He also described the Revolution’s role in stirring American slaves’ faith that the British king was, or could be, “their protector”. The book then told about developments in the years before 1812 that only exacerbated the slaves’ yearning for emancipation. The Virginia legislature abolished the traditional inheritance laws that had previously “inhibited the breaking up of [slave] families by sale”. New laws were passed that encouraged greedy slave owners to sell their slaves without regard to their family relationships. These new laws enhanced slaves’ desire for freedom not just for its own sake but increasingly as the only sure way to keep their families intact. So, slaves took their chances with the freedom-promising British. They provided strategic intelligence, access to supplies, general labor, and even military might in the form of organized units of black marines serving under white officers10.
After the end of the war, Andy by God Jackson’s hatred, racism and pure evil increased. He served in the first Seminole War, in which white men invaded the Spanish colony of Florida. He gained a reputation as an efficient killer who enjoyed strangling Native Americans in the Seminole tribe with his own hands. This reputation helped him become elected President of the USA on 2 December, 1828. He was re-elected four years later. So he was President from 4 March, 1829 – 4 March 1837. Francis Scott Key became a confidant and ally of President Jackson.
Meanwhile in Mexico, Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña (also known as Vicente Guerrero) became President of Mexico on 1 April, 1829. Barack Obama was not the first black President in North American. Vicente Guerrero was. He freed the slaves in Mexico. This infuriated slave owners and their supporters in the American South. This included Davy Crockett. I was taught that he was a great hero and a martyr of the Texan War of Independence when he died at the Alamo. There was a popular song entitled The Ballad of Davy Crockett, sung by Fess Parker. Like others my age, I watched a movie with my siblings and parents entitled The Alamo, starring Fess Parker. Like so many other children, I got a coonskin cap for Christmas. Years later, another movie about Davy Crockett and the Alamo appeared, starring the famous, masculine star, John Wayne. I also learned that the Republic of Texas was established, with no mention of slavery. We were not told that the new Texas government legalized slavery.
Slavery was indeed an important issue in the Texas war of rebellion, just as it would be in the Mexican War11. Because slavery is antithetical to hero worship, often the subject has been noticeably absent in discussions of early Texas settlements by immigrants from the USA. By the late 1820s, Mexico had a politically active and strong abolitionist movement. In 1829 a new Mexican constitution prohibited slavery. The mostly southern-born white settlers of Texas were on a collision course with the Mexican government. The two sides could no longer avoid the slavery issue. Mexico now fully supported equality for its entire population, while many of the white immigrants wanted Texas to become part of an empire for slavery11.
Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez de Lebron, president of Mexico and commander of the Mexican army, puzzled as to why a province in his republic still allowed slaves, asked: 'Shall we permit those wretches to moan in chains any longer in a country whose kind laws protect the liberty of man without distinction of cast or color?' Santa Anna posed the rhetorical question in early 1836, just as Crockett was making his way to Texas11.
Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña formally abolished slavery on September 16, 182911. His parents were Pedro Guerrero, an African-Mexican and Guadalupe Saldana, a Native Mexican. Guerrero, as head of the People’s Party, established public schools, land title reforms, and other important programs. Guerrero was elected the second President of Mexico in 1829. As President, Guerrero helped not only the racially oppressed, but also of the economically oppressed. Mexicans with hearts full of pride call him the “greatest man of color” 11.
In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which forcibly relocated most members of the Native American tribes in the South to Indian Territory. The relocation process dispossessed the Indians and resulted in widespread death and disease. It is called the Trail of Tears.
In 1823, President James Monroe stated in his Inaugural address that all of Latin America should be under the influence and partial control of the USA. Later, this was called the Monroe Doctrine. On December 2, 1845, President James Polk announced that the principle of the Monroe Doctrine should be strictly enforced. He reinterpreted it to indicate that no European nation should interfere with the American western expansion. The "Big Brother" policy was an extension of the Monroe Doctrine formulated by James G. Blaine in the 1880s. It aimed to rally Latin American nations behind US leadership. The Clark Memorandum, written on 17 December, 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge’s undersecretary of state, justified the use of military force to intervene in Latin American nations. This memorandum was officially released in 1930 by the Republican President Herbert Hoover. This would have tragic consequences in South America in the 20th century as the US military and CIA supported military dictators and juntas in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru and Chile. These dictatorships and the Civil Wars fought in the Central American countries left almost all of the people devastated and impoverished. The legacy of this evil led to the emergence of violent gangs in Central America. Refugees (mostly women and children) are trying to flee the horrors in their nations and immigrate into the USA. In my opinion, the efforts of the Republicans and the Immigration and Control and Enforcement (ICE) to stop immigration across the Mexican border is a logical extension of the evils that started with slave owners in the USA entering the free Mexican state of Texas, conquering it and legalizing slavery. The actions of the Republicans and ICE can be regarded as crimes against humanity. Interestingly, the border between Mexico and the USA has been closed for all but essential workers because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The parts of the wall that the USA has built now serve to keep citizens of the USA out of Mexico. Mexicans can brag that they now have a wall to protect them and the taxpayers of the USA paid for it.
