Violence Against Mexicans in Texas as a “Habit of Whiteness”

(Image of Hayden Edwards and the Republic of Fredonia)

By Joseph Orosco (August 6, 2019)

Irene Sanchez reminds us that white supremacist violence against Mexicans is not a new phenomena in Texas. She charts it to beginning of the Texas Revolution in 1836, when Anglo Mexican settlers seceded from Mexico to form the Lone Star Republic.

But I think the use of violence by white supremacists against Mexicans in what is now Texas is even older.

Almost 200 years ago, the newly independent nation of Mexico opened its borders to US American settlers. Northern Mexico was a sparsely populated region and the Mexican government believed that immigrants from the United States would help it to develop economically. Many of the immigrants that took advantage of the invitation were from Southern States where slavery was allowed, so they brought with them many Black slaves. This also meant a lot of white supremacist attitudes. Anglo settlers would become Mexican citizens as long as they agreed to convert to Catholicism and swear allegiance to Mexico.

In 1826, one of these Anglo Mexicans, Hayden Edwards, called for a violent overthrow of the Mexican government. Edwards had started legal proceedings against Mexican residents in the Nacogdoches area, forcing them to prove title to their land. He intended to displace them and sell their land to other wealthy Anglo settlers. When the Mexican authorities caught wind of this scheme, they ordered him to be deported. He then rose up with several of his friends, and the nearby Commanche tribes, and announced he was forming an independent nation—the Republic of Fredonia.

The Mexican government sent regular army troops, along with militia from among the Anglo Mexicans in the area, and put down the rebellion. Edwards escaped back into the United States and stayed there until other Anglo Mexicans followed his lead about ten years later and formented the Texas Revolution.

The Hayden Edwards Revolt demonstrates that violence against Mexicans is what my colleague Terrance MacMullan calls a “habit of whiteness” or I have called (see my essay here) an aspect of “los estadounidos profundo” (the Deep United States)—it is one reaction among the many “practices and institutional policies of exclusion, marginalization, and eradication of non white peoples; these are the ready-to-hand tools that are reached for in moments of fear and crisis for white Americans.”

If you read the manifesto of the El Paso terrorist, you can clearly see the fear that is part of what social scientists are calling “white replacement theory”—the idea that white Americans are being displaced as the majority of the population by demographic shifts. As Black and Brown people become the majority, the theory goes, there will be social decay, economic downturn, and environmental catastrophe.

These are all ideas that one can find among the writings of Anglo Americans who were settling Northern Mexico from California to Texas—they were quite mainstream at the time. The El Paso shooter might be elated to find out that the poet Walt Whitman agreed that Mexicans had no capacity to run their own political and economic affairs:

“What has miserable, inefficient Mexico—with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many—what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race?” 

And the shooter’s concerns with “race mixing” come right from the work of notable writers, such as Thomas Jefferson Farnham (who was one of the Oregon Trail pioneers). In 1851, Farnham wrote:

No one acquainted with the indolent mixed race of California will ever believe that they will populate, much less for any length of time, govern the country.  The law of nature which curses the mulatto here with a constitution less robust than that of either race from which he sprang, lays a similar penalty upon the mingling of the Indian and white races in California and Mexico.  They must fade away…the old Saxon blood must stride the continent…and in their own unaided might erect the altar of civil and religious freedom on the plains of California.”  (Life, Travels, and Adventures in California, 1851)

As the late Toni Morrison pointed out in 1993, there is what she termed a “profound neurosis” among white Americans that needs addressing: “If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem…My feeling is that white people have a very, very serious problem. And they should start thinking about what they can do about it.”

Realizing that the use of violence against Mexicans in Texas (and even before Texas was Texas) is one of the classic go-to responses of white Americans in crisis would be step toward dealing with this profound problem of white supremacist terrorism.

Cruelty Toward Children Is Part of US History and Culture

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (July 29, 2019)

I think the most insidious and cruel aspect US fundamentalist capitalism and Ayn Randian individualism is the hatred for children, prominently now those thousands of caged children in concentration camps on the border, and in pedophilia infested centers around the country; but also the ongoing lead in the water in Flint, in Oakland, in southern Louisiana, the lack of public child care for working parents, and in Syria and Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, dead and lost generations of children, refugee children the US refuses to take in, cruelty and hatred of children baked into US socio-political-cultural history, into every institution, the kill the children first in raids on Native communities, the unimaginable horror of enslaved African children separated form parents, no childhood at all, children as property to be bought and sold and groomed for lives of labor.

