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EXPOSING AND CONFRONTING EURO-AMERICAN RACISM
~ Nita Pomeroy
I was listening to the AIM Radio show a few Saturdays ago
and a self-identified white man, an American of European
descent, was speaking. He was complaining that he was
being wrongly accused of participating in the genocide of
the Indigenous People of North America. In an effort to
explain this to him, the moderator used the example that if
your Grandpa stole a truck and you knew that the truck had
been stolen, even if you didn’t participate in the actual theft, then by keeping the truck you were guilty of receiving stolen property, at the very least. The fellow could not follow that analogy and began blustering about how he was the one being wronged. If Indians would just stop being so racist and assimilate, then they wouldn‘t have any problems…
In 2010, comments were made on a friend’s Facebook page.1 Listening to the man on the AIM radio show, those comments came back to me in a torrent. The most egregious statement had to do with the “immigrant” status of Indigenous people. The claim was made that those whom we call Native American were really the Original Immigrants and not truly Native. "There are plenty of greedy people of all races, including the Original Immigrants to North America, often referred to as ‘Native Americans’.” (See full comment below.)
That was nine years ago. Plenty of time for someone to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Plenty of time to complete both a bachelor’s and doctoral degrees. Enough time for the US to elect an African-American man president, twice, and by definite majorities each time. Enough time for the backlash to elect a white president by a minority of the votes cast, someone whose entire life has been steeped in greed. Someone who used racist memes during his campaign.
Over the centuries, there has been much repetition in the arguments and protestations by many in the dominant culture in an attempt to explain away our racist attitudes, actions and accounts. I do not know why these comments should surprise me so much. It began with the Doctrine of Discovery which basically stated that non-Christians did not deserve to own land and therefore had only the right of occupancy.
What does amaze me is the generosity towards my people by the Indigenous community any time we make the effort to understand the true history of Turtle Island. The following are some of the lessons I have learned.
First, Native People were created for this hemisphere, for this continent, for this exact place. Their Creation stories explain in detail how Creator God made them for a certain place and told them how to live successful, complete and happy lives.
As an Anthropology student I was given an assignment to read a book about Kennewick man. While I was discussing the book with my professor, I told him my argument was based on “Scientific Fact.” He reminded me that scientific fact is still just scientifically-processed theory. And then he asked the question which stopped me in my tracks and changed my life: “but what makes your creation story more right than theirs?”
Second, there is a well–documented written and oral historical record showing the prime motivation of European (White) expansionism and imperialism was, in fact, greed.
Third, “original immigrants” is an incredibly derogatory term discounting the many traditional origin stories stating that the People were born to this land. If – and this is a big if --IF we accept the theory that The People did originally immigrate to this land, to discount the well over ten-thousand-year (and some say 24,000 years) difference in arrival times as equivalent to the arrival of the Europeans approximately 527 years ago is ridiculous. There is evidence in the archaeological record showing there were people here over thirty thousand years BPE. But, it is a moot point – Indigenous People were still the first in establishing viable and long-lasting cultural horizons in the Western Hemisphere, no matter how you choose to look at it. In fact, one tribal story I heard is that the Tribe sent scouting parties in the four directions and that is how Creator populated the earth. And, when the party which was sent south returned from the north, it shows they understood that the earth is round – far ahead of the europeans. The People are not immigrants!
Fourth, Native American is a misnomer since the term American was created by Europeans (Whites) to name the land in the western hemisphere. How the name was derived may be lost in history. The first of two reasons I learned came from the name of the cartographer, Amerigo Vespucci. As for the second, I only recently learned that the word ‘america’ can be observed by splitting our nation’s name into its two root words, ame and rica. They are both Latin words. Ame is the command form of love and rica means rich. “Love riches.” And isn’t getting rich the American Dream?
Fifth, by citing casinos as a way in which Native People “walk heavily” on the earth, or that Native People have “embraced the lifestyle and accouterments” of white culture are prime examples of “blaming the victim. Through policies of genocide and assimilation, and also a result of treaties broken by the United States (I think only one treaty was not broken), Native People have been forced onto marginalized lands. In other words, the land the Native People were given in ”exchange” for their former lands, was not productive land – whether by mining, farming, or any other standard. One example which seems to prove the opposite true are the Cherokee, who were forcibly removed from their homes and very successful farms and businesses and forced to walk the Trail of Tears all the way to Indian Territory. Of course, they are one of the few tribes whose land proved of great value when oil was discovered there. Most tribes have been far less fortunate, having been forced onto land that couldn’t be cultivated, therefore could not sustain the lives of those forced onto the Reservations.
One must also consider such acts of assimilation as the Boarding Schools – forced attendance at these boarding schools where punishment was meted out for such things as speaking their Native language or practicing their Native cultural traditions. What cultural – what family and tribal continuity was left for these children to embrace? This was not a free choice, but a forced one. Young children who ran away and hid, were hunted down using dogs and carried off to school. A book to read which gives an interesting account of just such difficulties is “The Man Who Killed the Deer,” by Frank Waters. There are Native people who embrace modern, White American culture – but I believe there are many more who are living their cultures’ traditional values and a great many who have returned to their roots. I find it both interesting and significant that the most successful treatment for Native People suffering from the disease of addiction is a return to the traditional practices of their People.
And sixth, is the one which permeates all else and which is the most vile, the most egregious. It really is the only one which needs to be addressed, but it is also the most difficult for Americans to admit. For instance, when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) brought Lynne Patton to Cohen’s hearings, he was confronted about using a racist tactic to undercut Cohen’s assertion that Trump was prejudiced against African Americans. He had a meltdown, claiming he was not racist. Of course, he ran for election in North Carolina using racist memes to support and justify his candidacy.
Now, consider the degree of denial arising from confronting a form of racism we have been fighting since before the Civil War. Seriously. Slavery was a hot issue when writing the Constitution. And, in 2019, we have a grown man going into emotional excess on national TV denying the vey platform he ran on.
Imagine the explosion if we attempted to confront our National Myth! If we tried to convince the american nation of our history of genocide, ethnic cleansing and theft.
But my point is, when these white, euro-american men (or women) assume that they can make judgments about how Indigenous People should think and act, they are displaying the built-in white supremacist attitudes codified in the Doctrine of Discovery.
It is easy to blindly accept the dominant culture’s rendition of history – we had to write it from the perspective of justifying the atrocities we committed in the name of the Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, or any other of the slogans used. When we stop, apply critical thinking skills, and read and learn the histories of the indigenous people, we discover that the true historical account tells a far different story than the one we have been told these past 527 or so years.
1 Joe P: ‘ Wow! Racist rants on Bills page?! "Whites this whites that." There are plenty of greedy people of all races, including the Original Immigrants to North America, often referred to as "Native Americans". The people you describe as "white” are... not one people, just as the Original Immigrants, YOU, are not one people. Do not speak of us as such, without accepting the same treatment of your people.
Original immigrants have embraced the lifestyle and accouterments of the European immigrants as progress. Unfortunately, there are many negatives that came with this progress. People such as me, hate what is happening to Mother Nature AS MUCH AS YOU. Original immigrants walk heavy on Mother, too. Are your casinos tributes to Mother Nature?
People of all races who care about Earth and Mother Nature need to QUIT pointing fingers of racial hate, and join together across race, to fight the greed that is killing Mother Nature.’
A theory is an idea which per dictionary.com:
1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:
2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
To begin with, let me say that I whole heartedly agree that we need to come together, all peoples united in our efforts, if we are to successfully fight the greed that has decimated our planet.
Then let me point out that I am White.