Mark Charles – “Race, Trauma, and the Doctrine of Discovery”


Uhm, hello my name is Nelson Bates. Uhm, I am born for the
Water-Flows-Together Clan. Uhm, my father’s clan is the
Bitter Water People as well. Uhm, my grandparents,
my grandpa’s clan is the Water-Flows-Together Clan
as well. And my paternal parents,
my paternal grandparents’ clan is the People-Walking-Into-The-Water. Uhm, I am full Native American.
I’m Navajo. I am the only Navajo student
here at Calvin. And welcome to the January Series.Uhm, I’d just like to start us off
with a quick word of prayer. Dear God, thank you for this
wonderful time that we can come together and learn about
other cultures, and understand how you brought us into our world, and how you presented to our,
how you presented yourself to us as, uhm, Navajo people,
as everyone in our, in our world, and I’d just like to say thank you,
and bless everyone here and let everyone have a good day. And let all those in the world
who need to be blessed be blessed. In Jesus’ name, Amen. -Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the 30th
Anniversary of the January Series. My name is Michelle Lloyd-Paige,
and I am the Executive Associate to to the President
for Diversity and Inclusion. And it is my pleasure to come
before you this afternoon to–I was going to say this evening
but it’s not quite evening, even though the stars
are out. Uhm, it’s my pleasure come before
you to introduce our speaker for this afternoon. Our speaker is Mark Charles. And he is a writer, an advocate,
and a consultant. You should know that
he now lives in Washington D.C. But he has lived on the
Navajo reservation. He has a passion for seeking
not only to help himself to better understand our history,
but to invite others along on a journey of understanding– an understanding of the
complexities of American history, and that intersectionality of
history, of race, culture, and faith. He does this so that together
we can forge a path of healing and conciliation, so that one day we can be a nation
that talks about reconciliation. He is a correspondent and
a regular columnist for the Native News Online. And he is the author of the
popular blog, “Reflections from the Hogan.” He serves on the Board of Christian
Community Development Association and consults with Calvin’s
Institute of Christian Worship. And he is a founding partner of the
National Conference for National for–excuse me–for Native students
called “Would Jesus Eat Fry Bread?” This is something that I
appreciate about Mark. There’s a lot of things you can
read about him. But what I truly admire about Mark
is that he invites other people to come unto an
uncomfortable journey. But he doesn’t just send you on
that journey and say, “You deal with it.” He comes alongside and he sits
with you, so that together we can cry. Together, we can grow. Together, we can learn. That’s what I appreciate
about Mark. At the conclusion of today’s
presentation, Mark will be available to greet
audience members in the west lobby of this building. Calvin College is grateful to the
friends of the January Series for underwriting today’s presentation. Please join me in giving a
warm welcome to Mark Charles. (clapping) Ya’at’eeh Ya’at’eeh******* [speaking Navajo] Um in the Navajo culture
when you introduce yourself, you always give your fore clans We’re a matrilineal people and so
when we uh introduce ourselves We give our identities that come
from our mother’s mother So my mother as many of you know is
actually American of Dutch heritage and so when I introduce myself, I say ***** which translated then means
the Wooden Shoe people (laughter) My Father’s mother, my second clan is Tó’aheedlíinii which is the
waters-that-flow-together My third clan, my mother’s
father is also *** And then my fourth clan,
my father’s father is Tódich’ii’nii, That’s the Bitter-Water-People
one of the original clans of a Navajo tribe It is an honor for me to be here
today to talk about race trauma and the doctrine of discovery. There are many uh, I’ve given this
talk in many different forms and and shapes over the last
several years and I can almost name this talk,
what we don’t talk about Because as Americans,
we actually have a very long list of things we don’t talk about Now I have to warn you
in the next 45mins I am going to say some things
that are going to shock you I am going to say some things
that are going to offend you I’m going to say some things
that you’ve never heard I’m gonna teach you some history
you’ve never heard before At different points in this
presentation, you would probably want to walk out or to
throw something at me I encourage you not to
do those things (laughter) I instead invite you to stay
in the dialogue To stay engaged, we will get
to a better place but we have to get through some very
uncomfortable list of things that we as a nation and as a Church
don’t know how to talk about One of the things, we don’t know
how to talk about is Terrence Crutcher This African American man who
was shot by police a few months ago. Publicly, we
don’t know how to talk about that We don’t know how to talk about
this young man who just a few days ago on
Facebook Live was attacked possibly in a racially
motivated hate crime He was white and his
attackers were not We don’t know how to talk
about Colin Kaepernick. Successful NFL player, who on the
largest stage in our nation which is the NFL. Everytime he
hears our song he takes a knee We’re used to having
the angry black man Or we’re used to having the black
man who affirms our nation as great We don’t know what to do with a
successful black man who very articulately and quietly
and peacefully is protesting that there are some deep problems
with the history and the foundations of our country We don’t know how to talk about
the Dakota Access Pipeline This pipeline that’s being built
from North Dakota down to Illinois and is gathering the largest
group of Native Americans in solidarity, over 200 tribes tens of thousands of people coming
together to protest and tell our nation that water
is life and you can’t drink oil We don’t know how to talk about that We also don’t know how to talk
about here in Western Michigan The Potawatomi. The Potawatomi where
the people who were ethnically cleansed from this land, so that
Grand Rapids could be built and after the treaty of Chicago in
1833, they were moved forcibly down to Oklahoma and other parts of the country so
that white settlers could move into this land and create
this place We don’t know how to talk about
these things and the reason we don’t know how to talk about
these things is because we don’t know how to talk
about our history both our history as a Church as
well as our history as a nation So I wanna go all the way
back to the 1st century In the first century, we had
the Church on one side and we had the empire on the other when you became a member of the
Church through your baptism your confession, your discipleship and your community you knew that
you stood in opposition to the empire. You knew that there was a
good chance because of your belief because of your faith, because of
your membership in the Church You were gonna be persecuted
and possibly even killed by the empire Now, in the 3rd century In the 4th century,
something changed Constantine was emperor of Rome
