Chapter 3: Building the new empire


Building the New Empire

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: In God is our trust.
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave (Francis Scott Key).

Overt racism (1787-1964). Virtue principles were codified in the US Constitution (Library of Congress, 2016) in addition to those found in the Declaration of Independence, to extend and confirm the right to equality, freedom, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all human persons who were to live in the new nation. But in Article 1, Section 2 of the same Constitution, a racialized double standard was instituted from the outset by defining a slave as three-fifths of a whole free person, for the manifest purpose of official representation in Congress and the Electoral College. Slaves had been imported into the US from Africa and the trade had not ceased. Article 1 thus defined African Americans and human persons of African descent as less-than-human, denying them the right to official representation in the new democracy (de Tocqueville, 1835-1840/2000). The latent intent of Article 1 was to legitimize slavery as a way of maintaining a cheap agricultural and mining labor population for those of White colonial stock.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 78) established the diversity jurisdiction of the nation to define foreign citizens and subjects as aliens. The Naturalization Act of 1790 (1 Stat. 103) restricted US citizenship to “free White persons” (Ancheta, 1998) – in practice, White males. In theory, therefore, America was a functioning democracy. In practice, however, it was a racialized plutocracy (Thandeka, 1999).

Translocation of the Indians. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 (4 Stat. 411) and multiple removal treaties facilitated the translocation and re-education of Native Americans through the 1950s, ostensibly to protect and ‘civilize’ them into American culture. In reality, the forced translocation of the natives facilitated more governmental land appropriation through the practices of covert genocide and legalized land fractionation for cotton-growing, these actions extending the border-frontier of the nation by millions of acres. Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the US, had declared these removals necessary for “pecuniary advantages” (Richardson, 1908). He also considered the natives to be childlike, decadent, and rude savages. 

During this civilization process, large numbers of Native American children were separated by force from their families in the southeastern regions of the US and sent against their will to distant Christian boarding schools, to become ‘good’ citizens by learning English and becoming indoctrinated into monotheism (Lum, 2006). The children were prevented from speaking in their native languages and practicing their spiritualities of origin. They were also abused at the physical, emotional, and mental dimensions of the human person for days on end, whenever they were caught breaking these conditions.

Many parents and elders of the children were considered by the government to be too old and entrenched in their ways to become civilized enough. As a result, these human persons were removed at bayonet point from their lands and herded onto specific reservations. Many natives died of hunger and harsh weather conditions during the translocation. Some were given blankets to wrap around themselves for warmth preservation, but these blankets were infected with cholera (Cockburn & St. Chair, 1998-1999). Such was the manner by which the US government appropriated three-quarters of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia; one half of Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Mexico. In 1848, the US contested its boundary with Mexico and invaded it, resulting in the Mexican-American war that was resolved through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Treaty conditions included the payment of millions of dollars by Mexicans to US citizens. It also included further border-frontier extensions that annexed parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, all of California, Nevada, and Utah to the nation.

Slavery. Two Fugitive Slave Acts were enacted in 1793 (1 Stat. 302) and 1853 (9 Stat. 962). These Acts mandated the return of runaway slaves to their owners without the right to a jury trial, despite living in the Union. The right to due process in relation to life, liberty, and property had been established for American citizens in 1791 through the Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Bill of Rights. However, through Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1856 (60 U.S. 393), the SCOTUS upheld the view that American people of African descent were not citizens. In what can be considered an apt crystallization of this ruling, Justice Roger Taney declared that “Negroes have no rights that a white man is bound to respect” (Jones, 1997).

In 1864, 675 members of the militia of Colorado Territory led by the US Army Colonel, John Chivington, attacked the peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian villages in what has become known as the Sand Creek massacre (HistoryNet, 2017). This massacre occurred after a night of heavy drinking by the soldiers, during which women and children were either maimed or slaughtered in an indiscriminate manner.

