Saturday, June 7, 2014

Poisonous names: "City of Jew Killers," "Siouxpur drunk," Mount Evans




Castrillo Matajudios - "Little fort of Jew Killers" is the name of a small town near Madrid. Though the inhabitants are few, the name is radioactive. No Jew - and no decent person - can feel anything but revulsion at the name. The contingent cause does not matter. Some residents tell themselves the story that Jews themselves chose the name because of the persecutions of the Reconquista as if that makes the persecutions a thing of the past. Jews in Spain still met in secret, did not have public synagogues as of the year 2000. In Toledo and Granada, ancient synagogues with inscriptions in Hebrew done by mudejar [Muslim] artisans in the style of the Arabic calligraphy at the Alhambra are present, but no living synagogues....

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It would be easy to change the name - the residents took a vote on it - but what would have to be changed in addition? As a New York Times' story put it,

"Aside from why the issue has come up only now, the question might be how the village, about 160 miles north of Madrid, got its name in the first place. Or even, in a country sprinkled with place names that evoke other ugly parts of the past, where the name changing, once begun, might end."

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The Times discusses this as if in an exotic setting, a far away issue, it is almost a fairy tale. But it is near throughout the South - slaveowners like Jefferson Davis or Nathan Bedford Forrest - and as Brown and Harvard discovered, in the history - from the initiation of the colonies, murderous of indigenous people, slaveholding - of New England. See Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony & Ivy.

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Denver and Evanston have a similar problem with the Sand Creek massacre and everything named for Governor John Evans. Just whistle that he was a founder of educational institutions and hospitals, an owner of railways, and forget that he created the conditions to slaughter indigenous people, particularly determinedly peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders.

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But why should we keep the names Mount Evans or Evans professor (DU, Northwestern) or Evans Boulevard or Evanston? It makes indigenous people and others feel ostracized, a celebration at the expense of the murder of their ancestors, of people like them.

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Only someone influenced by pretty intense racism could fail to see the harm (Ramona Beltran, my colleague in social work, speaks of transgenerational trauma...).

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Matajudios, Evans. Readers of the Times are rightly shocked by the former, but there is no doubt that Evans campaigned for vigilante war against the Cheyennes and Arapahos (see his Proclamation of August 11, 1864). Despite the admonishment of Indian Commissioner William Dole in Washington when Major Edward N. Wynkoop brought Black Kettle and other peace-seeking chiefs to Denver, at great risk of their lives, Evans refused to make peace with them at Camp Weld or afterwards.

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In North Dakota, a "fighting Sioux mascot" has recently been retired. But Ava Hamilton and Tink Tinker wrote to me of student t-shirts with the motto "Siouxpur drunk," a grotesque racism among at SpringFest, inspired by what I call a Founding Amnesia. The students do not know the history, do not have any idea, beyond being bigots today, of what their slurs refer to.

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If these are college students, if this is college teaching, what is ignorance?

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Matajudios - just a franker name for "Siouxpur drunk."

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Matamoros - kill Moors. The Arab caliphate brought civilization - fountains, tiles, the astrolabe (compass) with which Columbus sailed the "ocean blue," algebra, astronomy, libraries including the ancient Greek texts and 400,000 books at Cordoba (the largest contemporary library in Europe otherwise was 400 books in an Irish monastery...), and toleration of other "peoples of the book.: See Maria Rosa Menocal, The Ornament of the World.

In support of the Reconquista, some might suggest, there must have been some reason to murder Muslims (cf. the Crusades, also directed against Greek orthodox Christians...Racism always involves a wide swath of murder and degradation including of many of the so-called beneficiaries).

"Some of those opposed to a change, Mr. Rodríguez Pérez said, were concerned about creating a precedent that would encourage name alterations in dozens of other places in Spain, including those called Matamoros, a reference to the killing of the Moors who controlled much of the country during centuries of Muslim occupation.

Spain’s more recent history has also stirred up a renaming debate, as town halls around the country have been faced with whether to erase the legacy of the Franco dictatorship, often by switching back to names that Francisco Franco removed after winning the Spanish Civil War.

Four decades after Franco’s death, the debate continues. Most recently, Boadilla del Monte, a town near Madrid, decided to rename its main street in honor of Adolfo Suárez, the former prime minister who midwifed Spain’s democratic transition and died in March. The street had previously been named for “the Generalísimo,” Franco."