and while he was emperor, he became a Christian and he was so enthrilled by this
that he decided to Christianize Rome Now, this was never the notion of
Jesus Jesus was very adamant, He was not
here on this earth to create a Christian empire. When Satan
tempted Him and said bow to me and I will give you the nations of
the world, Jesus said no When the people came to Him after
feeding the 4,000 they tried to take Him by force
and make Him king, Jesus said no When Jesus was before Pilate, and
he said “don’t you know I have the power, I have the uh authority
to kill you” Jesus said you only have the
authority my father gave you and if my kingdom were of this
earth, my servants would come and help me but my kingdom is of
another place” Jesus never came to establish
a Christian empire He came to plant a Church. He came to begin a community, He
came to reveal God and Himself through to the world through a
Church not a political entity and so in the 4th century,
Constantine created something that Jesus and the early Church
fathers were adamantly against which was a Christian empire That never existed in the writings
of the New Testament that notion was not there and in creating this Christian
empire he nearly destroyed the understanding of what the
Church was because now instead of joining
the Church through your baptism your discipleship, your confession
and your community, now you became a member of the Church through
your citizenship in the empire So in the next few 100 years, you
will begin to have some problems because the empire begins doing
what empires do which is expand and protect
themselves through war Well, a plain text reading of
Jesus’ teachings and of the teachings of Paul,
don’t allow you to go out and begin killing on behalf of your
Lord so we needed someone to come out and do some theological
gymnastics to justify why this Christian empire was behaving
like the empires of the world and we came up, thanks to St.
Augustine with a just war theory Over the centuries, the just war
theories morphed into the crusades the crusades were about expanding
the empire as well as protecting Jerusalem. In the 13th century we
see in the writings of the papal bulls the identification of a new class
of people called the infidel the infidel was a name originally
meant to refer to the Moors or to the Muslims. It was later applied
to indegenous peoples People who did not worship the
God of the Christian Church and we praise this class of infidels
the subhuman category of people Now this creation, changed the
justification for war because now instead of going to war, because
of a just war theory now you can go to war based on your
theological grounds You were fighting the other,
you were fighting the infidel you were fighting this other
entity the subhuman category of people And so it’s out of
this understanding of whats going on in the
13th century that in the 1400’s
we have the writing of the papal bulls
saying things like invade, search-out, capture,
vanquish, and subdue all citizens and
pagans whatsoever reduce their person to
perpetual slavery convert them to his and
their use and profit this papel bull along with
other papel bulls written between 1452 and 1493 collectively became
known as what we call the doctrine of discovery The doctrine of discovery
is essentially the church in Europe saying
to the nations of Europe whereever you go
whatever land you find not ruled by Christian rulers those people are less than human and the land is yours for the taking This was literally the doctrine that allowed European nations to go into Africa,
colonize the continent and enslave the African people They weren’t fully human. This was the same doctrine
that let Christopher Columbus who was lost at sea land in this new world that was already
inhabited by millions and claimed to have discovered it. If you think about it you
cannot discover lands that are already inhabited If you don’t believe me, leave your cell phones,
your purses, your car keys out in front of you I’ll come by and discover
them for you *audience laughing* That’s not discovery,
that’s stealing That’s conquering,
that’s colonizing Because to this day
we refer to what Christopher Columbus did
as discovery, it reveals the implicit
racial bias of our nation which is that people of color,
Native Americans are not fully human This makes the doctrine of discovery A systemically racist doctrine That assumes the dehumanization
of people of color Now the challenge
with this doctrine is that over the years it
became embedded In the foundations of our nation. So in 1763 King George
drew a line down the Appalachian Mountains and he said to the colonists, That they no longer had
the right of discovery of the empty Indian lands
west of Appalachia This upset the colonists,
they wanted access to those lands so a few years later they
wrote a letter of protest In their letter of protest,
the accuse the King of raising the conditions of new
appropriations of land They went on in their letter,
to state that he has excited the domestic
insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to
bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian Savages They sign their letter on
July 4, 1776 literally 30 lines
below this statement “all men are created equal” The Declaration of Independence
refers to natives as merciless Indian Savages making it very clear the only
reason our founding fathers used the inclusive term
“all men” is because they had a very
narrow definition of who was and who was not human This of course makes our
Declaration of Independence a racist document that assumes the dehumanization
of people of color Now a few years later our founding father wrote
another document They began this document with the
words “We the People” “In order to form a more
perfect union,” “establish Justice, insure
domestic Tranquility” This of course is the preamble to the Constitution of
the United States of America However in article 1 section 2, the section of the constitution
that determines who is and who is not included who is and who is not covered
by this constitution A. It never mentions women, it specifically excludes natives and it counts black people as
three fifths of a person so literally the constitution
was written to protect White land owning men We have to stop for
a minute and pause and wrap our heads
around that The purpose of the constitution as it was written was to protect
white land owning men we act surprised today that
women earn 70 cents to the dollar this shouldn’t shock us,
the constitution is working we act surprised today
that our prisons are filled with people of color this shouldn’t shock us,
the constitution is working we act outraged that in 2010 The United States Supreme Court
sided with Citizens United and ruled that corporations now
have the same rights to political free speech
as individuals creating an open door for
super pacts not limited donations to
politcal campaigns this should not shock us,
the constitution is doing exactly what is was designed to do it is protecting the interest of
white land owning men Now maybe you are thinking
“Wait didn’t we correct that?” Well about 100 years later, we
passed the 14th ammendment The 14th ammendment was meant
to address article 1 section 2 It was meant to extend the
