Mad River Union Letter to the Editor: Commendation and healing

Commendation and healing

I commend the courage and leadership shown by the four Arcata City Councilmembers who voted to remove the McKinley statue from the Plaza (Opposition to City Council’s McKinley removal decision begins to emerge, Feb. 24). Though it was (and will continue to be) difficult, they have struck at least one small blow to the dominant culture of patriarchy and white supremacy that we are all living under.

I know Sofia Pereira to be one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know, and I take offense to the tone of Michael Winkler’s letter on her behalf. Unfortunately it’s far from rare for women in positions of leadership to face this kind of condescending treatment from their male co-workers.

I assume based on what I know of Mayor Pereira that she understands the deep wounds that colonialism and racism have inflicted on our community, and that she recognizes the importance of allowing those hurts to be aired and hopefully rectified. This process is ugly and uncomfortable – but not nearly as ugly and uncomfortable as the long list of atrocities that have been perpetrated against indigenous people on these lands over the past two hundred years.

Every bit of the wealth and prosperity that we currently enjoy on this country is based on the oppression and extinction of native people and people of color. None of the land on which our homes and businesses sit would be “ours” had it not been viciously taken through the genocide of indigenous people. The wealth that has passed to us (primarily white people) generation to generation was only made possible through the murder of native people and the exploitation of slave labor. Like it or not, that is the reality of our current economic system.

In this context, Dan Hauser’s assertion that “it would be totally unfair and unreasonable to promote this effort with City funds,” would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Has he no understanding that every dollar collected by the city for hundreds of years is tainted with the suffering of indigenous families? Apparently not.

We, as white people, have a lot of work to do. At a bare minimum, we need to learn to be OK allowing the victims of this systemic violence and exploitation to be mad. What other reaction could they possibly have to the knowledge that their parents and grandparents suffered so mercilessly in this, their home country? What other reaction should we expect in the face of the statistics showing that nearly 30 percent of Native Americans live below the poverty line, and that Native Americans are killed in police encounters at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group? Hopefully once we master the ability to allow space for this anger, we can move into productive conversations about how to create a future that is very, very different from our past. But we won’t get there if we continue to demonize oppressed people any time they display justifiable anger.

Removing the statue isn’t about “erasing our history”; it’s about listening to the voices of those whose lives have been the most harshly impacted by that history, and following their lead about what can be done to begin to heal these deep wounds so we can move forward

If anyone would like to watch the Feb. 21 City Council meeting in question, you can do so through Access Humboldt’s website, accesshumboldt.net; the incident around which your recent article centered begins around minute 58.

Tamara McFarland
Cooperation Humboldt Board Member
Eureka

Posted in print, tamara.

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