Ryan McKinley -- the student whose letter provoked the Luddite act of statuary removal by campus officials -- gathered his thoughts and posted them to the Campus paper in a letter dated April 23, 2015, letter. In his missive, after gathering a sail of wind from watching “The Last Conquistador” at a showing sponsored by the SLU Anthropology Club, McKinley went on a relatively information- and fact-free soiree down the avenues of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, finally arriving at the De Smet statue. Of that statue, he wrote,
Whether the historical De Smet was a genuine friend of American Indians or a willing cog sent to convince the Lakota to sign the 1868Can’t be bothered to confirm one’s views with adequate research? That’s okay, let’s publish a jeremiad and let the scholars sort it out. Worse, existing scholarship and biography, readily available to McKinley (after all, I found it), would have assuaged his fears that De Smet was an evil racist oppressor the Native peoples. He might have found, for example, Robert C. Carriker’s, “Father Peter John de Smet: Jesuit in the West.” Given a moment or two of admirable effort, he might have found Carricker’s book in SLU’s library system or requested on interlibrary loan. Had he done so, he would not have had to defer to future research the answer to his not so important question about the nature of De Smet.
Fort Laramietreaty, a treaty which the government had no intention of fulfilling, is a debate beyond my research; hopefully scholars at SLU can illuminate his past. Nonetheless, if De Smet was a friend of the Indians, then this is surely not what is depicted by this statue. The statue of De Smet depicts a history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy. U.S.
Silly me. Why would I think that one would do a bit of factual investigation before defaming another? Is this the quality of mind now being pumped up and out at my alma mater?
I was then, as I am now, pro-life. In fact, I delayed my matriculation at the
The levels of hostility and loathing varied, but crested at the Women's Law Caucus. Members of the LWC, at least the vocal ones, were very similar, in a certain respect, to the antagonist in the current controversy: they could only see opposition to abortion as oppression of women, just as McKinley can only see colonialism and imperialism and racism in the profound compassion of Fr. De Smet.
Steve Smith told me that mine was "the most unprofessional act" at the law school in his experience. I thought that odd. Just two weeks earlier, two classmates were caught "in flagrante delicto" on a class room floor by an evening adjunct professor. The adjunct, accustomed to the assigned classroom being open, had to get a key from the law library because the classroom door, quite unexpectedly, was locked. When the adjunct opened the door and flipped on the lights, it became obvious that the passions of the two law students had made them deaf to their impending discovery. Their nakedness and sexual intimacy were discovered before the two could get entirely disentangled and clothed.
Yet my act, writing a short essay excoriating ministers associated with the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, was "the most unprofessional act" Steve Smith had seen in his time at the school?
While attending SLU, I knew of, and celebrated, the Native American heritage that came to me through my paternal grandmother. I did not know, however, that through that same grandmother, by Jim Crow standards, I was an octaroon, as my great grandfather was African American. With my wife, I lived on campus, in married student housing. I participated in numerous law school events. In three years on campus, however, I never saw the statue of Father De Smet. I have seen the photograph now that the statue has been hidden away from public display.
What a bizarre world in which we live!
Nothing about De Smet's behavior screams racism, imperialism, colonialism.
If you doubt me on how De Smet's evangelical outreach constitutes kindness and care, I'll refer you to Penn Jillette, who tells the story of being given the gift of a Bible by a concerned Christian. Jillette, an ardent atheist, expressed profound respect that a person who literally believed Jillette's soul was in danger actually acted on that belief in an effort to render aid to him. Jillette tells the story on his YouTube channel if you care to see it.
According Ryan McKinley, the statue of De Smet, symbolizes a "history of colonialism, imperialism, racism and of Christian and white supremacy." The statue is no more so such a symbol than that much more obvious and noticeable one,
When will that vestige of colonialism be taken down, or converted to a museum?