right of citizenship to anyone born on
this continent under the jurisdiction
of the government however, it did not give women
the right to vote they were still excluded It did not include natives,
we were still excluded and even though it gave some
rights of citizenship to a few former slaves,
we cannot forget that Jim Crow laws were written
after the 14th ammendment that segregation was enacted
after the 14th ammendment that internmnet camps were enacted,
after the 14th ammendment and we cannot forget that in 1970 we used the 14th ammendment in
Roe vs Wade And now we concluded that
unborn babies aren’t human and therefore, they can be aborted the problem we have
is our constitution does not have a value for life the value of the constitution
is for exploitation and profit and the practice of the
constitution is dehumanization This makes the constitution
of the United States a systemically racist document
that assumes the white land owning male has the
authority to determine who is and who is not human *pause* A few years later In 1823, there was this supreme
court case, Johnson verse M’Intosh This is 2 men of European
descent they are litigating over a single piece of land One of them got the land
from a native tribe the other got the land
from the government They want to know who
owned it The case goes all the way
to the supreme court The court had to decide the
principle upon which land titles were based They concluded the principle
was that discovery gave title to the government
by whose subjects or by whose authority,
it was made against all other European
governments and that title might be
consummated by possession They went on to use the doctrine
of discovery to determine that natives who were here first
but are less than human we only have the right of
occupancy to land like a fish occupies water or
a bird occupies air and Europeans have the right of
discovery to the land and therefore they have
the true title to it This precedent by the
Marshall Court along with a few other
cases during that era created the legal precedent
for land titles this precedent and the
doctrince of discovery will reference by the Supreme
Court as recently as 2005 This of course makes the
United States Supreme Court a systemically
racist court that to this day has
legal precedent based on the dehumanization
of people of color Now initially, the Protestant Church
pushed back against the doctrine this was the Catholic doctrine
the didn’t fully buy into it. In 1640 John Winthrop was in
the Boston Harbor with a group of colonists ready
to plant the Boston colony. In this boat, on this boat, he
preached a sermon and in his sermon, it was called a
mall of Christian charity he referred to the colonist, he
compared them to a City on a Hill. Now he’s borrowing from the image
of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount where he told his disciples to be
a lamp on a stand, a city on a hill shining the good
deeds into this dark world. John goes on in his sermon to exhort
the church in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality,
rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, to keep
the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. These are
good, basic Christian exhortations. At the end of his sermon, he begins
to motivate them by quoting from Deuteronomy chapter 30. Now Deuteronomy chapter 30 is the
point in the scriptures where the people of Israel are standing at the
banks of the Jordan River about ready to take possession of
their promised land and God is reiterating the threats
and promises of his land covenant to them. If you obey me, I will do these
things for you, If you disobey me I will do these
things to you. And in that passage it says, But if
our hearts shall turn away so that we will not obey and worship other
Gods, we shall surely perish out of the good Land whether we
pass over, now Deuteronomy 30 says river
but in his sermon, John Winthrop says vast sea. Why does he say vast sea? Well cause he didn’t cross a river,
he crossed an ocean So what is he implying? Based on the teachings of Jesus
to be a city on a hill and based on the mallable
testament Israel, they are standing at the banks
of the promised land about ready to go and take
possession of it. Now who here has read the book
of Joshua? What is God’s command to the people
of Joshua are to the people of Israel in
the book of Joshua? To kill everybody. What’s his real sin in the book
of Joshua? They don’t kill everybody. Promised land for one people is
literally God ordained genocied for another. I call this sermon the birth of
American exceptionalism. This idea perculates for
about another 100 years. Middle of the 1700s we begin
expanding westward, we go past the Applachian mountains, we go past the Mississippi river,
as we’re expanding west, this second great awakening
begins happening there’s this renewal of churches,
a growth of denominations there’s this religious ferver as
our settlers are moving further and further west. And it’s in the early 1800s that
the term manifest destiny is coined This belief that this nation of
settlers of immigrants had the God-given right to rule
this continent from sea to shining sea. So now that we have a systemically
racist doctrine of discovery, a racist declaration of independence,
a racist constitution, a racist supreme court, and a
God ordained right to commit genocide Now we have a bunch of history
we’ve never talked about. I want you to think about the 19th
century. About a year ago I did some research
and I looked at every year of our nation from 1775 to 2016. And I put in blue every year I found
our nation was in a declared state of war or armed
military conflict against another nation or entity. I then put in red every year
that we were fighting against the native peoples. If we look in the 19th century,
for almost the entire century and for 75 straight years, we were
in a continuous state of war against the indigineous peoples
of the land. The list of wars below are primarily
the wars we fought against natives in the 19th century. It was during the 19th century,
this is the century that we refer to in our history books as our century
of expansion. This was the century we added
almost 30 new states to our union. Well clearly this was not a century
of expansion, this was a century of ethnic cleansing and
genocide. It was during this century that we
passed the Indian Removal Act. The act of congress that in practice
gave the military the right to forcibly remove tribes from their lands in the east to
empty lands further in the west. This resulted in the trail of tears
for the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Chawktau. This resulted in the long walk
for the Navajo as we’re ethnically cleansed from
the southwest. All totaled about a dozen tribes
experience force relocations because of the passing of this act. And tens of thousands of native
peoples die as a direct result of the passage of this act. In 1864 we have the Sand Creek Massacre we had about 150 to 200 Cyan and
Iraqaho men, women and children they’re encamped over a hillside
in Colorado, they’re waving a white flag of surrender and an
American flag to show that they are peacefully. And a US army led bya Methodist
Minister comes over the hill and he orders all of them slaughtered. Later they reported that their
