Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why We Can't Wait: "American Indian genocide"

My political theory professor is a white lady who's been teaching at Morehouse for a few years. In a class she taught at another college in the south she commented that you might have to look at Jesus' teachings and conclude that Jesus had some communist ideas. That comment caused her a little grief in her days there and probably one of her first controversies.

Why, because the students simply had a problem with that and called her the commie grad lady. So they complained to her department chairman. To them communist was a "bad" word. What she said simply conflicted with their beliefs about what they thought Jesus taught and they were offended by it. I can understand in some respects, but there is a way to challenge that without being threatened by that as some of these students were.

Another controversy was that she read this passage from Dr. King's book Why We Can't Wait and she either mentioned this passage or was discussing the American Indians and they were again offended:
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battled over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.

Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations. This is in sharp contrast to many nations south of the border, which assimilated their Indians, respected their culture, and elevated many of them to high position.

It was upon this massive base of racism that the prejudice toward the nonwhite was readily built, and found rapid growth. This long-standing racist ideology has corrupted and diminished our democratic ideals. It is this tangled web of prejudice from which many Americans now seek to liberate themselves, without realizing how deeply it has been woven into their consciousness.
Some guys were commenting that we need to get these people off their reservations, because life is not good to them there. It was also said that our western concepts of ownership and education are foreign to them. They believe everything is owned in common among people not only that but they may have decided why learn the white man's ways. Why would they want to know, it's certainly limiting but I have had an education over time of why they may feel this way on these far flung reservations that are said to resemble third world living conditions.

To start off a lot of Indian children were separated from their families and were taken in by religious missionaries. Some had their hair forcibly cut and if they dared use their native language they would be beaten. What some of these individuals sought to do was to effectively stamp out any aspect of their cultures. Something that I can see as very unfortunate. Almost reminds me of the Australian Prime Minister apologizing to their native peoples.g

Anyway I know that certain "un-American" elements in our society wants to point these instances out of how evil America is, can be, or has been. One thing is certain, however, that America has certainly not lived up to the ideas that American thinkers have established into American culture. Instead of going back and saying America is such a bad place and that Americans are bad, I think it's an even nobler mission to help America live up to its best ideas.

One idea for certain is that all men are created equal and they have the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For the most part America hasn't lived up to that and may have prevented many others from achieving these ideas. Like I said America doesn't need to be torn down for it, as I have seen at various points in time, but built up so that it can actually live up to these ideas.

Also, America shouldn't bristle at the idea that we tried to forcibly wipe out a people. Sure it has made for some good stories, but with these stories perhaps you have one about Wounded Knee. An event about a spiritual revival that was apparently misconstrued as another Indian rebellion and it resulted in a massacre. If nothing else we must face this and hopefully we can come to grips with what are obviously past injustices.

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