kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
[personal profile] kathmandu
So in one of the many MammothFail posts, starlady38 wrote:

I am filled with historical rage on many levels, not the least of which is that her blithe planning on the thread that you quoted could plausibly have been spoken at various points in this world, when colonizers wanted to erase the Native peoples (and succeeded in doing so, to a large extent!). How, how, how, could she be so willfully blind to the reproduction of that actual violence inside her text?

That's exactly it. This wasn't a creative decision made by Patricia C. Wrede after careful thought. This was the tapes in her head playing themselves. I recognized them because I got those tapes too.

When I was in fifth grade, we had a test question that asked whether the English or the Dutch were the first settlers of North America. I got in trouble for writing in that the Indians were.

When I was in high school (early 1990s), my history textbook talked about the origins of American democracy, and how "this empty continent made a wonderful blank slate in which to experiment with new forms of government" ... that is, once we'd gotten rid of those pesky natives. (Quotation not exact, but as accurate as I can recall.)

When I was in college, I looked up an old (microfiche) geographic survey of Maine from the late 1700s or very early 1800s. It said Maine used to be rich in natural resources, full of huge herds of deer, huge flocks of turkeys, freshwater mussels so big you had to cut them in pieces to eat them, and the soil was so rich that farming was a get-rich-quick occupation ... at least for a few years, until colonists' farming techniques ran down the soil, and then they'd move on to a fresh patch. I printed out the page that explained how "the land being largely uninhabited, and that by a people of but little industry," the fruits of the land returned to fertilize the soil, and that was why the land was so rich when white people arrived. It couldn't be that the Indians had carefully arranged their endeavors to maintain natural resources and minimize human effort. No, they were lazy, and besides, they hardly existed at all. (Of course I lost that printout, but "the land being largely uninhabited, and that by a people of but little industry" is an exact quotation. It was so shocking I memorized it.)

And then there was Wrede's statement, when explaining why she wanted replacements for indigenous East-Coast place-names, that the people who spoke those languages have all died out. Well. I guess my local tribe must be zombies. Just for the record: The Last of the Mohicans was fiction.

Experiments have found that it's easier to recall a story or idea when you've encountered it lots of times. That's why parents worry so much about their kids being kidnapped or abused by a stranger, even though it's very rare: news media spend weeks publicizing and dwelling on every stranger-kidnapping, so examples are easy to think of. And people faced with a puzzle, exposed to a cue that suggests a certain solution, will come up with that solution but be completely unconscious of the cue's effect, and insist that they thought of the solution on their own.

"American Indians never existed at all, so it's okay for us to take their stuff" is a lie that American white people have been telling ourselves for a long time.

So when Wrede tried to think of how North American history could be different with respect to American Indians, there was one scenario that came easily to mind, that was subtly familiar, that resonated with all the ways she'd been taught to think about history and America and Indians: threat, not really human, not really there, and besides they're all dead now. And she insisted that she came up with the solution to her problem independently, by pure creativity.

These lies were begun before any of us were born. They've been repeated all our lives. When we're children we have no control over what grownups tell us, but when we grow up, we are responsible for noticing the lies and rooting them out.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-25 03:06 pm (UTC)
elf: Another link in the chain (Linkspam)
From: [personal profile] elf
This post has been included in a Linkspam roundup.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-25 05:36 pm (UTC)
bell: rory gilmore running in the snow in a fancy dress (kutner)
From: [personal profile] bell
Great post.

here via Linkspam

Date: 2009-05-25 09:28 pm (UTC)
susanreads: my avatar, a white woman with brown hair and glasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] susanreads

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-26 06:11 pm (UTC)
softestbullet: Aeryn cupping Pilot's cheek. He has his big eyes closed. (Arcade Fire/ (lies))
From: [personal profile] softestbullet
Those quotes are so awful and stupid, but I remember similar things in school.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-30 11:37 pm (UTC)
softestbullet: Aeryn cupping Pilot's cheek. He has his big eyes closed. (Art/ the wolf)
From: [personal profile] softestbullet
Oh, thank you for the link! I missed that one somehow.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-05-26 08:53 pm (UTC)
supermouse: Simple blue linedrawing of a stylised superhero mouse facing left (Default)
From: [personal profile] supermouse
Amazing post. Thank you. (Here via linkspam).


kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)

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