From Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: Every 4th of July, my liberal and left friends and family on Facebook, who as I do dislike the patriotic gore, and especially that it celebrates the Declaration of Independence with its vicious slur of the “savages,” meaning Indigenous nations, the Anglo elite and settlers alike barrier to acquiring land and more land with their horizon being the Pacific, invoke Frederick Douglass’s 1852 scalding attack on the celebration.
But, Douglass wasn’t criticizing the concepts written in the Declaration, rather calling out the hypocrisy of the call for freedom while hundreds of thousands of people of African descent lived under chattel slavery, their very bodies viewed as commodities to be traded on the market. He spoke differently, as a patriot, after emancipation, although still fighting for Black inclusion and voting rights.
From Teen Vogue, July 4, 2018:
“Douglass professed striking racism toward indigenous peoples in America. Despite being a staunch abolitionist, Douglass used a kind of racialized othering against indigenous peoples similar to what white supremacists had used against him. In an 1866 speech titled “We Are Here and Want The Ballot-Box,” Douglass spoke to a Philadelphia audience regarding the differences between black Americans and what he called “the Indian.” In an 1866 speech titled “We Are Here and Want The Ballot-Box,” Douglass spoke to a Philadelphia audience regarding the differences between black Americans and what he called “the Indian.”In one particularly brutal section, the abolitionist said, “There is no resemblance in the elements that go to make up the character of a civilized man between the Indian and the negro…[the Indian] sees the ploughshare of your civilization tossing up the bones of his venerated fathers, and he retreats before the onward progress of your civilization…he abhors your fashions, he refuses to adopt them. But not so with the negro.”
This is not to “cancel” Douglass or degrade his contribution to abolition, rather to remind that, as one important book title puts it, “Why You Can’t Teach United States HIstory without American Indians.” Race, racialism explains a great deal about US history and the present crisis of looming white nationalism, but it does not explain US militarism and imperialism. The US hundred years of war against Indigenous Nations to take the continent created the US imperialist armed forces.
Race, then, does not explain why we do not and have never really had an antiwar movement in the US, yes opposition to some specific wars, but anti-war, anti-imperialist mass movements do not last past the specific war. Race and racialism/slavery explain half of the origins of US capitalism, but is incomplete without land, land theft, land sales, real estate, settler-colonialism.