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Kill Jews, Kill Moors...One should not underestimate the continuing, transgenerational trauma caused by genocides whose injury is viscerally reopened by such words.

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Tink rightly loathes this kind of racism and suggests that white folks benefit from this. White people stole the land, it is true, and reparations to indigenous people are in order (along with the reparations Ta Nehisi Coates rightly argues should be made available to blacks; he elegantly describes even the late 20th Century housing market in Chicago. See here). In fact, many whites as well as blacks and latinos have suffered (been oppressed) by an American system that makes great wealth for the few and harms others.

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Starting with George Washington and the Revolution, the North American elite (slaveowning, capitalist) has striven, for instance, to unite whites and blacks against indigenous people. See Peter Silver, Our Savage Neighbors (2012). But most are hurt by it, blacks plunged into slavery and many whites impoverished, women disenfranchised. One should be careful and specific about who benefits, even if some who don't - very likely, the fools sporting these t-shirts at North Dakota - under the influence of racist ideas, commit racist acts.

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Still, today, many are beginning to realize how terrible this history is, what an assault on decency, community, democracy. It is time to get rid of the names, in Spain and here, to make a start toward healing...

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"Wednesday, May 14, 2014 2:13 PM

[I posted two things of note on my facebook page. One has to do with racist students at the U of North Dakota producing a t-shirt trying to reclaim the “Fighting Sioux” mascot, but naming the Indian head “Siouxper Drunk.” This stuff just will not go away. Too much fun for White folk finding their own comfort zone by mocking the Aboriginal Owners of the land.

And I also posted a connection to a public radio interview I did with a UND philosophy professor on “Why Radio,” which my colleagues might find useful. While I don’t deal with Sand Creek explicitly, I do speak to the ongoing colonization of Indian peoples across this continent. A Seneca scholar/friend has already responded positively to the interview. http://www.philosophyinpubliclife.org/Why/previousepisodes/episode66.html

My facebook page is public and at least tries to be a professional communication device of sorts.

Tink"

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"New York Times
EUROPE | CASTRILLO MATAJUDÍOS JOURNAL

A Hard Sell to Tame a Name in Spain
By RAPHAEL MINDER MAY 10, 2014

For the photo, see here.
The 56 residents of Castrillo Matajudíos, about 160 miles from Madrid, are skeptical of a proposal to change the village’s name. Theories about its origin abound. Credit Markel Redondo for The New York Times

CASTRILLO MATAJUDÍOS, Spain — To outsiders, it might seem obvious that the time has come, or long passed, to change the name of a village that evokes one of the darkest chapters of Spain’s history.

But the mayor of Castrillo Matajudíos — roughly, Little Hill Fort of Jew Killers — is having a tough time persuading the 56 registered inhabitants of this sleepy village to vote on May 25 to adopt a different name and finally eradicate a link to the persecution of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition.

“We have been living just fine with this name for over 400 years, so why is there suddenly a need to change it?” asked Anastasio Alonso, a farmer.

Aside from why the issue has come up only now, the question might be how the village, about 160 miles north of Madrid, got its name in the first place. Or even, in a country sprinkled with place names that evoke other ugly parts of the past, where the name changing, once begun, might end.

“Unfortunately, the truth is that people here had no idea about our history and where we come from,” Mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez said.

Photo

Jews in the hilltop village might have chosen the name to save themselves in the Spanish Inquisition. Credit Markel Redondo for The New York Times

Before he proposed last month that residents change the name, the mayor’s first step was to ask some experts to investigate just how the village got it. The answer, according to Ángel Palomino, an archaeologist, is that “Jew killers” was added to the name not to commemorate a local pogrom, but because residents were desperate to dissociate themselves from their own Jewish past.

Mr. Palomino said his research showed Castrillo had been a prosperous Jewish community, founded in the 11th century after Jews were expelled from a nearby town. The Jewish community here flourished as a trading hub along the pilgrimage route taken by Christians to visit Santiago de Compostela.

By the time the Spanish Inquisition started, Castrillo may have been home to as many as 1,200 people. When the Spanish monarchy finally expelled the Jews in 1492, residents decided to convert to Catholicism rather than flee, but their worries did not end there.

