‘Listen and Interact Respectfully,’ Says Letter to the Editor
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After listening to KHSU’s ‘Thursday Night Talk’ on October 18–which focused on the Arcata Plaza McKinley statue controversy and Measure M–I was struck by a few things.
I was impressed by the attitude and opinions being expressed by Lisa Lytle Morehouse. For example, her delivery was often Trump-like in its stridency and disregard for talking over other people while continually pounding the same short list of talking points, repeatedly expressing her hostility toward and discomfort with the opinions of other guests.
Civility aside, I found myself wishing someone had pressed her to explain exactly what she meant by feeling that her history/culture/heritage were being attacked, while she drew a line between “her/our” history and that of Native Americans, and that she had felt reverse racism directed at her.
IMHO, what she was displaying is the lack of awareness, historical tone-deafness, and callous disregard displayed by so many of us white people in the USA of the 21st century.
First off–though there is certainly room for debate on the subject–many feel that “racism…is an institutional and systemic belief that is only a tool of the powerful”. (“Can you be racist against white people?” – Irish Times, (8/11/18) – https://tinyurl.com/y7dvyxpe). From that perspective, what we heard from Lisa was actually an expression of white fragility and xenophobia.
Second, I understood Lisa to be arguing for the holding up of “white” history and heritage. We continue to be in denial in this country about the horrors of slavery and genocide, which–along with rapacious resource extraction, environmental degradation, and socio-economic injustice–actually are major aspects of the history of domination by the white power elite in this country. Are those the aspects of “her” history she wishes to extol, and whose legacy she wants to pass on to her children? Perhaps so, since many benefits accrue to us whites through these disparities. She should be honest about what she really means by “our” history.
Lisa repeatedly (and disingenuously) asked “What can we do to live in peace now?” Since she apparently showed up at the forum only to do battle from the (R) side of the aisle, she did not listen to or respond to the immediate answer offered by Erik Rydberg, who suggested that a good place to start would be to acknowledge and respect the desire of the remaining local native people (and many others of us) to remove the statue because its history and what it represents to them is offensive for multiple reasons. It seems to me that the statue’s removal is a minor and entirely symbolic gesture, one that hardly touches the horror inflicted upon these people, which they have not forgotten.
If Lisa and other people who subscribe to her beliefs truly wish to live in peace with neighbors who may not look or believe the way they do, they would do well to learn to better listen and interact respectfully, to acknowledge the suffering of others, and to self-examine their white privilege.
Steven Kossow, Arcata