A friend of mine, whose feeling I will try to avoid hurting by not saying his name and trusting that he will not visit this blog, shared the following meme on Facebook recently…
…and having shared it, asked plaintively, “Why didn’t we learn about this in school?”
Oh, that’s a a question with a quick and easy answer: because it’s a damnable racist lie, that’s why.
A slightly fuller answer: (a) you only get to 100 million by counting every indigenous American in both North and South America who died between 1492 and 1776 of anything other than old age; (b) you only manage to call those 100 million deaths “genocide” by defining the term “genocide” with extreme perversity and dishonesty; and (c) you only get to that aggregate number by wielding the term “Native Americans,” which is itself a racist term that derives all of its force from pretending that there is no difference between, say, the Iroquois and the Nez Perce, or that you do not commit a grievous insult of the Navajo people by treating them as “the same people” as the Apache.
I’ll take up these points in reverse order…
First, however, let me emphasize that most of the liberals I know would be neither stupid enough, nor dishonest enough, nor hate-filled enough to post this meme. The people who came up with this meme are the scum that float on the surface of the liberal septic tank, and they are not representative of most of my own liberal friends and relatives, though I have certainly encountered my fair share of “Free Thought Project” types over my thirty years of adult life. No liberal friend of mine should assume that I am taking a shot at him in this post; I am talking about the semi-humanoid cockroach droppings who produced this meme.
That very important clarification having been made, I return to my rant.
A meme of this sort is a good example of just how thoroughly and shamelessly racist are many (though by no means all) white liberals, such as the people who no doubt came up with this meme (even I, with my extremely low opinion of Russell Means, don’t think he’d be stupid enough to put this out here with his official endorsement). If you bring up, say, the Five Civilized Tribes, and you use that name to refer to them, it is a stone-cold guarantee that some of the liberals of your acquaintance (assuming you know more than two or three whom you have carefully selected for civility and good sense) will condemn you for being “racist” and “Eurocentric” for deeming those tribes to be “civilized” while the other indigenous peoples were “savages” (even if you have never used the word “savage” yourself). You will be assured that only a Eurocentric racist such as yourself would presume to pass judgment on other cultures’ practices and moral judgments from your own culture’s perspective, as though your culture were somehow objectively superior to theirs, you cultural imperialist, you. They will do this, these liberals, because they are absolutely convinced that their subculture’s practices, assumptions and moral judgments are manifestly superior to your racist bigot hate-filled fundamentalist homophobic white-privileged culture’s evil ways, indeed so obviously superior that it is simple justice that they be allowed to use the full coercive power of the world’s most irresistible government to impose their enlightened views upon your hate-filled backwardness. (They will have precisely zero self-awareness in this conviction and in this knee-jerk rush to condemnation of the Other, which is to say, you.) And they will assure you that, say, George Washington was a contemptible racist and cultural imperialist for daring to suggest that although American Indians were of equal dignity as human beings, yet their society was inferior (though this type of liberal also is placidly confident that dead white rich men, and possibly those that are neither dead nor rich, have no dignity as human beings and may be hated with a clear conscience, since conservative culture is so plainly inferior to liberal culture). They will despise Thomas Jefferson for having proffered the following advice to the Choctaw Nation:
“I rejoice, brothers, to hear you propose to become cultivators of the earth for the maintenance of your families. Be assured you will support them better and with less labor, by raising stock and bread, and by spinning and weaving clothes, than by hunting. A little land cultivated, and a little labor, will procure more provisions than the most successful hunt; and a woman will clothe more by spinning and weaving, than a man by hunting. Compared with you, we are but as of yesterday in this land. Yet see how much more we have multiplied by industry, and the exercise of that reason which you possess in common with us. Follow then our example, brethren, and we will aid you with great pleasure.”
The mere fact that every single word Jefferson said was, you know, perfectly true, is of no moment, as liberals of that type (I mean, the type who will instantly condemn you as racist the moment you self-identify as not being perfectly orthodox in your conformity to their cultural mores) generally have no interest in whether statements are true, but only in whether they themselves happen to find them offensive, which is to say, unfashionable in their social circles.
