Betsy L. Ames: Establish commission to review state flag, seal

Published: 1/27/2020 1:06:12 PM
Modified: 1/27/2020 1:05:55 PM

I urge the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight to vote for S.1877/H.2776 to establish a commission to review the Massachusetts state flag and seal.

I’m a 20-year resident of Massachusetts. It’s important that the symbols we chose to represent ourselves accurately reflect both the lived history of this place and a vision for the future that will help shift our culturally conditioned worldviews so that regenerative possibilities can emerge.

As a white person now inhabiting territory that had been inhabited by the Algonquian peoples for the previous 18,000 years, I must acknowledge that two apparently contradictory ideas are true — blameless yet responsible.

I’ve inherited an unjust situation which I had no part in creating and I benefit from that injustice which makes me responsible for finding another way forward.

In this year — the 400th anniversary of the first contact between colonial and native peoples — what would it mean to insist upon freedom and justice for all? We could decide to interrupt the conditioning that was handed to us as white people, which only acknowledges the white experience and erases all others.

Not only could we remove the offensive images and words from our state flag and seal, we could place a visible acknowledgment of the original inhabitants on them. Much in the way that Germany made visible the genocide of the Jewish people after the Holocaust by placing plaques in many towns where Jews were captured, we also have an opportunity to make visible the native genocide that began in this state.

And in so doing, opening a door to another way forward by allowing the history to be noticed, grieved and remembered, so that it is never repeated. As we face climate change, perhaps it’s now possible to acknowledge the mistakes of our white colonial mindset, rooted in the idea of man’s dominion over nature, which has amassed immense material privilege and also immense disconnection from being part of the living whole.

We must acknowledge the significance of indigenous wisdom at this historical moment. The outcome of our human relationship with the climate may actually depend on it.

Betsy L. Ames

Amherst




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