May 7th, 2021 Last Updated on: May 22nd, 2021
By now, you've probably heard former senator Rick Santorum's nauseating preamble in which he not only denied the historic atrocities committed to indigenous people but also proudly white-washed American history in stating, “We birthed a nation from nothing.”
To CNN and many who share Santorum’s views: indigenous people are far too often labeled as “something else” or nothing at all. For indigenous people to be seen, we have to be acknowledged for who we are, what was done to our ancestors, and the fact that we're still here. As Santorum fumbled through his words, he candidly added, “I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”
UPDATE – As of 5/22/21 CNN has fired Rick Santorum!
There isn't much Native American culture in American culture?
Apparently, Santorum needs a reminder that the very essence of our nation comes from indigenous people.
The framework of our entire government was based on the Iroquois Confederacy, a group of indigenous tribes living in northeastern North America that had a participatory democracy government with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The Iroquois Confederacy is said to have inspired Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and others. The “Founding Fathers” also adopted the Iroquois nation's symbol, the bald eagle, as the new nation's national symbol.
Beyond that, so much of our food, art, music, judicial and medical practices can be traced back to indigenous people. However, the prevailing sentiment of erasure implies that in order for white culture to exist, indigenous culture must somehow be eliminated, or at the very least, whitewashed. The blank slate created by Santorum's forefathers was the genocide of thousands that birthed a nation in blood.
How did CNN respond to Santorum's racist narrative? They rewarded him with more airtime to further elaborate on the issue with Chris Cuomo. The cable news network touts as a liberal voice of equality, but they've been conspicuously silent in giving a voice to indigenous issues. Their lack of accountability for racist commentary emboldens people like Santorum to become even more vocal on such matters. Lack of education of indigenous people and culture, inaccurate historical accounts, and lack of representation has left an entire community feeling unheard and unseen.
We aren’t victims and do not need a white savior to stand on a pulpit and make false claims, but we do need respect. We need our voices to be heard, our stories to be told, and our issues to be properly addressed.
What Santorum, CNN, and those who share his views must remember is that indigenous people still exist, and by deliberately erasing indigenous culture, you are also erasing American culture.
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