AMERICAN DISGRACE: SLAVERY? GENOCIDE, AMERICAN INDIAN

John Austin,
Park Hill, OK.

We always seem to begin every discussion of race and race relations in America with some mention or reference to the enslavement of black Africans. Their import to the mainland U.S. to be used as draft animals in a “White” America. To say, a sad, disgusting, devastating, illicit event in the early history of this country, would be understatement. Simple proof once again that the most inhuman forms of oppression, pain and suffering foisted on humans, is not created and perpetuated by unseen forces, which we cannot control, but by those of us who claim humanity as our “race”.

This is the point of beginning? It’s as if we have “whitewashed” the American psyche and history. That the White man, the WASP, has always been here, and has always been the CEO of what it means to be American. Being American has always meant being a white European. REALLY?

I contend that the race card in America was played long before, with the wholesale genocide and internment of the American Indian. There were no marches for the civil rights of an oppressed people. Only the long Trail of Tears. There were no Martin Luther King’s to inspire civil disobedience. Only the wholesale eradication of the SAVAGE, HEATHEN, REDSKIN, TIMBERNIGGER, INJUN, SQUAW. All in the name of, what? Progress? The settlement of the Wild West? The Chistianization of an indigenous race? The superiority of one ethnic group over another? OWNERSHIP? In this context whom do we designate the “Illegal Immigrant”

There was unrest, there was all out war, a defense of “our way of life”. And finally, the inevitable, the succumbing. There is still, now, unrest and war, a defense of “our way of life” our “culture”. But, is that way of life/culture steeped in the cognitive dissonance of “White is Right” being American means being white?

The shame associated with being American Indian was so great that when The Bureau of Indian Affairs created the Rolls, there was a wholesale denial of ethnicity. Therefore, my degree of Indian blood is less than half as much as it should be. I grew up white, the son of a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant minister and an educator who was Choctaw. Did I reap the benefits of that “white” upbringing, was there a certain amount of privilege? Possibly, yes. I was not taught that I was somehow superior or better or right because I was mostly white. I was taught that we are all equal regardless of ethnicity or belief. I succumbed to the belief that America was in fact a melting pot and that in spite of the transgressions of our early history in America we as Americans are better off because we are that hodge-podge of differing beliefs and ethnicities.

The one constant throughout American History is change. Change, from a land of indigenous peoples who did not own the land but believed themselves to belong to that land, to a land of ownership. Ownership of the land, and people and a feeling of superiority and accomplishment. Will there finally be a succumbing? Will there be a succumbing to the truth that America is a hodge-podge, conglomeration, melting pot, mishmash, potluck of ethnicity and color. Can we learn to forgive ourselves, our past inequities and begin to live as if we are all truly equal? Can we truly accept that we are all part of one race, the human race and that we all suffer and have a valid story to tell?

Can you imagine, a world, a country, where you could walk out each day and proclaim, “here I am! This is who I am!”, and the world, could see you for who you truly are and the only thing that would be said to you, without bias or judgment or condition, “we love you just the way you are!” You say, “what crazy idyllic nonsense!” But, is it, really? And, maybe you are right, but how will we ever know whether it’s just a silly romantic dream, or whether it’s something that can exist? If it can’t even begin with you and me, where else can it begin? How can we ever change the world if we continually judge and condemn and marginalize others because they have a differing belief, color or ethnicity than we do? Imagine for a moment that we truly accept and love each other for who we are without bias and judgment and then we begin to learn how to do that with the next person we meet and the next and the next, and they in turn begin to do the same with those they meet, it’s not long before you can truly see that it’s not just some romantic idyllic Dreamer’s world, but that it can be the world we live in!! A world, with care, acceptance, and Love, doesn’t sound half bad to me. How about you?

To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoffer:

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, their color or ethnicity, and more in the light of what they suffer. Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

Participate, demonstrate, resist, disrupt, write your congressman, support those that oppose the tyranny and the fight against perpetuating the nightmare. Stand up and speak out for what you believe, for what is right in the name of love, human kindness and acceptance, whatever the cost. NO TO HATE, NO TO RACISM, NO TO BIGOTRY, NO TO RELIGIOMISIA. Remember the chant of those at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, “The whole world’s watching, the whole world’s watching!”

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