Sunday, May 25, 2014

Racism & Morality

Stealing land cannot be good, even if it is considered legal.

I am caught between the understanding that white settlers crushed the natives, and my predisposition that my family must have been largely good.

Born into the romantic 'cowboy and indian' culture and that evolved into the 'poor victimized native,' narrative. I now wonder if there is an even more nuanced view. The former is clearly racist, but the latter, too, may be one-sided.

The history of a people written by the victor is always biased, but our view of history is always changing.

Spencer only mentions Indian attacks, but he also seemed unaware of soverignty or land disputes, and military actions seem almost entirely defensive against the poor benighted unbelievers who didn't know enough to move out of the way of the civilizing, progressive influx.

Perhaps, rather than being torn by opposing urges, most people (with the possible exception of Quakers) at the worst should be considered amoral, rather than immoral. "Savages" were not entirely human, and could therefore tender little proof of land ownership. Their soverignty over hunting lands without any paperwork or major monarchy, was of little consequence. Title to settlements that were very often mobile must have sounded too alien to offset the thirst for good land they had won fair and square from Britian, France and Spain.

Clearly the unhealed wounds of lost family members led not a few to hatred of this enemy, and a thirst for vengence, including genocide. However, the off-handed epithets were as innocuous, and unforgivable, as that towards slaves. Rarely do a healthy people think of themselves as evil. I guess for the longest time, such a fundamental questioning of one's beliefs simply does not came up.

Their lives seemed no less sacred, but scalping a dead body lacking a soul, seemed to cross no line. Perhaps, different people at different times during this period would see this differently.

But this misunderstands the different types of racism. Most of us are racist without being overt.

It seems ironic that the whites saw the indians a primitive, and that is how we view the 18th century whites from our advanced point of view (I am not putting quotes around contentios words). Hopefully we are not so damaging to their memory.

There can be little doubt that our family shared this view of the 'savages,' and had few compunctions about taking their land violently. If they lived next-door I would probably be appalled at their actions and statements, perhaps considering them as enemies. We telerate outrageous comments by Bothmann and other old people...

"The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800, and after 1820 membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement..."