Breaking the Social Silence

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History is written by the victors. The relevance of this quote transcends centuries as it has been attributed to everyone from Pliny the Younger to Winston Churchill. So, what then are we to make of history? What purpose does it hold for us if not truth? The answer seems to lie in investigating events and deciding ourselves as to what we should believe.
“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” American school children learn this rhyme along with rhetoric on Columbus’s “discovery” of a new world year after year. But, it is a world that we now know was not new at all when Columbus happened upon it. It was an old world with a rich past and cultures that have possibly inhabited it for as long, if not longer than cultures in Europe have inhabited there!

For decades, Native groups in America have sought to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous People’s Day , and the movement has gained substantial momentum in recent years. In 2014, Seattle, Washington and Minneapolis, Minnesota recognized Indigenous People’s Day and additional cities have followed suit this year. This past Monday, the University of Oklahoma celebrated its first campus-wide Indigenous Peoples’ Day as well. The movement is an effort to focus on the contributions of indigenous groups and their history in the Americas.

I sat drinking lemongrass tea with my friend, Claudia the other day and she told me her feelings about Columbus day. “I grew up in Peru. “Even though we had a thriving civilization, the Inca civilization, and many before that, they were killed for greed, and to this day we still have statues honoring the men who killed us. It doesn’t make sense!” She went on to describe her frustrations with the American education system that mostly teaches white-washed, post contact history and even in her education in Peru, which, to my surprise, was roughly the same. “They taught us that this wonderful man came to colonize us and give us God and give us salvation.”

It’s not just indigenous people that are voicing disapproval for Columbus day. On October 12, the hastag #ColumbusDay saw ample protest on social media.

(see original article for tweets and posts)

Along with movements like Indigenous Peoples’ Day, there is a massive push and pull in America. I don’t know if it is getting stronger as time goes forward or if I am just now realizing it. I feel (hope) like things are becoming more progressive, but we have a lot of work to do. One of the first steps is to end our social silence. So many people don’t want to talk about issues that truly matter because it is to difficult or embarrassing. However, the fact is that these issues exist and we need to have some social accountability. We need put ourselves on the ethical side of history and stop the actions and ideas that are still directing our society today. Actions and ideas that, to this day, promote the same principles and have the same consequences as those of Columbus.

Let’s take that good look at history, begin to think for ourselves and open up to talking about the hard things. I, for one will be making a point to do this. I owe it to Claudia and the many other people of various backgrounds that I am fortunate to call friends, to add my voice to the discourse of change…

Who do you owe it to?

All photos copyright: Catherine Carter 2015

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