Is acknowledgment (recognition) a useful perspective for psychosocial activists? / Jessica Benjamin
This article is based on the lecture- "Is acknowledgment (recognition) a useful perspective for psychosocial activists? How things look different in 2021 from 2004", given at the Journal Launch Event- "Crossings: Revamping Psychopolitical Discourse in Israel-Palestine 2021".
First, I want to say how happy I am to be with you and to see some familiar faces of people whom I have known in the past. It’s good to see the continuity, that some of us are still here together, as well as the new faces, which is of course even more important. And it is also meaningful to me that you are trying to create the spaces for solidarity, for crossing the divides of cultural difference and political strife which are rooted in injustice.
I have been asked to reflect on my experience with the Acknowledgment Project, which I had founded in 2004, and on how things are different now than in 2004 when we began those efforts. The project was initiated by me together with Eyad El Sarraj, then head of the GCMHP, specifically to implement his ideas about the need for apology by the Israelis in a dialogue setting, imagining its extension to other venues and times. Based on his recent experience with setting up the Geneva Accords, whose main fault he considered to be the lack of such an apology, Sarraj hoped this would help make them acceptable to the Palestinian side. He thought we should begin with colleagues who worked in the mental health domain. Together with Uri Hadar, Yitzhak Mendelsohn and others, we crafted the project to include members from both 67 and 48 Palestinian groups, as well as Israelis.
I am now being asked to reflect on whether I think that mutual recognition is still an important part of the movement for change. In reality, the Acknowledgment Project was not called “The Mutual Recognition Project” for a reason: its aim was to create a dialogue in which it would be truly possible for Israelis to give the admission of having harmed and for Palestinians to receive it - in that sense more like the Truth and Reconciliation idea than mutual recognition. Although, to be sure, some kind of mutual recognition of each other’s humanity has to be part of the process and more importantly the outcome.
I am going to just start with one of the last things that Ruchama said, which has to do with empathy versus solidarity, and to anticipate - yes, I agree with Ruchama that solidarity includes sacrifice. But because of my long experience being part of different movements in the United States, I have come to believe that solidarity with sacrifice is only helpful if there is also a movement that supports it. In other words, I do not think individual sacrifice can be sustained unless the sacrifice, besides supporting the abstract idea of solidarity, is allowing the person to feel that through their sacrificial act they actually gained inclusion in a different community. (If you were going to be alienated from your tribe because you are taking an anti-tribal position, you have to have a movement that is strong enough to create social support and recognition for those actions that involve sacrifice). And one of the biggest difficulties, I believe, in prior left-wing and liberation movements was that many times people did not receive the kind of recognition for their sacrifice that they needed, to make that sacrifice feel like it was part of creating a shared Third, which as you know is a concept I have thought about a great deal. In this case, the Third means the new thing that arises when two groups struggle with their differences and inequality, as well as with their common purpose. More generally, though, holding on to the Third means having faith in something that makes sacrifice meaningful and tolerable. Here is an example of this: in Chile, a woman sacrificed by being tortured and having her family tortured in front of her but did not receive the appropriate recognition from her comrades afterwards, in particular not from the leader whom she was trying to protect. And finally, when that comrade asked to see her and thank her, perhaps 30 years later, when he told her that he knew what she did to protect him, this recognition changed her life. But imagine how much she had suffered in the time in between, when the dictatorship had successfully caused the movement to break down and everyone was left to heal alone, in secret.
So that is a very important idea for me, the idea that any such actions require the recognition of others, which usually requires being part of a movement. I think the experience of being a Palestinian living under occupation involves constant sacrifice, just to persist in the determination to live here and fight for the right do so. How the struggle against apartheid and occupation can make of sacrifice a shared grief, a crossing into the place of mutual recognition is something I have seen people in post-conflict situations do. My thoughts on this are influenced by those people, and less so by my own experience, which is much more limited than yours.
So, the question we are dealing with here is precisely the complex nature of creating solidarity outside the tribe, which Ruchama addressed in talking about the mechanical versus organic solidarity, a distinction made by Durkheim. Also relevant here is the work of Tomasiello, who showed that human beings have a natural tendency toward cooperation, but that cooperation may end when you get to the river that divides you from the other tribe. Now, in this regard, for me one of the most important things that happened in the last 20 years in the US is that when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for president, he came to Brooklyn and gave a speech in which he told the thousands of people: "look around you, look at someone you do not know, someone who is different from you. If you can fight for that person whom you do not know as much as you fight for yourself, then there is nothing we cannot do". Now, for me this was extremely powerful, and I think that for millions of other people it was equally powerful. They put this saying of his on a t-shirt: "Fight for someone you do not know".