The Mexican War
The Mexican-American War of May 13, 1846–Feb 2, 1848 seriously damaged efforts to abolish slavery. It was driven by economic ambitions and a sense that the USA was “destined” to span the entire continent. As a child, I was never taught that this was also a religious war between the Protestant USA and the Catholic Mexico. I was not told that when Irish immigrants arrived in the USA, if a family was willing to offer up their oldest son to 20 years of military service, the rest of the family would receive shelter, food and even a job. When the Mexican-American War began, American Catholics were forbidden to celebrate the Mass, take Holy Communion or confess their sins to a priest. Many Irish Catholics were far more concerned about where they would spend eternity than obeying immoral orders from their Protestant officers. So, they deserted and joined the Mexican army. They were called the Patrickios in English (after Saint Patrick) and the Patricios in Spanish. After the final defeat of the Mexican army at the Chapultepec castle, the Irish Catholics were executed. Sadly, very few Americans these days (including Catholics) recognize that the same thing is happening on our border with Mexico. Catholic women and children are separated from each other and held under inhumane conditions. Sadly, far too few Catholics realize that Pope Benedict XVI commanded that the faithful “to view climate change and care for creation as an extension of the Church’s care for humanity. He also addressed the phenomenon of “environmental refugees” several years before Francis noted the environment’s contribution to the current refugee crisis”12.Subsequently, Pope Francis wrote an Encyclical, Laudato Si’, in which he wrote “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then ‘our overall sense of responsibility wanes” 12.
Pope Francis has frequently spoken about climate change and the environment to various audiences, including when he became the first pope to address the United States Congress in 2016. In that same speech, he said “All Lives matter. Abolish the death penalty!”
The war also raised the issue of how conquering such a large territory would affect the balance between slave and free states. In 1848, the American war hero, General Zachary Taylor was elected President of the USA. He was born into a family of slave owners who had a Plantation in the south. He commanded Fort Howard in the state of Michigan. In 1828 he led forces in the war against the Sauk tribe of Native Americans. In 1837, he helped Andy by God Jackson and other white men kill Native Americans in the Seminole tribe. Taylor died in office after only one year. He was succeeded by his Vice-President, Millard Fillmore. The Congress of the USA passed five separate bills that became known as the Great Compromise of 1850. It not only allowed for the possible creation of new slave states, but also placed legal demands upon northerners to aid in the recapture of fugitive slaves. It established the concept of popular sovereignty. The white men in new territories (such as Kansas) would decide whether or not slavery would be permitted. Pro-slavery settlers came to Kansas from Missouri. This led to open warfare between slave masters in the slave state of Missouri and abolitionists in the Kansas territory. So, the Civil War in the USA actually started along the border between Missouri and Kansas.
The Civil War
Because I was raised outside the states that were part of the Confederacy, I was taught that the war between free states in the north and slave states in that south was called the Civil War. This is a strange use of the English language. There was nothing civil or civilized about it. Brothers fought against brothers and fathers fought against their sons. In the former states of the Confederacy, white children are taught to call this ‘The War Between the States’ and the ‘Yankee War of Aggression’. They are also taught that the South will rise again. White children in the north and south were taught that the Civil War was not about slavery. Supposedly, it was about state’s rights. That is, should states or the federal government decide if slavery should be abolished? The current Republican administration continues this myth. They also call themselves the party of Abraham Lincoln, because he supposedly freed the slaves. Of course, the Emancipation Proclamation only applied to the rebellious states in the Confederacy. It is quite ironic that the Democratic Party was the party of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries and the party of segregation, Jim Crow laws and lynching in the first half of the 20th century. This changed in 1948, when the southern states formed a party called the Dixiecrats and left the Democratic Party. Fortunately, they did not win that Presidential election. The Democrat, Harry Truman won reelection. In the 1960s the Democratic Party was able to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964. It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Then, on 6 August, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. It aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
After the Civil War ended, the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws or Acts called the Reconstruction Acts, or Military Reconstruction Acts. The former Confederacy was divided into five military districts. They were to be ruled by military governors until acceptable state constitutions could be written and approved. All males, regardless of race, but excluding former Confederate leaders, were permitted to participate in the constitutional conventions that formed the new governments in each state. New state constitutions were required to provide for universal manhood suffrage (voting rights for all men) without regard to race. States were required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment in order to be readmitted to the Union. As a result, African-Americans were allowed not only to vote, but to hold elected office, sit on juries, and become judges as well as law enforcement officers. They were actually allowed to arrest white men for crimes such as murder. However, the former Confederate General and slave master Nathan Bedford Forrest formed the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1865. They resisted the policies of Reconstruction and terrorized African-Americans. Moreover, immediately after the end of the Civil War, the former Slave Codes of former slave states were rewritten as Black Codes. Professor Angela Davis described them as allowing the behavior of free blacks to be regulated in almost the same way that the behavior of former slaves was controlled before the end of the Civil War5,13.
