Wednesday, April 27, 2011
How to Hunt in America
Where are your papers, Mexican?
Upstairs sorting clothes for the wash, I hear my husband in the living room ranting at the TV. I carry down the basket to the washer and tuck the clothes in, pour detergent, flip switch. I look at my stack of freshman comp essays that need grading; I cross to the kitchen window, looking at the furious holly tree and irate rose bush fighting for space in the same patch of earth and I think, I should uproot one and let the other grow free. Or maybe I should I go clear my head with a fast walk at the beach before the day’s work. So much to do, I think, besides yell at the TV. I see mosquitoes have nettled their stingers into the mesh of the tent my husband erected in place of a real screened-in porch and, for some reason, I am furious at those little winged creatures. I fog them.
Are you or are you not a witch?
When I come back inside, Donald Trump and his hair are the center of the vaudeville act now. The reporters’ and their microphones are politely stabbing him with questions. There is a familiar scent in the air.
Are you a Jew? Where is your star?
Suddenly realizing that I need trash bags if I’m going to shear the bushes swallowing my yard, leaping towards the summer, I leave my husband on the couch, fuming, TV blaring and melding with my morning of work and bustle. I pull up to the store and turn off the ignition. The thawing comes.
Where are your papers? Are you legal in this state, Nigger?
At least twenty years prior to the first Census in 1790, many Black farmers and planters mostly worked alongside white farmers, and owned as much if not more land. According to that Census there were over 56,000 free blacks in the U.S. Some blacks owned slaves just like the whites, though many were “bought” family members. But in the years leading up to that first enumeration, and the legislature passed in North Carolina and Virginia requiring once peaceable living Blacks to pay taxes on themselves and any people, Native American, free black or slave, living in the home, Blacks sensed what was coming and flocked to the registry to claim their status – Free Person of Color. This is a deftly abbreviated version of the struggle of African descendants, (not all former slaves), Native Americans, and Mixed Bloods, have had in this country. It is the story of their desire and right to share in the promised freedoms of other immigrants – the Brits, Irish and Scots, Dutch, Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese.
Yet, these promises continued to get whittled away by the lack of status conveyed by appropriate “papers.” There is a scene in Edward P. Jones’ 2004 award-winning The Known World, when a treacherous slave catcher stops a free black man that he has known all his life and, asking him for his papers, chews and swallows the precious legal document. The slave catcher and his cronies sell the black man back into slavery, where he dies.
I am reminded of this passage as I listen to Trump’s questions about the President’s birth certificate, which is really a press conference to dangle his own announcement to run, yet I wish Trump and his kind knew how these kinds of depredatory enactments echoes of other shameful moments in our past and recent history. I never had a reason to hate Donald Trump, and others like him, shallow, morally cracked and reprehensible magicians who wave the U.S. dollar at the audience and make us forget that the rabbit is not, nor has ever been, in the hat. Consequently, he and the others that have, by asking President Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate, in essence, his freedom papers, his Star of David, his tribal enrollment card, his citizenship status, effectively reconstituted our most discriminatory, hate-filled pogroms that have lead to the deaths and devastation of so many.
Do you have your enrollment card, Indian?
“We do not have time for this kind of silliness. I’ve got better stuff to do,” President Obama told the press after releasing his birth certificate. I echo that. We do not have time for this kind of pauper’s act but we do have time to remain vigilant against those who seek to take away what many have already fought and died for in this country, and around the world. To participate in the processes of one's country - by adoption, forced removal, seeding or birth. To share this patch of earth that we've all landed on, however we came here. Whatever we call ourselves. No matter where we were born.