“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” –Melanie Cervantes
“Flexing where you from when that shit stolen land
Pull up to the Capitol with murder plans
Signed the constitution with some bloody hands
Fuck yo business plan
This our peoples land.” –Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Take It All Back
“Weapons, not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed tha war cannibal animal
I walk tha corner to tha rubble that used to be a library
Line up to tha mind cemetery now
What we don’t know keeps tha contracts alive an movin’
They don’t gotta burn tha books they just remove ’em
While arms warehouses fill as quick as tha cells
Rally round tha family, pockets full of shells.” -Zack de la Rocha, Bulls on Parade
“The simple narrative taught in every history class
Is demonstrably false and pedagogically classist
Don’t you know the world is built with blood?
And genocide and exploitation
The global network of capital essentially functions
To separate the worker from the means of production
And the FBI killed Martin Luther King
Private property’s inherently theft
And neoliberal fascists are destroying the left
And every politician, every cop on the street
Protects the interests of the pedophilic corporate elite
That is how the world works
That is how the world works
Genocide the Natives, say you got to it first
That’s how it works.” -Bo Burnham, How the World Works, Inside
Growing up, my family always made a huge deal about the Fourth of July. We would get up early and have a big breakfast to make sure everyone had energy for a busy day. Dad would drive the van out into town to make sure we had a good parking spot before it got too crowded. We’d spread blankets and lawn chairs out along the road for the parade.
We ran red, white, and blue streamers through the spokes of our bikes and decorated wagons and strollers. In the “kiddie parade,” hundreds of children from all over town would compete for the most well-decorated ride. I played Betsy Ross one year, wearing my prairie dress and bonnet, pretending to sew our American flag. People cheered and called out to me, “Go Betsy!” In later years, my younger siblings would walk through the parade on stilts that my dad made.
The ”big parade” followed, and it was a big deal that people from nearby towns visited for. Every local business, from dance studios to grocery stores, had a float or performance. There were horses and old cars, and I remember twice seeing elephants as part of the Renaissance Fair display. It always finished off with a long row of police cars, their sirens blaring so loud we had to cover the ears of the youngest kids.
It makes me cringe to think of it now. I hadn’t been taught any true history about my country. Instead, my parents homeschooled us. They read us plenty of fiction, to the extent that we didn’t know how to distinguish historical fiction from non-fiction history. Every November, mom would read from “The Stories of the Pilgrims,” a book told from the perspective of fictional children. It followed the puritans from England to Holland to Plymouth Rock, leading up to a whitewashed depiction of Thanksgiving.
Independence Day was something I mostly knew about through the way it was discussed in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was about fireworks and lemonade stands and collecting paper bags of candy. I knew about the US Revolutionary War through Schoolhouse Rock songs like “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and “No More Kings.”
For the past few months, I’ve been studying United States History through my local community college to finish high school. This was a basic overview, and it certainly didn’t cover the horrors of slavery and conquest in explicit terms. Nevertheless, I was amazed at how little I knew about this land I was once proud to inhabit. Here are some things I didn’t know about until the year 2022:
- Among Indigenous Nations, there were many different languages, beliefs, stories, music, and food.
- Each tribe has its own social and political system.
- Today there are more than 570 federally recognized tribes in the United States.
- The US Constitution took democratic ideals and structures from an Indigenous oral constitution called Gayanesshagowa or the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. It was developed among the Haudenosaunee, a union of six Nations almost 900 years ago. This is the oldest living democracy on earth that defined the independence of individual nations while also sharing governance to benefit everyone.
- The War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American War all happened to expand US power and to take control of the land.
- Mexico lost 55% of its land to the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, bringing an end to the Mexican-American War. This land would later become known as the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California.
- In the late 1800s, the United States gained control of other Indigenous territories in the Spanish-American War: Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
- In the Civil War, Union General William Sherman became known as the American Father of Total War because he used such brutal tactics. In 1864, he burned the city of Atlanta. He proceeded to march his troops east and north, destroying everything in their path. They blew up tunnels and bridges, ransacked farms and devastated crops, cut telegraph wires, and mangled railroad lines. His tactics have been employed in every war since then.
- The Trail of Tears lasted for over 30 years. I knew the term – not because my parents taught it to me but because I’d picked it up in music and TV – but I didn’t know that it went on for an entire generation, between 1820 and 1850.
- White colonizers used every means possible to kill, starve, relocate, and re-educate the children of Indigenous people.
According to the United Nations, the definition of genocide includes “Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” This is all I can think about when I see the photos of white couples who, in the past two weeks since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court, hold up signs saying “We will adopt your baby.” It is class warfare and it is racist genocide to literally destroy resources and access for hundreds of years, then adopt the children the targeted groups can’t afford to keep.
The erasure of history that I grew up with was not done in ignorance. Both my parents went to public school. My dad has two degrees. They supported Trump with eagerness, and my dad is proud to have been childhood friends with Paul Ryan. White homeschool families across the country spent the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s doing their best to keep their children isolated and ignorant about the real history of our country.
Like I wrote in a recent post, homeschooling has changed since the pandemic and increasing frequency of school shootings. Not everyone homeschools for these reasons anymore, but the damage has been done. They’ve raised a dozen “warriors” for their “cause” (the cause is conquest and genocide) for every one of us that got out. It’s not just homeschools. All across the country, white parents are fighting to keep their children from being taught the true history of genocide and slavery in public and private schools.
Today, they are celebrating their freedom to destroy. They are celebrating their freedom to kill. They are celebrating their freedom to keep everyone who is not a white patriarch in a position of poverty and servitude. Cops are murdering Black people without consequences to this day. That is the only independence this country has ever stood for. It was a joke from the beginning to claim “liberty and justice for all” while carrying out massacres and putting people in chains and forcing them to work under pain of torture.
I was lied to for most of my life, and to be honest, it’s been disheartening and depressing to learn that the world is not as simple as I’d been taught. I’m angry and I don’t know what to do except use what I have to speak up about it.