Photo: Two white police officers pull Donald Neely with rope through downtown Galveston with his hands tied behind his back
By Mike Talavera
Last Saturday, two mounted Galveston police officers pulled a Black man by rope through the streets of downtown in a repulsive reenactment of slavery-era Texas. 43-year-old Donald Neely had been arrested for a misdemeanor and as punishment was humiliated in an homage to the slave patrols that would eventually become many of the police departments in the South.
Police Chief Vernon Hale later apologized for the “unnecessary embarrassment,” trivializing what happened to Neely as well as the history of US slavery. As the foundation of today’s capitalist economy, chattel slavery’s lasting effects in terms of racism, poverty, and state repression have made the Black Nation the most oppressed and exploited segment of the US population and the Black proletariat the most revolutionary section of the US working class.
In Texas in particular, slavery served as one of the main reasons for its incorporation into the United States. Before it became a state, Texas had been a Spanish colony (later Mexico after it seceded in 1821) where slaves were not the main source of labor. It was not until US settlers brought slaves with them as they invaded the territory in the 19th century that the Mexican state retaliated against the Anglos by abolishing slavery (conditionally) in 1829 with the Guerrero Decree. The increased tension resulting from this law played a large role in settlers and slaveholders violently seceding from Mexico and establishing the Republic of Texas in 1836.
East Texas, including Galveston where Neely was led through the streets on Saturday, saw a boom in the cotton industry once the Texas settlers had violently enforced their right to hold slaves. In order to catch runaway slaves, groups like the Texas Rangers were formed.
Galveston was also where Union General Gordon Granger arrived on June 19, 1865 to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves free in the US, two years late. Despite this delayed announcement, the Union did not strictly enforce it, and white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan formed to continue the oppression of the Black Nation post-slavery.
In 2019, the Galveston Police Department can get away with this insulting and inhumane treatment of a Black man just by issuing a disingenuous apology, because the Black Nation continues to be oppressed despite the gains of post-Civil War Reconstruction and the 1960s Civil Rights movement.
The oppressed masses in this country will never be able to overthrow US imperialism without the total emancipation of Black people. The Black Nation has always heroically rebelled against its own oppression, as witnessed in the early years of the Black Lives Matter movement and more recently in places like Memphis. Apologies should no longer be accepted for racist acts like what was done on Saturday – the masses demand revolutionary justice.