Of course, in your situation, you are not just talking about crossing the divide of difference. It is not just that you don't know those people, it's that you have been for many years in a situation of war and enmity, in which the dominant side has been organized around suppressing and dispossessing the other as enemy.
At the same time, however, there is something Bernie was referring to that has some relevance: it is human to have difficulty with crossing the river to the other, the other whom you do not know, and in many cases the other who is the enemy. In both cases, you have to have the experience of crossing the bridge of difference. Now the difficulty in crossing the bridge of difference is not the absence of pleasure when you get there, but the danger leading up to it. The problem is creating an authentic crossing, which requires from the perpetrators to face the damage and oppression they are now actively causing, and to acknowledge it. But can the perpetrators do this alone, or do they need some offer of recognition of their humanity by those they have harmed, to be able to give that acknowledgment? These are questions we considered in the Acknowledgment project, ones that cannot be answered in only one way and may be present for us at all times.
So how do you create the means for getting to that bridge, and here we can understand the bridge as a Third, the crossing as an experience of thirdness? Let me say more explicitly here that even though I believe that there must be a common effort, the effort is not equal because one side is subjected to apartheid and the other is made up of people who have benefitted from the exploitation and colonization. And while this means that Palestinians have to lead their own struggle for liberation, it does not mean that they should bear the chief responsibility for making sure their voices are not silenced, and that their experience of their oppression is known and acknowledged. Only on this asymmetrical basis can there evolve a larger framework, an intellectual political Third that is part of building the bridge, one that both sides can share in developing and accepting—this hopefully being a key point of this journal. And such a framework also requires the ideology critique that Manal was speaking of, namely the critique of colonialism as well as of the economic exploitation and objectification built into the capitalist system, which has been intensified by neoliberalism. As a leftist, I believe that without some unifying agreement around this critique we cannot have a movement that brings both sides together. (I also believe that the absence of this critique in Israel—the absence of the experience the rest of us in the West had of being called to resist imperialism in the post-war period—has prevented the arising of a real Left). Not only because the understanding of colonialism and racism are essential to any political position regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation in the present, but also because an adaptation of Western imperialist colonialism was unconsciously reproduced within a system, Zionism, that conflated itself with national movements against colonialism because of the Jewish people’s former persecuted position in Europe.
What is the value added by a psychoanalytically informed understanding of the predicament in its current form, in which not only colonialism and neoliberalism but also racism play a part? As I have analyzed, and some of you may have read, the neoliberal denial of the need for social solidarity, as defined by Thatcher or Reagan, plays on a deep psychic fear of being discarded, the belief that “only one can live.” The repudiated Other must be suppressed for the entitled Subject to live. As Ruchama says, the anxiety of alienation and aloneness, during the epidemic of neoliberalism and late capitalism, have only intensified the fear of not counting, not being cared for and not mattering. These conditions have strengthened the belief that one can only matter if someone else does not, if some Other holds the place of the discarded. Now, by contrast, what I think Manal is talking about is not the individual fear of falling out of a social network and being discarded, but rather the actual condition of being put in the position of that placeholder, that Other: a whole people being discarded. A whole people having to absorb the despised position and therefore not only fearing that their humanity may be denied, and their suffering may be silenced — but rather, actively dealing with the fact that their humanity already is denied, and their resultant suffering already is silenced. So, on the one hand we have a need for solidarity to counter an individualist ideology that uses this fear to justify unlimited and destructive forms of self-protection. On the other hand, we have an oppressed people’s effort to create solidarity in order to ideologically support the protection of a whole community from oppression, even annihilation. And finally, we have a struggle for recognition, in which the question who deserves to live has been reduced to the belief that in this situation only one side may live.
So, what we analyze as a political expression of “doer and done to,” or “only one can live”—the self-protectiveness intensified by neoliberal capitalism, should be distinguished from the protest against being forced into a position of being the discarded ones, whose needs and rights the world ignores. (The fact that people who had not so long before had the same experience of being discarded and exterminated, constantly confounds this picture - but let’s wait for a moment to open that door.) Now, following the discussion of neoliberalism on one side and colonialism on the other, we could say that the two speakers addressed two different fears of being discarded, powerless and alienated.
