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Est. April 5, 2002
June 25, 2020 - Issue 824
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Greg Grandin’s
The End of the Myth

"The nation’s drive west in the creation of a democratic society
for Caucasians is further evidence of the formation of white
supremacy as a founding ideology. The demand for docile
people of color in this Caucasian democracy to serve as a free
labor force is contrary to a reality of a nonwhite (as it was at
the beginning) society that is, thanks to conquest and
enslavement, a bedrock of inequality."

A person does not lightly elect to oppose his society. One would

much rather be at home among one’s compatriots than be mocked

and detested by them...[but] it is terrible to watch people cling to

their captivity and insist on their own destruction.

James Baldwin, No Name in the Street

There’s a before and an after the COVID-19 pandemic. I began reading Greg Grandin’s The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America in the before era, that is, in February of this year. I read a few pages and then set the book aside. In fact, after a few days of it sitting on my desk, I decided I didn’t have the time or the inclination to read the book, and so placed it on a book shelf where other American history books reside. The end of a reading of that particular history.

Until after the pandemic and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.

I’ve read so much history, in fact, I’ve read more history in the last twenty years than I’ve read literature. An understanding of American history, the version not taught in my 1950s and 1960s education, for that matter, not even during my college years in the 1970s, is vital if an American, whatever stripe, is to understand how to relate to other Americans who’s history doesn’t reach back to the Vikings or the Goths. Or Anglo-Saxons.

How did the Indigenous people, in the millions throughout the so-called New World, respond to the arrival of old boy, Christopher Columbus? Why was it important for the Anglo-Saxons settlers to create an international business and market around the capturing, selling, placing, and patrolling of Africans and African Americans? How did the movement to go West further disrupt the lives of millions of Native Americans and eventually encouraged and emboldened capitalist adventurers to sail the world again and capture not just more free labor but also land and all the resources to be had on that land?

I guess I was just burned out in February. The country was just hearing about the Coronavirus. Although we now know, the government knew long before. I was told in January, by my new oncologist, that if I could just get through this fifth year of Multiple Myeloma, without the numbers rising significantly, then I the chances of a full-blown outbreak of the cancer would decrease every year thereafter.

When the pandemic outbreak forced states to issue stay-at-home orders, I decided to read literature. And then here’s a man jogging along a road. There’s a truck and two white men. They have weapons, and the jogging man is Black.

I went to the bookshelf where I placed Grandin’s book and started reading. And I’m still reading The End of the Myth when Minnesota Police Officer Derek Chauvin, ever so casually presses his knee on the side of George Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. His freedom, so he believed, gave him the right to do so.

In the chapter entitled, “A Caucasian Democracy,” Grandin writes about the history of freedom in America. How the idea of “frontier” became synonymous with the idea of freedom. Freedom to roam, to expand one’s horizons and build on wild open space… Yes, the land had always been wild open and free of inhabitants. That’s what the adventurers to the West read in there school texts in the 1800s.

By then in the 1800s, with the Indigenous having been removed, killed predominantly before marginalized to small patches of land, “the word ‘frontier,’” writes Grandin, had come to mean not a line in the proverbial sand, “but a way of life, synonymous with freedom.”

Whites in order words, can’t be told what to do, where not to go, where not to live, and more recently in the 2020 what to wear on their faces. Or try to instruct them in staying at home during a pandemic when they know the one’s dying in droves aren’t them but the Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples.

Back in the 1800s, the “removal operation” accomplished the task of teaching Americans that the original inhabitants were so unfit as to necessitate their removal in order for more competent and worthy people, true Americans, to tend to the land. And grow. There wasn’t anything to feel bad about, in other words, for it’s the creation of a “distinct culture,” one that justifies the use of violence as a means of turning the land into safe spaces for Caucasian democracy.” And that, of course, meant, removing “savage” obstacles for the expansion of white citizens and capitalist profiteers.

In other words, the nation’s drive west in the creation of a democratic society for Caucasians is further evidence of the formation of white supremacy as a founding ideology. The demand for docile people of color in this Caucasian democracy to serve as a free labor force is contrary to a reality of a nonwhite (as it was at the beginning) society that is, thanks to conquest and enslavement, a bedrock of inequality.

I have to pause here in the reading because this chapter, an engrossing narrative, is about that horror of narrative that begins again to solidify a collective mindset into believing in Caucasian superiority. Again. It’s Christopher Columbus riding returning to lead the charge from the New England settlements, pass the Mississippi, clear through to the Rocky Mountains. The carcass of women and children, fathers and husbands cleared away or left as food for the vultures.

Here in this violence is the narrative that proclaims the necessity to totally disregard human life—proclaimed by the quill of no worth. Dip the quill in ink and write: They are savages. They aren’t human. Claims, treaties, policies can be dismissed as soon as the ink dries.

