Wednesday, September 30, 2009

white quotation of the week (shannon sullivan)

One thing that I've noticed about white people in the U.S. is that if you ask them which group or groups of Native Americans once occupied the land on which they currently live, they almost never know (if you live in the U.S., you can find out who used to live where you live here).

I think that repressing an awareness that we're living on stolen land is a common white habit. Where does that habit come from? Perhaps keeping that awareness more in mind, let alone doing something about it, would cause too much cognitive dissonance. Too much conflict between a conception of our lives as basically normal, benign and good, versus the reality of what many of our comforts have cost other people.

It's likely the case that most members of other non-Native groups in the U.S. also don't know which groups of people first occupied the land on which they live. Nevertheless, knowing that, and somehow taking responsibility for it, is a stronger ethical imperative for white people in the U.S. than it is for others. That's because the land was taken by white people, in the explicit name of white supremacy, and also because white people today still benefit the most from that theft.

In her book Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege, Shannon Sullivan explains the underpinnings of contemporary white justifications in the U.S. toward ownership, not only of formerly indigenous lands, but also of indigenous people themselves:

From white America's perspective, given that Native Americans did not know how to or lazily refused to work the land properly, it was appropriate that white Americans took it over. Such appropriation was not seen as theft, and not only because the United States sometimes paid for the land. More importantly, it was not theft because the lands were seen as vacant. Utilizing the environment by regularly moving from one place to another, Native American agricultural methods were not sedentary and were not recognized by Euro-Americans as signs of Indian occupancy of land.

With the rhetoric of vacuum domicilium, Euro-Americans declared these supposedly unoccupied, vacant lands as available for settlement. If Native Americans would not properly settle the land, nothing prevented white Americans from doing so. Morever, the Christian God, who was on the side of progress and civilization, required that Euro-Americans conquer the wilderness if Native Americans would not or could not do so.

Euro-American appropriation of land also was not seen as an instance of theft because there were no full persons from which to steal. Native Americans were merely subpersons because of their inappropriate relationship with the land. Even worse (from a Euro-American perspective), Native Americans' refusal to individuate themselves through land ownership meant that they were virtually indistinguishable from the land and the "wild" nature of which it was a part. In other words, white Americans recognized Native American kinship with the land only insofar as such recognition worked in favor of white America's interests in ownership.

On the one hand, white Americans often impatiently dismissed Native Americans' claims that the land was their kin and it should not be sold or farmed in Euro-American ways. As General Oliver Otis Howard responded to the Nez Perce chief Toohoolhoolzote while in negotiations with him, "Twenty times you repeat that the earth is your mother. . . . Let us hear it no more, but come to business at once." Native American kinship with the land was seen as irrelevant to the question of how and by whom the land would be used. 

On the other hand, Native American kinship with the land was extremely relevant to this question because it revealed the (alleged) inadequacy of Indian ontology. Native Americans were not people but part of the wilderness that was not (yet) under the control of "man." Native American kinship with the land was cruelly used against Indian tribes, promoting rather than hindering U.S. appropriation of Indian territory.

As part of the land in need of appropriation, Native American people became pieces of property to be owned and exploited by those (white) individuals who could bring wilderness under control. They could be moved around at the pleasure of white America, which demanded more and more land as the British colony and then new republic grew. Social evolution, the growth of nationalism, and the development of American political institutions were all seen as dependent upon the western movement of the frontier between civilization and savagery.

Americans were seen as embodying "an expansive power which [was] inherent in them" and which produced their "universal disposition . . . to enlarge their dominion over inanimate nature" [Phillip Deloria]. Native Americans were merely one component of "inanimate" nature in need of such dominion. Forcibly moved westward and then restricted to discretely bounded reservations, Native Americans were the targets of a Euro-American geo-spatial agenda that both relied upon and reinforced a white ontology of ownership.

