Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McCain Enables Deception: Am I My Brother's Keeper? Denies Slavery Ancestry

Above: McCain on the confederate flag: "Some view it as a symbol of slavery; others view it as a symbol of heritage. Personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage."

Senator McCanin's heritage lie in a slave trading and owning 19th-century cotton dynasty in a Teoc, Mississippi plantation, which after slavery progressed to share cropping composed with many of its former slaves - some of whom were children of the slave master.

John McCain has black relatives who are descended from the 120 slaves held by his forebears before the end of the Civil War at Teoc, a Mississippi plantation owned by the family of Republican presidential nominee's great-great-grandfather. (There is some discrepancy in the sources as to the exact number of slaves held by the McCains- some claim 120 slaves while others state 56)

Inquiries put to the McCain campaign in repeated questions about his black relatives, or about his relatives of both races were ultimately dismissed. Pablo Carrillo, a media liaison with the McCain campaign, said the senator was aware of his African-American relatives, but asked the reporter to put his questions into writing, and that someone would get back to him.
After the reporter sent questions in writing, and made repeated follow-up phone calls, neither Sen. McCain nor anyone else from the campaign responded.

Based on information obtained by the South Florida Times, the senator has numerous black and mixed-raced relatives who were born on, or in, the area of the McCain plantation. The mixed races in the family can be traced back to the rural Teoc community of Carroll County, Mississippi, where his family owned slaves who grew cotton.

Sen. John McCain’s great, great grandfather, William Alexander McCain (1812-1863), fought and died as a soldier in the calvary of the Confederacy and owned a 2,000-acre plantation named Waverly in Teoc. The family dealt in the slave trade, and, according to official records, held more than 120 slaves on the family’s plantation. The enslaved Africans were likely used as servants, for labor, and for breeding more slaves. They remained closely entwined with the white family for decades after the Civil War, taking its surname and living close by on land rented from their former owners as sharecroppers.

Left: The McCain family land in Mississippi.

"I didn't know that," McCain said in measured tones wearing a stoic expression during a midday interview, as he looked at the documents before Tuesday night's debate. "I knew they had sharecroppers. I did not know that."

This documentation includes slave schedules from Sept. 8, 1860, which list as the slave owner, "W.A. McCain." The schedules list the McCain family's slaves in the customary manner of the day -- including their age, gender and "color," labelling each either "black" or "mulatto." The slaves ranged in age from 6 months to 60 years.

"I knew we fought in the Civil War," McCain went on. "But no, I had no idea. I guess thinking about it, I guess when you really think about it logically, it shouldn't be a surprise. They had a plantation and they fought in the Civil War so I guess that it makes sense."

However, the black and white McCain families have long acknowledged their shared history at Teoc, a name that applies to both the plantation and the now-sparse community around it. A cousin of the senator still owns 1,500 acres of the original 2,000. Sen. McCain's younger brother, Joe, and other white McCains have attended family reunions organized by the African-American McCains.

Lillie McCain's family is descended from two slaves, named Isom and Lettie, according to interviews and examinations of family documents, county files and U.S. Census Bureau records. They remained closely entwined with the white family for decades after the Civil War, taking its surname and living close by on land rented from their former owners. Lettie McCain's headstone is still visible in an overgrown graveyard for African-Americans not far from the ruins of the last "big house" on the Teoc plantation.

Lillie McCain, 56, another distant cousin of John McCain who is black, said the Republican presidential nominee is trying to hide his past, and refuses to accept the family’s history.

“After hearing him in 2000 claim his family never owned slaves, I sent him an email,” she recalled. “I told him no matter how much he denies it, it will not make it untrue, and he should accept this and embrace it.” She said the senator never responded to her email.

Left: A Mississippi cotton field during.

McCain's remarks may be spurious and might even be excusable - not knowing his roots stem from a slave owning family who traded, bred and had slaves toil in their cotton fields is not a sober pedigree for a national politician in a diverse America - nevertheless, to obscure his inheritance is indefensible. There is a certain level of reasonable racial tension created when the subject of slavery is raised because people, both white and black, continue to focus on the horrendous past regarding slavery instead of the legal intervention undertaken by our society - the eradication of the social vestiges of slavery's legacy would best be served if the latter course was more prevalent in our discourse. The astute comedian, Chris Rock, once stated that "When white people hear a black person talk about slavery, the white person thinks to himself 'I didn't own no slaves'" - which is obviously, true. A certain measure of discomfort is experienced as the person mulls over - however cursory the contemplation may be- the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history - the so-called white man's guilt complex.

Even so, senator McCain probably knew of this sordid history and found it beneficent and politically convenient to conceal it.

Furthermore, the writer Elizabeth Spencer, a cousin to John McCain, recounts the family's slave legacy in her family memoirs, "Landscapes of the Heart."

Early in Spencer's book, she points to the issue in a passage about her family's history. "All the descendants of slave-holding families I have ever known believe in the benevolence of their forebears as master," she wrote.

A book McCain says he has read, though he cautioned, not closely enough to have caught her references to the family's slaves. Instead of this subterfuge, the senator should have merely asserted that he did not personally, own slaves - that the institution was a sad part of American history and that we, a society have moved on from those dark times and the issue would have been settled with most American voters. Instead McCain chose to both, deny and claim ignorance about his family tree of slaves and slaveowners.

Left: Bill Ayers was on the run from the FBI for 11 years.

If this man cannot acknowledge his links with his slave owning past and African American ancestry, then, is it any wonder that he seems to have no problem participating in race baiting in his bid to be elected president? The McCain campaign has sought to link senator Barack Obama to the Weatherman member William Ayers, who the campaign says was a domestic terrorist - insinuating that senator Obama has a close nexus with radical and terrorist undertakings and is not loyal to the United States. The inference of those McCain assertions attempts to discredit the fidelity of senator Obama to America and evasively tries to tie him with black radicals and other armed agitators, so-called domestic terrorists of the same era, namely, the Black Panthers and other such resistance groups of the period.

What becomes blantantly, clear in this enterprise to associate senator Obama with the Weather Underground and in extension the Black Panther Party is that whether black or white any affront, peaceful, completely legal and mainstream or otherwise, on the conventions of power and tradition will be considered a treachery to America and met with utmost disdain.

Left: Bobby Seale and Huey Newton, founders of the Black Panther Party who advocated self-defense to counter oppression.

Slavery may have officially, ended over a hundred and forty eight years ago in America. Yet still, what is strikingly similar today to antebellum America is our dependence on cheap labor in agriculture and other commercial pursuits.

The emblematic economic relations may have been altered in dramatic aspects for the majority, but structurally we continue to own comparable slaves in this country. We own them collectively as a society - although some benefit more than others in the arrangement. Therefore we bear a certain degree of responsibility collectively for the mistreatment, destitute status and dire working conditions as well as the near non-human status of these "low-grade" workers. We must be intellectually honest and stand firm to accept this social guilt if we are to genuinely rectify the contradiction of our condemnation of the institution of slavery and those actors who benefited from the tradition.

Indeed, we subsidize agribusiness and corporations swelled in slave labor throughout the world and tacitly consent - looking the other way regarding their and our virtual slaves. (illegal Mexicans and other South Americans, Chinese peasants forced into cities to work in the colossal assembly sector, etc.,). Addressing these fundamental inequities in order to bridge these disparities will have a dramatic beneficial impact not just in the US, but globally - justice and equality must hatch a peaceful world. It is a good thing, Do not allow them to comfound the intimacy we share with promises of individual aggrandisement and personal "uniqueness."


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