Statement of Faith

At a certain school I won’t name, every faculty meeting starts with a statement read aloud that says, “We recognize that we exist on an occupied land that belongs to the X Native American tribe and we bear full responsibility for the colonialist nature of our presence here.” Moreover, every MA and PhD thesis has to include this statement on the cover page.

Given that there are no Native Americans present at those meetings and that Native Americans have better things to do than pore over every MA thesis the school approves, these efforts aren’t doing much to benefit any actual Native American. And any power that the statement might have has been eroded by endless repetition.

Anybody who questions the use of the statement is labeled a racist, a colonialist, an imperialist, and a white supremacist. So nobody wants to speak out any more. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that there are many people who passionately and sincerely believe that you can’t possibly oppose the repeated use of the statement for any other reason but bigotry and hate.

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11 thoughts on “Statement of Faith”

  1. I would encourage you to read Shelby Steele’s White Guilt. He argues that the sort of symbolic denunciations of the very real European crimes of the past mainly serve to empower wealthy white liberals by giving giving them the moral authority to act in the name of the oppressed.

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      1. And it’s actually oppressive to people from disadvantaged backgrounds because they don’t know the lingo, don’t care about the formulae, and have no time or energy to learn. So it’s easy to exclude them.

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      1. I had to edit the comment slightly because I don’t want the school name to be on the blog. But yes, that’s actually why I started reading him. We don’t have that many celebrities who graduated from our school.

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  2. I like that you call this a “Statement of Faith.” Many religious colleges and universities require that job applicants submit a “Statement of Faith” or something with a similar name. The analogy is apt.

    What would this have been called in the Soviet Union?

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    1. I’m also reminded of something that Mario Vargas Llosa wrote about highly educated atheists who attend shamanic religious services in order to claim some sort of moral high ground.

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  3. The really obnoxious thing about such a pledge is the very glaring irony that the people who truly believe in the importance of making this pledge are also apparently unwilling to do anything substantive about this occupation. If I were Native American, I’d be pissed about the pledge and would want to know when these people would begin to do anything to actually help me.

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