Because those fears are not expressed in the same way nor for the same reason, I believe that we would have to define and conceptualize the points of difference and the possible convergence that a movement could bring about. What can we understand about this relationship? In my way of conceptualizing, the doer and done to relationship defines the current relationship the two sides have to the fantasy “only one can live.” First, it seems apparent that the fear of being utterly and remorselessly discarded infected European Jews and in their fierce determination to remediate the catastrophe they became remorseless toward those who stood in their way. And Israelis are very afraid, not only of being discarded as a victim group by the world, but also of being seen as undeserving of life if they are identified as perpetrators. But in addition, they are also afraid of being discarded from within, because neoliberalism has powerfully undermined their society’s solidarity and provision. Thus, it is to the advantage of the powerful in their society that they project that anxiety into the sense of being victimized by an enemy (a tactic being used in the US to even better effect by the Trumpian fascists).
The Israeli attachment to the victim identity has become increasingly detached from reality, including the reality that the others are human, much as it was for the South African Whites during apartheid. I am simplifying of course, but what is at stake here is the question of whether suffering is going to be recognized, and on the Israeli side this has shaped a determination to acquire all the moral capital of suffering and leave none for the other side. Now, as a result of this, the very idea of struggling for recognition, by the Palestinians, of their need to survive has become tainted, as the dominant currency, imposed by the powerful Israeli side, is the currency of victimhood and suffering. There is no seeking liberation, even in the form of peace. While the Palestinians are left to carry out actual efforts to create liberation, they are simultaneously constantly reminded that their oppressor has claimed the power of victimhood, accompanied not by an idea of liberation but simply of victory—reversing the doer and done to. The Palestinian justifications for struggling for liberation have been met with the same lack of recognition by the world as their suffering of violence and apartheid. I am sorry I didn’t say this more clearly before: that is a terrible position to be put in, a kind of double bind.
I think we agree that on the Palestinian side, the struggle is similar to that of Black Lives Matter insofar as: it is to gain the acknowledgment that Palestinian lives also matter, that Palestinians should have human rights, that their oppression in the apartheid occupation must end. But a huge difficulty is having to hold onto some position of the Third outside the doer and done to, while facing off against people who have lost any such vision of a Third. In one way, I might draw a parallel and say that the Palestinian situation is like that of the oppressed in the United States (many different groups) who face the fascist movement, based on the fear of a large group of white people who believe that their suffering and their grievances have been unrecognized, the fear of being replaced. Likewise, the comparable fear of Israelis that they will be replaced has been manipulated to prevent any possible political solution. The difference, of course, is that for many reasons it is vastly easier to stake out a position in the US that recognizes the racist oppression of Black, indigenous and other people of color and aims to remediate it. Nonetheless the constant struggle over who is the victim is something we do encounter in both the North American and the Israeli contexts.
I think that the rivalry around suffering, founded in the belief that “only one can live”, needs to be countered and subverted very explicitly. I suspect that this belief has to be addressed more directly in our support for the movement for boycott - an anti-apartheid movement, which has been one of the most effective non-violent strategies so far. How do we address and recognize the fear of Jews that they will be excluded from the human community, especially since this fear is being manipulated with great intensity and deliberateness by those who want to keep the power arrangements as they are? To me it seems that supporters of the Palestinian cause should not ignore this fear—on the contrary, it is necessary to acknowledge it, and at the same time argue for a different vision. I will get to this in a minute.
Here is a short note on what I experienced while working on the Acknowledgment project. It seemed to me that the experience of being an American Jewish radical was very different than being an Israeli who opposes the occupation, because we believed we could be part of an international struggle against imperialism and colonialism, and the Vietnam war had made us realize that we were implicated in a social system that was perpetuating this violence. It made it natural for Americans on the Left to identify with the Palestinian cause. But the truth is that we knew nothing of what life and suffering in Palestine entailed. In fact, the people who were most able to know this besides the Palestinians themselves were the neighbor Israelis, who were willing to cross over to give aid and in so doing had to witness what their state had done in their name. In the project meetings, where these Israelis were meant to give acknowledgment of this harming, there was still the question of how they would be received by Palestinians. How could solidarity occur? Frequently, what we found was that rivalry over suffering interfered with making the primary connection around acknowledging suffering. It was hard for Israelis to admit their need for recognition as vulnerable beings, vulnerable psychologically despite the asymmetrical power because they were the ones having to own the shame and guilt of having caused harm. It was equally hard for Palestinians to realize their own power in regard to giving or withholding recognition.