“What followed was a long period of repression, even after the Jews got expelled, because the repression toward their descendants continued and in some ways even intensified,” Mr. Palomino said. To help avoid such repression, he said, the converts decided to rename their village as a place of Jew killers.

“The descendants of the Jews changed the name so as to portray themselves as the most anti-Semitic people possible at a time when Spain was the most Catholic monarchy of Europe,” Mr. Palomino said.

The first known document referring to the village as Castrillo Matajudíos is from 1623. Earlier documents, Mr. Palomino said, generally referred to it as Castrillo de Judíos, or Castrillo of the Jews.

Of course, there are other theories. The mayor said it was possible that a local clerk in the 17th century had mistakenly changed the name to Matajudíos from Motajudíos, meaning Hill of Jews. That is the name he would like residents to adopt again.

Mr. Palomino said that would be “an acceptable halfway compromise,” even if historically inaccurate. He firmly rejected, however, other interpretations of the name’s origins, including that it might come from a Celtic word, “mata,” meaning a meadow.

Photo

Mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez Pérez, center, likes the alternative Motajudíos, or “Hill of Jews.” Credit Markel Redondo for The New York Times

Since Easter, when Mayor Rodríguez Pérez unveiled his plan, the town hall has been flooded with hundreds of emails, the mayor said, sent from all over Spain as well as overseas, arguing strongly in favor of or against changing the name.

Some of those opposed to a change, Mr. Rodríguez Pérez said, were concerned about creating a precedent that would encourage name alterations in dozens of other places in Spain, including those called Matamoros, a reference to the killing of the Moors who controlled much of the country during centuries of Muslim occupation.

Spain’s more recent history has also stirred up a renaming debate, as town halls around the country have been faced with whether to erase the legacy of the Franco dictatorship, often by switching back to names that Francisco Franco removed after winning the Spanish Civil War.

Four decades after Franco’s death, the debate continues. Most recently, Boadilla del Monte, a town near Madrid, decided to rename its main street in honor of Adolfo Suárez, the former prime minister who midwifed Spain’s democratic transition and died in March. The street had previously been named for “the Generalísimo,” Franco.

Changing the name of Matajudíos has come up at least once before. A proposal to do so was made in the 1960s, under the Franco dictatorship — not to remove an anti-Semitic stain but to rename the village in honor of its most famous son, Antonio de Cabezón, a composer during the Spanish Renaissance.

But even that bid failed in the face of what residents acknowledge is the abiding conservatism of the village and its region, which some cite as the reason the name Matajudíos has endured so long.

“You have to understand that previous mayors here were very conservative and didn’t want to have anything to do with a name change,” said Augustín Alonso Alonso, a local entrepreneur.

Mr. Rodríguez Pérez is also conservative, but he argues that the village’s name “gives us a bad image, especially if we travel around the world.”

Some residents have accused him of self-promotion and of calling unnecessary attention to the village. They worry, too, about his plans for possible archaeological digs to unearth Jewish ruins, and the accompanying bureaucracy and expenses at a time of deep cuts in state spending.

Mr. Rodríguez Pérez says that if residents vote to change the name, he does hope to start promoting the village’s Jewish roots. He wants to search for the remains of the synagogue and other buried evidence of the original settlement, and to work out which local family names were originally Jewish — including, probably, his own."

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In response to a previous post on the Colorado legislature's condemnation of Sand Creek here, Andy Reid wrote:

"No mention in the legislative declaration of Evans, Downing or the others involved in the massacre. Appears to be selective amnesia. How can the General Assembly condemn this while ignoring Evans Peak and Denver public streets and other public memorials remain that honor these purveyors of genocide?"

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"‘Siouxper Drunk’ Shirts Worn at the University of North Dakota’s Springfest, By Ruth Hopkins

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, a Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota man posted this picture to my Facebook wall:

See here.

The photo was taken at the University of North Dakota’s Springfest earlier that same day. In it, non-Native UND students are wearing shirts that say ‘Siouxper Drunk.’ Beneath it, a stereotypical ‘Indian head’ reminiscent of the retired Fighting Sioux logo is pictured drinking from a beer bong. What followed the post were a string of comments from understandably infuriated Natives, many of whom were from the Spirit Lake Nation, the Dakota Tribe located closest to the UND campus.

Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people comprise the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires), also known as The Great Sioux Nation. Oceti Sakowin were called ‘Sioux’ by their enemies.

