Fwd: Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman and Andrew Jackson Were Proponents of Native American Genocide
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Louis Proyect
2014-10-20 12:38:55 UTC
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Truthout: You quote many famous figures in US history, including Walt
Whitman and Theodore Roosevelt, expressing their abject racism toward
the indigenous population. In essence, the Euro-centric wave of US
occupation of indigenous lands appeared grounded in a wanton racial
stereotype of Native-Americans as an inferior race, even implying that
they were a species so inferior that causing their extinction was a
benefit to the human species. From where did this despicable outlook derive?

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: By the time of Theodore Roosevelt, US society,
including "scientists," was awash in Social Darwinism and eugenics. But,
clearly, Walt Whitman was a true visionary in the sense that his vile
language of Mexicans, "Injuns," and "niggers," fit into the Social
Darwinism that developed in the Atlantic world as a justification for
colonialism and genocide, not just in North America, but all the
Americas and Caribbean, South Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific, and
especially, Africa and African Americans.

As an enthusiastic supporter of the US war against Mexico in 1846,
Whitman proposed the stationing of 60,000 US troops in Mexico in order
to establish a regime change there "whose efficiency and permanency
shall be guaranteed by the United States. This will bring out
enterprise, open the way for manufacturers and commerce, into which the
immense dead capital of the country [Mexico] will find its way." Whitman
explicitly grounded this prescription in racism: "The nigger, like the
Injun, will be eliminated; it is the law of the races, history. . . . A
superior grade of rats come and then all the minor rats are cleared
out." The whole world would benefit from US expansion: "We pant to see
our country and its rule far-reaching. What has miserable, inefficient
Mexico . . . to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with
a noble race?" In September 1846, when General Zachary Taylor's troops
captured Monterrey, Whitman hailed it as "another clinching proof of the
indomitable energy of the Anglo-Saxon character." Whitman's sentiments
reflected the established US origin myth that had the frontier settlers
replacing the native peoples as historical destiny.

That Whitman remains the idol of so many US American intellectuals,
scholars, and writers, including predominately the Beat Era rebel poets,
attests to the deep-seated racism in US culture, a kind of toxic that
oozes everywhere. Thanks to the powerful African-American-led Civil
Rights movement of the mid-20th century, there is much greater awareness
now of the crimes of the Atlantic slave trade and the institution of
legalized enslavement of Africans in the United States. Although
deep-seated racial discrimination and racial hatred persists, such acts
are at least denounced and are formally illegal. However, the residue of
Indian-hating and Indian-killing has been dealt with sporadically, and
the myth of a "natural" disappearance of a "backward race" is not far
from the surface of most US Americans' consciousness. The renewed and
very public indigenous resistance movements in the 20th century have
produced hundreds of researchers, writers and spokespersons that are
beginning to have an effect, as witness a widespread questioning of
celebrating Columbus, and, of course, the public debate about the
Washington football team's moniker.

Mark Lause
2014-10-20 18:26:35 UTC
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One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

These are always amusing. Two homicidal politicians and a poet.

Whitman grew up in an uncritically Jacksonian family and started his career
as something of a Democratic hack newspaperman that responded predictably
when the Democrats led the country into a war of conquest. This is a
terrible habit that persists today among people who should know better.

Whitman, however, grew out of it. The reason the beats and lefties
generally like Whitman has less to do with any deep-seated racism among
them than with what he did afterwards..