I concluded that one of the most difficult things for people to do, and this is confirmed clinically for us as psychoanalysts, is to respond adequately in situations where the operative idea of victimhood is causing people to justify harming. Clinically, our aim is to help them to confront without defenses their own harming. Psychologically speaking, we consider it in their own self-interest to take responsibility for their own harming, because we believe that there is a moral injury to harming and to dissociating. In other words, even in situations where practical action to stop the harming is not possible, we still ask of others and ourselves that we face the harm. But it is very hard to dislodge people from their clinging to victimhood. The rivalry around suffering has come to equate the fact of having suffered with deserving recognition; and further, this means being recognized as deserving to live. In other words, it might be helpful for Palestinians to subvert the arguments about who is suffering more (obviously Palestinians are suffering a hundred times more but as long as 6 million are not killed apparently they cannot win the sweepstakes of suffering) with the demand that all suffering be recognized, which I believe is part of the essence of what the late Gazan Palestnian psychiatrist Eyad el Sarraj believed. Let me explain what I mean here.
Even among those who want to be taking responsibility for harming, there is a psychological issue that also appears in the clinic. It appears in impasses that we have with our patients but also in specific political conflicts. It is that everyone wants to be seen as good and good is equated with being the done to, not the doer: the one who suffers not the one who causes suffering. At the level of ideology, of theory, and even of propaganda, it is vital to substitute for this struggle to be the good one a social vision of shared responsibility for ending suffering. It is necessary to deconstruct and subvert the rivalry around being good. I admit I haven’t figured out exactly how this could work, but I think it is related to my idea of the Third as a shared vision of justice that dignifies everyone; that is, it respects the suffering of all beings. This proposition repudiates the use of the suffering of one people (Jews and Holocaust) to deny the reality of harming the other (Palestinians); its use to deny the power, the destructiveness, the controlling of every aspect of daily life. So politically this might translate as the idea that while it is right to protest and demand acknowledgment of the massive injuries, this demand should be accompanied by a refusal to accept justification based on suffering—especially when it is divorced from the demand for universalizing equity and justice. All this, of course has a materialist basis in the critique of colonialism. It should also be clear that it would not be right for the Palestinians to be left alone to combat the manipulative use of suffering. How can one people be asked to break this bind? This is where a crossing must occur.
So on the one hand, we have the struggle for liberation by a colonized people whose victimization and oppression we who are here today recognize as being not only real, but as having been unacknowledged by the world. On the other side, we have an oppressor state increasingly shaped by fascist tendencies that wants to present their position as one of victimhood in order to justify the use of power. (This is the famous Nietzschean idea of the will to power). All of this means that the logic underpinning the Israeli propaganda machine and its justification for occupation —the assertion that because we are threatened and feel fear, the harming we do is justified— has to be psychologically opposed by a movement that asserts and makes it possible for people to acknowledge that it is our human responsibility to seek every other possible means of dealing with conflict over resources than harming others, so that everyone can live. Insofar as we believe the occupation and war machine are now driven by power and economic interest, we can recognize characteristics common to the manipulative mass psychology of fascism.
Considering how much such manipulation flies in the face of the people’s real interests and security needs, we can return to how it is in the self-interest of the people to repudiate the oppression they have been encouraged to support. The black movement for reparation in the United States has made a great deal of progress in terms of thinking about how repairing the moral injury of having participated in chattel slavery, in racial oppression, is actually something that will benefit white people, economically as well as psychologically. There are very important psychoanalytic reasons why repairing moral Injury matters. For instance, that people are driven more and more into dissociation when they have to deny the responsibility for harming. The murder of George Floyd made many whites who witnessed shamefully aware of how compliance with the turn toward neoliberal capitalism and abandonment of the anti-colonial politics of the Left was really an abandonment of millions of compatriots who had been degraded and harmed. However, arguably, for the movement to succeed, it seemed necessary to appeal to the need for common cause in opposing the power of oligarchy, who cynically stoke the flames of racism and chauvinism.