But in the meantime, what the use of the term “Five Civilized Tribes” clearly implied, is that people like Washington and Jefferson knew perfectly well that different Indian nations had different cultures. The Choctaw were “civilized” in part because, unlike the Apache, their women did not cultivate an extremely high proficiency in the art of torture of captives of war. The American government’s treatment of the Choctaw Nation is vastly more worthy of condemnation than is the American government’s treatment of the Apache, partly because the Apache were a nasty bunch of people (I can’t remember who said it first, but “if the Apache were the only people on earth, they would pick a fight with the moon”) and the Choctaw were not, but mostly because the American government knew that the Choctaw were a peaceful and “civilized” nation, and yet the American government drove them out of their homelands anyway.
But the point is, the “racist” American government knew that Cherokees and Comanches were two very different things, and that human-sacrificing Aztecs and peaceful Choctaws were in quite different categories. But to modern white liberals, they are all “Native Americans.” And so white liberals come up with memes such as the one that triggered this post, sublimely unaware that white people who carry on about “Native Americans” might as well be walking around waving great big flashing neon signs that say, “All those people look alike to me.” Which they do, to such liberals, because for such liberals the world is divided into “white people,” whom right-thinking persons frown on, and “everybody else,” of whom right-thinking persons approve.
And then there is the viciously accusatory word “genocide.” Here again, the use of this word clues you in to the racism of the people who created this meme. For the meme makes no sense unless you define “genocide” as “when people with relatively dark skin die as a result of interaction with people with relatively light skin.” Thus every Comanche or Apache warrior killed in battle between Comanches and Apaches is ignored and does not count for establishing the moral standard of “Native Americans.” Every Huron or Algonquian or Mannahoac warrior captured and tortured to death by the Iroquois is ignored and does not count in establishing the moral standard of “Native Americans.” Every Spanish or Mexican female settler who was raped and enslaved by the Comanche…the Comanche weren’t white so it doesn’t count against “Native Americans.” The Iroquois’ overrunning neighboring tribes and claiming their territory by right of conquest…not a problem; what’s a little disagreement now and then between “Native American” brothers?
But let Europeans show up and do to the Iroquois or the Comanche what the Iroquois had done to the Huron, or let white soldiers kill Comanche soldiers in battle to protect Texan settlers of Mexican descent, and that is not only evil, not only an act of unjustified war – it is “genocide,” despite the fact that there is absolutely no way to fit deaths in battle between warring independent nations into the label “genocide” unless you are a person of no good faith whatsoever. (Deaths in massacres of women and children in settlements, maybe, but not deaths between opposing groups of warriors/soldiers in battle — and don’t start talking to me about U.S. Army massacres of “Native American” women and children if you aren’t willing to check to see how many white women and children were massacred by “Native American” warriors.) Nay, more – if Jesuit missionaries show up at an Indian settlement, and a resulting smallpox epidemic kills 10,000 Wyandot, this is also “genocide.” And this is true even though the Europeans who first brought Eurasian diseases to the Americas knew nothing at all about how infectious diseases work, and had not the slightest idea that the Americas were full of people who had no immune defenses whatsoever against smallpox, typhus, measles, influenza, cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and the like. Europeans had, after all, gone all over the world and it’s not like everybody in China and India started dying en masse when the Europeans showed up. Of course we today know that this is because the entire Eurasian landmass was a contiguous area in which any disease that started anywhere would eventually migrate to everywhere, and that the Americas had been cut off from this process since before the invention of the wheel – but no sane person could expect European missionaries to understand the concept of a virgin soil epidemic, much less to credit them with enough sophistication to kick one off on purpose.
The malice involved in the accusation can plainly be seen when you find people insisting that Europeans deliberately tried to inflict smallpox on Indians in order to wipe them out, in a form of primitive germ warfare; so it is too genocide. Then you ask for the evidence…and you find precisely one example over the course of five centuries, of one military commander deliberately giving indigenous Americans smallpox-infested blankets (the notorious Fort Pitt episode, notorious precisely because it’s the one thing the Native American Genocide conspiracy theorist can grab hold of). And this, to these people, is all that’s required to establish that “Europeans wanted the Indians to die out and would have infected them if they could, and even if they didn’t do it on purpose they were happy all those Indians died” – because, after all, you know how racist and evil and full of hate white people are. Oh, and the money spent by the American government to inoculate indigenous Americans against smallpox? – probably it was a bureaucratic mixup and they thought the vaccines were going to white people, or at any rate there’s bound to be some excuse that will let us pretend it didn’t happen. Anyway, when the American government tried to inoculate the Sioux against smallpox in 1831, and the Yankton Sioux took the vaccination but the Santee Sioux refused to accept it, and as a result of bunch of the Santee died – it was the American government that killed those Santee Sioux, you know. Those genocidal bastards.