As the frontier began to close -- officially its end was declared in 1890, when all the territory occupied by the United States had at least two people per square mile -- white America began to romanticize nature, including the life of the "savages" who were part of it. Put in their proper place through the conquering of the wilderness, Native Americans now could be appreciated for their closeness with nature. The "primitive" setting of the uncivilized wilderness was seen as offering a needed antidote to the immorality, conflict, and materialism of the increasingly large urban centers of the United States. The wilderness of nature would help ensure that white Americans' refinement did not make them too soft. It also served as a cultural resource that proved the superiority of the United States to Europe, which was seen as artificial and inauthentic because overcivilized, and thus unnatural.

But the shift from a pioneer to a romantic attitude toward Native Americans did not lessen white America's appropriation of them. Native American were and generally still are considered as pieces of property owned by white America to do with what they please, only now this "knowledge" of Native Americans by white people is much more unconscious than conscious. White habits of ownership of Native Americans generally have not been eliminated; they have only changed the form of their expression. Rather than something wild to consciously set out to conquer, Native Americans -- espeically their religious traditions and rituals -- tend to be unconsciously appropriated as exotic objects for Euro-American use, pleasure, and consumption.

Because Sullivan's overview here focuses on what Euro-Americans have done and continue to do to Native Americans, it doesn't include a point that I think should be added -- it's not like Native Americans have taken all of this lying down.


  1. You know, I don't feel bad at all for living on "stolen" land. Show me anyone who doesn't. What I feel bad about is the devastation of Native American populations and cultures.

  2. Thank you for writing about this. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Probably b/c I watched some of the PBS 3-4 part special We Shall Remain a few months ago and b/c the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks has mentioned the tribes forced out of the lands on those parts.

    It is so horrible what has happend to Native Americans. Basically it was genocide. I remember having a fit a few years ago when the US Congress apologized or acknowledged the Armenian Genocide caused by the Turks, not b/c it wasn't a bad thing or that I disagree but 1) We had nothing to do with it and 2) The Congress has never apologized the genocide committed by the US government. One of the gentlemen in the We Shall Remain special said that every tribe in this nation had a time of horror, sheer horror and he pointed out that he was one generation removed from his tribes horror, which occured in the late 19th Century. He and several other folks on the special also talked about the boarding schools the government forced Native children to go to up until I think the late 50's early 60's. It was horrible, they took 5 years olds from their parents and put them in schools. They beat them if they spoke their languages, they chopped off their hair and put them into western clothes. It was so sad. One man around 60ish cried when he talked about it and another probably 50ish talked about how his relationship with his mother was never as close after that. And to this day, the bad conditions so many tribes live under in the reservations. It is really shameful. Even though I know the bulk of my ancestors had nothing to with this, I feel so bummed when when I think about the Buffalo soldiers b/c in a way it was a proud thing that they were given an opportunity to do something previously denied to blacks by serving in the Army in their own regiments (beyond the civil and revolutionary war) but then they were used to fight their fellow disenfranchised people of color. Horrible.

  3. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I must say it makes me very sad that someone could hate themselves and their people so much. Our people (by our I mean mine and yours) are innovative, creative, intelligent, talented, and beautiful. Being white isn't something to be ashamed of. It can be hard to realize that sometimes when throughout our schooling we were consistently told otherwise, but it's true.

    I'm sure you probably get comments like this all the time but I really hope you will think about what I've said.

    Your whiteness is a part of who you are. It is part of what compelled you to start this blog (whites are big on self-expression, analysis, creativity, initiative, and accomplishment, all of which you demonstrate here). Best of luck to you in whatever you may do.

  4. I don't know about where Aryan girl is from (actually the Aryans are from northern India but I know that isn't what she means) but the notion that "Our people (by our I mean mine and yours) are innovative, creative, intelligent, talented, and beautiful. Being white isn't something to be ashamed of. It can be hard to realize that sometimes when throughout our schooling we were consistently told otherwise, but it's true." is so bogus. All I ever heard in school was about how wonderful, civilized, intelligent, superior white people were and yes slavery was bad and oh the poor Indians but more often than not it was "white people are the best". Macon is not ashamed of his race, he is pointing out disparities in this society and the lack of awareness of many whites in this society. Oh well, at least she didn't call you nasty names, Macon.

  5. Oh and every group in the human race has all of the qualities the Aryan mentioned.

  6. ProudAryanGirl - saying Macon hates himself because he points out racism is like saying it's normal for whites to be racist.

