Meredith O’Harris, Editor-In-Chief
The two original, irredeemable American sins—the twin stains forever defacing the Stars and Stripes—are the treatment of American Indians and native Africans, both of which were enslaved and subjected to rigorous and merciless programs of cultural genocide by the United States. The first three features of this issue explore and demonstrate different aspects of these sins—and in the course of doing so, demonstrate their abiding nature.
Schoolyards should never be graveyards. Only the pathologies and perversions of hate could bring them together. Yet, in 2017, the U.S. army recovered the bodies of nearly two hundred Indian children from the grounds of The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The school, which closed in 1918, was part of a national effort to destroy the cultural identity of native peoples through the forced relocation and brainwashing of their children. When those children later died at the school, they were simply buried in the backyard. Once the bodies were discovered, representatives from the Northern Arapaho tribe in Wyoming visited Carlisle to claim them, so they could be returned to tribal lands for dignified funerals.
Given what happened at Carlisle, it should come as no great surprise that the bodies of young black children continue to be excavated from the grounds of The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a reform school near Tallahassee, Florida that was run like a sadistic prison from 1900–2011. So far, the bones of nearly sixty boys have been recovered. In The Nickle Boys, Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Colson Whitehead uses the device of fiction to describe the horrors of the school. This issue begins with a review of Whitehead’s powerful novel by NLGR Contributing Editor Paul Von Blum, who teaches in UCLA’s Department of African American Studies. Von Blum plums the depths of Whitehead’s rich, multi-layered exploration of what happened at the school and concludes that The Nickle Boys should be required reading for all incoming law students.
In When Your Colonizers Are Hypocrites, Alix Bruce focuses on human trafficking within indigenous communities in Alaska and the Dakotas. Bruce reviews the multifarious factors—U.S. domination of tribal governments, failed national programs, forced poverty, and others—that have led to the proliferation of this crisis (with U.S. indifference), while recognizing several practical reforms that may relieve the problem. But Bruce also pointedly notes that true tribal sovereignty and reparations are essential to any meaningful, longstanding fix.
Flint Taylor’s The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago chronicles, in scholarly detail, the appalling torture regime that flourished for years within the notoriously barbarous and bigoted Chicago Police Department—an agency whose ongoing legacy of cruelty almost beggars belief. Attorneys Dennis Cunningham and Jeffrey Haas, who worked with Taylor at the legendary People’s Law Office of Chicago for years, review The Torture Machine with particular interest and familiarity. For all the inhumanity described in its pages, they review a story of hero- ism, courage, and the justice that a band of dedicated civil rights lawyers can accomplish in the face of mighty opposition.
Our issue closes with labor lawyer Michael T. Anderson’s thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018), the most recent blow to labor unions by the reactionary Roberts Court, which is increasingly determined to facilitate the exploitation workers, the First Amendment be damned. Anderson reminds us that the tried-and-true answer to the Court’s attempt to dismantle labor rights is to organize—and then strike. The Guild is no stranger to taking first to the streets and then to courtroom in defense of labor and our activist-brethren. Indeed, it’s what we do best. Anderson’s 95 Theses on Janus is a wonderful call to arms.