genitalia were paraded down the streets of Denver. In 1879 we had the Indian Boarding
Schools begin. This was the practice our nation
had of forcibly assimilating Native Americans to
western European culture children were taken from their homes, they were putting in these military
style boarding schools they were punished for speaking
their languages, punished for practicing their culture. The stories of abuse. Sexual,
physical, mental that come out of these schools are horrible. We also cannot forget that the
Christian Reformed Church ran one such boarding school that
began in the early 1900s and stayed a boarding school until
the 1970s and 80s. The stated goal of these schools
the call that Indian schools which was the first school in the
late 1800s, the stated goal of these schools
was to kill the Indian, to save the man. In 1887 we passed the
Daz act This was an act that after we had
already cleared the land through the Indian removal, we
still wanted to open up more land for white settlers and so
the Daz Act, what it is is that it allotted 160 acres of land to
every male native over the age of 18. The rest of the land was then opened
up to white settlement. This reduced native land holdings
by about two thirds. A land mass roughly the size
of California was eventually taken from native
peoples through the passage the Daz act. In 1890 we had the Massacre at
Wounded Knee we know a bit more about this from
our history books we teach it a little more commonly
in our schools in classrooms this was one of the last massacres
of native peoples it happened in 1890 where about
300 native warriors were massacred in a single day
at wounded knee. What we don’t talk about normally
is that the United States Congress gave 20 congressional medals
of honor to the US soldiers who
participated in this massacre. And that every effort to have these
medals rescinded has failed. On December 19, 2009 congress
passed house resolution 3326 This is the 2010 department of
appropriations act. A bill laying out the appropriations
for the DOD of 2010 67 page bill. Page 45 subsection 8113 is titled
apology to native peoples of the United States. What follows is the 7 bullet
point apology it mentions no specific tribe,
no specifc treaty and no specific injustice. It basically says you had some
nice land, our citizens didn’t take it very politely, let’s just
call it all of our land and steward it together and the ends with a disclaimer that
says nothing in here is legally binding. To date this apology has not been
announced, read or publicized by the White House or by Congress. We don’t teach a history of America,
we teach a mythology. The mythology of America is that we
are a nation that was discovered we value equality, expansion,
exceptionalism and we have liberty and justice
for all. That is the mythology of the
United States of America. And that mythology runs very
very deep. Who here has been to the Lincoln
Memorial? Keep your hands up Who here has been to the museum at
the base of the Lincoln Memorial? The base of Lincoln Memorial on
the left hand side as you walk up to the memorial, there’s a small
museum the size of a small classroom. In this museum, on each wall are
plaques about the size of a door with different writings and thoughts
and ideas of President Lincoln and his legacy. On one of these walls, on the left
hand side, south side of the room There is this quote It says, I would save the union,
my paramount object struggle is to save the union is not to
save or destroy slavery. If I could save the union without
freeing any slave, I would do it. And if I could do it by freeing all
the slaves, I would do it. And if I could do it by freeing some
and leaving others alone I would also do that. At the base of the Lincoln Memorial,
etched in stone, hangind on a wall, is a plaque
that literally says according to Abraham Lincoln “Black lives don’t matter.” Now I want to pause
for just a second here. I realize I’ve given you
a lot of history. There’s probably a wave of emotions
going on in you right now. I don’t want a long discourse. I don’t want long winded answers. I want two or three words. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s no good or bad answer. Emote to me. What’s going on right now? Tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me what you’re feeling. Sadness. So right. Unfair. Disgust. Shame. Lament. No reconciliation. Hate. Tragedy. Division. Open our eyes.
Yes. Helplessness. This is one of the challenges
that we face as a nation, which is we don’t teach our history;
we teach a mythology. Instead of dehumanization,
we teach discovery. Our equality is only
for a select few. Instead of ethnic cleansing,
we say expansion. Instead of genocide,
we say exceptionalism. And we’ve never come to grips
with the fact that the liberty and justice that’s
outlined in our founding documents only exists for white
land owing men. We don’t know what
to do with this history. So how do we move forward? What do we do? Many nations have had
what are called Truth and Reconciliation Comissions. National dialogues about
their history. A way to bring together these
diverse and even battling parties to find a way to speak the truth
and to seek reconciliation. South Africa after
the fall of Apartheid, they had a Truth and Reconciliation
Comission. Rwanda after this bloody civil war
had a Truth and Reconciliation. Canada after a very
expensive lawsuit brought by residential
school survivors came together and had a national
Truth and Reconciliation Comission. I’m convinced that, as a nation,
we need to have a national dialogue on race along the lines of a
Truth and Reconciliation Comission. But we have to make a few changes because the context of this word
and the wording of this phrase doesn’t make sense. Because in our context,
the reconciliation we’re talking about is racial. Now race is not a
genetic difference. It’s a human construct. There’s no distinguishable,
genetic difference of race. Race is a human construct. And in America,
race was constructed for the purpose of
oppressing and dividing. So the black race was constructed
through what we call, “The One Drop Rule.” What’s “The One
Drop Rule?” Well, if you have a single drop of
African blood, you’re black. Why do we have this rule? Because blacks were our labor force. “The One Drop Rule” allowed
a white slave owner to rape his female slaves and
produce more baby slaves. For Native Americans,
for the American Indian, we had “The Blood Quantum Rule.” What’s “The Blood Quantum Rule?” Well, you’re full. You’re half.
You’re a quarter. You’re an eighth. You’re a sixteenth.
You’re a thiry-second. Then you’re bred out of existence. Why do we have this rule? Because the mythology of our nation
is this land was discovered– it was empty;
there was no one here. So we want as few Natives as possible. So race is a human construct. and in America, it was constructed for
the purpose of oppressing and dividing. Reconciliation implies a
previous harmony. Clearly that never existed. Racial reconciliation is a way,
as a nation, we perpetuate the myth of America. Things used to be great,
now they’re falling apart. We do a lot of things to perpetuate
the myth of our nation. I don’t like term
“racial reconciliation.” I started using the term