  7. Proud Girl wrote,

    I'm sure you probably get comments like this all the time but I really hope you will think about what I've said.

    You're right, I do get comments like yours all the time, and emails, and I really do think about what they say, and I even write about what they say (read this, for instance -- really, please, read it, carefully, openly, and honestly). What saddens me is that the people who write comments and emails like yours don't think about what I say, at least not very deeply and carefully. You, for instance. You've been reading this blog for a few weeks now, and that's all you've gotten out of it, that I hate myself and my people?

    The truth, you see, is exactly the opposite. Being classified as "white" is not part of "who I am"; it's a sick, twisted ideology of false superiority and abuse that was imposed on me. I actually love myself and other so-called white people, so much so that I want to help them escape the clutches of that ideology, so that they can stand up straighter and be fuller human beings.

  8. LisaMJ wrote,

    Macon is not ashamed of his race, he is pointing out disparities in this society and the lack of awareness of many whites in this society. Oh well, at least she didn't call you nasty names, Macon.

    Thanks, it's true, I have been called a lot worse! And I agree with your assessment of what I'm pointing out.

  9. Where I live (south Florida) we name cities, streets, and schools after the tribes we forced out...only no one tells anyone else that's where the name comes from. It has to be looked up and dug out and what you get is sparse information. I couldn't find any history on the City of Tequesta's website about WHY it's called Tequesta or what that word even means. They call for "Historical Preservation" on their site, but they want the history to start AFTER the white people moved in. No information on the Jeaga for which a school is named. Florida LOVES to tell the story of the Barefoot Mailman, though.

    Enough about that. Great post, gives me something to think about. And I really appreciate the link naming the Native Americans who lived here before us and showing where they lived.

  10. ahem, well, to get back to the post itself, I appreciate it, especially the note and video at the end. There IS a tendency to talk about the victims of white supremacy as if they're not "survivors" of it, people who have often fought against it.

    Shannon Sullivan explained a lot for me in that book about white habits, and about unconscious features of being called white. I haven't read all of it, but I really recommend it, so thanks for highlighting that book, macon.

  11. @luey512

    Yes, well devastating a population and culture and then stealing their land is part and parcel of the same thing, don't you think?

    You kill someone, discredit them and then steal their land. The whole point of killing them WAS to steal their land.

    Some races (I won't mention who because I am sure the guilty know who they are) are just so good at stealing other races possessions. Funny thing is they don't even feel bad about doing it.

    Kind of typical.....It's always me, me, me with some people. As if the world existed only for them to enjoy.


  12. I know that the Miami Tribe of the Shawnee live in my area of SW Ohio. I consider the great Shawnee Leader Tecumseh, to be a personal Hero. I also Hold Crazy Horse of the Lakota in the same regard. I am African American with a North Carolina Cherokee as a grandfather. Maybe that makes me more aware.

  13. Stolen land! Stolen land! Sheesh! When will everyone figure out that virtually every race or culture is living on land that "somebody else" had before them? I know I will tick a lot of you off but that is the truth of the matter. Look at all the wars over territory throughout history, from the times of the bible, to the middle ages, to now.

    The Native Americans were definitely taken advantage of. They were killed by disease and bullets and much worse. They greeted the settlers in friendship and were ground under by the tide of Europeans that moved in. But you know what? When a race is less advanced than another, they will be defeated, simple as that. Especially back in the days of exploration. I'm not saying the way it was done was right, but at the time they were inferior, and merely in the way of those who wanted to settle here.

    To quote a line from the movie, The Last of the Dogmen, "What happened to the Native Americans was inevitable, the WAY it happened, was unconscionable."

    That the people who took their lands were white, has no bearing on what happened. Had the Chinese or some other larger nation with plans to expand gotten here first, the end result would most likely have been the same. Assimilation.

    What? Do you really think it was all peaches and cream here before the Europeans arrived? Different tribes went to war over territories and disputes all the time. I'm sure land borders changed from generation to generation between the tribes for hundreds and hundreds of years. Gee, I don't hear about the tribes looking for reparations from other tribes for those lands lost. I wonder why that is. Oh, maybe because it was a part of the nature of life! It's done. It's over. Evolve or die out.

