We were in class, presenting project proposals. One of my classmates is doing a project on the mental health of genocide survivors in Cambodia. In her presentation, she said the Pol Pot regime was responsible for one of the worst genocide’s in history, considered to be on par with the Holocaust and the American Genocide.
One of my classmates raised his hand and said, “I mean, I know who Pol Pot is and I know the Holocaust, but what’s the American Genocide?”
The classmate presenting said, “I don’t know. That’s just what my research said but I don’t know what it is, either.”
I waited through five seconds of complete silence as no one in my class could answer his question and then I just said, “It’s Indians. Native Americans.”
And then there was more silence and he just nodded and shrugged.
I was telling someone about this and they asked me, “What’s the American Genocide? Like…the Civil War?”
Someone else: “Yeah, but I mean. They all died from disease. So they would’ve died anyway.”
Someone else: “That was a different time. People like us wouldn’t do that.” Canada’s last residential schools closed up between 1994-1996. You were alive still. That’s not even 20 years ago. “No, no. I think you’re wrong. Canada and USA don’t do stuff like that. That’s not going on anymore. Genocide isn’t going on still.” What about all the babies taken from their communities? “Oh, well. That’s not genocide. They just can’t take care of their kids so they have to be raised by people that can…”
I attend one of the best public universities in the USA and I have to hear stuff like this every week.
We really need to think about why we learn so much about the Holocaust but nothing about the American Genocide. It’s not even that these people don’t think genocide happened in this country. It’s that they don’t even know it happened.