I had never thought about ancestry much until Trump was elected. His fanning the flames of hate for the “other” reminded me that my family goes “way back” in America.
Far from that being a matter of pride being a white American is one of shame. I was thinking about this as I made a video talking about Trump while standing in a small military graveyard. I was also thinking about my family beginning with my son John who served in the US Marines and was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He survived but nevertheless when I see a military grave I know my son could have been buried in one.
To put it mildly, because of my son’s service I’m both proud of him — though I disagreed with Bush over those wars — and keenly aware that our family has a stake in America’s future.
My wife Genie’s mother’s family – the King family – has as a great-great grandfather signatory to the US Constitution named Rufus King. According to Wikipedia, King (1755 – 1827) was an American lawyer, politician, and diplomat. He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress. He also attended the Constitutional Convention and was one of the signers of the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He represented New York in the United States Senate, served as Minister to Britain, and was the Federalist candidate for both Vice President (1804 and 1808) and President of the United States (1816). As the entry in Wikipedia notes:
King had a long history of opposition to the expansion of slavery and the slave trade. This stand was a product of moral conviction which coincided with the political realities of New England federalism. While in Congress, he successfully added provisions to the 1785 Northwest Ordinance which barred the extension of slavery into the Northwest Territory. He also said he was willing “to suffer the continuance of slaves until they can be gradually emancipated in states already overrun with them.” He did not press the issue very hard at this time. At the Constitutional Convention, he indicated that his opposition to slavery was based upon the political and economic advantages it gave to the South, but he was willing to compromise for political reasons. In 1817, he supported Senate action to abolish the domestic slave trade and, in 1819, spoke strongly for the antislavery amendment to the Missouri statehood bill. In 1819, his arguments were political, economic, and humanitarian; the extension of slavery would adversely affect the security of the principles of freedom and liberty. After the Missouri Compromise, he continued to support gradual emancipation in various ways.
King’s great-great granddaughter — Genie’s mother – was urged to join the Daughters of the American Revolution when she was a young woman serving with the FBI during WWII. She refused given it barred black women.
On my side of the family my mother’s ancestor was first mate on the second voyage of the Mayflower. His family name was Merritt.
With these connections when I look at my grandchildren I know that in Trump’s lexicon they’d count as “real Americans” as opposed to those “Bad Hombres” (Mexicans, blacks, Jews, Muslims etc., etc.,) “threatening” the “Judeo-Christian” White Race his fascist sidekick Bannon likes to fantasize about.
I also know that to be white and privileged in America is to bear the shame of racism. This lives on. A black man in a traffic stop by a cop is living in another world from mine. And in terms of our history people excuse leaders like Thomas Jefferson as mired in their moment in time. But as my wife’s ancestor proved and others too like John Adams and Abigail Adams, Jefferson had no excuse. Plenty of his contemporaries knew slavery was wrong even “back then.”
Jefferson raped a 14-year-old slave child then had children by her he kept enslaved. He sold some slaves and never freed any except his children—and only via his will after he’d died. Yet there is a monument to this white pig rapist—what else do you call sex between a grown married man and a slave child? — in our capital city.
Our history is one long fight against our evil. I thought justice was winning this fight. I still do. But Trump has set back the clock. He has dishonored America.
Post Trump America will need the equivalent of Germany’s Post-War Denazification Program (the Allied initiative to rid German press, law enforcement, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of Nazism). Trump, Bannon and the rest of these ignorant lying thugs (supported by millions of evangelical white “Christians”) have dragged us back in time and into the slime of the sort of White Supremacy pit that Jefferson lived in as he raped a black child.