    Oh, and I bet the tribes that won their wars and expanded didn't have to "apologize" for taking those lands. That's because bleeding hearts hadn't been invented yet! It took the white guy to invent the bleeding heart syndrome. The defeated tribe simply moved on to different territories.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe the Native Americans are a Noble Peoples. They truly treated the Land well and honored Her. But that was a much simpler time in history. With the population growth of the world as it is, I fear it was a balance between people and Land that may never happen again. Personally, I envy the symbiotic relationship they had with their surroundings.

    But now it is time to move on. The world is changing and we have no choice but to change with it. The Native Americans were forced to change much quicker and sooner that they would have liked, but once again, no matter who the "invaders" were, the end result would most likely still have come to pass.

    So, do I feel guilty for living here on "stolen land"? No. Should I? No. Do I feel responsible? No. Do I know what tribes lived in my area? No. Do I really need to? No. Just like I don't need, or care to know who lived in my house before me. I'm here now. This is my home.

    Do I feel badly for how they were treated? Absolutely, but that was long before I was born. Nothing I can do about it now. Relish their culture and traditions, but move on about the whole "stolen land" thing. Please.

  14. "But now it is time to move on. The world is changing and we have no choice but to change with it."

    You are wrong. We are changing the world, and we have no choice but to change ourselves, or die with it.

    And the Chinese didn't colonize, America, whites did.

    There were tribal struggles and disputes, tribal warfare has always been a part of every culture since time immemorial.

    But what whites did was plain old genocide.

    No one is asking you to feel guilty over the land you live on... you had no play in it. Just be conscious of the power you hold because of what your ancestors did.

    Guilt does not mean consciousness/awareness.

    Believe it or not, the methods of farming that the Native Americans had were more sustainable and is what this world needs right now.
    Our food industry is so dependent on oil, and once that's out there will be a societal collapse.

  15. Brother of another color: Um, we didn't, and don't, have borders - that's a Euro concept. Don't talk for us (Natives) "Brother of another colour" - you're falling into the same trap the post author was talking about.

    I'm Mi'kmaq, and I know my history and origins, and what happened pre- and post-contact: we got along with some Euros, and didn't with others, early post-contact. Anyway I won't go into it here, I'm getting really off-topic....

    Seriously, I see a lot of denial going on with you, and I think you should consider the post more carefully. In fact, I'll go so far to say that you fall into the same trap "aryan girl" falls into, and it *is* racist.

    FYI, Aryans immigrated into India fairly on in their history, and in fact were browner than the southern Indians they started sharing their lands with (some would say 'displaced' instead of 'sharing'). So to say you're Aryan is saying you're dark brown.

    BTW, being Native, and with less melanin in his skin than some of my cousins, I can see white privilege, internalized colonialism, and all the other BS racist things in action. I get treated different when people realize/find out I'm Indigenous - it doesn't matter whether or not I get treated better or worse, it's being treated differently that's cr*p; I see my friends get treated like crap because of who they are. This is the wrongness. We are all human beings - you treat me with respect, expect the same from me. You treat me wrong, expect a cold shoulder or worse.

  16. I observe that the term "stolen land" usually refers to territory that belonged to cultures so weak that it couldn't even be considered a proper conquest.Europeans simply outnumbered them and outgunned them. The way I see this is in the light of the "social contract" theory. The Europeans and the natives simply had different social contracts with irreconcilable differences so the end result was that one of their societies had to go. In the end as you say after 1890 the natives were romanticized. It usually happens that you only get to romanticize a conquered people after they have been reduced from active threat to pathetic remnant. As for the natives what can I say: "Vae victis!"

  17. I read somewhere that Icelanders are one of the few peoples on Earth to have been the first to actually occupy their particular piece of land. The place was empty before they arrived.