“racial conciliation.” Conciliation is merely the
mediation of a dispute. Reconciliation lets us
perpetuate the myth. Conciliation allows us to have
a much more honest starting point. This thing started out bad. We’re not trying to get back to a
previous harmony; we’re just trying to get to a better place
than we are today. And so our nation doesn’t need
a national truth and reconcliation commission; we need a national
truth and conciliation commission. A national dialogue. Now, to prep our nation for this
dialogue, there’s four audiences that I wanna engage with.
The first audience is the church. The church has been in bed with
the empire since Constantine. We wrote the Doctrine of Discovery. We have to take ownership of it. We have to acknowledge
our complicity in it, and we need to lament it. My good friend Soong-chan Rah,
he and I are writing a book on the Doctrine of Discovery
called The Truth Be Told. And he talks about lament, and
he says one aspect of lament is it’s like being at
a funeral derge. There’s a dead body in the
casket; it’s not coming back. The only thing you can do is weep. As a nation, as a church, we have
hundreds, thousands of years of dead bodies in caskets. They’re not gonna come back to life. The only thing we can do is weep;
the only thing we can do is lament. And trust that the pattern we see with God
throughout the scriptures is that when his people lament,
God meets them there. God shows up. So my first audience, I wanna
convince the church that we need to go through
a season of lament. My second audience
is native peoples. I wanna convince our people that
we are not the helpless victims of an oppressive
colonial government. We are the host people of the land,
and that we have to be acting into the role of host. I love what’s happening at
Standing Rock right now; I love what’s happening, which is
you see our native peoples, our native communities,
coming together. And acting into, playing
into, the role of host, telling this nation that’s obsessed
with its economy and the immediate returns on
their investments, telling this nation
that water is life! You cannot keep destroying your
enviorment for the sake of your short-term economic goals. You can’t drink oil! Trying to convince our nation,
taking a lead in the conversation of we have to treat the
enviorment differently. The third audience I
want to engage with, and this is where I wanna
spend the next few minutes, is with communities of color: African Americans, Hispanic Americans,
Asian Americans, even Native Americans. This is my message to our
communities of color: Most of us have heard
of what is called PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a version of trauma that
you experience when you’re on the receiving end, when you
experience, when you witness violence. You have a condition called PTSD. There’s another condition
called Historical Trauma. So PTSD is a individual diagnosis:
this person, that individual, has PTSD. Historical Trauma is how you
understand the dissatisfaction in a broader community
that’s been oppressed. It’s been proven to be passed
down generation to generation through genetics, and it’s how you understand
the broader community. I refer to PTSD as a multi-
generational, communal manifestation of PTSD. So
Historical Trauma is the multi-generational, communal
manifestation of PTSD. Does that make sense? Now, there’s another trauma called
PITS, that’s being researched. PITS is Perpetration-Induced
Traumatic Stress. PITS is like PTSD in every way,
shape, and form, except instead of afflicting the person
who received the violence, PITS afflicts the person who
caused the violence. It comes out of this understanding
by Socrates that “the doer of injustice is more miserable
than the sufferer.” So I’m hypothesizing that if PTSD
has a multi-generational, communal manifestation that we
call Historical Trauma, and we can see how our communities
of color are suffering from Historical Trauma out of our history
of the Doctrine of Discovery, then I’m hypothesizing that PITS
must also have a multi- generational, communal manifestation,
and that is the trauma that I identify White America
is suffering from. Because you cannot build a nation
on five hundred years of dehumanizing injustice without
traumatizing yourself. So my message to people of
color is that White America is another group of
traumatized people. So one of the first symptoms of
trauma is shock and denial. When we understand White America
as a group of traumatized people, it’s easy to see their
shock and denial. So this buried apology in
the appropriations bill, this isn’t, this isn’t…
racism, this is truama. This is shock and denial. We have Texas and Oklahoma passing
laws saying you can only teach patriotic history. This isn’t racism, this is trauma. They’re so overwhelmed by what
they did to become who they are, they can’t even teach it anymore. In fact, they’re trying to remove the
word “slavery” from their textbooks. ‘Cause they can’t believe
what they’re standing on, they can’t even teach it anymore. Now I wanna go in a little
more in-depth here, because last summer, there was a-
there was a experience of White Trauma here
on this very stage. The Christian Reformed Church
was dealing with the Doctrine of Discovery. I was
a member of a task force assigned by our Synod to study, investigate, and try
to engage a dialogue with the Christian Reformed Church
on the doctrine of discovery Now I’ve worked with
many denominations throughout the country,
trying to engage this conversation on the doctrince of discovery and what I always ask these
denominations is Where is the touch point for your
complicity in this doctrine For the methodists, its this
general that they had this leader that they had
at um Sand Creek For other denominations,
the Catholics, its when they ran boarding schools And for Rehoboth or
for the Christian Reformed Church Our touchpoint with the doctrine
of discovery is our mission to the native peoples
that we established in the 1900’s that we called Rehobis and the
boarding school that we ran for almost 75-80 years This is the focal point of our
trauma And so in our report, we included
in our report two stories of boarding school survivors One of the stories of some
boarding school survivor from a BIA Boarding school,
the other story was from a boarding school survivor
from Rehoboth When our report got to
the board of trustee’s before it was released,
they pulled the story of the Rehoboth boarding
school survivor It did not go forward
with the whole report *pauses* So when we got here
to Synod and we discussed the
doctrine of discovery We passed a resolution Where we acknowledged that the
original doctrine of discovery is heresy and we reject and
condemn it it helped shape western culture
and led to great injustices This is a very good resolution
that we passed But then if you were here,
we then almost immediately went into a 20 minute sharing time about how great our
boarding school was and all the blessings
that came out of it And then we passed a resolution
that said That synod, nevertheless, recognize
aslo the gospel motivation in response to the Great Commission
as well as the love and grace extended over many years
by missionaries sent our by the CRCNA to the Indigenous
peoples of Canada and the United States. For this we God
