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Alien Nation, Part Two
Where is our humanity?

by DK Holland

Babb, who eventually earned a master’s degree in communication design at Pratt, is very poised, confident and charismatic. She says, “It’s important that students see me doing this—being a teacher, being a working designer. I need to destroy perceptions. It helps that I’m a gritty New Yorker, that I went to prep school in New Hampshire and have a master’s degree. My hiring was not affirmative action. By the way, I am very proud of the AIGA. Go to their website. You will find graphic designers of color there. This is the start of a revolution.”

SEE CHANGE
It might not always feel like it, but, in general, we are witnessing rapid progress. This is happening as our populations, resources and climate change. The world is rearranging. Caucasians (whites) are about to join the other “minorities” of the United States. High officials from the historically homogeneous country of China (yellows) were horrified that a Negroid (black) man could be elected president of the most powerful country on Earth. And yet he has now been elected twice—verifying to the entire world that Barack Hussein Obama (half black, half white) made it into a White House built by slaves (blacks), bringing with him a poised and elegant first lady descended from slaves, not by some fluke but through the conscious will of the country’s electorate (of all colors).

SAVAGE ANXIETIES
The ancient Greek bard Homer waxed poetically of half-human beasts: During all of history the civilized around the globe have warred and won against “the backward.” The mindset that savages are defeaters of the progress of civilization has prevailed for thousands of years and fueled the furnace of the powerful. This hugely dangerous mindset has been part of history since its start and still persists as a legal argument, even from the liberal bench of United States Supreme Court.3

When Europeans arrived on our eastern shores “American Indians” (disrespectfully and erroneously labeled) were perceived as primitive people because they lived in tribes and therefore were not “progressive.” Missionary zeal led the US government to tame the barbarians, the aliens, or to kill them if they did not cooperate. To force Natives to civilize, babes were torn from the squaw’s papoose and placed in the cribs of white families so they could be raised properly. They recaptured European women like Cynthia Ann Parker after her kidnapping by the Comanches at the age of nine. She had been renamed Naduah or “Keeps warm with us” and had spent decades as a part of the tribe. White society insisted that she re-civilize, whether she liked it or not. Naduah would not: She wanted to be with the Comanche, with her three children, her chief husband. She was not allowed to return. Heartbroken, she starved herself to death.

The US government needed the Comanche land in what is now Oklahoma. The Comanche were horse people, nomadic hunter-gatherers, neo Aztecs. The US government killed the buffalo the Comanche relied on for sustenance to destroy their culture and get their land. They were also tricked into debt and then onto reservations and forced to adopt a white way of life.

Further north, in what was once the land of the Dakotas, the United States waged war with the Natives to take over their land. President Lincoln allowed 38 Dakota warriors to be publicly hanged together for the alleged rape of white women settlers. This was the largest mass execution in US history, meant to assuage nervous white homesteaders who feared the Natives. A memorial has just been unveiled in Mankato, Minnesota, 150 years later to honor the Dakota Nation and to aid in long-overdue healing.

Minnesota is home to Land of Lakes butter, which features a demure Dakota native maiden as its logo, as well as the Little Crow Country Club, Little Crow Ski Team and Little Crow Foods—all named for Sioux Chief Taoyateduta (nicknamed Little Crow by the whites who eventually killed him). The inability of Minnesotans to accept or even acknowledge their past provides a gauzy image of Minnesota to most of us. Indeed, children are taught in school that Indians only knew how to solve conflict by fighting, leaving whites with no other choice but to slaughter or contain them on reservations. Natives implore Minnesotans to remember their dark history, not to whitewash it.

Mount Rushmore in Black Hills, South Dakota, says it all. Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, a known member of the Klu Klux Klan, the immortalized faces of four presidents, known as wise liberators—Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt and Lincoln—all overlook the Badlands and the Oglala Lakota Reservation. The image of Chief Red Cloud of the Lakota Nation had been proposed for Mount Rushmore, but was rejected. He would not have been a tourist draw. The Lakota have taken it upon themselves to create a memorial to Crazy Horse, which is being chiseled out of another mountain in the Black Hills. He fought against the US government. His monument will be bigger than Mount Rushmore and will be complete by 2020. The Lakota have rejected federal funds to do this.

My hometown of Metuchen (possibly named after a Raritan Indian chief) was settled in the 1600s by European whites who co-existed for a while with the friendly Lenape tribe. The Lenape were hunters and farmers and occupied most of New Jersey and some of Pennsylvania, but eventually they were pushed further and further away as they deeded away their land to whites. There is nothing left in Metuchen except the occasional arrowhead that lets you know Natives ever lived there. Only the name honors their past and it’s only vaguely explained.

NOT LIKE US
The United States was founded on the principles of the rights of the individual—liberty and happiness—by people who fled their oppressors only to become oppressors themselves and in doing so to cause unhappiness for so many individuals. That is our country’s biggest, saddest irony.

Nurturing the talent and creativity of our entire diverse population can only be beneficial to the future of the country, as de Tocqueville observed so long ago. We need first, however, to wise up and accept our history. What does the word “minority” mean anymore? Doesn’t it imply there is a “majority”? Isn’t then the true definition of the US a “myriad of minorities” including Chinese American, Irish American, Latino American, Jewish American, Muslim American, Native American, Korean American, African American, Japanese American, Cuban American, Mexican American, Filipino American and British American? This is where we find America’s scrapbook in words and pictures, there for creators—designers, photographers, writers—to pull from. As untidy as it may be, this is how America heals. This is how our humanity progresses. ca

Notes
1.   ferris.edu/jimcrow
2.   Dr. Vincent Harding, On Being with Krista Tippett, American Public Media.
3.   “Savage vs Civilized,” WNYC Brian Lehrer Show, October 26, 2012.
http://image.commarts.com/Images1/5/8/3/38500_54_0_MTYyNTQ2OTg1LTE2MjUwMjU1MTk.jpgDK Holland
DK Holland writes about design and teaches in two MFA design programs in New York, one at SVA and one at Pratt. She is an advisor to Project M and Design Ignites Change. Holland has been the editor of Design Issues since she started it in 1990. She is the author/producer of many books on design as well as Branding for Nonprofits. She is the producer of CitizenME, which creates transmedia tools that engage students in understanding how to become proactive citizens. Holland lives and works in her tiny nineteenth-century restored Italianate house and garden in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.