It’s cultural, a systemic way of seeing those who are not Caucasian. The removal of the unwanted by whatever means necessary. And the unwanted (other racial groups) becomes a border of sorts in the mind of the white American.

...Since 1492.


The narrative out of Tidewater and Piedmont in Virginia dominated the country, writes Grandin. From this area came slaveholders who thought nothing of the lives of blacks, except as their existence could be useful to building the power and wealth not just of the owners of plantations, but also of the young nation. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe became the nation’s first band of presidents; and all, Grandin notes, “speculated in land west of the Alleghenies.”

So the white occupiers to this land used Black bodies just as they removed the original inhabitants of Turtle Island from their land. The “Founding Fathers” hoped these people would just become extinct, “either as a culture, through assimilation,” or “as individuals through death.”

The US had a goal, and that goal, Grandin explains, was to move West, toward the Pacific. The Indigenous population be damned!

However, there were constraints, and constraints to a population that recognizes itself as a people free to roam to place and settle and kill original occupants if necessary didn’t take well to constraints imposed on the government in London. Those constraints insisted that the Indigenous still had some rights—some rights to land, that is. The Founding Fathers, had agree to a “tome of treaty obligations London had made to indigenous communities.” It all seemed so ridiculous in a land were the white guardians of the land had effectively removed savages from curtailing their freedom.

What’s the mindset in London to that of white men in the New World?

Those treaties were seen as an insult and an impediment to Caucasian democracy, the establishment of a white country. To recognize the right to keep Indigenous lands protected was to experience a collective convulsion. And why should a people whose freedom is being held back feel such outrage from foreigners? After all, writes Grandin, the new nation “inherited settler lust for land.” Founded on “the right of freedom, a right not just exercised by but originating in movement,” the government was determined to extend “the blood meridian” in defiance of what was increasingly understood to be interference from London.

Under the presidency of Andrew Jackson, Americans would be made great! An advocate of vigilantes like that of Frederick Stump, a proud Indian killer, Jackson was elected Tennessee’s first representative to Congress as well as to the State’s Supreme Court. He earned a living collecting fees on claims “of land taken from Native Americans.”

Jackson drove “slave coffles,” that is, “a procession of enslaved people, often roped by the neck,” marching them from “one place to another.” He was the only president to do so, Grandin discovers.

Jackson had yet to arrive as president of the US; he was, however, building his resume for when he would take that seat in the White House, seventeen years later. But for now, he’s among a constituency that finds his voicing of anger regarding the differential treatment of Indigenous people to be a welcome voice in the wilderness. In Tennessee, he creates state legislation to exterminate the Creek Nation. Enough with the “low-intensity war” against these people. Jackson instructs his people, such as Stump and his sons, “to ‘pant with vengeance.’” Turn yourselves into “‘engines of destruction.’” Burn houses. Kill with impunity—not only making the violence committed in Vietnam an echo of this violence against indigenous population in the US. But in the local government’s hiring of, in a sense, a free agent to police by clearing the land of its original inhabitants, the violence serves as a blueprint on how to go forward with this brand of violence for future thievery, looting of the land of its greatest asset—human beings.

And the outcome of just this one campaign against an Indigenous population, “over twenty million acres” removed from the Creek and taken over the white settlers is representative of big time looting. For the Creek Nation, writes Grandin, were “‘reduced to extreme want’ and denied ‘the means of subsistence.’” Talk about cruelty!

Jackson made a name for himself once the Creek Nation was removed and marginalized. He would go on to fight in other battles, including the battle against the British in 1812 and the Seminoles in Florida, the Chickasaw in Tennessee and Alabama. A regular one man killing machine, but then this is America’s history, s a history of killing machines without hearts.

Jackson kept the skulls of Indians he killed as trophies, and his soldiers cut long strips of skin from their victims to use as bridle reins.” Sadistic, too!

Terrorize, bribe, legalize,” writes Grandin. “We have seen the ravens and the vultures preying upon the carcasses of unburied slain… Our vengeance has been gutted.” This after the “gruesome” massacre of 1814!

Jackson sees his path ahead, parading to 16th Avenue in Washington, D.C. While previous presidents Madison and Monroe thought Jackson’s brand too intense, these men, nonetheless, Grandin states, “came to depend upon” him.” After all, the Native Americans aren’t really human and the dead are the good dead!

For all these men, including Jefferson, the road to a white nation had only three obstacles now: Native Americans, Africans and African Americans (both enslaved and free), and “the multihued citizen of Mexico.”


This Andrew Jackson is a thug. Not the first to operate on American soil for the benefit of American people—that is, Caucasian Americans. Mean-spirited and hateful, yet, his narrative isn’t far off from another American narrative that speaks about a dream to keep anything and anyone from taking away his freedom.