thanks and honor their dedication *drinks water* We can’t do that You can’t reject and condemn
the doctrine of discovery and label it as heresy and then deny that you were
involved with that You can’t do it That’s shock and denial That’s an example of the trauma
of white America We don’t know what to
do with our history We don’t know how to acknowledge
what happened and what took place and the
history we’re standing on We don’t know how to talk about it. White America is another group of
traumatized people And we have to understand that
as people of color if we are going to engage this
dialogue *pauses* Now another touchpoint
of our trauma and I’m going to go a few minutes
over, this is I’m getting a little bit
in-depth here is American exceptionalism I identify American exceptionalism
as the coping mechanism for a nation in deep denial of its
genocidal past as well as its current
racist reality We don’t know what to do
with the doctrine of discovery We don’t know what to do that our
land titles are based on the dehumanization of people of color We don’t know what to do with the
fact that our history is a history of ethic cleansing
and genocide And so we cope with that by telling
ourselves we’re exceptional We have a manifest destiny. We have
a special relationship with God This myth runs so deep
that a year ago a year and a half ago
almost 2 years ago March 5th, March 3rd 2015
Benjamin Netanyahu was speaking to a joint session
of our congress He was here lobbying against
the Iran Nuclear deal that the White House was negotiating and he was speaking to a very
divided, very partisan congress And he had to get both sides
behind him So at the begining of his speech
towards the begining of his speech he said to our congress
“Because America and Israel share a common destiny, the
destiny of promised lands I wanted to scream The United States of America is
not God’s chosen people Do any of you believe for a
moment that the prime minister of Israel thinks that
you and I share in the sacred covenant his people
have with the God of Abraham Do any of you believe for a moment
that the prime minister of Israel believes you and I are the
manifestation of the new Israel and this is our promised land
and God has blessed us and provided for us here Or is he merely a very savy
politician who understands all to well the trauma of his
audience and knows what they need to hear American exceptionalism is the
coping mechanism of a nation in deep denial of its
genocidal past We have a very dysfunctional
and co-dependent relationship with the nation state of Israel We need their history of taking
possession of Canaan and ethnically cleansing their
promised land to justify our genocide
of native peoples and they need our mythology of a manifest destiny and the
new Israel to justify their current oppression
of the Palestinian people The United States and Israel have
a very dysfunctional and co-dependent relationship that is all intertwined
in this modern outliving of promised lands and
manifest destiny and its very very very unhealthy Now when you deal with
trauma patients trauma patients have what
I call triggers A trigger is something that takes
you out of reality and back into the chaos of the
moment of when the trauma occured So if you understand white
America as another group of traumatized people
its easy to see their triggers So two terms of a black
president is a trigger for 8 years seeing someone
governing from the oval office instead of building the oval office has traumatized our nation Without President Obama,
we never elect Donald Trump it doesn’t happen.
It’s a trigger. Any sort of national
dialogue on gun control is a trigger White America cannot have this
conversation without screaming at each other. ISIS is a trigger Why is ISIS a trigger? Well, they’re a group
of religous zealots ethnically cleansing a land to set up their own psuedo
religious empire *pauses* We don’t know what to
do with that that reflection is so familiar
it just freaks us out this is why Paris got bombed and
we somehow made it all about us Standing Rock Sioux
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a trigger When you have a nation thats
built on the extermination of an entire group of people when you see those people
come together even though it is in solidarity
for peaceful protest, prayer, and cermony That’s terrifying And it ellicits response like this Our nation doesn’t know what
to do with its history Now why to I refer to
this as trauma Because in most racial dialogues White America is either
racist or they’re fragile neither on of those are helpful If white America is racist
If you are racist just because you’re white, there is no room
for them in the dialogue that’s not helpful If white America is fragile it means we have to walk
around on eggshells We have to sooth things
over for them By understanding white
America is traumatized what I’m trying to do is to
create a space for the reaction that we get from
the dominant culture without giving them
control of the situation when you’re a conselor and you’re
dealing with a patient who is traumatized and they begin
freaking out You say this is good you’re
making the connection You’re freaking out over something
and its not the right thing but you’re making the connection
and you’re finally connecting your emotions and your reality in
some way and you try to build on that But you don’t get in their and
mix it up with your patient You don’t start slugging it
out with them ‘Cause you understand that their
trauma is making them upset about something besides you
even though its venting and coming towards you *pauses* I’m trying to help us understand
the reactions that we see from white America so that we don’t give them control but we do create a space
where we can actually have the conversation and we need to have
the conversation We need to find a way to
talk about these things There’s something I want
to end with There’s an aboringinal leader
named Georgia Rassmus and he says where common
memories lacking where people don’t share in
the same past there can be no real community If you want to build community
you have to start by creating a common memory I love this quote This quote gets to the heart of
our nation’s problem with race which is we don’t have
a common memory we have a dominant culture
that has a memory of discovery expansion, exceptionalism,
opporunity and we have communities of color that
have the lived experience of stolen land, broken treaties,
slavery, ethnic cleansing, Jim Crow laws, boarding schools,
internment camps there’s no common memory We have to find a way
to create this We need to have a national
dialogue on race We need to find a way to deal with
the truth of our history so that we can move forward
and create a better community We don’t need racial reconciliation We need racial conciliation and that is what I want
to invite you into I want to invite you into
understanding our history sitting in this moment,
learning how to lament feeling this uncomfortability,
and finding a way to talk about it because until we learn how to
do that we’re going to continue to go our separate ways, to be
devisive and even to self-destruct and to destroy one another *pauses* Thank you very much *applause* We have just a few minutes
for questions


