Part 1 – My notes from the book,
“An African American and Latinx History of the United States”
by Paul Ortiz
I met Dr. Paul Ortiz back in February when he did a book signing at Texas Christian University. I hate to admit I just finished the book I started more than nine months ago… but it seems appropriate I can now publish a blog from my notes… as I camp on the Rio Grande River.
You may wonder why this text belongs in my Kemetic Studies blog space? And I say… it makes sense that just like the ancient philosophies and science of Kemet have been left from main stream American textbooks; we must demand history not more than 400 years young be part of modern history books.
I loved the book from the first page. It brought to me bold and clearly exemplified examples how US American history is written from an elitist perspective. I hadn’t thought much about it; but now I can clearly relate to how major contributions by the poor and working-class of our country are left out… a form of “historical amnesia.” Just as mentioned in the book, also in my history classes, Abraham Lincoln was glorified as a hero to Afro-Americans for “putting an end to slavery”; in his Emancipation Proclamation. But the entire narrative on how the US was founded on racial economics is not taught. It seems Dr. Ortiz is suggesting a “new origin narrative” for American history. A narrative that would include people like Carl Hansberry; an Afro-American, who in 1945 presented at a conference in Mexico to propose ending racism and militarism in the Americas.
And how Geoconda Arguello Kline left her home land of Nicaragua in 1983; to help organize a labor union in Nevada that supported workers in 48-nations.
I agree with Dr. Ortiz. Traditional US history has most often been written with emphasis that stretches to and from European lands. Hardly much of any details are found from the origins of Africa, the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas… what the author refers to as the “Global South.” How can the US declare itself a body of democracy; when its historical aspects of diversity hardy reach beyond Europe?
I learned from the reading… Mexico was the first country, in the world, to fully “frame in” a social democratic constitution. And unlike the US; that constitution of Mexico was realized With-Out racial economics (slavery). Latin America’s highest accomplishments for civil rights include: a Right to Organize; a Right to an Education; and a Right to Health Care. These aspects have been added to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. But the book author suggests Latinx have yet to be given credit for sharing their early accomplishments for providing opportunities for quality of life with the rest of the world.
The book is great about explaining how Afro-American and Latinx communities have more in common from an American Global perspective than what is originally thought. It has been widely noted that both groups of people have indigenous, African and European blood running through their veins, (Afro-Latinx, Indo-African, Moreno, Mestizo). Some Latin American countries consider Africa “Nuestra Tercera Raiz”; meaning “Our third root.” However, traditionally accepted historical literature make sure the two people’s events and activities stay distinctively separate. And modern day leadership seems to be attempting to widen the gaps for divisiveness. Truths must be known, to every generation; there are deep rooted connections between Afro-American Anti-Imperialist, Mexican Labor Unions, Central American Workers, and Caribbean Anti-Colonialist.
Dr. Ortiz suggests his book is an attempt to “chip away at the barriers that have been placed in the way of understanding between people, between nations.” He uses many examples of Fredrick Douglass’ speeches and writings to express Douglass’ insistence, that the center of the United States development has been imperialism and economic slavery. For instance:
-the US focused on Florida when a war was waged with the Native and Indigenous Americans of the Seminole tribes… concluding with the brutal Trail of Tears to a reservation that would later be taken away from them again and named Oklahoma;
-the Louisiana Purchase took away ancient lands from more Native/Indigenous Americans and further disenfranchised free Afro-Americans with hateful,greedy policy that intensified racial economics (slavery);
-the Annexation of Texas waged war with Mexico for rich resourceful lands;
-the Missouri Compromise consists of broken promises to keep slavery south and east of the Mississippi river;
-and the Pacific Railroad projects effectively created additional labor abuses by corporations… to Asian communities at that time.
The truths behind these and other racial capitalism is left out of history books; and can be described as historical amnesia.
The United Farm Worker Organizing Committee (UFWOC), co-founded by Cesar Chavez; is an excellent example of how Filipino and Chicana/o farmer workers came together with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on occasions. Together, they emphasized the struggles of working-class people for international liberation. Some suggest Dr. King’s anti-Vietnam War stance lead to his assassination when his movement’s attention began to highly focus on labor issues. King called for an end to slaughtering Vietnamese farm workers by US military. Ortiz suggest both Douglass and King believed “oppression and militarism” destroys attempts for the US to become “truly democratic.”
Some of the worse misrepresentations in US history involve how slave owning “Founding Fathers” attempted to write “civil liberties” in the Constitution of the United States. A constitution that developed policy for Racial Capitalism… where slavery is historically ignored as “mythological innocence.” The world should agree with the Colored American who can legitimately question the US as a “Model Republic.” A county with policy of buying a man for money; and hanging and burning him alive does not give the impression that the US is the freest county in the world.
It is eye opening to realize while reading the book, that in every expect; poor people have had to organize and fight for “civil liberties” that are not automatically granted in US policy. Therefore, “Self-Emancipation” must embody everyone in America… no matter their color, nationality or wealth bracket to “Make America Great.” The book quotes Dr. Coretta Scott King’s notes to explain… just as skin color hues of every American make us different; oppression for being colored and poor make us the same.
Afro-American civil rights workers believed the victory of Cuba’s revolutionary war against Spain would “enhance freedom’s march everywhere.” Literature on these beliefs, and others, are available to be integral to US history textbooks on how early colonist fought many a battle against their European opposition. In a similar manner, there seems to be a double standard on what is good foreign policy when its appropriate for US military zones to start international migrations; that later classify those impacted as illegal aliens.
So what is the solution to US historical amnesia? For one, we must embrace the theme… There is More than One Way to be American. And US school curriculum must include the historical aspects of Afro-Latinx-Caribbean culture, pride, and struggle to enhance the traditional American history they already receive. The sooner we put an end to our historical amnesia. The sooner we are on the road to “Making America Great Again.”
Side Note: It is not my intention to steal any wording or phasing from the book. I hope I was careful enough to not misrepresent the author or any content of the writings. Asante Ashe.