The US is the only country in the world that has not ratified the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Poverty: The U.S. ranks 30th out of 34 rich countries in terms of child poverty. 21.2% of children in the United States live in poverty. The average for rich countries is 13.3%. Only Chile, Turkey, Mexico and Israel had higher child poverty rates.

The U.S. is the only high-income country not to grant paid maternity leave.

The U.S. is also the one country in the world that sentences offenders under the age of 18 to life in prison without parole, which the Convention opposes.

How do we in the US live with this horror that is the US? We should not be shocked how the USG is treating refugee children at the border, given that it doesn’t treat US citizen children much better.


History is a Weapon: Learn How to Use it

By Arun Gupta (July 23, 2019)

I have a little quiz for you. The questions are related, but by no means comprehensive. I could add many others. From memory only! No googling.

1) What do you know about the origins of American policing, in both the South and the North, particularly in the 19th century?
2) What was the Great Upheaval?
3) What is a Sundown town? Do you know if you grew up in a Sundown town
4) What do you know about the origins of the Texas Rangers and the role in served specifically during WWI
5) Which pogroms of African-Americans can you name from 1910s and 1920s?
6) What is eliminationism? What was the Rock Springs Massacre?
7) What is producerism?
8) How many U.S. citizens were deported to Mexico during the Great Depression?

I know many of you can answer most or even all these questions because you are scholars or have studied these subjects in depth. But otherwise very few Americans could answer even one of these questions.

I was a history nerd from a young age. I learned exactly zero of this by the time I graduated high school. I learned a little of this in college, where one of my majors was U.S. history. But only in the last decade have I learned about all these topics. Largely because I was interested in exploring the social and ideological construction of America as it happened, not the fantasy version spoon-fed in school, the media, and Hollywood.

If this was a college exam, I would add essay questions on Bacon’s Rebellion, the Dred Scott Case, Reconstruction, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Indian Removal Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act. And I haven’t even touched on the post-WWII era.

This brings me to the point I want to make: History is a weapon. Learn how to use it.

In America those who claim to love their country the most are the most profoundly ignorant of how it came to be. They live in a fantasy shrouded in myth cloaked in lies. They imagine themselves as avatars of goodness besieged by enemies all around them.

In reality, they hate everyone who isn’t part of their nativist, xenophobic, fundamentalist, murderous horde. They hate women, they hate Black people, they hate Mexicans, Muslims, the indigenous, Jews, immigrants, queers, teachers, intellectuals, scientists, free thinkers, and everyone who has ever fought for liberty and justice. They hate virtually everyone and everything decent that has happened in this land.

They revere rapists and murderers. The founding fathers were slave owners and massacred Indians.They were smugglers, tax evaders, and traitors. They were all hardened criminals. Nearly all of them idealize Confederates, too, every last one of which should have been shot for being traitors, among other crimes.

History is a weapon. Use it to beat back and shut down the racists and fascists rallying to Trump’s white nationalist order. When they talk about “law and order.” Make them own that legal history of slavery, genocide, lynchings, reservations, pogroms, Jim Crow, forced pregnancy, second-class status for women, the criminalization of LGBTQ people.

They hate the Constitution. They hate the free speech of Colin Kaepernick. They hate the free exercise of religion by Ilhan Omar and all Muslims. They hate the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

When they talk about “illegals” coming over the border, hit back hard. The only criminals are in the Trump administration. Under U.S. law, it’s illegal to deny asylum-seekers entry onto U.S. soil to present their claim and stay while it’s adjudicated. It’s illegal to return them to Mexico. It’s illegal to break up families. It’s illegal to kidnap children or hold them for more than 20 days. And it’s certainly illegal to torture them as the Trumpkins are doing now. All of this is illegal under U.S. law. Nearly all ICE raids are illegal because they use administrative warrants to violate people’s 4th Amendment rights.

And when they get worked up, anticipate their responses. If they say Democrats were responsible for Jim crow and the Klan say, “Sure, and the moment they abandoned that in the 1960s, the Republican Party welcomed all the racists with open arms.”

