Academic journal article Social Justice

The Color of Violence

Academic journal article Social Justice

The Color of Violence

Article excerpt

AT ONE TIME, THE LAND UPON WHICH THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA Cruz, sits, as all lands in California, was home to an untold number of Native tribes that occupied this area for over 20,000 years. Who were these indigenous peoples? Of the Native nations we do know in an area from the Northern California border down to the Golden Gate Bridge in the west and Yosemite National Park in the east, an area of 250 miles by 200 miles, there were Tolowa, Yurok, Chilula, Karok, Shasta, Wiyot, Whilkut, Yana, Waintu, Maidu, Washo, Konkow, Patwin, Wappo, Pomo, Paiute, Ohlone, and many, many others (Stannard, 1992:21).

Few of these tribes remain today. From the 18th century onward, California Indians were rounded up in Jesuit and Franciscan missions that were, in historian David Stannard's (Ibid.: 137) words, "furnaces of death." Mission Indians died as a result of European-introduced diseases, malnutrition and brutal enslavement, fatal forms of punishment, and sexual abuses.

California Governor Peter Burnett enunciated an official policy of genocide in his 1851 message to the California legislature, in which he argued that the ongoing wars against Native peoples "must continue to be waged between the races until the Indian becomes extinct" (Ibid.: 144).

The situation in South America was no different. During the course of four centuries--from the 1490s to the 1890s--Europeans and white Americans engaged in what Stannard calls "the worst human holocaust the world has ever witnessed." From an estimated population on two American continents of some 75 million Native people at contact, only some five million remained at the end of the 19th century (Ibid: 146).

Colonization was the historical process, and genocide the official policy.

Genocide: any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnic, racial, or religious groups, including killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction of the group in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of one group to another group. This is the accepted United Nations definition (United Nations, 1948).

Genocide: European conquest of the Americas.

Colonialism: The historical process of conquest and exploitation.

The United States of America: a country created out of genocide and colonialism.

Today, the United States is the most powerful country in the world, a violent country created out of the bloody extermination of Native peoples, the enslavement of forcibly transported peoples, and the continuing oppression of dark-skinned peoples.

The color of violence, then, is the color of white over black, white over brown, white over red, white over yellow. It is the violence of north over south, of continents over archipelagoes, of settlers over natives and slaves.

Shaping this color scheme are the labyrinths of class and gender, of geography and industry, of metropoles and peripheries, of sexual definitions and confinements.

There is not just one binary opposition, but many oppositions. Within colonialism, such as that now practiced in my own country of Hawai'i, violence against women of color, especially our Native women, is the economic and cultural violence of tourism and of militarism. It is the violence of our imprisonments: reservations, incarcerations, diasporas. It is the violence of military bases, of the largest porting of nuclear submarines in the world, of the inundation of our exquisite islands by eager settlers and tourists from the American and Asian continents.

These settlers have no interest in, or concern about, our Native people. Settlers of all colors come to Hawai'i for refuge, for relaxation. They do not know, nor do they care, that white sugar planters overthrew our Native government in 1893 with the willing aid of the American troops; that our islands were annexed in 1898 against the expressed wishes of our Native people; that our political status as Hawaiian citizens was made impossible by forced annexation to the United States. …

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