The end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the fifth war for slavery
Sadly, the Reconstruction era ended on 31 March, 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President. In the 1880s, iron and coal mines in Alabama grew rapidly7. Under Jim Crow laws, African-American men could be arrested for anything. They were always convicted and ordered to pay a large fine. Then, a public official (such as a sheriff) or a local businessman would step forward and offer to pay the fine. They were then sold to owners of iron and coal mines. In exchange, the victim would have to try to work off the debt. The number of men arrested would depend on the number of new workers that the mines or other businesses needed. The victims would work countless hours, while being chained or punished by being flogged or tortured in other ways. The owners could keep the victims as long as they wanted or until the victim died. The mortality rate in the mines was as high as 45% per year. By the twentieth century, local governments in at least 20 counties in Alabama were making contracts with the United States Steel Corporation and other companies to deliver the needed number of “convicts”. The demand for iron ore was so great that U.S. Steel would buy as many prisoners as the local sheriffs could arrest7. From the 1880s to the 1920s, lynching became a form of ‘racial-sexual terror that showed that ‘the law was white’9,14.
Chinese immigrants also suffered terribly. About 20,000 Chinese workers helped build the treacherous western portion of the first transcontinental railroad in the USA15. They were recognized by railroad barons as being better than other (white) workers. They were also forced to perform the most dangerous tasks. This included being lowered in baskets containing dynamite to blast tunnels through the high Sierra Nevada Mountains. Many of them died. After the completion of the railroad, the U.S. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. It prevented Chinese people from entering the USA and placed restrictions on those who were already here. Subsequent Federal immigration laws prohibited Chinese citizens from becoming naturalized American citizens until 194315. At that time, the Chinese were our loyal allies against the Empire of Japan in World War II. Sadly, Donald Trump and his Republican Party say that the current Covid-19 pandemic is a plague from China. This completely ignores the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 could have actually begun anywhere – including the USA. We would not have recognized it. Because the Chinese had successfully controlled the first SARS-CoV virus, they knew how to recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The entire world should join health scientists from around the world and thank Chinese scientists for their open and transparent sharing of data16,17.
Attitudes about Native Americans have been and continue to be horrific. The Great Plains in the USA were a complex and vibrant ecosystem7. The prairie grass grew up to two meters tall. Millions of elk, deer and buffalo were part of the ecosystem, as were Native Americans. When white settlers arrived, they “developed” the plains by plowing under the grass and annihilating the animals. Native Americans suffered from plagues and diseases that were new to them. They were also massacred by armed groups of white men and the U.S. Army. The survivors were forced from their sacred homelands. So, they tried to find religious answers. A special ceremony called the Ghost Dance was performed after 1890. The Native Americans hoped that this would renew the Earth and wash away the evil that white men brought. White male soldiers suppressed the dance. This led to the infamous massacre at Wounded Kneee7.
In 1913, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th President of the USA. He enacted unprecedented segregation in federal offices18. He made African-Americans use separate toilets, despite promising to assist “colored fellow citizens” in “advancing the interest of their race” in the United States” during his campaign for President18. This is the same man who would say that he wanted to make the world safe for democracy. Of course, he meant a democracy for white men only. He intervened in Latin American affairs. In 1913 he said “I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men19. He sent troops into the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. He also sent the navy to occupy the Mexican city of Veracruz. In 1916 he ordered the army to invade Mexico to capture General Pancho Villa, who had helped force Vicoriano Huerta from the Mexican presidency.