When they blame harsh immigration policy on Obama, tell them, “I opposed it then. I didn’t see you at any protests. I don’t support a party or a racist grifter for President like you. I support justice and liberation for all people, everywhere.

I don’t believe in reclaiming the flag or patriotism. The former is too blood-soaked, the latter too stepped in reactionary sentiments. But shutting down the Trumpkins can work. You don’t need to win them to your side. You just need to discourage and confuse them. To make them feel they can’t articulate their ideas, which are a jumble of rage, misogyny, authoritarianism, and racism more than coherent thoughts anyways.

Learn the history and learn how to shut them down.


Suffering at Orwellian Mexican Detention Centers Indicts the Governments of the Americas

By Joseph Orosco (June 28, 2019)

The UK Independent picked up a horrendous video from the Mexican news outlet El Universal.  It shows a Haitian immigrant at a Mexican detention center in southern Mexico, screaming in Spanish for the news cameras.  She pleads for help for herself and her child of five years old, saying they have received no food or water in the last ten days.  It is extremely disturbing:

Ever since Mexico agreed to the Trump administration’s coercion, there has been a lot of attention on the condition of the detention centers at Mexico’s southern border.  Remember, in June, the US threatened Mexico with import taxes up to 25% if it did not take active steps to stop immigrants in the South.  Mexico had already agreed to do so, stepping up detention and troop deployments.

News outlets have reported extreme overcrowding at the centers.  The Associated Press reported that the Orwellian named center “Twenty First Century” has over 2,000 detainees in a facility designed only for 960.  The Haitian mother in the video is reported to be at a nearby center named “Mesoamerican Fair”.

It should be obvious now that the United States’ immigration policy is fostering a hemispheric humanitarian disaster, outsourcing the policing power of border security to other American nations and increasing the suffering of thousands.

The Responsibility of the Writer

By Octaviano Merecias (June 26, 2019)

The responsibility of the writer

Is to measure the rising poison into our soul by reminding us of
our numbness of distraction into the apathy of oblivion
as the dissolving heart of our neighbor lingers in our pupils

Is to face evil with a piece of pen and ink as mighty weapons
And biting the metal fences as their saliva screams…
For the freedom of God, queens, and saints facing administrative agony
because when peace is crucified and hope remains caged
only faith loiters into the roads of our past, present… and future.

Is to scribble angels of water and shelter with a stroke of feeling
Is to draw photographs of rising waters and cadavers
to imprint into our memory the legacy of banana republics
and colonial interventions for our gold comforts and fake peace

What is the responsibility of the writer then?
It is to remind us that it is your river, is my rio, is our Rio Grande too;
Is to remind us that his name was Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez
and Valeria was 23-months-old.


No More Concentration Camps: A Movement Beginning

By Joseph Orosco (June 25, 2019)

Many people have responded in the last week to Arun Gupta’s call for a movement to end the mass detention of immigrants at the US/Mexico Border.  He has created a Facebook social media presence to coordinate efforts:

He adds the following:

“Hey Folks, I know many of you are eager to get involved in a national campaign against the concentration camps. We will be getting out a national call soon. This requires a lot of moving parts: lots of outreach to media, an interactive events website, fundraising, social media, design, and so on. Al of this is in motion and will happen very soon.
We are using a self-organizing model, as with Seattle and the Global Justice Movement and Occupy Wall Street.
You can get a head start by organizing your community. The goal is to get as many people down to a few key border cities this summer in the hopes it eventually takes off like Standing Rock.
But this will require extensive support on the ground as well as from afar. We aim to have coordinated days of action so everyone around the country can participate.
The first goal is simple: NO CONCENTRATION CAMPS!

There is a Facebook page you can join and start creating discussion threads. More social media and a website will be on the way very soon — within days!


Direct Action Will Work Against ICE

By Teka Lark (June 24, 2019)

Direct action is a tool that should only be used when it needs to be used. Protesting with a permit is not direct action. Anytime you appeal to authority in a way that puts them in the position of reasonable, you’re not doing direct action.

What is direct action? When you resist with your body or with your wallet. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is an example of direct action.

The most effective direct actions understand that the system is corrupt and unreasonable, not parts of the system, the ENTIRE system and people resist accordingly. i.e. You can’t call the police on ICE.