In 1866, the original Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded by a small group of middle-class ex-Confederate veterans, whereas the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (22 Stat. 58) resulted in the implementation of a 60-year ban against the immigration to the US of Chinese skilled and unskilled laborers. This Act became the first in American history to target voluntary immigrants according to race or ethnicity (Lombardo, 2007a). The SCOTUS ruled in Pace v. Alabama in 1883 (106 U.S. 583) that racial miscegenation between Whites and non-Whites was unconstitutional, facilitating the widespread passage of anti-miscegenation laws by various states.

More resettlement. The General Allotment (Dawes) Act of 1887 (24 Stat. 388) mandated the construction of the racial category of Native American in what became known as the Dawes Rolls (National Archives, 2007). Only members of five ‘civilized’ tribes, from the thousands of native tribes present in the US, were allowed to be selected and defined as Native American in these Rolls. These tribes were Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, and Seminole. Tribe selection for inclusion was determined by the federal government in a unilateral manner, based on a blood quantum that reflected the emerging White supremacist mentality of the American eugenics movement (Mehler, 1988).

After their inclusion in the Dawes Rolls, the federal government allocated to the recognized Native American tribes fractionated amounts of the land they had owned in the first instance and this on condition that they renounced their sovereignty and recognized federal laws. Total designated fractionations were 160 acres for farming, 80 acres for cattle raising, and 40 acres for living. After having been assigned, this land was then administered by the government, ostensibly for the use and benefit of the Native Americans (General Allotment Act, 1887, 24 Stat. 388). In reality, such administration of the land dispossessed the natives and mandated that it be sold “to white settlers . . . [with the resulting monies] held in trust by the government for the sole use of tribes . . . but subject to appropriation by Congress for the education and civilization of the Indians” (ibid.). The narrow definition of Native American within the Rolls facilitated even more governmental land appropriation from the tribes that had remained uncategorized.

In 1890, over 150 Lakota tribe men, women, and children were hunted down and massacred in South Dakota by a detachment of the US Seventh Cavalry Regiment. This incident, which became known as the Wounded Knee massacre, ensued after a scuffle had taken place between the officers and a deaf tribesman who had refused to give up his sword during a disarmament enforcement as he had paid a lot of money for it (Parsons, 1990). The massacre was condemned by both houses of the US Congress in 1990, which expressed deep regret for its occurrence (Associated Press, 1990).

Segregation: Separate but equal. The SCOTUS ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 (163 U.S. 537, 538) that racial segregation between Whites and Africans was constitutional under the separate-but-equal doctrine. Homer Plessy, a male with a Black great-grandparent, sued after having been arrested for riding in a Whites-only railcar. The Court rejected the complaint of Plessy and proceeded to enforce the separate-but-equal doctrine from macro- to micro-levels of society throughout all the states in the Union. This enforcement was implemented by the effective adoption of the Jim Crow laws and customs (Black Codes) that had already been operant in the southern states external to the Union (Jones, 1997).

The Black Codes were a set of rules that spelled out every aspect of interactions that Africans could engage in with Whites. Breaking these rules was a criminal offense and they lasted from 1877 through the mid-1960s. Through the institution and implementation of de jure racism, the ‘inherent’ superiority of the White race became complete in America. Furthermore, in conjunction with the Pace and Plessy decisions, the Black Codes and the General Allotments Act laid the foundation for Tennessee to become the first state to construct and adopt the one drop rule.

More segregation. The Burke (Forced Fee Patenting) Act of 1906 (34 Stat. 182) reinforced the effects of the General Allotment Act and enabled the US government to heavily tax “capable and competent” Native Americans who held land in trust without consent. The Burke Act also prevented the natives from becoming US citizens before going through a probationary period of 25 years, regardless of the fact that they had lived in the land from before the arrival of the settlers. The government also decided who would inherit the lands of the natives upon their death, thus ensuring the unencumbered return of these lands to itself – by extension, its White proprietors. In the meantime, the Alaska Native Allotment Act of 1906 (34 Stat. 197) facilitated the implementation of similar provisions in relation to the Alaska natives, further extending the border-frontier of the nation through more land.

