Saturday, July 4, 2015

'Rough Crossings' on Independence Day: Never Forget That More Black Folks Fought for the British than the Colonials

As you feast on entrails, drink high fructose corn syrup and other poisons, I hope that you enjoy the July 4th holiday, what is a celebration of a country built on the genocide of First Nations peoples, the enslavement of black people, and racist settler colonialism.

The United States is not a country of immigrants--immigrants assimilate into a new culture--rather it is a country of white settlers who wiped out the people already living here and then imposed their values on them while creating a founding mythology of "empty land", "Manifest Destiny", " and American Exceptionalism". As you watch the fireworks, most of them having been made in China, do reflect on those facts.

On July 4th, I, like many others in the so-called commentariat, share American icon Frederick Douglass' searing and brilliant speech "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

Alternatively, I have also shared my adoration and affection for one of the baddest black men to ever live (and who deserves his own movie), a real life version of Tarantino's Django, the one and only former black slave turned scourge of white slavers in New York and New Jersey, he who was Colonel Tye, leader of the Black Brigade.

On this July 4th, we should be reminded that more black people fought for the British than the Colonials. Why? Because American Independence was a war to protect the institution of chattel slavery by creating a herrenvolk whites only democracy that defined freedom in opposition to the enslavement of African-American human property.

This fact is often ignored or obscured in American popular memory because 1) black leadership need(ed) to reinforce the loyalty and "real Americanness" of African-Americans as part of their freedom project and 2) White America's public memory alternates between viewing black folks as perennial outsiders and disloyal while pointing to the end of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement as proof of the inherent goodness of white folks and the American democratic project.

Simon Shama's book Rough Crossings is an excellent exploration of how both black human property and free peoples responded to and navigated The Revolutionary War and The Founding. After you have eaten and drank to the point of exhaustion, emptied your bowels and bladder, and perhaps rutted with a ready and willing person (or persons if you are so lucky) Shama's discussion of black freedom and slavery in colonial-era America will give you some clarity of thought about the real meaning of Independence Day.


OldPolarBear said...

Chauncey, there you go again, farting in church, or I guess I should say in honor of the holiday, pissing on the fireworks display (emptying our bladders indeed HAHA).

Seriously, this post was a welcome relief from the barrage of "patriotic" crap posts on my Facebook feed today. We are just hanging at the house, the two of us and we are going to eat very well a little later. I like to get frozen pizzas and then chop up a bunch of extra vegetables -- eggplant, bell pepper, jalapenos, mushrooms, etc. -- and saute them and "doctor up" the pizza with them and extra cheese.I'm headed out to the store in a few minutes to get the stuff.

I'm feeling rather grumpy not only about the Independence Day nonsense but also about the same-sex marriage ruling that has everybody dancing in the streets. Surprised? So am I, kind of. I was between seventh and eighth grade the summer Stonewall happened and I was mesmerized and read everything I could get my hands on about it, not that closeted gay boy in small-town Iowa dared to let anyone see I was interested. I don't remember that the folks on those barricades were screaming about the right to file joint tax returns. Oh well.

I'm going to listen to that video later. Meanwhile, here is a shorter one that kind of explains how I feel (although I hate the "reclamation" of the word "queer"). Good luck with you own eating and rutting prospects!

James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

One of the things I really appreciate about your website is that I do learn something. That was a fascinating talk and I just ordered the book. There are not that many websites that expand one's knowledge base and offers challenges to the conventional wisdom. I read the Counter-Revolution of 1776. A long-time ago I read the book Redcoats and Rebels.

James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

I just read the link on Colonel Tye. If I could offer a critique or just be contrary, why is that the Black capitalist class, like Oprah, West, Jay-Z, do not fund historical pictures. Why was Oprah so willing to give a racist $1 billion for his basketball team and not invest say $250 to $500 million in a movie production company? A year or so ago I watched a movie about a handful of Jews who escaped in Poland and raised a small army to fight the Germans. An obscure bit of history. Didn't change the outcome of the war. A very moving movie, especially at the end where you meet the descendants of the survivors and you can link up the sacrifices and the great odds they overcame to have descendants. But, the point is that Jewish movie makers scour the history books for these stories showing that Jews resisted the Nazis; that they all did not go like sheep to the concentration camps. Like clockwork every few years there is always some uplifting Jewish movie. And they are great or good movies illuminating some unknown or little known episode of the human condition. And, there are so many great stories of Blacks resisting slavery, of Blacks fighting for their freedom, but these stories do not get made. The Ethiopian Brigade or the Black Brigade could be an interesting pedagocal movie. I understand white Hollywood is not going to make those movies, but surely the talented tenth could make those movies. Surely, we could all benefit from a movie on Denmark Vessey, or Nat Turner, or even the white ally John Brown.

