Sunday, May 8, 2011

Guilt from our Predecessors Passed-Down

In our section of AmCon this week we had an interesting discussion about something that I have always found curious. While discussing Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt many of us used the pronoun "we" when referring to the European settlers who oppressed the Native American people. Someone commented upon this trend and we had a discussion about it. I have always found this to be an interesting trend amongst Americans today. It can be so easy to use "we" rather than "they"--why do we fall into this pattern? As Zoe rightly pointed out, today we as Americans really have little to no more relation to the European settlers than to the Native Americans. So why do we say "we" oppressed "them"? One of the things that I think plays a powerful role in fostering this tendency is the way in which we are taught American history in schools today. As far back as elementary school I can remember talking about the Native Americans and that it is more often taught using these same pronouns--therefore as a country and an education system our society is almost conditioning students into adopting this mindset. However, as this discussion reminded me, it is important to remember that this is not really the way things were. Americans today should not label them as "we"; rather when discussing the events of our past should say "they" because really American citizens today really had no impact on the oppression.

Though we can feel badly that the oppression of the Native Americans occurred we cannot (and should not) lump ourselves together with them because in reality the European settlers are no more related to us than the Native Americans and we should not take responsibility for their actions.

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