Some responses to a recent post about the Seeding Sovereignty event HEY! Come Get Your Racist Uncle, Remove Monuments to White Supremacy, were objections to removing Confederate statues because of their (possible) historic value.
I know many White people don’t like the expression “White supremacy”. But we have to be clear about what White supremacy is and where it was/is practiced. So we can learn from those mistakes, do what we can to address those wrongs, and stop those practices now. But as explained below, using public monuments to White supremacy is not the way to do this.
There are nuances in the discussions about monuments to historical figures who accomplished great things for the land called the United States, but who also engaged in practices like the enslavement of Black people or atrocities against Indigenous peoples. The Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial are recognition of what these men did for the country, not for their acts of White supremacy.
On the other hand, statues to Confederate soldiers are monuments to White supremacy. These White men committed treason by seceding from the United States, and going to war to preserve the institution of slavery. They were clearly saying White culture is superior to all others. They may have a place in museums, but not in public places.
Another campaign of White supremacy was the theft of Native peoples lands and the cultural genocide from forced assimilation of more than 100,000 Indigenous children. This occurred in White run boarding/residential schools and was the epitome of White supremacy. Forcing native children to give up their ways, and try to learn how to fit into White society. Research has shown that the trauma related to forced assimilation affected the children and their relatives at the time the kidnapping occurred. And those traumas have been passed from generation to generation, passed to and felt by those living today.
Systemic racism in the U.S. today is the interconnected web of ways White supremacy continues in our society.
White people often don’t realize we are harmed by White supremacy. We are ignorant of the truths of history when we unquestioningly accept what we are taught in school, usually by White teachers. We try to ignore it, but we are also hurt, knowing of these violations of human rights.
As I have learned more about Indigenous peoples, it is clear to me we would not be in this rapid spiral into deepening climate chaos is we had lived within our ecological boundaries, as Indigenous peoples have always done. Another way we are all suffer because of White supremacy.
The following video is from the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March in September, 2018. The purpose was to create a community of Indigenous people and White settlers working on ways to learn about each other. Begin to trust one another so we could work together.
Besides the Confederate statues, pioneer monuments are also displays of White supremacy.
The earliest pioneer monuments were put up in midwestern and western cities such as Des Moines, Iowa and San Francisco, California. They date from the 1890s and early 1900s, as whites settled the frontier and pushed American Indians onto reservations.
Those statues showed white men claiming land and building farms and cities in the West. They explicitly celebrated the dominant white view of the Wild West progressing from American Indian “savagery” to white “civilization.”Think Confederate monuments are racist? Consider pioneer monuments by Cynthia Prescott, The Conversation.
My friends Christine Nobiss and Donnielle Wanatee organized the event at the Iowa State Capitol on July 4th regarding removing the Pioneer statue on the grounds there.
Following is a lengthy video of that gathering. I hope you might listen to the first few minutes, at least. You can hear Christine talk about the purpose of this gathering. And you can hear the wonderful prayers of Donnielle. When we were on the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March together, mentioned above, we stopped for prayers every time we walked over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Often it was Donnielle who gave the prayers. They were some of the most significant parts of the March for me.
July 5, 2020
We’re proud of the work being done all around the country and by our collective members. Christine Nobiss, organized a powerful event where 250 Iowans showed up. We thank all who attended and spoke. It wasn’t an easy job, considering there were around 100 white supremacists and nationalists who showed up and who also threatened us before the event.
My experience is that we must follow the lead of those who are experiencing injustice, those suffering under the practices of White supremacy today. That is why I find this video from Seeding Sovereignty fascinating.
Following are notes I took from the video.
Christine Nobiss: As an academic, as an Indigenous person, as an organizer railing against monuments to White supremacy, whether they be statues, murals or entire buildings. Spaces
Who came here before genocide and colonization.
White supremacy and monuments to White supremacy.
As an organizer, rail against statues, murals, buildings, spaces
Uprisings George Floyd
Movement to taking these statues down
Uplifting for myself.
Concerns about safety of my people, the safety of black people, people of the world majority when taking statues down.
Trump-retroactively, go after people who have defaced or vandalized pieces of Federal property (his words)
Is it our job to take them down?
In reality, in the best sense of how all this is occurring, the best thing would be that they would just be taken down. The states would see these as human rights violations, symbols of hate speech that leave out and single out portions of the populations and make them feel unwelcoming spaces.
So it wold be the duty of the state and Federal governments to see these as symbols that glorify of slavery, ethnic cleansing, land theft and so many violations of human rights.
But that’s not happening, is it?
So it is, again, up to people on the ground to do it, to make this happen.
But I don’t want people to get hurt.
I would like to see legislation, I would like to see us push for the ancestors of these people who put them up take them down.
They put them up, they should take them down.
S.A. Lawrence-Welch: I have to concur. I believe in the power of the people. We need to start holding the government accountable for the atrocities that have occurred, are still occurring, and these monuments that remind us day after day that this has happened. You know that taking them down we are not erasing history, we are acknowledging the actual stains on our history as a nation.
It is incredibly uplifting to see this uprising happen, but to decentralize the White superiority narrative I think that we need to work as people of the world majority, especially in these United States, to dismantle the government as its known now by influencing and having them follow our lead.
Christine: I am not saying I want to rely on them. I’m saying lets make them do it.
I would love the nation states to recognize all the wrongdoings that are perpetuated and how they are responsible for the daily historical trauma of people that have to look at these and be reminded of what’s happened in this county. And look our whitewashed history because that history is not the truth, that is absolutely not the truth of this country was founded at the point of a gun for the sake of free land and free labor. That little sentence just basically barely describes the amount the violence and terror that people have had to deal with for centuries. All of these statues are monuments to that. They are basically irresponsible acts to put these up. Its not the truth and I believe they are human rights violations. They are symbols of hate speech.