Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Calvin's problem with white supremacy

Could be you heard this, but in case you didn't, here's the news. A social work professor from Calvin College, a sister (well, mother) institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. got some national ink from an opinion piece he wrote in the Calvin Chimes, a student newspaper with a storied tradition of pot-stirring.

Anyway, his comments responded to an incident on campus when two students (who later confessed) wrote "white power" on car fenders festooned with pure Michigan snow and then included a swastika or two, I guess, acts which led to mournful hand-wringing on campus and prompts Presidential candidates like Ted Cruz to claim (as he did last night) that America's greatest problem is political correctness.

Does such wintery finger-painting prove Calvin College racist? Of course not. What it proves is that two students should flunk Western Civ and be hereby sentenced to a dozen Saturday evenings being forced to watch newsreels shot by GIs who stumbled into Dachau and Bergen-Belzen.

Maybe Calvin ought to send those two pranksters out here in a week or so. I'll bring them to Wounded Knee to stand up on the hill where two Hotchkiss guns rained death on Big Foot and his people exactly 125 years ago this December 29. I'd love to play Dean for a Day at Wounded Knee. I'll drive. My gas.

The problem is, this social work prof comes off as the last of the guilt-tortured lefties in this opinion piece he wrote. This kind of thing doesn't go over well with white people, some of them at least, today.

Racism built America and its systems and institutions. Those systems and institutions, from Congress to Calvin College, tend to disproportionately benefit white people because that’s who built them. If, as a white person, you refuse to acknowledge this privilege, you are asserting that the game of life in America is inherently meritocratic, that it is a fair game, that those who try hardest win.
It's entirely possible that the only conservative stronghold more heavily fortified than northwest Iowa is southwest Michigan. (Yesterday, Crowdpac named Orange City, Iowa, the sixth most conservative place in America.) Where descendants of Dutch Calvinism live, work, and have their being, lo, there shall be Republicans because we work dang hard and so should you. So the professor's typically-liberal shot at our national guilt made national news. Look for Cruz to quote the Calvin prof sometime this afternoon. Maybe morning.

Here's the sticky phrase: "white privilege." If you say it doesn't exist, saith the professor, you lie. Any such proposition cues responses that include words like lazy and shiftless, food stamps and welfare queens.

That Calvin College professor is, of course, demonstrably right. It's impossible to deny that the Dutch Calvinists progeny who rule here (and there), like me, are squatters. We're the undocumented. If I were Yankton Sioux, we'd be illegal immigrants. Forever.

Not acknowledging that fact creates lies. Like this one.

In a new and proud display of love of country, Sioux Center, Iowa created a series of beautiful granite slab panels in a war memorial downtown that celebrates the honor roll of heroes, including locals, who've given their lives for human freedom.

The monument includes a panel that says "Indian Wars 1917 - 1898." I honestly don't know where the dates come from. King Philip's War let blood on both sides way back in the 1670s. White people have been fighting Indians since the day after the first Thanksgiving.

"SERVED - 106,000," it says, and "KILLED IN ACTION - 1,000*, the asterisk signifying "ESTIMATE."

KILLED has to mean whites only.  So were the thousands of Native people who died chopped liver? Shouldn't the number of Americans killed in the Indian Wars make some mention of the fact that the Indians were, in fact, Native Americans?

Or is it this?--we only list the good guys.

Then why put George Armstrong Custer on the monument? At Little Big Horn the man was far more of an idiot than he was a hero.

And if the Massacre at Wounded Knee (still called a "Battle" in government documents) occurred on December 29, 1890, why does the memorial say the Indian Wars were over in 1898? Someone's doing revisionist history, telling a skewed story.

Does all of this mean that Sioux Center is "racist"? I don't know who can answer such a question; I can't, and I won't try. I'm not the judge.

But the professor is right, no matter how hard it is to have to listen to his Jeremiad. There is such a thing as "institutional racism," and there certainly is such a thing as "white supremacy." Case in point? a beautiful new memorial, well-meant, to honor our national fallen heroes right downtown in a small town in Iowa.

The more difficult question is this one, always: how then shall we live?


Anonymous said...

Selected outrage?

Before the white man got to America and for that matter, for sometime after, Native Americans were slaughtering each other over hunting land and tribal differences. Also, who did the Native Americans take the land from before the white man arrived? Where is your outrage?

America and white men are not at fault here. Might it be that these atrocities do not fit your narrative?

Anonymous said...

I see evidence of historical trauma as well as lack of common knowledge. All of which leads to the tone of racial exceptionalism. Take heed, mene, tekel, peres. It is written: "you know nothing, nothing at all". This blog speaks truth.