So, just to be clear: one military commander trying to defend Fort Pitt using germ warfare establishes the character of all white people, including the “American government” (even though the event took place before the “American government” existed); but the actual literal American government’s attempt to inoculate indigenous Americans against smallpox…well that just doesn’t count. Because, well, you know, it doesn’t.
Oh, and by the way, do you know what would have happened to the white women and children who had taken refuge in Fort Pitt, had Pontiac’s forces taken the fort? It’s not hard to guess. Pontiac was, after all, explicitly waging a war that by the standards of this meme would be genocidal if it weren’t for the fact that in the world of this type of liberal, melanin-rich people can’t, by definition, commit genocide against the melanin-impaired:
“It is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands this nation which seeks only to destroy us.”
A figure of speech, did you say? Well, when Pontiac started the war at Fort Detroit they killed every British man, woman and child they found outside the fort, ritually cannibalizing one of the soldiers. They got to Fort Sandusky, entered the fort under the pretense of truce, then massacred not only all of the soldiers but also all of the traders. At Fort Michilimackinac they got in by a ruse, killed 15 soldiers in battle, then ritually tortured to death five more. At Fort Venago they killed everybody but the commanding officer; they saved him so that they could burn him at the stake. At Fort Presque Isle they British surrendered when Pontiac’s allies promised to let them go to Fort Pitt; then as soon as the soldiers were out of the fort they were massacred.
But the Fort Pitt commander who wanted to give these nice, simple, harmless children of nature smallpox because it was the only way he could think of to keep the women and children under his protection out of the hands of the noble Pontiac – man, he was a nasty genocidal dude… Look, sarcasm aside, I think his behavior actually was pretty contemptible – but then, unlike many liberals, I also think Pontiac was a vile and evil person, even though he wasn’t white and therefore is immune from liberal criticism. (I mean, he only massacred women and children; it’s not like he did something truly evil, like betraying his people by voting Republican — which is, so far as I can tell, the only thing that can make this sort of liberal think a non-white person is Evil.) The world is full of evil people, after all, and most of the world’s wars have been wars with lots of nasty people on both sides. And despite the desperate attempts of you-disagree-with-me-because-you’re-a-privileged-white-racist liberals to convince themselves otherwise, evil is not a function of, nor even mildly correlated with, whiteness.
Look, the American government killed ethnically indigenous Americans in wars of subjugation, just as indigenous Americans had been killing each other in wars of subjugation for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. This may be morally reprehensible (it is at least easy for us in our wealth and ease and luxury and security to say so) but it is not genocide. Millions of indigenous individuals died in epidemics due to diseases that came across with Europeans and to which the indigenous had no immunity. This is one of the great catastrophies of human history, but it is not genocide. The American government forced tens of thousands of indigenous Americans to leave their ancestral homelands and go live on reservations, and many a peaceful and innocent person died as a result of the privations on such forced marches as the Trail of Tears. This decision to force resettlement may be worthy of moral condemnation (I myself would condemn it in very strong terms indeed), but the deaths that resulted were not genocide.
And this would all be true even if a hundred million indigenous Americans really had died as a result of encountering English settlers and “the American government.” But that number is ludicrous and is a shameless lie. Estimates of how many aboriginal Americans were living in all of North and South America in 1491 generally come in around 50 million; 112 million is the high end. But almost four out of every five inhabitants of North and South America lived south of the Rio Grande. The highest estimate I know of for North American population, including Canada, is 18 million people. And that was in 1491. By 1650 (according to William Denevan, from whom I get the 112-million-person high-end estimate), the native population of both North and South America together was less than six million. (The overwhelming majority of deaths were due to European diseases to which the indigenous population had no immunity.)
It is probable that the indigenous population had come back to a certain degree by 1776. But by 1776 there were already more Europeans in North America than there were indigenous persons – and the non-indigenous population of the British colonies in 1776 was about two and a half million. Had there been a hundred million indigenous Americans in 1776…well, the white folks wouldn’t have gotten very far with their Evil Genocidal Plots.
And so we come back to the short answer I gave at the beginning: the reason that children have not been taught in schools that the American government killed 100 million Native Americans in the largest act of genocide in history – is quite simply that it is a damnable racist lie.