Decolonizing the Gateway to Norman, Oklahoma

By Zakk Flash, from The Transcript:

The feature article in the July 2 edition of The Norman Transcript highlights the future construction of the Interstate 35 and Main Street interchange, a new project that has been cheered by a handful of Norman citizens as a “gateway to the city.”

But while the interchange was designed to allow safer and more efficient traffic flow, single-point urban interchange systems are notorious for being inefficient and dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists alike. Even more troubling, however, is another element of its design.

The new “Gateway to Norman” facade is an installation that celebrates genocide in the American Heartland.

In Oklahoma, the Land Run of 1889 is depicted as a Disney-esque fairytale — a victory of pure pioneer spirit over a harsh and undeveloped landscape. Forgotten too easily are the peoples who lived here before the European invasion: indigenous nations that were forced from ancestral homelands across the continent and pushed here to Oklahoma.

Forgotten is the plight of the American Indian, who, once forced into reservations, found the new land eyed greedily by colonial government greed.

Forgotten is the other side of history, replaced with a sanitized version that ignores the brutal reality of invasion, slavery, forced relocation, genocide, land theft, ethnocide and forcible denial of the right to self-determination.

Land run re-enactments are being rejected by educators across Oklahoma as antiquated colonial education and historical whitewashing. Celebrations such as ’89er Day parades that march down Main Street, USA, every year are being challenged by native rights groups like the Society to Protect Indigenous Rights and Indigenous Treaties and their allies.

Myopic views of the past that have long been taken for granted by large portions of the populace — although never by native peoples — are being abandoned. And for good reason: Oppression of native peoples is not historical artifact but one chapter in an ongoing battle against indigenous culture. The struggle against government and energy conglomerate maneuvers in the Black Hills and around the Grand Canyon are prime examples.

The Land Run is part of Oklahoma’s history and should be remembered. As often said, those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. But history books are written by the victors … and the historical spin on “settling” this state has been a celebration of invasion, land theft and ethnocide.

I call on citizens and city council members alike to bring us a new design. Norman deserves better than to encase the dark days of the past in concrete.

_________________________________________________________

Dr. Zakk Flash is an anarchist political writer, radical community activist, and editor of the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance (COBRA). He lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

Find more about the Central Oklahoma Black/Red Alliance at www.facebook.com/COBRACollective

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