Grandin paints John Quincy Adams in a different light. Adams, opposed to slavery and the “dispossession” of Native Americans, nonetheless, favors expansion. And given all that Grandin has told us about the idea of expansion of land and resources beyond the Mississippi, the settlers would have to amass tons of wealth and that wealth is gained on the back-breaking work of enslaved blacks. We know too that expansion is a word that conceals a multitude of horrors if seen and understood from the perspective of the Indigenous people.

We aren’t talking about Mexico because another committed group of American settlers and citizen vigilantes are waging a battle at the “border” where Mexico and the US divide against the Indigenous people who live there and who, because of the dream of expansion, must be exterminated so white settlers can continue enjoying their freedom.

For Adams, the US was “‘destined by God and nature to be co-expensive with the North America continent.’” But how to have expansion and avoid war with Mexico, protect Native Americans too? And slavery can’t be abolished?

Adams ran unsuccessfully against Andrew Jackson’ in 1828.

Jackson was thought of as “a proletarian orgy,” arriving in Washington D.C. among “crude supporters” who together “‘descended upon the city like a great swarm of locusts, by stagecoach, and wagon, on horseback and on foot.’”

Cotton boomed and plantations grew.

Happy days—for some Americans whom Jackson declared should be free to grow wealth and free to own property, including “the right to own human beings as property.”

In the 1830s, writes Grandin, the Jacksonian machine hummed like a water wheel.” It’s not surprising that the Federal government with Jackson at the helm “mobilized to defend a system of racial domination.”

Racial animosity toward Indigenous populations and African and blacks “unique to white American supremacy” is an idea that the “central government” had to maintain. Resentment against people of color on this soil had to be maintained if white supremacy were to take hold once and for all.

The Indian Removal Act was Jackson’s answer to helping “push Native Americans beyond the Mississippi” while in the meantime, the average white citizen was free from restraints when it came to pushing down blacks. “The first removal resulted in about twenty-five million acres of formerly Indian land, including large tracts of Georgia and Alabama, freed up from the market and slave economy.”

In foreign lands, writes Grandin, countries wage class terror, but in the US, it was “race terror.”

An already weaken people are further terrorized by “unjustifiable aggressors.” But little did that matter. The policing of Native American begins with white American itself recognizing itself as “guardians” of a people made passive. Protecting the victims of white violence from themselves becomes a cultural recognition of a people too childlike to be free.


In the decades since Jackson’s Removal Act, writes Grandin, the “frontier” has come to means a way of life—a life reserved for white Americans. For people of color, life in America was never meant for them to live—just serve. It’s this mindset that is hard to overcome—no matter how many times we sing that famous civil right’s song. “Reforms” and “policies” and more “recreational” programs in marginalized communities is never intended to correct a way of life in which every institution works to provide a life for the racially privileged population.

Capitalism spreads west on the backs of blacks and Indigenous people for whom freedom wasn’t an option—not in the frontier no more than it was in the south or in the east. In reality, the frontier was, as Grandin writes, “‘a zigzag, ever-varying line.’” But for the USA military, the border frontier had to be thought of as a “fixed” location, which must be protected against invasions from “savage tribes.”

And there is that “great” period in American history that American Trump wants to see rise again.

When the removal of Indigenous people opened the flood gates during the Jackson era, “‘an irresistible tide of Caucasian democracy’” washed over the land. So many white men could consider themselves free. So many Americans define their liberty in opposition to the people of color they put down.”

And so with that, I continued to read The End of the Myth with an eye to our pandemic era of greed and racism. And change.


America’s attempt to create a nation for Caucasian democracy failed. Even writing this sentence is, in itself, evident of how deep and far is the nation’s collective mindset when it comes to its fear of racial difference. But, in fact, despite all the violence muscled against the Indigenous, they live. All the chains and lynched bodies, Black Americans live. Latinx have survived. Our collective lives matter. The movement toward achieving freedom for all is with those who know freedom isn’t a given, it can’t be purchased on Wall Street or at the White House. Freedom as white America knows it now is nothing more than a chokehold for them, so it’s no wonder the chokehold is all America believes it can offer Black people.

Democracy doesn’t come in white only.

Beginning with the defunding of the police, we end the spending that creates the mentality of frontier adventurers, running through the streets of America killing with impunity. Beginning too with the implementation of Medicare for All, we end the profit making machine that kills rather makes well Americans. And an overhaul of the broken educational system will create an evidence-based culture, a culture that says compassion matters, a culture that lives by the motto that the lives of those abused by the maintenance of white supremacy and capitalism and that survived the worst of America’s brutality and cruelty, matter.

Our lives matter. Freedom matters. That’s our mindset. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels and BC.
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