Eugenics de jure: The one drop rule.  In 1910, the US Congress accepted Folkmar’s Dictionary of Races or Peoples (662, 61st Congress, 3rd session) as a valid description of the races of human persons (Guthrie, 2004). This occurred after strong lobbying had been carried out by the American Eugenics Society (Mehler, 1988). In the meantime, Tennessee legalized the one drop rule. This rule defined a human person as Black if s/he had at least one drop of sub-Saharan ancestry and could not claim alternate non-White ancestry (e.g., Arab, Asian, or Native; Lum, 2006). It also restricted US citizenship to Whites. The one drop rule was adopted by almost all other states by 1925.

Two governmental aims existed for the adoption and implementation of the one drop rule. The first aim was to increase the number of US persons who could be categorized as African or Black, hence increasing the cheap or free labor pool. In this category fell the children of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of America and principal author of the Declaration of Independence; children who had been born from his interactions with his slave, Sally Hemings (Jones, 1997).

The second aim of the one drop rule was to maintain maximum separation between the races by preventing genetic exchange, thus promoting racial homogeneity and anti-miscegenation – views that reflected the White supremacist agenda of the eugenics movement. The Laughlin (1914) report was also released as part of the Cold Spring Harbor[1] operations, with strong recommendations for “cutting off the defective germ-plasm in Americans” (ibid.).

White vigilantism. In 1919, 237 Blacks and five White males were killed in a mass lynching by White vigilantes during the Elaine massacre of rural Phillips County, Arkansas. The lynchings occurred after the Blacks had demanded better payment for their crops of cotton (Krugler, 2015; Stockley, 2016) when working as sharecroppers on the plantations of White landowners. Considered the deadliest race riot in the history of Arkansas, with its roots in the commitment of the state to White supremacy, the Elaine massacre has been one of the deadliest, but one of the most forgotten, albeit significant racial conflicts in the history of America.

A year later, another race-related massacre termed the “single bloodiest day in modern American political history” (TWC, 2015) occurred in Ocoee, a city in Orange County, Florida. Fifty Blacks were killed and several African American-owned buildings were razed to the ground after a Black man refused to be turned away at the polls on Election Day. Three hundred and thirty acres of land were lost. Those African Americans who were not immediate victims of the killings were later hounded out of town by direct threats or force.

In January 1923, the town of Rosewood, Florida, was burned down and at least six Black residents were killed by a mob of several hundred Whites during the Rosewood massacre after the mob engaged in a violent and racially-motivated attack on African Americans in this Black self-sufficient whistle stop settlement (Glenza, 2016). The survivors were forced to hide for several days in nearby swamps until they were evacuated. No one was arrested for the violence and the killings, even though both the state and the local authorities knew what had occurred.

Applied eugenics. During World War I (WWI), the US Army started using intelligence tests to sort draftees into officer and enlisted positions within its ranks. The criteria of the sorting process were based on the nativist perspective of intelligence propagated by Goddard, Yerkes, and Terman (Carson, 1993) – three psychologist-members of the eugenics movement. The SCOTUS ruled through Ozawa v. United States in 1922 (260 U. S. 278) that a white-skinned Japanese was not White. It further ruled through United States v. Thind in 1923 (261 U. S. 204) that a human person could not be considered White even if s/he manifested white skin, unless s/he also had Aryan features and derived from Aryan culture.

The Immigration (Johnson-Reed) Act of 1924 (43 Stat. 153) barred all Asians except Filipinos from entering and living in the US through its Asian Exclusion Act. The National Origins Act within the Immigration Act restricted immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe to less than 2% of the quotas of these countries to keep out ‘dysgenic’[2] immigrants (Lombardo, 2007a). Intelligence tests were used to screen out non-English-speaking immigrants from Europe based on the government’s adoption of the views of Goddard et al., that such immigrants were of poor stock (Strickland, 2000). These eugenicist views were epitomized by the declaration made by John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., the 30th President of the US, upon signing the Act, whereby he said, “America must remain American” (Lombardo, 2007a).

