In that light, the most poisonous consequence of raising the curtain with 1619 is that it casually normalizes white Christian Europeans as historical constants and makes African actors little more than dependent variables in the effort to understand what it means to be American. Elevating 1619 has the unintended consequence of cementing in our minds that those very same Europeans who lived quite precipitously and very much on death’s doorstep on the wisp of America were, in fact, already home. But, of course, they were not. Europeans were the outsiders. Selective memory has conditioned us to employ terms like settlers and colonists when we would be better served by thinking of the English as invaders or occupiers. In 1619, Virginia was still Tsenacommacah, Europeans were the non-native species, and the English were the illegal aliens. Uncertainty was still very much the order of the day.
When we make the mistake of fixing this place in time as inherently or inevitably English, we prepare the ground for the assumption that the United States already existed in embryonic fashion. When we allow that idea to go unchallenged, we silently condone the notion that this place is, and always has been, white, Christian, and European.
Michael Guasco’s full piece I found on the Smithsonian Magazine website. The brief article seems to summarize what seems to be the one possible way to get out of our national obsession with white people and their privileges; let’s just build American history back up from the beginning, like some kind of new algebra, starting well before the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent.
Also the article nicely as an aside points out the essential fallacy of the Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA theory of Important Great White Supremacist Male People; the Confederacy, as represented on Monument Ave by Lee, Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis, is not even the only Virginian politico-cultural initiative consigned to history’s dustbin to date. Perhaps as a corollary to broadening our repertory of historical references by investigating and honoring the precolumbian civilizations of the James River watershed, we students of critical history might want to spend some time looking into what exactly makes white supremacy such a durably attractive organizing principle.