In last week’s Trib a lot of ink was given to the debate over Gaspar de Portola’s statue and how it must go, in the name of social justice. I have always thought of social justice as being about equality and fairness, and I agree that there are elements of social justice involved in this debate. Jonathan Cordero’s claims that “discovery is inseparable from conquest.”
While it may be argued that taking an indigenous partner, producing mixed race offspring and raising their children together can be viewed as a conquest by some, I prefer to think of it in more compassionate terms. After all, if the Ohlone thought of Portola and his men as a threat, they could have easily neutralized them. Instead, the explorers were allowed to integrate into the native culture, as recounted on the informational sign at the “discovery” site on Sweeney Ridge. But this is not the issue I wish to debate here.
Alternatively, I would like to make two simple points about the position taken by the “tear down the statue” advocates. First, Jane Northrop’s column cites 3,250 signatures on a petition to remove the statue by people from Pacifica and AROUND THE BAY AREA. I question how someone from Hayward or San Francisco has the right to tell Pacificans what we can and cannot do in our town. It takes no small amount of hubris to try to impose outside will on our City Council by people who don’t live or pay taxes here. Second, why is the cancel culture all about erasing our past? Like it or not, Gaspar de Portola is part of our past, and removing him from it is to do a disservice to what should be the factual nature of history as a discipline.
Danielle Redlin, who is apparently one of the people leading the charge to erase our past, says that her “…aim is to be unabashedly honest about the history of the land we live on.”
OK, if you truly want honesty, how about a complete account of our history, instead of an edited version. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Ohlone and Aramai are an important part of how we came to be who we are today. How about focusing our efforts on the equal representation of all who have contributed to our culture, instead of canceling those events with which you do not personally agree?
Let’s learn from history so we can journey into the future with clarity.
There is no advantage in ignorance.
(William Bray is a Pacifica resident.)