received an email from a cousin I’ve never met—one I
didn’t know existed ’til I heard from her. After brief
intros, she wanted to know one thing. She asked, “do you know
what plantation your ancestor was sold to?”
been a recurring theme since I began my journey to discover my family
tree. Working with Ancestry.com has made it easier but the software
can’t work miracles. Whenever I dive into my ancestry, I’m
reminded how thoroughly my life was impacted by that “peculiar
a few generations ago, my family and hers were forcibly ripped apart.
Children separated from parents, sold off–no mention of where
they were going or with whom they’d live. The only thing the
family knew for sure was that they were gone.
the Civil War, many searched. Some searched for the rest of their
lives. Most never found each other.
his autobiography, former slave Frederic Douglass writes that the
single greatest fear harbored by every slave was being separated from
their children or having their children taken from them, destined for
the auction block.
more than 150 years after slavery was abolished, many of the
great-great grandchildren of those children are still searching. But
this generation has access to technologies few could have imagined
even a generation ago.
a member of that generation. DNA testing and Ancestry.com have
provided a path to discovery, enabling me to connect to blood
relatives whose identities I didn’t know. Of course, the
connections are only made possible after others also sign up with
Ancestry.com and submit a DNA test (privacy issues and the
profiteering of victims of the slave trade is fodder for another
article – not for today).
impact of slavery and other forms of oppression and exploitation
certainly lasts a lifetime, but we don’t know the toll it takes
on multiple generations, as is evidenced in my story.
the Trump administration has done to the children and families
seeking refuge in “the land of the free” should have
criminal consequences. But as was the case with my family, what
Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions and others have done is legal. Sure, some
will say (and rightfully so) that Trump’s policy violates the
international human rights law that protects immigrants, refugees and
especially children. But, that won’t change a thing.
of children have already been separated from their families. Who
knows how many will be reunited. It’s not inconceivable that
some parents and children will never see each other again.
this tragic story has unfolded, thousands protested in the streets.
The hashtag #FamiliesBelongTogether
trended in social media and the story dominated cable news. But the
truth is this travesty has long been in the making.
unprecedented numbers of people crossing the U.S./Mexico border since
the 90’s is directly tied to NAFTA and the devastating affect
that agreement had on small corn farmers south of the border as well
as the stagnation it caused in wages. According to the Black
“The average Mexican wage was 23 percent of the U.S.
manufacturing wage in 1975. By 2002, it had fallen to less than 12
percent. NAFTA hurt Mexican wages, rather than reducing the
differential. In the 20 years after NAFTA went into effect, the
buying power of the Mexican minimum wage dropped by 24 percent.”
migration was a known consequence of implementing NAFTA.
This was forecast back in the 90’s but instead of helping to
ease the bad economic conditions we helped to create, the United
States militarized the borders, while the right demonized the
undocumented community and the corporate media did a poor job overall
reporting on what the endorsers of NAFTA promised and what it
actually delivered, both here and south of the border.
of this set the stage for the establishment of policies that further
penalized people who were only trying to escape unbearable living
conditions that were not of their making. To make bad matters worse,
also during this period, the private prison industry was ushered in
to build more detention centers—for-profit ones, of course.
Lest we forget, detention, like slavery,
is a business.
draconian policies are not enacted in a vacuum. They reflect the
sentiments of our society–they demonstrate just how much we’ll
allow. And they establish the beginnings of societal norms. That was
true 150 years ago when it was perfectly legal for my great-great
grandmother to be sold as easily and as legally as you’d sell
your used piano today.
the laws and our selective enforcement of those laws are a reflection
of our collective sentiments. It’s hard to imagine that Trump
and Sessions would ever consider enforcing the zero
on the over 100,000 Canadian
Can anyone imagine children born to undocumented Canadians being
snatched from their parents and put into cages.
some ways, we’re making progress. More people have become woke
since the 2016 election. They’re contributing to organizations
like the ACLU, they’re protesting, joining organizations like
and they’re supporting candidates like Alexandria
Donald Trump’s base is no less committed to vote for him in
2020 than they were in 2016 and our election system is as broken.
you’re among the throngs of people who want to know more—want
to do more, consider joining us for the Left
24-26, 2018 in Los Angeles at the LA Trade Tech for a convening for
progressives. We’ve got some great speakers lined up and a
program that’ll educate and enlighten. Oh and they’ll be