What the world needs is a global Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address, once and for all the unresolved Africa question, but…
In view of the recently released historic report on the maltreatment of Canada’s native peoples over countless generations, I couldn’t help thinking of indigenous peoples in other parts of the world whose lives and cultures have been impacted by Europe’s children [people like Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, Walter Raleigh, Cecil Rhodes, et al] and their exploratory predilections centuries ago.
In places where “Contact” happened back when, and stories were written from the conquerors perspective, the impact, outcome, its vestiges and lingering effects on victims… all read the same, inhumane. But for some, the docile, the treatment meted out was… let’s say “benevolent.”
But as we’re learning, in Canada interaction with the Anglo and Franco colonizers was a sordid experience. Aspects of that relationship were revealed in the recently released findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, an extensive and lengthy investigation of the experiences of aboriginal peoples who were taken from their parents and communities and housed in [colonizers] “Residential Schools.”
The investigation was initiated in 2008 and presided over by Murray Sinclair, Canada’s first aboriginal judge; the Commission’s findings released on June 2. Anyone who watched the news that day saw and heard the reaction of some of those who testified… about the humiliation and dehumanization of Canada’s First Nations peoples.
It’s all about history, Canadian colonial history. Anyone who has studied it will have learned the sanitized [Europeanized] version, I believe I still have my high school books in a box somewhere, perhaps for posterity. [I learned about “Contact”, the exchanging of trinkets and beads, etc. That was the typical colonials’ Hippy version, but not about the sub-history, that inhuman, evil aspect vis-à-vis Canada’s native peoples. Those who didn’t know before are now learning much more.] Or, for purposes of juxtaposition, the sanitized European version with the “real” version, the “truth”, which inevitably comes to the surface, historically speaking. The TRC findings have done just that.
And yes, I had heard, read stories, and watched documentaries [of the broken lives of native peoples], and got some real-life context and perspective of the long-term generational impact back in the 1980s on a cross-Canada trip when a high school buddy and I made a stop in Winnipeg. The sights and conditions of Canada’s native peoples in parts of downtown were telling, excruciating.
It all comes out of the colonizing ethos of the day when Canada’s First Peoples were perceived and treated as less than human (Europeans). None other than early Canadian Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, exemplified that mindset, typical colonizer thinking with this unflattering description and assessment of First Nations people: “[…] When the school is on the reserve the child lives with its parents, who are savages…”
We now understand the story – the revelations…
“It’s nothing less than Cultural Genocide,” is some of the biting reaction to the TRC findings… And who can argue with that description of a sordid period in the lives of indigenous Canadians? Well… Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A few years ago, on behalf of all Canadians, he said “sorry” for what happened, which essentially began on Contact.
But sorry has become such a clichéd word; it has lost its significance. “Sorry,” yes, but in post-colonial, neo-colonial fashion, no sense of remorse. A sort of “Forget the-past-that-was-then-this-is-now-can’t-we-just-get-on with-life sort of attitude.
Meanwhile, in spite of offering what at the time appeared to be a sincere apology (who knows?) to the nation’s First peoples, he has refused to embrace the term “Cultural Genocide,” choosing instead to use the innocuous (and vague term) “Forced Assimilation.”
But most just, right-thinking, humans – especially Europe’s children and their generational descendants, the primary beneficiaries of Canada’s resource largesse, would agree that what happened not just to Canada’s, but North America’s indigenous peoples, was indeed “Cultural Genocide.” The true story is coming to the fore.
Meanwhile, on a more personal level I couldn’t help thinking of Africa’s history and experience, that long historical journey from there on “Contact”, to here in 2015, and the lingering pernicious effects of that fateful first meeting.
All that happened, once “Contact” was made, and Europe realized what, let’s say Africa contained, is that (much like Canada, America, Australia…) its explorers proceeded to render us [people of African descent] human-less, invisible, histori-less… by every means possible, hence our centuries’-old, generational struggle to find our true selves, identity, regain our rightful place in the world, not merely physically, but also existentially, notwithstanding the efforts of nefarious types over the ages to render us… unworthy.
At a billion strong continentally (essentially the most populated continent on Earth), with million of others across the Diaspora, Africans – again through the machinations of our conquerors – are essentially perceived as a spent force (even without having had that elusive opportunity to play our deserved role on the global stage). And we’re yet to demonstrate our potential power by establishing our selves globally.
We’ve been “tribalized”, dehumanized, enslaved, fractionalized, appropriated, compromised, marginalized, raped, sodomized, racialized… some say cursed, corrupted, blighted, globally pigeonholed… As much as we merit it, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (our history tells the story), there will never be one, for obvious reasons. One is because we have no physical, geopolitical or philosophical point of convergence. Which is why we remain powerless… are still at the mercy of Europe (the old conqueror and its children) and now a rapacious China, Southeast Asia and every “developing” country that needs what Africa has been giving since before “Contact” and continues to do in the 21st Century. No thanks to the old and new economic colonizers…
Up until now it has been a gargantuan, generational struggle for African peoples as we continue to surmount all the geographical, geopolitical, institutional, social, and other obstacles that have been deliberately placed in our path to thwart our coalescence and collective forward movement.
Europe’s children do have a lot to atone for; but the cumulative lingering effects of their doings are so deeply entrenched, it will never be done. Extricating ourselves from our historical condition, then, is our multi-generational struggle; but the present and future generations will ultimately restore Africa, and Africans (and our true history) to our rightful place. I’m regularly seeing the visible signs of incremental positive change.