I have been involved in three direct actions in my life, both involved law enforcement and children. I taught little kids in the fall, but in the summer I taught bigger children. When I went from teaching in the wealthiest schools in LA to some of the most economically oppressed, I realized I needed some kind of code to guide me, one of them was I don’t help the police and I don’t help LA Migra (now ICE), because I was not in education to make things worse.

One time I refused to let the police interrogate my student, even after the police got in my face and told me I was “a ‘stupid’ woman for dealing with ‘thugs’ and to not call them when I found that out who I was dealing with.” I told the police and my principal that they weren’t going to violate my student’s rights and they explained, “We can interview minors without a parent present.” And I said, “The laws of this stolen country don’t guide me and I do not consent to a searching of my classroom.”

I didn’t know whether that was within my rights or not, but I just knew they weren’t questioning my student alone while I was in charge. We already know what happens to teenage Black boys when the cops think they did something. To my surprise the police actually left, they left pissed, but they left, all because I said no, because they so rarely hear no, at least from a Black woman with a college degree, who was supposed to be vetted to be “one of the good ones.”

Another time was when I was teaching poetry at a community day school. The police came in my classroom for a student who was in the bathroom. They said, “Where is James?” And I said, “He didn’t come to school today? Is there a message you have for him?”

The third involved La Migra and a parent and I can’t discuss it.

I do not believe in the prison industrial complex and I will not cooperate or abet in putting someone in the hands of the police.

In my life I have always thought if I could just convince more people to stand up with me, we could really do so much to prevent injustice.

This brings us to current day. The #ICERaids are delayed, but they aren’t stopping, they never will. The point of #ICERaids is to terrorize people into shutting up, so they can be exploited. As Adam Serwer said in regards to Trump, “The cruelty is the point.”

What I really want you to do now is to understand your power. When you are on social media, when you watch the news, what they are trying to do is take away your courage, take away your power, to convince you that YOU CAN NOT make a difference. I know for a fact that is a lie.

If we all understood our power, we could stop injustice. When ICE comes for your neighbor (regardless of who is president), I don’t want you to go on FB Live and record them taking your neighbor away, then edit music into it, and share it with thoughtful words of how angry you are, what you need to do is to STOP them.

We all occupy different spaces in oppression, currently your job is this, if ICE comes for someone in your physical space you need to do whatever you can to stop them from taking away the person in their custody. Get creative, but we need to all mentally prepare ourselves that ICE doesn’t work, because we’re not going to let it work.

We all say:
If it was during Jim Crow, I would have…
If it was during Slavery, I would have…
If it was WW2, I would have been fighting the NAZis like Josephine Baker…

Here is your chance to put on your best lipstick and do something. They can’t arrest everyone, not if we all decide that no one is going anywhere.

Direct action, it will work, if we all agree that is what we’re doing.

So you agree, right?


The Past Is Never Truly Past: We are Still Imprisoning Indigenous People in Deadly Conditions

By Arun Gupta (June 23, 2019)

Take a good look at these faces. What do you see?


They are all indigenous peoples.

527 years after the conquest of the Americas began, we are still penning, brutalizing, kidnapping, and killing indigenous people.
Asylum-seekers are 100% legal, protected by U.S. law as the signatory to international agreements such as the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians in 1949 and the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Yet 12,000 children of indigenous descent are in concentration camps in which the government is arguing before judges this week that denying children — children! — access to soap, dental hygiene, blankets, and even sleep are not needed to ensure the safe and sanitary conditions they are required by law to provide.

Deprivation of sleep is one of the cruelest forms of torture, yet children are being forced to sleep on cold cement floors under fluorescent lights on 24/7 with a thin aluminum blanket as their only bedding.
We have essentially recreated the 19th reservations for Native Americans that existed somewhere between concentration camps and death camps.

The conditions in these modern concentration camps are designed through malice and indifference to be hothouses of disease. Just today, officials from Central America who toured the concentration camps were warned they should wear surgical masks because of the prevalence of respiratory diseases.

The past is never truly past.

We need to stop this. It’s not going to happen through memes. It won’t happen through social media or online petitions.


We need to start organizing Caravans of Hope and flood the border cities with thousands of people to record, to witness, to vigil, to protest, to blockade, to force such an outcry that these camps are all shut down and that we give these people, our indigenous brothers and sisters, the compassion, care. and respect they deserve and that is long, long overdue.

Stay tuned for updates on what’s next.