30 Responses

  1. Genevieve Way

    March 15, 2017 3:37 am

    I am grateful to be hearing this history now. I grew up knowing something was deeply wrong in Canada, but now I am gaining context and language. This opens doors for me to be part of the good way forward. Thank you so much Mark for your work, for your service to humanity.

  2. borealwoman

    April 9, 2017 1:36 am

    what mark speaks about validates my belief that the nations of Canada, usa, many others, perhaps all…are suffering in many lethal ways…moving toward collapse… because all that has been "gained" in past 3 centuries to build todays countries, democratic or not, was done through the illegal/immoral doctrine of Christian discovery… causing genocide of indigenous peoples and dangerous depletion of natural resources causing pollution of earth and atmosphere.  mark Charles provides an opening to conciliation…that we must participate in for our own good.

  3. Judy Lee

    January 23, 2018 10:20 pm

    If we as American Christian want God's blessing, let us to deal this issue first, without proper action and compensation, we can still circle around the problem for another 50 years, try not to face and solve it until judgement come. In 2004, I was join a local prayer meeting in Arizona, my heart was ache and broker with deep sorrow, and hear Father told me: “I will not bless American until they take care of native & African American issue”. In the vision, I saw something that I don’t want to see again, even don’t want to talk about it. Afterword, I share with local church leader and few prayer network leaders to see if they will spread this most important message. I was wait for 14 years, finally someone say something and do something about it. During those 14 years, Father send me to Taiwan native people and to US native people group give little help, do some prophetic act to break the stronghold quietly.
    Now I hear what Mark Charles sharing, and realize I only know little and see little, its too much injustice and bloodshed in our country, how how can we ask for blessing, that we only desire for judgement and punishment, how much and how long that we hurting our Father’s heart to tread other people His children like animal maybe worse than animal, Father we are guilty and shame, our mouth to praise you at same time our hand to share our ancestor’s evil deed. Forgive us, o our Lord. Have mercy on us, give us more time that we can make it right.

  4. AOM Ministries

    May 14, 2018 6:36 pm

    What needs to happen, is each and every treaty must be read, rewritten, and new treaties fully recognizing natives, as citizens of America, granted actual freedom, liberty and justice for all.

  5. Daniel Calder

    May 14, 2018 11:10 pm

    As a Jew, this sounds an awful lot like the trope of the "Wandering Jew":

    The trope the tormented Jewish rejector of Christianity, stricken with inherited racial guilt that can never find absolution, doomed by divine curse to wander the earth forever as a moral example to mourn the sin of his race. Very clever! Gas-lighting one's political enemies can be very effective.

    I agree with you that ISIS sounds like white America. Muslims and Western Christians are two of the world's greatest arch-imperialists. As I'm sure you know, Arab Muslims did conquer Syria, an initially Christian nation (for the first 6 centuries after Christ's death), and they continue to oppress Syrian Christians. You don't believe brown people can inherit such racial guilt, however, so I doubt this is of interest to you. I am sure you don't consider Syria land that is currently "Stolen" by Muslims.

    I'm very interested in epigenetics but whether or not trauma can really be inherited is very controversial.

  6. aljawisa

    August 4, 2018 9:25 pm

    Some scriptures to add: I'll give no explanation, just ponder upon these text, and add your viewpoint to the conversation be held.

    Psalm 147: 19,20. 19
    He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. 20 He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.[b]

    Deuteronomy 2: 4-6 4 And command the people, saying, “You are about to pass through the territory of your brethren, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. Therefore watch yourselves carefully. 5 Do not meddle with them, for I will not give you any of their land, no, not so much as one footstep, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession. 6 You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat; and you shall also buy water from them with money, that you may drink.

    Acts 17:26 And He has made from one [j]blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

    Habakkuk 1:6 For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation, which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs.

    1 Peter 2: 11 Beloved, I urge you as foreigners and temporary residents+ to keep abstaining from fleshly desires,+ which wage war against you.*+ 12 Maintain your conduct fine among the nations,+ so that when they accuse you of being wrongdoers, they may be eyewitnesses of your fine works+ and, as a result, glorify God in the day of his inspection.

  7. aljawisa

    August 4, 2018 10:22 pm

    God is not racists because all will have the some beneficial or detrimental fate weather they are righteous or wicked.