    Though my impression is there's a general shift in understanding now to see fewer large population movements in the past than we once did. The 'Aryan invasion of India' and the 'Anglo-Saxon conquest of England' for example both seem to viewed in a different way from how they used to be. Thanks partly to greater knowledge of genetics (but maybe also due to changing political fashions?), now they are seen less as the literal replacement of one people by another and more as an existing population being culturally transformed. I think the same change has occurred in thinking about both major groups in Sri Lanka. Of course there's a lot of politics involved there.

    Personally I see the case of American Indians as less an argument about who 'really' owns the land, and more of part of the case that nobody truly 'owns' any land. Its part of the general argument against a simplistic libertarian ideology that believes in absolute property rights. Utlimately the wealth of the world is owned collectively, regardless of what Ayn Rand types try to claim, because nobody has ever been able to justify the original process of taking possession of land in the first place. Ayn Rand type arguments are all moot because you can never get the system off the ground in the first place.

    The conquest of the Americas is just a particularly glaring example of that. It doesn't mean the land 'really' belongs to American Indians, it does mean though that people can't just pretend other people's needs and economic struggles have nothing to do with them by appealing to some idea of absolute property rights.

  18. ...not that I'm denying there are many specific issues to do with ongoing racism and broken contracts with actual American Indians, mind, but as a non-American I'm not intimately familiar with those issues.

  19. Why is it so hard for some whites to acknowledge the crap that they've inherited from previous whites? I'm pretty sure that POCs have no problem acknowledging the stolen land and devastation of Native Americans. I acknowledge it a lot as they are my brothers and sisters of color as I do acknowledge the stolen land of Mexico.

    Those who fail to acknowledge or claim that you hate yourself for expressing critical thought have serious karmic demons to deal with, if they have any spirituality at all.

  20. No, our generation didn't steal the land. But we live on it, and we continue to benefit from the act every day, just as we continue to benefit from past slavery and a current African American underclass.

    Brother, if someone came to your house and threw you out at gunpoint so their children could live in it, do you think those children would have nothing to feel bad about because they didn't personally do that? They could just keep it? And you'd just walk away, thinking, "Well, that was inevitable. I don't like the way it was done, but hey, time to move on. Guess I'll go live under an overpass now"?

    And "relishing" Native American culture and traditions (what an interesting verb that was!)is part of the problem. We have appropriated, perverted and consumed those things to the point that some Native Americans have had to put up with white "shamans" coming to their nations and telling them they're doing their own religion wrong. We think we can separate the traditions from the people, and enjoy "playing Indian," just as we think we can drench a continent in blood and expect everyone to forget about it if enough time goes by.

    It's also very convenient for us to place this in the past. This genocide, both cultural and actual, continues. It's going on as I type this comment. But if we buy into the "tragic noble savage" myth the whole thing becomes not only inevitable but over and done with. That means we don't have to feel any little twinges, let alone change anything. And we can even enjoy, just a little bit, thinking about how sad it was because gosh, it was all so sad.

    You envy Native Americans? Then go live on a Nation. No, you envy your cartoon noble savage. To say all Native Americans "were" commune-dwelling nature-worshipping hippies is no more respectful, helpful, or evidence of seeing Native Americans as fully human as calling them whooping bloodthirsty savages is.

  21. I went to the website you suggested, but they only got as specific as states they lived in, instead of regions. I did actually know about some tribes like the Mojave (Mojave Desert is a giveaway), but I was trying to find the tribes that lived around the Bay Area. Anyway to search the website by region/anyone who knows the Bay Area tribes want to tell me (don't have to research it of course, just if anyone knows off the top of their head)?

  22. Brother of another color, think just about about the way you use the words "inferior", "evolved", and "advanced" for a little while. Also, just because some human behavior is "natural" doesn't make it right. People murdered each other throughout history too, but we still punish those who do it.

  23. There are a lot of dynamic issues going on here and the discussion is quite interesting.

    @PixieCorpse - yes yes yes - I totally agree. Someone recently posted a comment or link that explained why reparations actually DO make some sense because it's like having inheritances stolen - it would put any individual or family at a disadvantage for generations because the starting point for future generations would not be level. I lost track of that blogger - so hopefully she will resurface here!

