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Thessa Lageman
Journalist, Writer, Photographer
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piqer: Thessa Lageman
Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Map Of The US Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Daniel Immerwahr wrote the book How to Hide an Empire: A Short History of the Greater United States:

The British weren’t confused as to whether there was a British empire. They had a holiday, Empire Day, to celebrate it. France didn’t forget that Algeria was French. It is only the US that has suffered from chronic confusion about its own borders. The country perceives itself to be a republic, not an empire. It was born in an anti-imperialist revolt and has fought empires ever since.

At the turn of the 20th century, when the United States acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, Hawaii, Wake, their status was clear. They were called colonies. Within a decade or two, it seemed better to stick with a gentler term, used for them all: territories.

When have you ever seen a map of the US that had Puerto Rico on it? Or American Samoa, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas or any of the other smaller islands that the US has annexed over the years?

Today, the US continues to hold overseas territory. Besides Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and a handful of minor outlying islands, there are roughly 800 overseas military bases around the world.

The book’s author studied US foreign relations and read countless books about “American empire” – the wars, the coups, the meddling in foreign affairs. “Nobody ever expected me to know even the most elementary facts about the territories. They just didn’t feel important.”

Race has been even more central to US history than is usually supposed, he thinks.

The racism that had pervaded the country since slavery also engulfed the territories. Like African Americans, colonial subjects were denied the vote, deprived of the rights of full citizens, called racial epithets, subjected to dangerous medical experiments and used as sacrificial pawns in war. They, too, had to make their way in a country where some lives mattered and others did not.
The Map Of The US Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story
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