So, let me just start out by saying that I’m white, and I grew up in a super conservative family, and I’m pretty new to all this…social justice…stuff. (That is what it’s called, right? Social justice?) And I’m especially new to the racial/ethnic aspect of it since I am, as previously stated, white, and haven’t ever had to deal with racism first hand. And it took me a long time to recognize that yes, I am privileged because of that. So, I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I probably don’t really know what I’m talking about but I’m going to throw my two cents in anyway, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, or offensive, or hurtful.
That all being said, does anyone else ever…have this sort of weird buzzing feeling that something’s not quite right, but they can’t put their finger on it, so they let it go? That used to happen (and still does) to me, and looking back on it with what I’ve learned in the past months I can see that no, I wasn’t being oversensitive or nitpicky-that the thing that was bothering me, actually was wrong and unfair, and now I can understand why. Some examples: discussions about gay people at church, discussions about religion with gay people, sexist math teachers. All irrelevant to my current point.
Columbus was one of those things.
I mean, as a kid, I bought into it. Like, yeah, Columbus sounds legit, cause he got the whole America ball rolling and America’s an awesome place to live, right? It’s so watered down for us. My knowledge of Native Americans by the time I was thirteen was
-Not all of them lived in tipis
-Some of them called corn “Maize”
-They liked feathers and bears and shit
And all of it was past tense, which is pretty fucked up imho.
So then in middle school we start learning about what really happened with Columbus, and it’s kind of disenchanting, you know? Like, this guy was not a hero, he was kind of an asshole. But they didn’t play it that way. They try to tell us about the white people and the natives separately, like “We’re not naming any names, but someone decided to just show up and take over the Americas and treat the people already there like shit.” We weren’t idiots. We made the connection.
I never had the guts to say that, but someone in class did. Don’t even remember his name, he just commented in class “Wow, Columbus was kind of a douschbag."
And you know, immediately the class erupts into various conversations until the teacher gets us to shut the fuck up, but we’re all sitting there thinking the same thing: Was he wrong?
Answer: No, he wasn’t.
One of my big regrets is that I never listened to that little voice in the back of my head when stuff like that happened. I never bothered to think through. Even if I knew it was wrong, I never went through the process of
-Why is this wrong?
-What can we do about it?
And because I never did that, I never spoke up. Because I could never articulate what I thought beyond "Wow, that’s bullshit.”
I do now. And that’s why I’m speaking up this time.
Look, I like living in America. It’s a pretty good place to live, comparatively. But it’s not perfect. It never has been. And it’s history is seriously fucked up.
You can’t change history. Nothing we do is going to go back in time and undo all the bullshit that helped build this country. But we can change the present, and the future.
Is this really how we want America to be represented? Is that the man we choose to celebrate? To idolize? Are the tales of his alleged heroics really what we want to pass on to our children?
As long as we keep doing that, we can’t wave our flag and have our Statue of Liberty and say that they stand for freedom and justice. You have to back up those words, those symbols, with actions.
We need to start celebrating the native people. The ones we so like to ignore. We as white people always try to sweep them under the rug, pretend they don’t exist and none of the shitty things our ancestors did ever happened. But they’re here-even after everything that has been done to erase them, both from the earth and from the collective conscious, they’re still here. Celebrate that unwillingness to fade away. Don’t celebrate the act of ignoring and abusing fellow human beings because it’s “convenient.”
Celebrate America. Celebrate it’s progress. Celebrate the legitimately heroic people in its history. But don’t try to twist its history-our history-into something it isn’t.