    We can talk all we want about moving on or the fact that the weaker group always loses. But that in itself shows a justification or privilege. Colonization pretty much by definition requires no actual beef with the people occupying the colonized land other than some kind of manifest destiny in the minds of the colonizer. This may require an advancement in technology of war and numbers, but that's not the point here.

    Also, consider a vastly different dynamic in Mexico and parts of Central and South America. The Indigenous population was much larger at the time of colonization. You can see the impacts at a larger and more modern scale there.

    One more thought. I think it's interesting that Native American's were seen as savages initially because of their passiveness. Nowadays, we justify what we did by pointing out that they were savages because they were at war all the time. Sounds to me like they had a complex and varied set of cultures living in close proximity that sometimes traded with one another, sometimes disputed one another, and sometimes even fought. Doesn't sound dissimilar or less advanced really than any other culture except for the lack of certain weaponry.

  24. Mississauga Ojibwas.

    As I understand it, they had been here one or two hundred years before European settlers showed up in earnest (though fur traders had existed in small numbers before that.)

    I'm not sure before that. As far as I understand it, that information isn't known. (Here I obviously may be wrong.)

  25. Beauty and Health, yeah, I suppose it is a bit silly to try and separate them intellectually. I just meant that the human pain and suffering grabs me emotionally more than who owns what land. Like if you say, "White people are evil because they stole our land" I'll roll my eyes, and but if you tell me about the horrors Native American people suffered, I'll feel horrible about it.

    You know, now that I think about it, I think I could tell you exactly why - because I (a white person) feel I have a right to live where I'm living.

    Interesting though Sullivan's analysis is, I don't think it applies very well to the present day. Everyone knows there used to be Native Americans around, even though they don't usually know which ones or what they were like. So it's not that we all still think there was no one here of any consequence and that's why we have a right to the land.

    No, nowadays I think it's more that American whites feel entitled to live on stolen land because that's where they've lived all their lives. A lot of harm was done to get us here, but now that we are, are we really doing any harm by staying? Hell, it doesn't even matter - there's nowhere else to go now. So demographic reality now serves as all the entitlement anyone could ever want.

    Macon, your comment on cognitive dissonance is spot-on.

  26. but now that we are, are we really doing any harm by staying?

    I think it's dangerous to stay oblivious though, happily oblivious. Indians are still on reservations so how can we really say it's all in the past and what's the harm?

  27. >>>You envy Native Americans? Then go live on a Nation. No, you envy your cartoon noble savage. To say all Native Americans "were" commune-dwelling nature-worshipping hippies is no more respectful, helpful, or evidence of seeing Native Americans as fully human as calling them whooping bloodthirsty savages is.<<<<

    Pixie... You are way, WAY off base here! Where, in the phrase, " Personally, I envy the symbiotic relationship they had with their surroundings", do you get the load of bull you wrote above ???????

    "Symbiotic relationship" is the subject of the sentence not Native Americans. Nor did I imply ANY of what YOU wrote! I find it hard to believe, and somewhat distressing, that a supposed English professor can't figure out the subject of a simple sentence. I hope you're not actively teaching anyone, otherwise our future is in a world of hurt!

    That's what I love about this blog, the way people infer and read into things that aren't there merely because they're trying to find something nefarious to root out.

    To all: In my post I never condoned what happened to the Native Americans. Genocide. I agree 100 %. Nor did I refer to the Native Americans with anything but Respect.

    "Inferior, evolved, advanced" are merely terms that describe states of being. The Persians were "inferior" to the Spartans. Mankind is continuing to "evolve", and this is not specific to any race. Some cultures have "evolved " at a different pace from others, but we are all relentlessly moving forward. To say that modern society is more "advanced" technologically, than say... the Bushmen, is not demeaning, just a fact. So too were the settlers more "advanced" technologically than the Native Americans. I thought the technological inference in my post was fairly obvious, perhaps I was wrong, I will endeavor to make things clearer in the future.

    Simon L'nu....My apologies for being somewhat general in my statement about borders. Your ancestors may not have had them, but even you cannot speak for all the different Tribes and their histories on such matters. Human nature to protect ones' self, belongings, food sources, and home territories, will inevitably conflict with the human nature to want or need more. Especially with growing family/Tribal groups. I felt it was a pretty safe bet that there were not hundreds upon hundreds of years of peace between every Tribe in the Americas.