The UND Fighting Sioux logo was retired after the NCAA concluded that the race-based mascot was hostile and abusive toward Native Americans. This decision was based on numerous complaints, affidavits, and an abundance of evidence collected over the years that proved the mascot was not only offensive,but detrimental and contrary to NCAA policy.

Native mascots personify the widespread systemic racism against Native people that still prevails in the subconscious of western society. The Fighting Sioux-esque ‘Siouxper Drunk’ tees worn at UND’s Springfest by UND students are proof positive that Native mascots are harmful and degrading to Native people, and that retiring all race-based mascots is not only appropriate, but necessary.

The ‘drunken Indian’ caricature is one of the worst stereotypes about Native people that there is. Historically, imbibing is not part of Native culture. There are many Native people, Oceti Sakowin included, who do not abuse alcohol.

Europeans introduced alcohol to the Indigenous population in America. Prior to their arrival, Native people did not drink alcohol at all. Since then, Europeans have been pretty successful at using alcohol to subdue & assimilate Natives.[the article might add: along with massacre, destroying the buffalo and other food sources, and the like).

Alcoholism is a serious issue in Indian country and its nothing to laugh about. According to the CDC, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is the #5 cause of death among Native Americans. In 2010, 15,990 Natives died from alcoholic liver disease alone. Another 25,692 died from alcohol-induced deaths, not counting accidents and homicides. In fact, 1 in 10 Native American deaths are alcohol-related.

The tiny town of Whiteclay, Nebraska, located just over the border from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, rakes in millions of dollars for beer companies every year by profiting off the misery of Lakota addicted to alcohol. These people who are sick live short lives full of pain and suffering. Families are destroyed. Now tell me again, how is ‘Siouxper Drunk’ funny?

The fact that a whole group of students were able to walk around UND’s Springfest in ‘Siouxper Drunk’ t-shirts without being stopped speaks volumes. Why would faculty, staff, students, and community members choose to ignore such blatant racism? Didn’t anyone have the good sense to feel embarrassed or ashamed of such a discriminatory display? By allowing such open, aggressive hostility against Natives, you are complicit. If you disapprove of such behavior, stand up and be counted.

Native students attend UND now, and dozens of Natives have graduated from there. Dakota, Lakota and Nakota Tribal members have degrees from the University of North Dakota. It’s appalling that UND would allow their own students and distinguished alumni to be openly harassed and humiliated on the basis of race by others who attend their institution and are subject to the University disciplinary system.

No one can tell me this act was not purposeful. Social media posts reveal that students wearing ‘Siouxper Drunk’ shirts knew exactly what they were doing. One individual, who’s Twitter handle is @Sioux_Sam, not only posted a picture of himself wearing the offending garment, he previously tweeted about having the shirts made and putting “the beer bong right into the mascot head.”

Another UND student apparently had the nerve to hope she would gain notoriety from the act of prejudice against Natives her and her friends perpetrated when they wore ‘Siouxper Drunk’ shirts. Parents, please let your children know that this is not the kind of behavior one should want to be known for. Being labeled a racist for the rest of your life is nothing to be proud of.

University of North Dakota administrators: you cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such arrogant bigotry. This mockery against Native people, this repugnant spectacle of racial intolerance, took place at your Springfest. An apology for allowing ‘Siouxper Drunk’ tees to be worn at your Springfest isn’t good enough. Sensitivity training will not suffice. Racially motivated incidents keep happening on the University of North Dakota campus. Implement a zero tolerance policy for any and all words, actions, and depictions that discriminate against Native Americans. Only by imposing automatic, pre-determined penalties for clearly defined, racially motivated infractions will you finally purge such shameful conduct from your institution. The onus is on you, not the Native Americans who are being subjected to this harassment and abuse. Students who wore ‘Siouxper Drunk’ shirts at Springfest should be expelled.

Native people deserve to be treated like human beings, worthy of respect. We pay taxes. We vote. We are part of this economy and society. We make contributions to our communities, UND, North Dakota, and this country. We will no longer accept being treated as second class citizens. If you aren’t outraged by ‘Siouxper Drunk’ shirts featuring a Native mascot in a headdress drinking from a beer bong, you need to check your moral compass.
Pictures provided via Frank de la Paz, Danielle Miller and https://storify.com/xodanix3/sioux-sam"

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