Gary Palmer’s opinion piece is thought-provoking.
Thought-provoking in the sense that made me start to question why we feel the need to always “tell both sides to the story.” It made me wonder why we feel the need to justify past actions that have already been condemned by society. It made me ask myself—for the umpteenth time this year—why white people still feel the need to comment on BIPOC issues that they have no expertise or experience in.
Just because we are taught that there are two sides to a story does not always mean each side is worth listening to. For example, take the way that Germany teaches grade school students about WWII. Students are immediately presented with the horrendous ideology and crimes that the Nazis committed, emphasizing how incorrect they were. They do not go into detail on specific battles or wins so as not to embolden detrimental nationalist pride. Alternatively, we can see here in the US that because of the way our educational system is set up, many still feel a certain pride towards the Confederacy, aka literal traitors to their country.
Now, on to Mr. Palmer’s claims.
He writes that Native Americans did not have the wheel, did not have a written language, and did not have gunpowder. What Mr. Palmer failed to do was his research. A simple Google search shows that there are approximately 150 Native American written languages that are still spoken to this day. Does he assume that these languages were created and documented within the last century? Surely not. Even just the claim that they had no written language is completely false and sadly just another case of a white man erasing Native American culture from history.
Native Americans are credited with inventing many tools that we still use to this day. From syringes and anesthetics to cable suspension bridges, we owe these tribes more recognition and gratitude than we can even begin to make up for in the time lost since. Even though they lacked the wheel and gunpowder, as Mr. Palmer pointed out, it would be foolish to discredit the true knowledge and power these tribes possess.
Finally, I present a call to action to my fellow journalists, communicators, media specialists, and all others with influence in these areas: We need to do better. Especially the media outlets run by white people. It is our duty as storytellers to be telling the right story. It is not our place to diminish or provide a platform to those who minimize the experiences that other minority groups have had and continue to deal with the repercussions of. Do not lead your readers astray from what is true and ethical.
And let’s not forget that Christopher Columbus felt sexual attraction to a manatee. So yes, he really is that bad.
Anne Parker is a 2019 graduate of the Reed College of Media at WVU