After President Donald Trump’s “new” American policy of separating innocent children from their desperate parents was widely exposed last week, I posted on social media the illustration along with my comment that’s shown here in this column’s image.
It went viral. As of Friday, there were nearly 105,000 shares, 10,000 reactions and 4,000 comments on my Facebook account alone. And on my Twitter and Instagram accounts, there were more than 1,000 retweets and likes.
And if you think it’s hyperbole for me to say people are wrong when they claim that separating children from their parents is un-American, consider the following:
As preeminent author, journalist, pastor and activist Shaun King notes, the separation of Black children and families “has happened millions of times across the years in this country. Africans forced into slavery in this country were routinely separated from their children — not only in being transported to the Americas, but then repeatedly at the auction block. Not thousands but millions of mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters were all forcefully separated from each other.”
And there wasn’t a damn thing Black parents could do when their children were sold away because, as pointed out by John Simpkin, a prolific author and founder of the Spartacus Education website, “The plantation owners in America had complete freedom to buy and sell slaves. State laws gave slave marriages no legal protection and in these transactions, husbands could be separated from their wives and children from their mothers.”
Along those lines, the great Frederick Douglass wrote, “Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off.”
Formerly enslaved Charles Ball wrote in his book, “Slavery in the United States,” “In most situations, slave children were sold several times throughout their childhood.”
And formerly enslaved Harriet Jacobs, author of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,” wrote about an incident she observed wherein a mother had just witnessed the sale of seven of her children. She “begged the trader to tell her where he intended to take take them; this he refused to do. How could he, when he knew he would sell them, one by one, wherever he could command the highest price? I met that mother in the street and her wild, haggard face lives today in my mind. She wrung her hands in anguish and exclaimed, ‘Gone! All gone! Why don’t God kill me?’”
Dr. Michael Tadman, a history professor at the University of Liverpool, estimates that approximately one-third of enslaved children in the upper South states of Maryland and Virginia suffered family separation as a result of sale away from parents, sale with mother away from father, or sale of mother or father away from the child.
If you think America’s history of separating enslaved Black children from their families was sick, it gets even sicker. And here’s how. As documentarian Dr. Jennifer Hallam writes in “Slavery — The Making of America,” “Owners could reap large returns by selling pretty girls (away from their families), especially light-skinned ones, into prostitution or concubinage.”
And don’t get me started about what America did to the original red people of this land. As Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-founder of the African-American Research Collaborative, says, “Another period of family cruelty began in the late 1800s and lasted well into the 1970s when indigenous children across the country were forcibly separated from their families and sent to ‘Indian schools.’ At the boarding schools, they were stripped of their language and culture. Often, they were physically and sometimes sexually abused.”
He concludes by sagely noting, “In each case, we look back at the programs as barbaric. History will similarly consider the Trump administration’s ripping children from their parents as an unconscionably evil government action.”
By the way, the fake president’s fake executive order on Wednesday does not — I repeat, does not — legally guarantee when or even whether detained children will ever be reunited with their parents. And I must also mention that there has never — I repeat, never — before been an official presidential policy to separate immigrant children from parents fleeing violence or poverty in their homeland. Anyone who says there was is an ignoramus or a liar or both.
Make America great again. Or not!