I don't know, today has been one of those blah days. I watched the fireworks at a ballgame on the 3rd and just didn't feel it. I skipped watching them on the 4th. I just feel contrary today.

Gable1111 said...

The hypocrisy of "The 4tg of July" has weighed on me for decades. If you know the history of this nation and accept it is fact, how can it not weigh on any reasonable person?

The ignorance, willful and otherwise, that is required to render "patriotic Americans" to demand that black folk pretend this holiday means to us what it means to them speaks volumes. The willfully ignorant know it's pretension, but the maintenance of white supremacy is of a piece, founded on greed, evil and counter to everything the claim to celebrate.

They have no answer to the main question inherent in Douglass' speech: what reason does a black person have to celebrate Independence Day, when what it really meant was freedom for "white" men to continue to enslave us? How in hell can you demand a black person celebrate that?

Thanks for the info on Colonel Tye. Stories like this are scrubbed from history texts to support the lie that blacks were fine with slavery.

Take away the lies and they have nothing.

joe manning said...

Making such movies about black resistance would challenge their popular suppression on grounds of "don't make waves." It would put the lie to the notion that blacks should be apologetic, subservient, uncomplaining.

joe manning said...

Marcuse's Counter-revolution and Revolt is a short inspiring read.

joe manning said...

The GOP's voluntary retiring of the Confederate flag shows that overt racism is popularly considered to be socially unacceptable. So why does AMC depict slaves as members of the Continental Army and the Confederate Army in "Turn" and "Hell on Wheels." Now that the Dylann Roof pix have exposed the flag as swastika AMC's white supremacy is showing.

Shady Grady said...

I think it is all about a belief about which movies will make money and which movies will not. And sad to say that belief is probably accurate.

chauncey devega said...

The truth is there if you seek it out. Colonel Tye was the real deal. Recently, Obama pulled a slick move with Denmark Vessey if you were listening and watching carefully as I am sure you were. Gonna be calling that one out shortly.

chauncey devega said...

I refuse to watch the Southern revisionist crap. Every white man in a Western who fought for the CSA somehow didn't own a slave. What b.s.

He/They supported a system of white supremacy and stayed up at night dreaming of renting or buying a slave so that they could be upwardly mobile economically.

chauncey devega said...

Danny Glover tried to get the Haitian revolution made but got no takers for financing...I believe. Someone can check that out. Hollywood? Make a movie about black resistance when they can make a fantastical white forgiveness and white savior movie like Django? Follow the movie. If you can't seen the movie Quilombo seek it out. You may find enjoy it.

chauncey devega said...

You are the one doing some great teaching and sharing here. Your article on Right-wing terrorism was excellent. Have you gotten anymore deserved attention for it?

chauncey devega said...

I love farting in church :)

You hit that one right on the head talk about the cooptation of radical politics. Sad that so few are willing to say as much.

joe manning said...

The show's only saving grace is that it depicts the essentiality of AA and Chinese labor in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

James Scaminaci III, PhD said...

It was republished with modifications on Defending Dissent. I got a lot of great comments and questions here.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Another couple of bits of trivia:

Blacks also fought for the British during the War Of 1812. The units they were formed into, Colonial Marines, participated in the burning of Washington DC.

George Washington & the other planter-class generals were dubious about having blacks under arms. But the New England generals such as Gen. John Thomas were not:

I am sorry to hear that any prejudices should take place in any Southern colony, with respect to the troops raised in this. I am certain the insinuations you mention are injurious, if we consider with what precipitation we were obliged to collect an army. In the regiments at Roxbury, the privates are equal to any that I served with in the last war; very few old men, and in the ranks very few boys. Our fifers are many of them boys. We have some negroes; but I look on them, in general, equally serviceable with other men for fatigue; and, in action, many of them have proved themselves brave.