Will the Real First Immigrants Please Stand Up?

I find it amusing to hear the far right rhetoric about America belonging to the white man because they were the original colonists. And then using that same rationalization for deporting hardworking Mexican immigrants. If it’s true that Europeans were the first settlers, who were all those people the “original colonists” massacred as they spread their seed across the land?

The colonists took lives from the very same natives who helped the struggling settlers stay alive by providing food to feed their starving families, and sharing natural remedies they had used successfully for centuries to treat their own ill. To the far right, “Indians” were not considered “American” then, any more than their descendants are considered American now. Neither are the African Americans who were brought here by force only to be sold into slavery,  or the free black men who came to America of their own volition in the early 1500’s. Some would even argue that Africans were here before the Mayflower landed.

And there are those of Mexican descent who called a large portion of the western territory home before the movement of the European population west. They, too, were here before the “original” settlers. While living in Colorado,  I often thought of these immigrants as the masses who were once displaced and are now returning to the home they once knew. How many others will be displaced in this new era of rising nationalism? Maybe the Muslims? Or the Jews?

According to William Lauren Katz, who wrote Black West, of the 46 original founders of Los Angeles, 24 were black, two were Caucasian, and the others were Native American. A large number of California’s population, at the time of the Gold Rush, was Mexican. While the governor, Pio Pico, was a black man from Bolivia. The diverse populations managed to coalesce and coexist effectively then.  Why are we having difficulties doing the same now?

And what would the far right consider someone who is a mix of African, Mexican, and Native American descent?  In fact, when my cousin on my grandmother’s side of the family got back her DNA test results she found out that despite outward appearances, we are not as much African American as we are Native American, representing 27 tribes as far North as the Aleutian Islands and as far south as the Aztecs of Mexico.

Which makes me wonder how many of the tribes that are now considered eradicated still exist behind the facade of  black, brown, or white skin. Would we not be considered among the original settlers of this country? So if America is a country of immigrants, I ask you to please remember those of us, not of European descent, who migrated here long before the Mayflower landed.


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