“Hostile Indians”

Today I was reading an older article (2008) in Mother Jones about the racial context of the Second Amendment, and I was stopped in my tracks by this stunner of a paragraph, apparently written unironically.

None of this figured into Tuesday’s arguments at the Supreme Court. Instead, a majority of the justices, especially Kennedy, seemed to buy the story that the founders were inordinately concerned with the ability of early settlers to use guns to fend off wild animals and Indians, not rebellious slaves. (Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick counts pivotal swing-voter Kennedy making no fewer than four mentions of a mythical “remote settler,” who Kennedy suggested would have needed a gun to “defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears, and grizzlies.”)

Justice Kennedy doesn’t surprise me by this “hostile Indian tribes and outlaws” comment.  But for such a radically liberal publication as Mother Jones to use the phrase “fend off wild animals and Indians” is surprising.

This article is about white-on-black racism, its historical context, the implications of the legal system created by the Continental Congress.  That is very important to discuss, but surely we can find a way to do that without casually supporting the narratives that legitimize the Amerindian genocide.

In this one little paragraph, these two sentences and paranthetical quote, we hear Indians described as “hostile” (if defending your homeland from invasion by violent oppressors is hostility, why are the participants in the American Revolution remembered as heroes instead of dangerous aggressors?), and see them apparently unthinkingly categorized with animals twice.  They’re wild, they’re outlaws.

Nowhere in this piece of writing does the author show even the slightest effort to assert that, EVEN IF the framers of the US constitution had intended the second amendment mainly to allow frontier settlers to defend their illegitimate seizures and occupations with lethal force, that STILL would have been an inherently racially violent act.  Nowhere does the author push back on the narrative that white occupation of the Americas was a neutral or even heroic process.

I expect better than this from you, Mother Jones.