When the USA entered the First World War, Wilson and other white men were quite happy to allow African-Americans to fight and die in the segregated armed services. Black soldiers were commanded by white officers. At home in 1917, white men destroyed the lives of every African-American they could find in East St. Louis, Missouri20. After the war ended, African-Americans were supposed to return to their subservient roles. If an African-American community dared to become prosperous, angry white men slaughtered them in what was called a ‘race riot’ or ‘race war’ in Tulsa Oklahoma, Rosewood Florida, Washington D.C., Elaine Arkansas and many other places. In reality, it was a brutal massacre. Sadly, the same term, ‘riot’ is being used by the Republican Party of Donald Trump to describe peaceful protests against white police officers (all men) who torture and kill African-American men by shooting them in the back.
In the deadly summers of 1919-1923, many white men believed that African-Americans would take their jobs and homes and obtain some political power. Sadly, history is repeating itself. Evangelical Protestants who voted overwhelmingly for Trump expressed the same attitude about Catholic widows and orphans who were trying to enter the USA through our border with Mexico – before it shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, Americans are trapped in their own inadequate healthcare system. The Republican Party of Donald Trump has been very successful in making people believe their lies. Their supporters actually believe that widows and orphans are actually mathematicians, software engineers and scientists who are going to take jobs from white people. So, American companies who need skilled workers suffer.
History repeated itself in World War II. African-American men were needed to fight fascism in Europe and the Empire of Japan in Asia. However, they had to accept racism and murder at home during and after the war. History was repeated again during the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson escalated the war, while allowing student deferments for college students who could obtain passing grades in classes. He knew that very few African-American men would be able to receive passing grades in college after receiving a poor education in public schools. He did persuade Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. So, he gave African-Americans some rights with one hand, while sending them to fight and die in Vietnam with the other hand. While most Americans were concerned about the war in Vietnam, the USA supported the military dictatorship in Brazil that began on 1 April, 1964 and only ended on 15 March, 1985. This was a model that would be used subsequently to install and/or support military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile. Almost all Americans know about 9/11, or September 11, 2001. Very few know that our CIA and federal government inflicted a 9/11 on Chile. On September 11, 1973, they helped General Augusto Pinochet overthrow the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende because he was supposedly a Communist. The Republican Party of Donald Trump has changed the terminology just slightly, calling his opponents ‘wild eyed radicals’ and ‘socialists’. As a sign of the effectiveness of their propaganda, most Americans hate the word ‘socialism’, but love social security, the Veteran’s Administration and even the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).
Unfortunately, too many Americans think that Ronald Reagan was a great President. One reason he won is because he promised to get tough on crime5. He started massive construction of prisons and lengthened prison sentences. The U.S. prison system grew, along with corporate profits from construction, providing goods and services and using prison labor. This became known as the prison-industrial complex5,8.
Few Americans realize that there was a short time in which Brazilians exercised their legal rights and fought poverty. In 2002, Lula (Luis Inácio Lula da Silva) of the Worker’s Party (Partido de Trabalhadores) was elected President. In October, 2006 he said, “This [slavery] system channeled wealth to a powerful elite and dug a social abyss that still marks the life of the nation” 7. Four months after taking office in 2003, Lula established a National Commission for the Eradication of Labor. Its task was to rewrite and extend a National Plan for the Eradication of Slavery. His policies continued when he was succeeded in 2011 by the first female President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff. She had been tortured by the former military dictatorship. Sadly, she was impeached and removed from office on 31 August, 2016. Jair Messias Bolsonaro is now the President of Brazil. He once said that the military dictatorship did not torture enough people. He has been called the Tropical Trump. Like Trump, he denies science and encourages the destruction of the Amazon rain forest. Deforestation accounts for about 17 to 25% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. Deforestation is also occurring in mangrove forests in Asia that are being replaced by palm trees that are used to make palm oil. It will continue as sea levels rise as global warming continues. When mangroves emit CO2 it goes directly into the ocean, because their roots and soil are washed by tides. The CO2 is locked away as it is converted to carbonates. So, mangroves are important because they remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it safely in the ocean7.
