Ward Churchill on Reconciling the past

I talk about the landing at Jamestown, and about the pilgrim fathers coming over in 1620. I talk about what the dominant culture has done, and all of a sudden I get a bunch of red-faced, uncomfortable people talking about “white-bashing”: “What? Are you talking about me?”

I reply, “Not unless you’re old enough to have been around in 1620. I’m not white-bashing. I’m just recounting what happened. But you’re really uncomfortable with what happened, aren’t you? You’re identifying with something here, and I didn’t identify you with it. You did.”

The lightbulb goes on now. You think you’re “white”—whatever that is, that’s an invented term, too—and since I’m talking about white people, you feel some need to identify with them, with the perpetrators of the massacre. That’s exactly the psychology that perpetuates the legacy of it. You didn’t do it, so why are you defending it? You don’t have to, because you can oppose it just as easily as you can embrace it. But you can’t do both at once. You can separate yourself from what has been done—and what’s being done. But first you have to call what’s being done by its right name.

Ward Churchill, Listening To The Land