    Genesis 15: 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

    Deuteronomy 8: 19 Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the Lord your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God.

  8. interactwithchange

    September 13, 2018 9:50 pm

    Who can I contact to get permissions to air segments of Mark Charles – "Race, Trauma, and the Doctrine of Discovery"  on the Indigenous Nation radio show?

  9. Boxcarcifer

    September 26, 2018 8:57 am

    @12:00 he speaks of The Propaganda Model of White Settler Culture. Americans are brainwashed from the day their born to be willing blood drinking cannibal murderers in service of The Pope of Rome.
    There is no Gods and no JeeSusss Dead savior rosen up from dead. Real men grow up into Reality in Real Societies, Jewish Boys become Men at Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish coming of age ritual for boys, Christians never leave 'La La Land' of ignorant snake handling dumb slaves to Roman Pope.


    October 12, 2018 7:01 pm

    What contributions have native Americans made to this continent. I dare you to research every description that explorers and conquistadors gave of the inhabitants of this land. They wrote back to the kings and queens of Europe. $5 indians cant make complaints. Get your benefits in peace.

  11. KJ

    October 18, 2018 2:53 pm

    I very much appreciate Mr. Charles's perspectives but I must correct him on one important detail. He characterizes the Citizens United case as having initiated the notion that, as he puts it, "corporations now have the same rights to political free speech as individuals." The personhood of corporations in matters of adjudication is a long-standing doctrine. It was not invented by the 2010 Court.

    In Grosjean v. American Press Co., Inc., 297 U.S. 233 (1936), the Court writes: "A corporation is a "person" within the meaning of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment" P. 297 U. S. 244. In Citizens United this same definition also applies to labor unions.

    Like many others I am very much alarmed by the presence and influence of money in government. I believe it has rendered virtually meaningless our democratic processes as faithful conduits of the public will, and as instruments for the public good. But badly aimed finger pointing and hyperbole are not the answer. There are other, more powerful, arguments.

  12. Stella Bella

    October 24, 2018 4:32 am

    Will the true Christian please stand up. The count may be easer than thought. The truth should make us better people and better Christians in the future. Wake Up

  13. V Wilson

    November 6, 2018 9:10 am

    White America is not a traumatized group. White America is now under judgement for what they did. They have to face their sins just like Israel and Judah had to go into a second slavery and oppression for their sins. It's all in scripture. Yes, the people that were scattered among the nations and sent into slavery and oppressed were the Chosen.

  14. Ron Porter

    November 8, 2018 7:28 pm

    Great talk. No conclusions. Why were their different tribes in American before 1492? What happen to the people before the Ancient people before the tribes? Hum. Reminds of the verses. Acts 17:26 From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. Jeremiah 17:9 "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Romans 3:3-4 What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Absolutely not! Let God be TRUE and every man a liar. As it is written: “So that You may be justified in Your words, and prevail in Your judgments.” We can not undo past sin. Only Jesus saves. But we can give present opportunities based on God. We need God hungry leaders not Power hungry leaders. 1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. If we are looking to government to help… Well…. The federal government owns about 640 million acres of land in the United States, about 28% of the total land area of 2.27 billion acres. Without breakup a city, or reservation, or someone personal property legally obtain, we can revisit the Homesteading idea. Thus let people once again, on a equal footing with God's help, establish a home with God boundary tax free for the amount of time wronged. Agree?

  15. doyle brooks

    February 6, 2019 11:22 pm

    Great lecture. Very well presented. If you notice, when he asked the audience how they felt, NOT ONE said they felt patriotic, and proud as an American, shame, guilt, and anger is all they said. White people get VERY angry, when you point out to them, that EVERYTHING they've been taught about their American greatness, is one big LIE, because they've been told their whole lives, that they're the best, the greatest, and they don't know how to take it, when you tell them, that it's all a LIE.

  16. Zack Taylor

    February 27, 2019 7:59 am

    Hmm christianity was used to kill, enslave, steal land, rape, and oppress but you still identify with being a christian. Interesting.

  17. Andre Lefebvre

    March 8, 2019 2:42 am

    I don't think the document states that African-Americans as 3/5 of a person, but it seems to imply that only 3/5 of all other persons not free (African American slaves) will be eligible for office or tax benefits. Am I right? Still thank you very much for the enlightening course, Marc!

  18. Danielle Salas

    May 31, 2019 3:08 pm

    The only thing I don’t agree with is that he says the 14th amendment leads to the Supreme Court to determine that unborn babies aren’t human. Mr Charles I protects the right to privacy & physical autonomy
    Roe v Wade is one of the few things the Supreme Court did for women

  19. Violeta Stewart

    June 22, 2019 5:37 pm

    If the God of the Bible demanded genocide of the people living in the promise land and we reject the concept of genocide as barbaric today, why are we not rejecting God? Never heard a good answer to this.

  20. Ken C

    August 8, 2019 11:41 am

    Now I can understand how the Doctrine of Discovery was applied when Captain Cook "discovered" Australia.

  21. Emmanuel Rugina

    August 22, 2019 10:51 pm

    Mr. Charles, in Rwanda, there is no real reconciliation; otherwise, there would not be a continuing fleeing from the country or a continuing killing of citizen who do not stand with the president or his tribe! there are official commissions such as "IBUKA (Remember) " or "CNLG (National commission against genocide)"; both of these commissions have been created by the regime to serve as harmful instruments of the regime against dissenting people claiming for their Human Rights. Thus, Mr. Charles, you are not right about Rwanda!


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