Unfortunately, this pattern of abuse and deception continued during this century in the ‘War on Terror’. This time it was not just African-Americans, but also Latinos and gullible white men and women who went to Iraq and Afghanistan. All too many of them returned with crippling wounds and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Meanwhile, Donald Trump is threatening to cut or even eliminate support to the Veteran’s Administration, as well as Social Security and Medicare. He ordered the Treasury Department to stop collecting Social Security's dedicated payroll contributions for the next four months pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code, which permits deferrals of taxes when a disaster is declared21. If re-elected, if he could continue to defer those taxes. All benefits could come to a screeching halt, with no Congressional involvement. If all Social Security contributions from payroll tax stopped on Jan. 1, 2021, the nearly 10 million people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits would see them stop abruptly in the middle of 2021. The 55 million elderly people who receive Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance benefits would see them disappear two years later. Social Security would have no money to pay benefits by 2023. A newly elected President Trump could interpret the Internal Revenue Code as permitting an additional 12-month deferral with the declaration of a new disaster. All benefits could be stopped with just two new disaster declarations. The Republican controlled Supreme Court has already ruled that President Trump has "broad discretion" in making such declarations. Prior to running for president on the Republican ticket, Trump endorsed privatizing Social Security and increasing the full retirement age to 70. “It is easy to imagine that Donald Trump will host a Rose Garden signing ceremony for legislation ending Social Security as we know it. He will use the occasion to brag about "saving" Social Security -- as he signs its destruction”21.
There is clear and convincing evidence to support this idea. Trump’s 2020 and 2021 budgets proposed deep and painful cuts of $2 trillion over ten years in Social Security and Medicare22. That is about as much as the Republican Party’s 2017 tax cut for the wealthy and corporate America cost. While enjoying the company of the Global Elite in Davos, Switzerland in January, Trump said he was open to cutting entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). He even said, "that's actually the easiest of all things." In March, he told a Fox News town hall meeting, “Oh, we’ll be cutting”. He did not specify which programs he wanted to cut, but the largest entitlement programs are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans' benefits. Another Trump executive memorandum would extend unemployment benefits and require states to pay 25% of the bill. Many states have seen a huge decrease in revenue. So, they will have to cut funding to schools, hospitals and other vital services22.
As described by Julia O’Connell Davidson, some people say that we must be careful about the words and phrases that we use. She seems to support the definition of ‘slave’ given in the Oxford dictionary: “A person who is a legal property of another and is forced to obey them”. This definition is restricted to the legal construction of persons as chattel or property. Even though human trafficking for sex or any purposes is evil, she wrote that it should not be conflated with slavery. As described above, the pro-slavery policies of the USA have also targeted Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking countries. Many of them are fleeing countries that American “anti-Communist” policies almost destroyed. Sadly, the Republican Party of Donald Trump has said that they are trying to protect the women and children who are trying to enter the USA. They say that these women are often abused and raped. Some say that trafficking is nothing short of modern slavery. Often, it is described as part of the ‘dark’ side of globalization that can be controlled by tougher immigration controls, more law enforcement and more power for those like Donald Trump) who are responsible for safeguarding national security. Cracking down on ‘illegal immigration’ has become part of the struggle to protect human rights. This is a clever lie. In fact, it violates those rights. However, in my opinion, the author was wrong when she wrote that it “is no longer anywhere a legally recognized status”. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution is clear.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
Slavery does exist within the United States when used as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. The lie that slavery is illegal in the USA has been and continues to be believed by many people – including brilliant students and teachers who hate slavery and abuse. Another insidious and well-hidden fact is that the English language is inherently racist. White cake is called Angel food cake. Chocolate (black) cake is Devil’s food cake. The ‘dark’ side is evil. The ‘dark’ web is where people can engage in illegal and very immoral activities, such as child pornography or watching videos of people being tortured and killed. One of the definitions of ‘dark’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is ‘black’. Other definitions are ‘evil, gloomy, lacking knowledge or culture, relating to grim or depressing circumstances, in a state of ignorance, and to stop functioning or operating’.
There is another strange phrase that is being used. Many people say that the USA is in the middle of a Cold Civil War. That may be true, but it is the strangest war that has ever occurred. The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump is actually threatening and killing their own supporters by denying that the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious problem. Wearing masks and social distancing have become political. The supporters of the Republican Party don’t wear masks or take other precautions, while Democrats and scientists do. Many Republicans in rural areas feel that they are protected from the SARS-CoV-2 virus and Covid-19. They might be for now, when only about 2% of the population has been found to have been infected. When this increases towards 20%, the virus will spread into rural communities who have little access to hospitals. If the state of Texas, the Republican Party and their Supreme Court declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in their lawsuit, rural communities won’t have health insurance either23. If the average number of deaths remains at about 1000 per day, the number of dead will exceed the number of dead in the Civil War (estimated to be over 600,00024) by early 2022. In the meantime, donations to Evangelical Protestant churches have fallen. Pastors and other employees are losing their jobs and health insurance.
