October 13, 2009

How Not To Sell A Minority Point of View

A member of my FB circle posted this PSA. I'm all for more accurate, non distorted readings of history. If you don't understand the past, blah blah blah. But this group or coalition of groups is trying to sell two different outcomes that really ought not to be conflated with each other, as they do with this PSA and website:

Outcome#1: Eradicate Columbus' name from the federal calendar.

I kid you not, its stated just that way on their website.
So you start your campaign by seeking to tear down something long established, without having laid a sufficient foundation in education or outreach to change peoples viewpoint about this historical figure. Further, this stance is not necessary, they could have just stayed with the soft kill approach of getting out the alternate historical viewpoint on Columbus. But they are so busy trying to make people feel like crap over Columbus Day, so busy being self righteous they don't get the more important issue of correcting the historical record right. That alternate history should be front and center when you hit this link. If you are going to lambaste Americans as perpetuating racism with Columbus Day, your take on the history should be the FIRST thing I see when I hit this site to back up the fact that you're calling me out as an oppressor for taking any part in Columbus Day.

The tactical decision to essentially vilify people who celebrate or otherwise recognize Columbus Day is the strategic blunder here. Those folks are not doing that to insult native peoples or "perpetuate a philosophy of racism and domination". Its just flipping Columbus Day to the average American, but this bunch turns them into monsters by essentially saying "Columbus was a monster. If you celebrate Columbus Day, you condone heinous crimes against native people. You're a monster too".

Honor the people who were really here first by petitioning for a nationally recognized Indigenous holiday.

This sounds like a good thing. I'm not sure there are a lot of people who would disagree with it. Oddly enough, even people who believe in white supremacy have a measure of respect for native peoples history of resistance and some of the storied ways and traditions of native peoples. Most Americans of all colors brag a little about having native blood in their ancestry. Further, most Americans are on board to one degree or another with the concept that we took the land from the native peoples of America and we were not particularly nice about it. There is a level of residual guilt on this score, kept somewhat fresh by the historical presence of reservations. I don't think you have to work that hard to get this. But the goof here is that these folks conflate their two desired outcomes when they should have remained wholly separate. Making eradication of Columbus Day from the federal calendar synonymous with honoring native peoples puts the two things together in a completely unnecessary way.

An exit note: I had to dig through several links to get to anything that seemed to provide the alternative historical information that this PSA seeks to highlight. When I did get to something, it was a table of contents for a "Rethinking Columbus" set of teaching materials. In looking at it, it further confirms the bull in a china shop approach. These materials seem more likely to be useful for an audience of people who largely agree with the native viewpoint, not for convincing other people to think and educate their children differently.

As a campaign for changing people's minds, I think the Reconsider Columbus Day campaign is a whole lot of fail.