Monday, December 6, 2021

Genocide, Stolen Land, and Other Lies about America

A few years ago, I was invited by a small liberal arts college in the Northeast to give a series of lectures on ethics and the formation of moral character to a mixed group of juniors and graduating seniors. I began the class with a discussion of how moral character was undoubtedly shaped by cultural norms, mores, traditions, and protocols but that, given the capacity of humans to question the sense-making narratives they inherit from their societies, the development of agency was also an individualist undertaking.
Before I could even finish my introductory remarks, an earnest young woman blurted out that such an undertaking would be immoral. There was no such thing as an ethical milieu in America. There were no uncontested cultural mores, norms and values because these all presupposed a moral space; a location in which ethical agency could emerge. America, she announced, was and continues to be, located on stolen lands. This land was forged in genocidal conditions to eliminate Native Americans from the continent. That we lived on their stolen land without their permission, that we had yet to admit that genocidal policies neutralized any possibility for an ethical space in which moral agency could be developed was not just naïve—it was immoral. The United States of America, she declared, was irrevocably tainted as a country. The concomitant agency that sprung from any spatial alignment within its reaches was bound to be ethically compromised. Just as a criminal can never legally purchase stolen goods and claim to feel reasonably attractive in them, so too, no American could claim to ever have a legitimate ethical identity short of giving back stolen lands to the Native Indians; or, paying them for all illegally acquired lands.
She was breathless at the end of her disquisition and visibly upset. She told me that my approach to the subject was wrong and that, respectfully, I was, perhaps, unknowingly, a participant in a continued colonial settler project.
I remained somber and thanked her for her passionate viewpoint. She corrected me to say that she had uttered an unassailable truth. I asked the class if it had thoughts on the matter at hand. To a person, everyone agreed with the student. Some added that Americans ought to leave the content and relocate elsewhere and give up even their homes to Native Americans. The discussion went on for around thirty minutes during which time I basically functioned as an objective moderator, pointing out, for instance, cases in which land was purchased in a legitimate manner by the Europeans and Americans from the Native Indians.
When one student declared that the moral but impractical thing would be for every American to offer him or herself up for execution to living Native Americans—I’d just about had enough of this malarkey. Almost sensing my frustration, the student who had engaged in her soliloquy told me she wanted my personal viewpoint—not some dispassionate attempt at a scholarly answer, as any such attempt would be jaundiced by historical biases shrouded in linguistic traps meant to ensnare the seeker of truth into a web of falsities.
Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
I remained silent, however, for some reason. I wanted to grasp the magnitude of the spectacle unfolding before my eyes. In the subsequent months I read scores of articles of children in K-12 public schools being taught about America created out of stolen lands. I heard Vice President Kamala Harris deliver remarks on the day after Columbus Day, or what has come to be known as “Indigenous Day,” in October of 2021 to the National Congress of American Indians 78th Convention. There, Harris accused the United States of ushering in a “wave of devastation for tribal nations, perpetuating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had already declared America a crime scene and stated that America was constructed from stolen land; that Hispanics were more indigenous than the white population and more deserving of exemption from immigration laws. They had more of a right to America than whites did.
This article is a response to the malarkey surrounding the idea that America was genocidal towards Native Americans, and the idea that America was created via theft.
To begin with, --->
Read the reas from Jason D. Hill HERE

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