My sister and I are first generation Tahitian born in the US of A. We are Americans with ancestry from the people of the South Pacific.
Numerous European explorers in their ships visited Tahiti in the 16th century. Originally claimed by the British for King George III, Tahiti and Her Sister Isles ultimately ended up in the dominion of France. Disease, murder, rape, slavery, and near genocide ensued.
The modern trend for this exact type of ancestral exploitation is a demanding expectation to “make things right.” Yet even with all that happened to my ancestors due to European invasion, I’m not going to demand the people of France pay me money or grant me special rights or indulge my bad behavior.
This is because no one in France alive today invaded Tahiti, raping and murdering my ancestors. Further, none of my ancestors who were directly oppressed and victimized are alive today. That was four centuries ago.
Without question, what my ancestors endured at the whims of imperialist Europeans is awful, just awful and inhumane.
Thank God that’s over with.
And how does this compare to how Tahitians are treated in 2020? If you believe Tahitians today are treated equally to those of French descent, you are wrong. However, this injustice is today. These are not the injustices committed 400 years ago. Invoking the tragedy of the distant past to address the inequalities of today does nothing useful for anyone. After 400 years, it’s safe to say it’s unrelated.
Because of the French colonization of the South Pacific my ancestors suffered and nearly died out. And yet I am due no entitlements. I have not earned reparations. I don’t expect any apology. I am owed nothing.
In good conscience, I won’t impose the past on the present.
Here’s the rub: Solving the social injustices of today requires complete focus on the right here and right now. Briefly acknowledge how the French invaded and annexed Tahiti, appreciate this is why Tahiti is under French dominion, and then get down to the hard work of creating the solutions that benefit the communities of the Year 2020.
Do engineer the future. Don’t fix the past. And just like that, racial injustice reform begins and only moves forward.
Yes, I’m openly calling upon my ancestral lineage and my guiding ethics as commentary on the unrest and rioting in the US of A of right here and right now. Just in case you feel I’m being evasive or clandestine in my message.
P.S. – Tahiti and Her Sister Isles is a romantic ideal that sounds good for the tourist trade of today. The reality of pre-European Pacific cultures is strikingly different.
This was not a unified people of cooperative cultures from island to island. Not only did the separate peoples of these “Sister Isles” invade each other for slaves (including selling slaves to the first European explorers), these separate peoples also invaded each other for human sacrifice and human food.
My ancestors were slaverunning superstitious cannibals.
And my ancestors were every bit as horrendous to each other as the conquering European imperialists were to my ancestors.
It’s an itchy topical territory, what I say now. No one likes ackowledging this closely mirrors the cultural norms of indigenous Africa and indigenous North America, Mesoamerica, and South America.
Invading Europeans don’t have the monopoly on ethnic atrocities against the indigenous peoples, atrocities that include slavery. Like with my South Pacific ancestors, these indigenous peoples were often equally brutal to their neighbors, with or without Euopean interference.
Real history is inconvenient.