Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The Wasteland


Now I'm just being obnoxious to point this out, but Noam Chomsky is right:

“Is there a slave museum in the United States?” Chomsky asks. “Actually, the first one is just being established now by private—some private donor. I mean, this is the core of our history, along with the extermination or expulsion of the native population, but it’s not part of our consciousness. ”

There are a number of "Holocaust" museums in America, including one in the town where I live.  Nothing wrong with that, but America had bugger all to do with the Holocaust, yet we want to remember it.

Fine.  Well and good.  Where is the museum commemorating the "Trail of Tears"?  Wounded Knee?  Indeed, the virtual extermination of the natives who were here when Europeans first arrived?  Slavery was a 400 year old business.  It built much of the wealth of America.

Where do we remember it?

We don't, of course. We remember the Holocaust, because we should never forget.  But we forget our own historical genocides, our own complicity in slavery.  The wound runs deep, even today.  I tried to find the link for it, but BBC World Service is not so accommodating.  They've been running a series of stories from Selma, Alabama.  Day before yesterday residents of Selma complained about their notoriety based on events which happened 50 years ago.  Selma has changed, they insisted; it isn't like that anymore.

Yesterday they ran a story about schools in Selma.  Seems the public schools are predominately, and in some cases exclusively, black.  Private schools are predominately, and in some cases exclusively, white.  They interviewed an African American woman who told of getting her child enrolled in a private school.  She was invited to the first meeting of parents, before school started, and was treated to a parent standing up and castigating school leaders for destroying the "traditions" of that school; by admitting her daughter, of course.

But wait, it gets worse.  A spokesman for Alabama schools told the BBC that Brown v. Board had tried to force people to do what they didn't want to do, and the federal government can't mandate that.  State governments, of course, can mandate racial segregation, but the federal government can't override that mandate.  White private schools and black public schools are just a result of Brown v. Board, of the federal government meddling where it doesn't belong, of not understanding what people really want.

In short, the very same racist arguments I heard as a child, unchanged by time, undimmed by the passage of the years.  But challenge that man, call him a racist, and you would offend him; as you would had he been making those arguments 50 years ago.

As Charlie Pierce says, it's not about race, because it's never about race (especially in Ferguson).  As Wendell Berry says, we have a hidden wound, and that wound is how much our country was founded upon, and still depends upon, racism.

We work very, very hard to keep that wound hidden.

4 Comments:

Blogger rick allen said...

"Where is the museum commemorating the "Trail of Tears"?"

I must say, to this inquiry, that when I was a kid I saw a dramatization of the story of the trail of tears in Cherokee, North Carolina.

Admittedly, it was put on by the Cherokee Nation, not the state or federal government, or any educational foundation.

But it still makes your point. I don't remember any details at all about the drama, but I've been aware ever since of the terrible injustice of the expulsion of the Cherokees. And I also had an emotional context when, in law school, I read the Cherokee cases, and came upon President Jackson's immortal words, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it."

There are no slavery monuments or museums that I know of, but the Old South must have thousands of confederate monuments. I suspect that these things do in fact enter into and mold peoples' attitudes.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

What is commemorated, and what is passed over, is always telling.

4:38 PM  
Blogger ntodd said...

"I must say, to this inquiry, that when I was a kid I saw a dramatization of the story of the trail of tears in Cherokee, North Carolina."

Unto These Hills? Saw it a couple times when I was a kid--g'parents lived down in that area, and that's the side that has some Tsalagi blood, so I was wicked interested.

4:52 PM  
Blogger JCF said...

“Is there a slave museum in the United States?” Chomsky asks. “Actually, the first one is just being established now by private—some private donor"

This is probably what Chomsky was referring to: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/27/389563868/new-museum-depicts-the-life-of-a-slave-from-cradle-to-the-tomb

1:05 AM  

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