race and space

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

Racist history rarely serves a purpose, but as the United States moves towards what is celebrated as “Thanksgiving,” there should probably be an examination of the story under the pretense that everything about it is correct. The most crucial element of the day is the meal, and in the fictional account, both parties were able to share their resources in a way that was mutually beneficial. Even the fictional account disproves the falsity of the “Columbus” narrative: if there were already people there who knew how to access food and were sophisticated enough to maintain societies, how could Columbus have “discovered” American? If it was winter, then why would everyone be barely clothed as is often depicted, since weather patterns have drastically altered over the centuries? Finally, if everything was shared and mutually beneficial, why are there no other stories about Indigenous people and European colonizers negotiating in good faith? Context and framing usually reveal the truth about history, and in Killers of the Flower Moon, people will understand how fiction was protected over human life.

A common refrain for those who agree with the dominant narrative is that there have been so many benefits and so much “progress” that the death and destruction of countless people have yielded positive results. However, it is interesting that those under 50 years of age have lived through two housing crises, multiple long-lasting wars, increasing racial violence, and an increasing number of environmental catastrophes. All of the crises just mentioned have occurred because of how people portray “societal advancement.” Oil was so irrelevant to Native populations that to this day, there are still activists fighting to stop the extraction of fossil fuels, and many groups have led the charge for renewable fuels based on substantive knowledge of the earth. Meanwhile, because some people viewed the planet as nothing more than an exploitable resource, all of humanity is facing destruction, which is apt because when energy is taken without replenishment, there is a finite amount. Because oil was important to the dominant narrative, people came into the Osage community and manipulated the Osage into giving away something that cost the community lives. For those arguing that they should have protected the resource “better,” remember that oil meant something to the dominant narrative, and it begs the question who should be punished for that violation of trust.

Feminism has been coopted by people of privilege, but one of the most horrendous facts about this history is that women were commodified and seen as disposable, but to an even greater extent when they were seen as barriers. The Osage women who married their husbands were depicted as naïve and in love, and within the dominant narrative, that is the role that women are supposed to play, even though these women knew they had access to a desirable resource. However, while people of color are often told to consider their impression upon the outside world, the men who coerced the Osage women into marriage thought nothing of boldly proclaiming that they could choose any Osage at any time, marry that person, and then murder that partner at their whims. This is one of the reasons that people of color are discouraged from interracial relationships–not because people are “different species,” but because it is the practice of many to see a partner of color as less, even if said partner has more resources. Because Osage women were murdered, it was seen as almost irrelevant, which is how the murders continued without recourse for so long. Even the investigators understood that no White person would be willing to testify against another White person about the murder of an Osage person, and no one saw the slaughtering of Osage women as worth investigating.

Law enforcement is often revered in the dominant narrative, but any person of color reviewing this accounting would ask several questions of J. Edgar Hoover and how he ran this investigation. Fortunately, the hypocrisy of the law was evident from the investigation to the enforcement, just as it makes sense that more cases continued to be uncovered as the case progressed, and that underreporting was highly probable. Of course J. Edgar Hoover was paranoid and looking for an edge on several people–he was playing people against each other and manipulating his team. The investigators knew that there would be no inquiries among the White community because many law enforcement officers have always been intimately connected with racial violence, which makes sense due to the origins of the police in the United States. The case even had to be moved around to different courts because the murderers kept buying politicians, and everyone viewed that as standard operating procedure, instead of thoroughly corrupt. The Osage knew that all of these misdeeds would continue, which is why there was never full trust of any of the investigators, and many closed the community based on demonstrated abuses. Anyone who learns more about how law enforcement has functioned when the targets are seen as “lesser” understands the distrust of the police.

When people pretend to misunderstand privilege, they are generally desperate to conceal that many have evaded accountability based on lies, and they want that that behavior to continue. Money and its pursuit have led to the destruction of countless cultures, and only dogged determination has kept people and cultures alive when invaders came to change the rules. The United States will never know how it could have evolved if European colonizers had not needed to make money out of everything, or see people as barriers to money instead of seeing money as the barrier to people that it is. People who are surprised that so many folks are outraged over the unveiling of history are unaware of what that history reveals about this nation, but ironically, the outrage proves that people have reasons to fear. This accounting shows how depraved the United States always was, and this is sadly the tip of the iceberg.

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