Construction of the Immigration Act was for the most part influenced by the Committee on Selective Immigration of the American eugenics movement and Grant’s The Passing of the Great Race (Grant & Osborn, 1916). As one of the founders of the movement, Grant believed that the hereditary superiority of races from Northern Europe was the sole basis for effective civilization (Mehler, 1988). The Immigration Act was intended to preserve racial homogeneity in America (Department of State, 2007), with intelligence tests being used in a recursive manner to ‘confirm’ that Northern Europeans who spoke the English language were more intelligent than Eastern or Southern Europeans based on innate characteristics (Gould, 1996). Human persons from Eastern or Southern Europe became the new undesirables.

Non-therapeutic Tuskegee study and other clinical studies. In 1932, the US Public Health Service (PHS) instituted and carried out The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2007). Tuskegee was a 40-year-long non-therapeutic clinical study whereby 600 African American male sharecroppers were told they were being treated for ‘bad blood,’ while in reality being assessed from infection to autopsy to understand the untreated progression of syphilis (Lederer, 1995). The Black participants were persuaded to enroll in the study through free medical care, meals, transportation, and burial insurance. The study was kept low-key.

The Black participants were subjected to invasive medical procedures throughout the study period. Those positive for syphilis were neither given penicillin nor informed of its availability, despite the drug having been established in 1947 as a baseline standard of care for the disease. Other agencies who desired to provide treatment to the infected participants were prevented from doing so by the PHS (Tuskegee University, 2007). Twenty-two wives of the participants, 17 children, and two grandchildren contracted syphilis as an indirect result of the study (Yoon, 1997).

When the existence and nature of Tuskegee became public in 1972, it caused public outcry and outrage. However, the conduct of the PHS and the study physicians was explained as necessary by the program director of the study, who declared, “The men’s status did not warrant ethical debate. They were subjects, not patients; clinical material, not sick people” (Jones, 1981).

In a manner reminiscent of some practices employed by physicians in Nazi Germany during WWII, another non-therapeutic clinical study was carried out in 1942 by the physicians of the US Army and the US Navy. In this study, 400 Chicago inmate participants were infected with malaria to understand the untreated progression of the disease (Cockburn & St. Chair, 1998-1999). Most participants were Black and they had been persuaded to participate in the study by being told they were aiding the war effort.

Internment. During WWII, dual-nationality American citizens with German, Italian, or Japanese ancestry and their spouses and children, as well as German, Italian, and Japanese LPRs, were interned in concentration camps across the US under the Act Respecting Alien Enemies of 1798 (1 Stat. 577). This internment was implemented after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Act enabled the government to apprehend, intern, and restrict the freedom of enemy aliens in the US whenever the nation was at war with another country. In theory, the Act did not apply to American citizens. Subsequent to federal approval, however, the naturalized partners of the interned citizens or aliens ‘chose’ to follow their spouses into the camps after their families had been broken up in an irrevocable manner.

Many German Americans, Italian Americans, and Japanese Americans were arrested and interned upon hearsay (Jacobs, 2003). Some German Americans and their children were exchanged for other Americans held in Germany at the time. Japanese Americans were relocated by force from the West Coast and interned under Executive Order 9066 (The White House, 1942). Most internees were children, infants, and young adults (Weglyn, 1996). Federal denaturalization was attempted in some cases. In other cases, such as where the spouses did not choose internment of their own volition, “the government often advised . . . employers how ‘dangerous’ excludees were” (Jacobs, 2003) to preclude them from earning a living.

Although the German Americans, Italian Americans, and Japanese Americans who had been interned were entitled to all statutory civil liberties and protections under American law by virtue of their naturalization, no German Americans or Italian Americans renounced their US citizenship (Fallon, 1998). It was reported that the DOJ provided “very limited due process protections” (Jacobs, 2003) for these citizens, because it considered them to have doubtful loyalty to the US due to their foreign ancestries and attachments. The Act Respecting Alien Enemies remains in force to this day.

Redlining. After the Great Depression, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the US, explicated his vision for a great society by constructing and implementing a series of mass treatment programs and policies designed to eliminate racial injustice and poverty. The practice of redlining, however, was at the same time instituted by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) to determine individual financial lending and insurance risks through race-based coding of neighborhoods and cities throughout the nation (Illinois Legislative Investigative Commission, 1975).

