Separátocide: Inheriting the Shame
By Jorge D. H. Prósperi
There are many reasons why Separátocide has been earned. This type of -cide is not new to America. Slaves were originally separated from their place of origin physically, culturally, emotionally, psychologically – ripped from their homes and families – their identities instantaneously fractured. Slaves faced Separátodice, not only during initial enslavement from their place of birth, but also separated at the slave auction block and at plantations. Separátodice occurred from slave owner to slave owner – beyond the Civil War and the 13th Amendment.
Separátocide was not thought to be an inhuman atrocity because slaves were classified as subhuman and therefore no reason to debate slavery as unethical, unjustifiable or an unaccepted cultural norm. Inhumanness had been normalized and justified. There were no polls needed to inquire whether “the base” was in line with the physical and psychological multigenerational legacy of pernicious oppression.
Native people also have a daunting history with Separátocide – native children forcibly taken from their parents to attend boarding schools; religious groups (Civilization Fund Act) systematically separating children from their parents, eliminating native dress, appearance, language and customs. The engineered formal process of forcibly separating Native American children from their families and their native land was echoed in 1879 by U.S. Calvary Captain Richard Henry Pratt who heralded the ideology, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” These detention camps were not schools like the Independent Academies and Day Schools of the 21st century, but prison-like institutions funded by the government and religious groups dedicated to force assimilation without government oversight. Captain Pratt was right in using the word “kill.”
Mexican immigrants faced forced repatriation throughout American history with families being separated due to politicized capricious immigrant policies depending on the political party in power at the time with Capitalism drawing from a ready made work force. There is a history of a lack of humane comprehensive immigration reform and policies related to: border crossing, border enforcement, legalization for unauthorized immigrants, pathways to citizenship, inconsistent residency status policies to qualifying aliens who entered the United States as minors called “Dreamers”, causing families with a mother and father, one a citizen and the other a non citizen, to be separated, leaving a child to be raised by a single parent.
Japanese-Interment camps are yet another example of Separátocide. An executive order by Franklin Roosevelt established internment camps for people of Japanese descent, most born in the US, forcibly relocated to one of 10 internment locations from California to Arkansas. Japanese families were relocated taking only what they could carry. Family members who opposed or resisted such treatment were separated without legal options. As with other groups dealing with Separátocide, the side effects of the physical, emotional, psychological and cultural collateral damage should not be minimized nor ignored. Traumatic displacement of Japanese families was a direct attack on the structure and sanctity of family life as it was lived by each member of Japanese families. The loss of all that encompassed building a family: home, schooling, religion, profession, job, security, nutrition, health and the capacity to raise and mentor children was eliminated as Japanese families were forced to live in communal encampments impacting cultural and human identities.
Samantha Power’s book “A Problem from Hell” America and the Age of Genocide provides the history of genocide while exposing the lack of America’s responses, moral conviction, indifference and passivity by politicians, diplomats and citizens. The book amplifies the depth and breadth of Lemkin’s definition avoiding singular focus on genocide as the design of one despot or führer and/or one group of people.
Yael Danieli ’s International Handbook of Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma, provides 38 chapters dedicated to the side-effects of -cide analyzing and defining the lingering ramifications of cataclysmic “cultural ruptures” on victims and their families. Power and Danieli provide historical and current examples of the acts of physical, emotional and psychological horror that can’t be measured only by death but rather the lingering multigenerational legacy of terror.
America must confront its earned inherited shame. Deal with it without deflections or denials. It’s time to no longer casually refer to the separation of children from parents but rather call it what it has been and is: Separátocide . . . As responsible, conscientious citizens . . . as human beings . . . we must continue, in the words of Elie Wiesel to, “Build an ethical society . . . where information is transformed into knowledge, knowledge into sensitivity, and sensitivity into commitment” . . . and above all else . . . “to not stand idly by.”
In turn, we must continue to focus on those responsible for inhumane terror by name, by office, by title, by power of influence – those who overtly and covertly create and maintain its ideology, its justification, its engineering, its enforcement, its lobbying, its marketing, its profiteering . . . those directly responsible for implementing the –cide.