Now, for me, all of this suggests the political as well as psychological importance of putting forward a different idea of reparation. If you do not put forward a powerful idea of reparation in which the principle, however abstract it might seem at the moment, (but for us psychoanalytic therapists I don't think it is abstract), is that all suffering counts and that more than one can live, If we do not hold on to that principle as the basis for reparation, then we are not going to be successful at encouraging people to repair their own moral injury that comes from being on the side of harming, nor to recognize the security that comes from embracing the idea that more than one can live. I see this as related to the theme of Crossing.
It has to be clear when we demand acknowledgment and reparation that this is not the same as a form of retribution or retaliation, that we are operating in relation to the Third of justice - not the reversal of turning tables as to who is the doer and who the done to. (But let me add here: Has there ever been a revolution, a colonial uprising, able to avoid reversals? Why should Palestinians be asked to spare Israelis in this way, when they have been so harmed? I think pragmatically the answer is because the opprobrium and rejection by the world is the only force: only boycott, only pain, only rejection. But as we saw in South Africa, this is only meaningful if colonialism and exploitation are also recognized. In any case, as above, why should Palestinians be the ones to demand this, why not the world who has silenced their suffering, the world who is responsible for this situation? This is why I once proposed (in the German press) that Britain and Germany are responsible for making this acknowledgment, for making amends. We in the Western countries should demand this.)
But from another point of view, and here I am also thinking as an American who supports reparations, I believed that to give people an opportunity to acknowledge their responsibility for harm, we should be working from an idea of the Third as recognition of necessity. That is what “No justice, no peace” properly means. In other words, it is not primarily retribution oriented. It does not only mean, “We won’t let you have peace if you don’t give us justice” - but rather, that objectively there can be no peace without justice. So, rather than simply saying, “We are going to recognize the other, their humanity” (that's very nice, everybody talks about having empathy for the other, how very virtuous ), -we first have to acknowledge the failure to do so, the failure to embody this recognition by actively witnessing and acting against injustice. And I think we have to translate that into something more definitive, namely, that we recognize necessity. Justice is necessary in this sense. Solidarity beyond the paranoia of doer and done to, of only one suffering counts, only the life of one side matters, is based on recognizing necessity. What is necessity? Necessity would mean to give up self-protection, to go beyond “only one can live” to the recognition that all suffering can and must be addressed. Any particular joining together in solidarity should be based on this recognition of what is universal, rather than simply on shared enmity toward an other (the oppressor), on self-protection.
To recognize and surrender to necessity means psychologically-- as I’ve said when speaking of mothers recognizing that it is baby nature for the newborn to be waking the mother up all night—that by accepting reality we are able to contain the psychic piece of unconscious/ partly conscious fantasy that this baby is a demon tyrant who is going to suck the life out of us. And in having this container, this Third, we can transform our entire basis for action. To recognize that it is necessary to share the land that we live on, the planet, that we need to share resources not only with other human beings but other species and plants, because otherwise we will destroy ourselves. To recognize that those cast as Other and subjected to apartheid and harm will of necessity rebel and demand their rights is also accepting necessity. In other words, the necessity remains to acknowledge the absolute legitimacy of the struggle for freedom and justice of the other and the demand for repair of their dispossession, facing that reality as the only basis for negotiation.
I think White people in America who were moved by watching the murder of George Floyd and demonstrated by the millions were affected both by Floyd’s suffering, his universally felt call for his mother, but also by witnessing without being able to dissociate, without any emotional protection, the cold, dissociated intention to kill. The bodily, visceral experience of this violation was so powerful, perhaps, because everyone could see it at the same time. It became a shared reality. The ultimate human solidarity of being moved by suffering together, while simultaneously having the naked experience of the inhuman character of the one who has no connection to suffering—the combination of those two concurrent experiences had an explosive power. That is why Pumla Gobodo Madikizela titled her book on the security police perpetrator in apartheid South Africa “A Human Being Died that Night.”
