As such an ethnocentric culture, I feel as though so much history has been lost and, as Americans, we tend to discard any information that is not relative to ourselves. It was interesting to read about events in American history that were based solely on the interactions between two ethnic groups, neither one being of European descent, similar to what Takaki describes in his lecture as the “master narrative of American history” (2004). History, for me, has always included the Civil War and World War II, briefly focusing on the struggles of those involved in slavery and the Holocaust. Of course, both of these events also contain an ending in which Americans were able to put aside their egos and rescue groups in need of salvation. However, it was the unknown history of my European ancestors that shocked me most.
One surprising historical event was how much cannibalism was present among the early European settlers. John Smith tells the story of one settler who “murdered his wife, ripped the child out of her womb and threw it into the river, and after chopped the mother in pieces and salted her for his food” (Takaki, 2008, p. 35). The passage also explains how poor the English were at rationing their food, and often relied on either the kindness of the Native Americans or brutality against the Native Americans as a way to replenish their supply. Not surprisingly, my second revelation in American history also included mistreatment towards Native Americans. Jefferson’s manipulation against the Native Americans’ finances was something I had never heard about before. Takaki describes Jefferson’s plan as a way to involve Native Americans in the marketplace, only to have them spiral into debt, and eventually have to sell off their land as repayment (2008). The lack of regard towards the native people and the audacity of these white politicians to displace and bankrupt such a peaceful group is an unsettling occurrence in America’s dark past.
As for why I believe certain voices get silenced in American history, I am not entirely sure. As I previously stated, as an American I often feel that early on egocentrism and ethnocentrism are ingrained in us, and it is difficult to remove the “American Dream” glasses from our eyes that allow us to look past anything that may divert us from our own interests. The consequences that are involved in this scenario often serve as a vehicle to disconnect us from the events occurring around the world. Prior to one year ago, I would not have been able to tell you about the UDHR or even human rights in general, and the multiple ways this document was being violated every single day. My previous ignorance regarding the world outside of my American bubble, which I am positive many people are still experiencing, is what I believe is a consequence in disregarding the history of the unfamiliar.
Another consequence is what I believe to be the result of overexposure to crime in the news. By focusing on the crimes committed by specific minority groups, it creates a culture where people fear those groups constantly being linked to crime. With the recent violence and tragic events occurring in Washington, The Times of India is already describing it as an “African-American revolt,” which will likely make its way into U.S. headlines in no time, though my knowledge of the situation proves that it has already worked (Rajghatta, 2013).
Rajghatta, C. (2013). Warning bells: Is US shutdown a brewing African-American revolt? The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Warning-bells-Is-US-shutdown-a-brewing-African-American-revolt/articleshow/23601211.cms
Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.
Takaki, R. (2004, February 6). America in a Different Mirror with Ron Takaki. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpq722mR6nE