Redlining is the practice whereby financial assistance is limited or denied in an arbitrary manner, while car and home insurance costs are increased in a significant way, for residents of poor or high-crime neighborhoods based on racialized distributions of creditworthiness. The operations of the HOLC were adopted by most banks, insurance companies, and mortgage companies, in addition to savings-and-loan institutions throughout the nation.

The National Housing Act of 1935 (49 Stat. 19) enabled the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to enforce racial segregation in public housing projects for 13 years (Jones, 1997). It implemented this practice through “discriminatory mortgage policies . . . [favoring] the development of all-white suburban communities” (ibid.). This kind of communitarian segregation resulted in the construction of urban ghettos and barrios for Blacks and Latinos. Real estate agents codified in their ethics code that they “should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood . . . members of any race or nationality . . . whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood” (National Association of Real Estate Brokers, 1924, as cited in Massey & Denton, 1993). Redlining was later outlawed, but is still reported to occur in a more covert manner across the nation.

More non-therapeutic studies and White rights. As part of a military project carried out in 1951, the US Army contaminated the Norfolk Naval Supply Center in Virginia in a deliberate manner with an infectious bacterium, even though it was known that Blacks were more susceptible to it than Whites (Cockburn & St. Chair, 1998-1999). Another two-year non-therapeutic clinical study was carried out in 1955 on 85 Alaskan Eskimos and 17 Athapascan Indians to determine the effect of cold weather on the radioactive tracer iodine-131 (Veracity, 2006). Participants in this study were given 200 doses of the tracer without having provided either consent or assent due to the language barrier. In 1956, the ‘revised’ KKK was formed to perpetuate the White Rights movement as “the last hope for America” (as described on the website of the Knights’ Party) after the original Klan had been disbanded by the Civil Rights (KKK) Act of 1871 (14 Stat. 27).

In 1958, the US Atomic Energy Commission dropped radioactive material over Point Hope, Alaska, as part of Project Chariot (Veracity, 2006). Point Hope was the home of the Inupiats Indians. In 1963, the PHS carried out another non-therapeutic clinical study that targeted racial minorities; this study was supported by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital of Brooklyn, New York. Throughout the duration of this study, live cancer cells were injected in a deceptive manner into 22 African American chronically ill or debilitated females of low socioeconomic status to determine the untreated progression of the disease (Greger, 2007).

All the non-therapeutic studies were carried out despite the acceptance of the Nuremberg Code[3] by the US in 1946, which code had come into being and accepted internationally by nations in reaction to the atrocious Nazi medical experiments that had been carried out on human persons during WWII (McManus et al., 2005). The Code established the need for the signed voluntary and full informed consent of any human participants in all types of biomedical, clinical, medical, and scientific research. But America did not care.

Everyday life for minorities. From the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, everyday life for minorities across the US tended to consist of beatings, burnings, clubbings, hangings, kickings, lootings, lynchings, rioting, and shootings (Jones, 1997). Rioting was characteristic of the North; burnings and lynchings were characteristic of the South, in particular the Deep South. The passage below illustrates in a vivid manner the barbaric and totalitarian nature of race relations in US history:

Mary Turner, a pregnant black woman, was hung from a tree, doused with gasoline, and burned. As she dangled from the rope, a man in the mob pulled out a pocket knife and slit open her abdomen. Out tumbled her child. Two feeble cries it gave – and received for answer the heel of a stalwart man, as life was ground out of the tiny form (ibid.).

[1] The center of the American eugenics movement funded by Mary Harriman, the Carnegie Institution, John D. Rockefeller, John H. Kellogg, and other wealthy philanthropists until its closure in 1939.

[2] Dysgenics is the genetic deterioration of a population and its human fitness due to the excessive proliferation of low-fitness genotypes.

[3] A set of research ethics principles for human experimentation that were established subsequent to the Nuremberg trials at the end of WWII.