It is probably safe to say that all of us were told by our mothers when we were little that we should always make sure our underwear was clean. They said the reason was that we never know when or if we might be in an accident. “You don’t want anybody to see that you’ve got on dirty underwear,” my mother would say.
America, it seems, has never changed her underwear.
The entire debacle of ICE agents ripping children from the arms of their mothers, and of putting children in detention centers while concurrently sending their parents to jail is not a new thing. More accurately, America’s power elite have a history of separating children from their families.
When Africans were brought to this country, it was common for those purchasing Africans would buy a mother or father, leaving screaming and terrified children behind. In many cases, those parents never saw their children again.
It is America’s underwear.
What allows anyone to separate families, ignoring the screams of mothers and their children, is the presence of cognitive dissonance, defined as “holding onto contradictory ideas simultaneously,” according to Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.”
In America, she says, people hold onto the idea of freedom while doing something which is totally in opposition to that ideal. Thus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who would staunchly defend his belief in democracy and Christianity could and did defend the policy of separating families of people coming to America from Central America.
Mr. Sessions does not, cannot and will not allow himself to…consider that these people are human beings, parents who love their children and who would not even think of leaving a despotic political situation and leave their children behind.
He does not relate to the immigrants as human beings. He has disassociated himself from them and therefore cannot feel their pain and worse, cannot believe that they are capable of feeling the same pain as does he and others whose humanity he respects.
Heather Anderson Williams writes in “Compartmentalizing Slavery” that “most white slaveowners …would have only a limited sense of what enslaved people felt and they did not pause the morality of an institution that deprived humans of their liberty and wantonly destroyed their families.” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_history_of_american_slavery/2015/06/how_white_people_justified_and_struggled_with_separating_slave_families.html)
Likewise, there was no sense of how Native Americans felt when the Europeans came to America, bringing with them diseases to which Native Americans had never been exposed which resulted in over 90 percent of the Native American population at that time dying off. Nor did they consider what Native Americans felt when their land was taken, or how they felt when Europeans ignored their humanity in the quest for power and control of this country.
Martin Luther King said that there is a phenomenon called “thingification.” In an address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967, he said, “A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will thingify them – make them things. Therefore they will exploit them …”
That “thingification” has contributed to the oppression of blacks in this country for 300 years, for the decimation and genocide of Native Americans, for the oppression of women, members of the LGBTQ community, for Muslims, and now, for the horrific treatment the current administration is meting out to immigrants coming to America seeking asylum.
Those ripping children from their parents have made these people “things” in the classic sense. Though they hear the children screaming for their parents, and the parents screaming back to their children, reaching for them, they have distanced themselves from the human tragedy in which they are engaged. Like the Europeans decimating the Native Americans, and like white people thinking only of ways to use black people to further their economic goals, these people today cannot conceive that the parents and children’s screams they are hearing are genuine.
They have dissociated. These people are not true human beings, capable of feeling as do the law enforcement officers and government working against them.
America’s underwear is dirty. She has never changed that part of her presence which was sullied and soiled from the moment the Europeans landed on these shores.
Sometimes, something is so dirty that it cannot be totally cleaned. There is a gray film over it and no amount of washing or bleaching fixes the problem.
This desire to protect whiteness, which is at the base of most of the oppression in this country, has sullied America’s underwear for hundreds of years. Attacking a group of people, ruining their families and causing a lifetime of hurt and pain, is part of what has stained the ideal of American democracy. It is a stain that was begun from the moment Europeans arrived here, and it continues to spread.
Were America taken to an emergency room, sick and in serious condition, it is a sure thing that those trying to treat her would see her dirty underwear, clearly never changed …and be appalled, judgmental and perhaps unconcerned. America’s poverty of humanity caused by her consistent “thingification” of people is leading her to a bad place, where her myth of being “the greatest nation in the world” will no longer stand up to scrutiny. Her dirty underwear will finally be completely exposed.
A candid observation …