There is still hope. The Brazilian judiciary is starting to wake up from the Bolsonarista nightmare25. Unless the Republican Party of Reagan and Trump are able to stop it, there will be an election in the USA on 3 November. We will certainly win the popular vote. For now, the polls indicate that we will probably win the Electoral College as well as control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Once Joe Biden becomes President, he will be able to work with Congress to control the pandemic, improve healthcare and ensure that police everywhere are forced to realize that black lives do matter. As time progresses towards midterm elections in 2022, people who are now 16-17 years old will reach voting age. Demographics will work against the Republicans and for the Democrats.
Still, there is a chance that the Republican Party of Reagan and Trump will stay in power. That could mean the destruction of civilization in the USA. If that happens, I implore the rest of the world to continue without us in the Paris accords and work to stop or even reverse global climate change. I also ask them to remember that hundreds of millions of other Americans and I will continue our efforts to stop modern slavery and the destruction of the environment.
I want to thank Professor Pier Luigi Luisi for allowing me to work as a postdoctoral fellow in his lab at the ETH-Zürich from 1979-1980 and for inviting me to speak during Todi Week 2018. There I met many wonderful people, including Brother David Steindl-Rast and Antonio Vergara Meersohn. At breakfast on the first morning of Todi 2018, Brother David stood next to me because he felt much peace in me. I fought back the tears because I felt no such peace. My beloved wife had died just seven weeks earlier after a long struggle with kidney disease. Brother David and so many others (including my dear friends and spiritual sisters, Hortense Reintjens-Anwari and Irene Reintjens) helped me find peace and begin the road to recovery from my grief. I also need to give special thanks to Antonio Vergara Meersohn who asked me to join this Wall Street International online magazine and write articles. Thank you Antonio for giving me a voice and an audience and especially for your love and peace.
1 Gramlich, J. Pew Research Black imprisonment rate in the U.S. has fallen by a third since 2006, 6 May, 2020.
2 Talk Poverty.
3 Thomas, S. Alcohol and drug abuse statistics, 1 June, 2020.
4 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 1996.
5 Davidson, J.O. Modern Slavery, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2015.
6 Federici, S. Caliban and the Witch, Autonomedia, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
7 Bales, K. Blood and Earth. Modern Slavery, Ecocide and the Secret to Saving the World, Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2016.
8 Stanton, E.C. The Women’s Bible, A Public Domain Book. Kindle Edition, 1887.
9 Thompson, E.P. Customs in Common, The New Press, New York, 1993.
10 Taylor, A. The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832. W. W. Norton and Company, New York, 2013.
11 Delacyplace.com. The Alamo was about slavery. 8 June, 2011.
12 Benedict XVI: The Green Pope. The Catholic Register, 7 May, 2017.
13 Davis, A. Are Prisons Obsolete, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2003.
14 James, J. The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 2005.
15 Chang, G.H. Op-Ed, Remember the Chinese immigrants who built America’s first transcontinental railroad. Los Angeles Times, 10 May, 2019.
16 Calisher, C. et al. Statement in Support of the Scientists, Public Health Officials, and Medical Professionals of China Combatting Covid-19. The Lancet, Volume 395, page e42.
17 Smith, R.E. Developing vaccines and treatments for Covid-19. Humans are not the enemy. Wall Street International, 24 May, 2020.
18 Lehr, D. The racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson. The Atlantic, 27 November, 2015.
19 Hogan, P. Great River: the Rio Grande in North American History, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 1984.
20 Brown, D.L. Remembering ‘Red Summer,’ when white mobs massacred Blacks from Tulsa to D.C. National Geographic, 19 June, 2020.
21 Altman, N. Social security could come to a screeching halt. CNN Opinion, 1 September, 2020.
22 Begala, P. Trump declares war on Social Security, Medicare. CNN Opinion, 9 August, 2020.
23 Platoff, E. and Walters, E. Texas is going to court to end Obamacare. It hasn't produced a plan to replace it. The Texas Tribune, 8 July, 2019.
24 Gugliotta, G. New estimate raises Civil War death toll. The New York Times, 2 April, 2012.
25 Santos, BDS. An escape route for Brazil. The role of judiciary to wake up from Bolsonarista nightmare. Wall Street International, 17 August, 2020.