Jamestown, Immigrants, and Ancestors

I want to say some things about a recent statement by Tommy K. Norment that “thousands of immigrants travel hundreds of miles, risking live and liberty, to come to America, but Virginia Democrats refuse to travel to Jamestown, the site of this nation’s birth.”

First, many of the Democrats who are declining to attend next week’s ceremony celebrating the founding of the House of Burgess, precursor to our current General Assembly, are Black. They are not the descendants of immigrants, they are the descendants of people who were stolen from their homes, and deprived of their liberty. The same house of Burgesses that we commemorate in 1622 instituted inter-generational slavery by declaring that all children of slave mothers would be enslaved and in 1691, required that free blacks leave the colony or be re-enslaved. It would be meet and right to listen how Black people feel about this anniversary. I don’t assume every Black person feels the same; I sure know that all non-Black people don’t. Some people may have no thoughts about it, and some may not want to share those thoughts with you. Ask, but don’t push.

Second, the land wasn’t empty when we got here, uninvited. I’m not saying we’re going to give it back, but we should at least be honest about it and acknowledge that our gain in this case was somebody else’s loss. Their descendants still live among us. Consider saying thanks? Or at least being a little more understanding when they want to share in the nation’s bounty? And for goodness sake, don’t try to tell them about your Indian Grandmother.

Third, I’m descended from those early folks at Jamestown; as far as I understand they came with the goal of making a fortune. The fact that they did it a long time ago doesn’t make them better or worse than people arriving on our borders today. (See Second) We changed the asylum laws after WWII for good reason. Most of the people coming are legal asylum seekers.

My best friends at Dartmouth Medical School
Mirna and Toska, Sarajevo and Tehran

Fourth, and lastly, as the birthrate of US born women of all ethnicities continues to fall, are we going to be a nation of immigrants, or are we going to be a nation like Japan, so afraid of the ‘other’ that we slowly die out?

Mirna is a Pediatric Hospitalist she takes care of kids on the Neurology and Neurosurgical Services at an academic hospital in New York City.
Toska is Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist formerly at the preeminent Children’s Hospital in Southern California, now with Kaiser.
I’m the underachiever of the bunch, I’m a General Practitioner and I work for the Virginia Department of Health.

2 thoughts on “Jamestown, Immigrants, and Ancestors

  1. Well said. Good history! We’re all descendants of immigrants. The legal treatment of Virginia native people in the early 20th century when the racist state Department of Health confused them with blacks is one more historical horror. Are some of the native american descendants in your district?

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