The conversation happening in our nation in light of recent events is more about political correctness than the issue at hand. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and terrorists are bad people. The ideals of these groups are in opposition to everything our nation stands for and everything that holds true to our founding principles. Their hatred of people dissimilar to them is un-American and it should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have plans to remove all of the statues in the U.S. Capitol that honored Confederate soldiers. I respect their rights as elected officials to put forth legislation they believe is in the best interest of their constituents, however I simply do not agree.
As a Cherokee, I can attest to the fact that Native Americans have been on the losing side of history. Our rights have been infringed upon, our treaties have been broken, our culture has been stolen, and our tribes have been decimated at the hands of our own United States government.
Under President Andrew Jackson in 1830, our government passed the Indian Removal Act that drove thousands of Native Americans out of their homes on the treacherous journey better known as the Trail of Tears. Under President Franklin Pierce in 1854, parts of Indian Territory were stolen from tribes to create the Kansas and Nebraska Territories. Under President Abraham Lincoln, the Sand Creek massacre occurred in 1864 when the U.S. Army attacked the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes unprovoked, killing about 250 Native Americans. The Dawes Act of 1887 gave President Grover Cleveland the power to take back tribal land and redistribute the land to native people as individuals, not as tribal members. Under President Benjamin Harrison in 1890, the Wounded Knee massacre took the lives of 150 Native Americans. Under President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Indian and Oklahoma territories were unified to create the state of Oklahoma after Congress refused to consider a petition to make Indian Territory a separate state. President Roosevelt is even quoted as saying: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are.”
Is history not an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes? When we fall short of the high standard we set for our nation and its citizens, we make mistakes. What's most important is that our nation remembers and learns from them. As soon as we forget about our history, we are bound to repeat the same errors.
The removal of Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol doesn’t change our history. The removal of these statues merely attempts to disguise our ugly scars by hiding these statues out of plain sight. In an imperfect world, full of imperfect leaders, there are countless statues that may not live up to our American values. The statues of President Jackson and President Lincoln, both fervent oppressors of Native Americans, stand tall in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
America is – and will always be – a success story. When we censor our history by disguising our scars, we belittle the struggles our ancestors fought so hard to overcome. America doesn't cower behind political correctness. It defiantly and courageously moves forward, with its history as a reminder of where we have been. Let us look boldly into our history and learn the lessons that made us the “shining city on the hill” and the example for all other peoples.