What Could Happen if Trump Tries to Deport Children and Families

By Mark Naison (June 22, 2019)

Do not assume that Donald Trump’s planned deportation raids will produce the results he intends- unless his goal is the bring the nation to the edge of Civil War.

In places where public sentiment is strongly against such policies, I.C.E. Agents may face such massive civil disobedience that they will need US military escorts to carry out their mission, since local police will not cooperate and governors will not send the national guard in support

There are two examples from US History which anticipate such a scenario

The first took place after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850. In response, Abolitionists not only hid escaped slaves from government agents and private detectives trying to capture them, they organized large groups of people to surround houses where fugitives had been cornered and dared agents to shoot their way in. As a result, in places where anti slavery sentiment was strong, such as Boston. it became impossible to enforce the new law. This virtual nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law was one of the major reasons behind the rise of secessionist sentiment in the South.

The second took place during the early years of the Great Depression in large sections of the Bronx. As thousands of families were being thrown into the street for non payment of rent, radicals began employing a novel tactic. Every time a family was thrown into the street, they would organize groups of outraged neighbors to put the furniture back. Since it cost money to carry out an eviction, if you did this often enough, it was actually cheaper to keep families in apartments than keep calling in marshals to throw them out. When outraged landlords decided to get the police to accompany marshals, they sometimes faced thousands of people deployed on streets and rooftops to resist the police. So effective we’re these tactics that by 1932, it became almost impossible to carry out evictions in Bronx neighborhood such as Bronx Park East and Crotona Park East that we’re radical strongholds.

It may seem that enforcing a law is a relatively straightforward thing. But enforcing a law that is widely viewed as unfair and unjust can produce such massive resistance as to render it unenforceable.


We Need a March on the Concentration Camps

By Arun Gupta (June 19, 2019)

We need a massive march on the border, tens of thousands who will peacefully, nonviolently disrupt the machinery of ethnic cleansing, to give aid to migrants, to witness and record the concentration camps, the killings, the torture, the ethnic cleansing.

The Left is good at mobilizing in large-scale protest: the anti-globalization movement, the anti-Iraq War protests, immigrant rights, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock. All these mass mobilizations took place in the last couple of decades. All these movements helped shift the national debate.

The Left has the power to shift the national discourse. To make it clear we are not just going to let this happen in our name, we will use our bodies and brains and hearts to stop this and force everyone in this country to pick a side: either you’re with humanity or you’re with fascism.

If Trump wins again, full-blown fascism is a distinct possibility. This is about what path humanity takes. This is a moment where we need to stand up and stop what is happening. Whatever price we pay is nothing compared to that these migrants are already suffering.

There are far more of us than there are of them.


“Three Mexican countries” is About Controlling the Narrative

By Teka Lark (April 3, 2019)

When I see things like, “Three Mexican countries…” often I hear people discuss how ignorant people are.

“How can you have power and be so ignorant to not know the name of countries?!”

I am not sure if the people saying these things are saying them because they too are playing the game. I hope that they are, I hope they know this is not just a game, but a war.

The war of grasping the narrative. The Internet has made most facts pretty easy to obtain, but they have always been easy for the privilege to obtain, but some facts the rich, don’t care about, because they feel they don’t need to.

Part of the US right’s playbook is controlling the narrative.

The narrative is you are not a human being. The country you are born in is not real. Your culture is not real. You are not human and you exist to serve. And not even serve like a dog, they like dogs, but you, they don’t like you. They view you as a broom, a hammer, a sex toy, a soda dispenser. You aren’t real. We aren’t real. We are things to them. We are when we get out of line broken toys or collateral damage.
They are not ignorant when they call El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras –Mexico, they are calculated.

They are not even being funny, not funny the way we view funny. Their humor is part of how they swing their power. Like a bully tripping you in the hallway or calling you a racial slur and then saying, “I didn’t know or it was an accident or a mistake.”

They do it to show that they can disrespect you, to tell everyone else, to not respect you. They demonstrate to their base how they can call you out your name and how you will still accept their apology by accepting them in a position above you.

Every “joke,” every comment that is hidden under the guise of ignorance is them demonstrating their power over you to take it and to keep taking it.

It’s a signal to the people who admire them –of their power and a signal to their minions who to harass, discriminate against, and murder with few consequences.

The white, rich, and powerful, they are not ignorant, they know exactly what they are doing, they always have.