Published April 25, 2016
SACRAMENTO — The fact that genocide was committed against Native Americans is indisputable and should be obvious to anyone who has taken an honest look at history. Unfortunately, there are still some people so deeply attached to American nationalism that they generally accept the philosophy of expansionism and colonialism practiced by conquering Europeans generations ago and carried on as the “Manifest Destiny” by the U.S. government in the 19th century. In many cases, teachers in public schools and government-regulated universities simply pass along the same lies about the founding of America that they were told in school.
In one such case, a California State University, Sacramento professor not only rejected one of his student’s claims that there was a genocide against the native people — he ended the class early and threatened the student with expulsion. According to 19-year-old student Chiitaanibah Johnson, her professor refused to allow her to make comments about the Native genocide during class — a time when it was appropriate to discuss the issue at hand. Instead, U.S. History Professor Maury Wiseman argued with her and insisted the native people did not face a genocide.
Johnson explained to ICTMN that “The whole thing started on Wednesday. He was talking about Native America and he said the word genocide. He paused and said ‘I don’t like to use that word because I think it is too strong for what happened’ and ‘genocide implies that it was on purpose and most native people were wiped out by European diseases.’”
Johnson was offended by his comments, but instead of arguing with him right then and there, she decided to write down his statement and research some facts to back herself up when she decided to raise the issue with him.
“I wrote it down. I was enraged for what I felt were obvious reasons. I didn’t say anything [on Wednesday] because I knew that if I didn’t have anything specific to back it up in terms of tangible or solid evidence that he would not take my comments into consideration,” she said.
That Friday she presented her research to him after he finished a lesson on Native American tribes.
“He made it a point to say indigenous people were not peaceful. I was upset for obvious reasons. He’d mentioned how the French and the Dutch were allies and made it a point to say native people were killing each other before white settlers arrived,” she said of the lesson that week.
Johnson went on to explain that “On Friday, I raised my hand and I said, ‘I understand why we’re talking about the Portuguese people because it explains how they got to America. But I do not think it is fair to talk about Portuguese people as if they were only poor and brave. They became rich by raping and enslaving the indigenous lands and people that they ‘discovered.’ I told him, ‘You said genocide implies the purposeful extermination of people and that they were mostly wiped out by European diseases.’ I said, ‘That is not a true statement.’
While mainstream history tells us that America was a vast, uninhabited wasteland when European settlers began to arrive, there were actually an estimated 10 million Native Americans living there at the time. In just a few hundred years, that number was cut down to roughly 300,000 during a well-documented and consistent effort on the part of the U.S. government to eradicate their population and take their land.
Nevertheless,“He said, ‘Genocide is not what happened.’ I stood up and started reading from an article by the United Nations that said: ‘Genocide is the deliberate killing of another people, a sterilization of people and/or a kidnapping of their children,’ and he said, ‘That is enough.’”
“I said, ‘No. You have to tell the truth.’”
“He said, ‘If you want to come talk to me after class, now is not the time, you are hijacking my class.’’
Then he cancelled the class for that day and threatened Johnson with expulsion after everyone else was dismissed.
“He said, ‘You know what class? I am so sorry to everybody that this is happening. Please everyone come back on Wednesday have a good weekend.’”
Johnson said that after he dismissed the class he told her, “‘I do not appreciate this in my classroom.’ He began shaking his finger at me and said, ‘I don’t appreciate you making me sound like a racist and a bigot in my classroom. You have hijacked my lesson, taken everything out of context and I don’t care what kind of scholarship you have, or what kind of affiliation you have with the university, you will be disenrolled and expelled from this classroom.’”
Johnson later said that “To be kicked out of the classroom so quickly, I was floored and I thought, ‘Are you kidding me? This was the third day of class, and already you’re going to completely expel me?’ I didn’t call him names, I did not say he was racist, I did not use foul language – yes, I raised my voice because he raised his voice at me and was talking over me and wouldn’t let me say anything. I felt like I had my feet completely kicked out from under me. I felt like I approached the situation in a way that a student of the university level is supposed to approach a disagreement with the professor.”
“I have been dealing with this kind of racism since I was a little girl,” she added. Once news of the story broke nationally, administrators with the university were forced to respond and insisted that regardless of what the professor said, Johnson will not be expelled for voicing her opinion and sharing her research.
Soon after, the Sacramento State History Department made a statement on Twitter saying “We regret this situation & are investigating; student is not disenrolled.”
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in New Sun Unity. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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