  28. Cat, it's definitely important to know the past, and understand that what happened was brutal genocide, and have a clue how the current situation came to be.

    But when you start to ponder what might happen if you tried to reverse the current situation, it sounds absolutely ridiculous. Seriously. Try and think through the implications of removing all non-natives from this continent.

    There are probably things we could do to improve the situation of Native Americans, but removing non-natives from American soil isn't it. So therefore, my staying put on land that used to belong to the Powhatan tribes isn't doing any harm.

  29. "There are probably things we could do to improve the situation of Native Americans, but removing non-natives from American soil isn't it. So therefore, my staying put on land that used to belong to the Powhatan tribes isn't doing any harm."


    "Yeah, there probably are things we could do to improve the situations of people still devastated by what my people have done to them, and by what still benefits my own life, but like, whatever, who fucking cares, right? They're LOSERS, they lost! And that makes me a WINNER. Even though something that I have came at their tremendous expense, I don't owe them a DAMN THING, I'm keeping ALL of it! They should just quit their whining and crawl back into the dirty holes we shoved them into, and stop bothering my clean, pure, lily-white conscience. We could probably help them more, but whatever, that's certainly not MY job, and I don't give a damn whether they're getting enough help or not. I just wanna have fun! My staying on land where they used to live, and sucking up resources and polluting the planet at a rate that would be impossible were it extended to everyone, that's not doing any harm at all! I'm innocent, see? And you librul whiners should just shut up and stop trying to get me to think about how destructive and genocidal my fun and fine-and-dandy life is."

  30. AE, that sense of anger is absolutely justified. But are you really going to argue that I should leave America because I don't belong here, and that the same goes for every non-native?

  31. Of course not. But for gawd's sake, get real -- no one here but you is standing at the precipice of that there slippery slope, firing away at a straw man.

  32. Macon, I am sure you've read Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege"? And her further exploration of MALE privilege, which follows at the linked site:
    Top 10:
    Daily effects of white privilege

    "I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions."
    1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
    2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
    3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
    4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
    5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
    6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
    7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
    8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
    9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
    10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race."

    The list goes up to #50...

  33. AE, if you disagree with me when I say I'm not doing any (further) harm to native populations by living where they used to live, then you are presumably implying that I should do something else. Is there some other way to give back stolen land, other than moving off it? All I've been saying from the beginning is that I don't think I'm doing anything harmful by living where I live. I'm certainly not participating in or perpetuating a genocide, even though I do benefit from it having happened in the past.

  34. Brother, European peasants, Vikings, Inuits, Pacific Islanders, Neanderthals and pretty much every culture that was around before the last four centuries or so had more symbiotic relationships to the land than we do now, because they had to. Otherwise they died out. They lacked the technology to rape the land for their own comfort we enjoy now. Do you admire the symbiotic relationship to the land English peasants, who kept their livestock in the house for warmth, had?

    And do you have any evidence that Native Americans, given the same technology, would have used it more wisely? Or that all 500-odd nations who once lived in these two continents all had a _uniquely_ symbiotic relationship to the land? Then you're stereotyping. A pretty stereotype to be sure.

    When you put the extraneous capital letters on things like "Noble Peoples" and "Land" and "Her," what do you mean by that? It reads like you're saying every single Native nation called the Earth "Mother" and worshiped Her, and that all nations were similarly Noble, and all revered the Land in the same way. That's more stereotyping. In short, to hold a particular "group" of people up as especially Noble because they had a more symbiotic relationship with the land than we do now when every other society has had that too is to buy into the myth of the Noble Savage.

    I put "group" in quotes because the Native nations are "united" only by the continents they live on. Asians aren't a group held together by common lifeways and beliefs. Europeans aren't. Native Americans aren't. It's no more correct to say all Native Americans are Noble than it is to say all Asians are smart.

    And naturally I lie about teaching college English. Who wouldn't? All those big bucks, all that prestige! Why, I know scores of adjunct English profs who make $6,000 a year. And they never make a mistake about anything in their field. Because if they did that would, of course, invalidate anything and everything they ever said.