When the recognition of human suffering and vulnerability breaks through dissociation, it becomes possible to accept necessity, to accept our responsibility to alleviate suffering. It revives the contrasts between harming and repair. Causing the death of another human being can only be accomplished without pain by putting ourselves into a state of dissociation, in which we are gradually but increasingly cut off from the magnetic chain of humanity. As we learn when we do our work in the therapy dyad-, to step out of the relationship of doer and done to, of judging and being judged, of condemning and being condemned, of resenting or being resented, becomes possible as part of the movement toward acceptance of what really is: human vulnerability. This acceptance is part of an overarching Third that dignifies rather than discards the suffering other.
Recognizing necessity, which Freud thought of as the reality principle, is difficult not because it is imposed from the outside, a blow to narcissism; not because it represses our aggressive instincts, our uncivilized nature, but because it is equated with death. When people are governed by “only one can live,” when there is no container, no overarching social representation of the Third, of the kind that could ensure the lawful world of responsibility for fairness and justice, for prevention of harm, then reality is dreaded. I believe that the Third, especially the Third that we co-create through a social movement, is ultimately based on surrender to necessity, in the sense that only the lawful world creates a sense of safety. But safety also arises when we make the effort to create this world of justice, if only in our actions with each other in a movement for change. Crossing the line that divides us—which it does by evoking that chaotic, dysregulating threat—and affirming our shared aim to face reality with justice is what makes us stronger, less chaotic and frightened.
I apologize for not having said more clearly how deeply I feel concerned and implicated in the scandal of the world’s silence, their permitting the violation and murder in Gaza. It was meaningful for me to be able to come back after all these years and share some of these thoughts with you, I appreciate you giving me the honor of being part of this new endeavor and of what so many of you have been engaged in so unflaggingly, and with so much persistence, all these years.
All references to my theory of the Third, “beyond doer and done to,” and “only one can live” can be found in my book: Beyond Doer and Done To: Recognition Theory, Intersubjectivity and the Third.
 When I gave this talk, it came out in a way that responded more to the problems of Israelis than Palestinians, for which I am deeply apologetic. As I had told the organizers, this was a last-minute request, there was no time to prepare a paper, and in the event my response was shaped by thinking about how the Israelis could show their solidarity to Palestinians in the face of the terrible violence caused by the Israeli state. And yet what I enacted was an unintentional denial of solidarity and of acknowledgment of suffering. Palestinians, who had so recently suffered terrible blows in Gaza, and many elsewhere, seemed to be gathering together in solidarity in new and important ways and it seemed for the first time that the media club called “world opinion” (which means the White Western powers) was paying attention to the entirely gratuitous viciousness of the Israeli military attack. And because of the callousness of its population toward those attacks and the tolerance of fascist violence on the ground, I felt strongly identified with the way in which this repeated my own experience during the Vietnam War. In becoming preoccupied with the dilemma of the Israelis, as the ones who needed to show solidarity to the Palestinians and struggle against this horror, I was struck by the experience of having to separate from and resist the actions of my own country. Most recently, witnessing my government’s behavior toward desperate homeless refugees - Afghans fleeing the Taliban - I am truly overwhelmed with grief. Just as I was overwhelmed with grief over the assault on Gaza, and so many times as I read of the horrors being perpetrated by the Israeli military. I will be interjecting some parenthetical remarks throughout the text to reflect on and perhaps correct the absences in my talk last June.
The sense of mutual separation that has grown over the years is extremely intense, indeed these are conditions of apartheid in which one side is entirely oppressed and separated even from access to the land and the sea, as well as to the institutions of power and control. The violence and inequality of apartheid pose the challenge for Palestinians to struggle for liberation while also seeking solidarity and support from Israelis struggling on their behalf. This has only become more vexed, more difficult since the years when we had the Acknowledgment conversations, which were hard enough. The daily experiences of control and oppression, but also of racism and personal hostility, intensify the huge disparity in life conditions, and therefore make it personally difficult to show solidarity and recognition. And I can only imagine that creating solidarity within each group is as difficult as creating it between the groups. The question for us is how much a liberation psychology, one that also analyzes oppression as a psychic phenomenon, can help with this creation.
As we know, guilt over this persecution has made the Palestinian situation particularly difficult, and thus we encounter, especially in America and the West, an exception carved out for Israeli colonialism. In the US, we can also suspect, this preserves an unconscious identification with the settler identity, relying on the pervasive dissociation of the harm brought about by America’s colonial imperialist project that began with the destruction of indigenous peoples as well as an evasion of our racist history.