A metal statue that has graced the St. Louis University campus for years is coming down after students complained of its message of “white supremacy.” The statue, which features Jesuit missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet praying over two Native Americans, will now be moved to an indoor art museum so as not to upset the campus community.
Though criticism has been launched at the statue for a while, it wasn’t until student Ryan McKinley wrote a scathing editorial in the campus newspaper that university officials took action. McKinley wrote, “The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy. This statue of De Smet is the clearest message that this university sends regarding American Indians, past and present. This message to American Indians is simple: “You do not belong here if you do not submit to our culture and our religion.”
It’s not shocking to see this kind of kneejerk “social justice” on an American campus, though it is distressing to see a Catholic university submit so thoroughly to political correctness. If faculty at such a university do not believe in “Christian supremacy,” then what do they believe in? What is the point of a religion if you don’t think you have the right one? Is it all just symbolic? Is there no truth anymore?
Perhaps this should have been debated a bit. Historians don’t have to work very hard to acquit the good name of De Smet, after all. He was one of the best friends the American Indians ever had, leading dangerous missions into disputed territory to bring the good word to tribes near and far. He wasn’t in the business of spreading “white supremacy.” He worked diligently to protect Native Americans from the violence surrounding the whiskey trade and introduce them to a faith he believed in most dearly. Now, in 2015, that kind of work is apparently seen as evil.
To be sure, the relationship between whites and Native Americans is a complicated and contentious one. But this liberal effort to paint Europeans as mass-murderers and Indians as gentle folk invites a fiction every bit as incorrect as the most white-washed historical texts. History isn’t a storybook filled with villains and heroes. We do not do ourselves any favors by judging historical events with the values of 2015. And we certainly aren’t accomplishing anything by casting every white man as the bad guy.
If you are living in the United States today, you are benefiting from what those evil men of yore did to the American Indians. Want to make a real statement? Leave the country. Donate to a Native American charity. Renounce the pleasures of modern America, none of which would exist if the land had been left to the natives. If you’re not prepared to do that, then taking a stance against a statue is nothing more than hypocrisy. You’re having your cake and eating it, too.
SJU, it should be noted, plans to move ahead with a statue commemorating the Ferguson protests of 2014. Maybe in another few decades, an enterprising student columnist can expose that statue as a symbol of liberal idiocy. But with the way things are going, that probably won’t happen.