  35. So therefore, my staying put on land that used to belong to the Powhatan tribes isn't doing any harm.

    I don't think anyone living in the United States is going to give up their home to right the wrong of the Indians. But it feels like just about all the American injustices could be left as is with that argument.

    "We can't give the land back so what's the harm in the status quo?" "We can't afford 40 acres and a mule" "We aren't going to give up our job so our workforce is more diverse" "Companies would go bankrupt if they paid women equally"

    But to me there should be more than do nothing or return the land. For instance why are so many of the Indian reservations in the most undesirable locations in the country? Without beating this topic to death I think there is is a place we can find between doing nothing at all and all of us leaving.

  36. Heh, no one is being asked to give up their jobs to make the workforce more diverse. If they were you'd see a much bigger backlash than the one we're already seeing against affirmative action. But even that would be far saner than giving the land back.

    I don't know whether or not there are practical ways of expanding or improving reservations. I'm all for exploring that subject, though I have a lot of reading to do before I can discuss it intelligently myself. All I'm trying to do is explain how it's possible to feel okay about living on stolen land while also feeling bad that it was stolen.

    It's kind of like how you might feel if your mother ran down an organ donor with her car so you could have a new liver.

  37. Brother, European peasants, Vikings, Inuits, Pacific Islanders, Neanderthals and pretty much every culture that was around before the last four centuries or so had more symbiotic relationships to the land than we do now, because they had to.
    Actually, we've been inflicting serious damage to the environment for at least 40,000 years (when humans colonized Australia). And we've got a troubling tendency to do so even when it hurts us (see also: the clusterfuck at Easter Island).

  38. For those seeking a deeper understanding of the area in which they live, of past/present peoples that also live/lived there might look into archaeological records.

    I grew up in Arizona where a large number of reservations are located. There are 21 "Federally recognized tribes" as well as countless native cultural traditions recognized archaeologically (too many to list). Looking at it archaeologically, you tend to avoid the ethnocentrism inherent in relying on accounts of cultural groups present at the time of European contact.

    A lot of the arguments on this board seem to have a warped sense of "social evolution" where "inferior" cultures are taken out by more "advanced" ones. This is Social Darwinism and it is racist (on top of being a discounted social theory not considered by most social scientists as valid).

    "Race" itself is a biologically invalid concept. The trait for skin pigmentation (higher or lower levels of melanin) has been acted on by natural selection in relation to vitamin D synthesis. Because our bodies produce vitamin D from the rays of the sun, those that moved into and settled into areas with little sun (i.e. extreme north or south of the equator) developed over time (thousands of years) less skin pigmentation, so that their bodies could synthesize adequate amounts of vitamin D with less available sunlight.

    Arguments that try to use this as a basis for "superiority" or "inferiority" are flat out wrong...

  39. Is it really "repressing" awareness? I feel like the awareness isn't really there to repress. Sure, we hear about it briefly in grade-school history class, but honestly, it isn't prominent enough in pop culture for us to willfully ignore.

  40. The Kansa tribe used to live where I now do. My Kansa friend, Eric, says he's really happy about the colonization because "I went camping once and it sucked even with modern equipment."
    I just thought I'd share this because I thought it was hilarious.

  41. I know which people lived, and in many cases still live in all the places that I have called home. I've even tried to learn a little bit of the language wherever I go.

    I think it's important, and I have immense respect for the people whose direct and recent ancestors inhabited this place before snowmobiles, before gortex, before matches and hot running water.

    Of course if you're black in North America and not an African emigrant by choice, you're descended from people so jaw-droppingly tough that what white person wouldn't want his or her kids to have some of that genetics.

  42. 'But to me there should be more than do nothing or return the land.' (Cat)
    One historian who has studied the treaties between the US and the Native Peoples estimated that if the US actually kept those treaties, the Natives would be among the wealthiest people in America instead of the poorest. This still wouldn't be fair or just, given the nature of those treaties, but keeping your word would be a start. After that, the Natives probably have a few ideas.


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