Letter to the Editor: Why the ESD board should remove the land acknowledgement

Local Vivian Cadematori argues the ESD Board should focus on education and not on virtue-signaling.

At the last Enumclaw School Board meeting, there was a heated discussion about the Muckleshoot land acknowledgement statement that’s read at the beginning of every meeting.

I’m glad Paul Fisher had the courage to start this discussion. During my campaign, I heard from the public, over and over, how concerned they were about the division that’s occurring in our schools and society as a result of statements that divide people. They want to see policies and teaching from the school district that unify students regardless of race, ethnicity, skin color, sexual orientation, etc.

Although on its surface, the land acknowledgement is a statement of fact, if you listened those in favor of it, it’s obvious it represents much more. It’s an acknowledgement at every Board meeting of the atrocities that were committed in the past against Native American people and a condemnation of those who were responsible.

Those who supported the removal of the acknowledgement agree that our history is full of instances where humans have treated others terribly. There have been oppressors and there have been the oppressed. But it’s important to move forward and live in the present. Victimhood doesn’t help anyone — it paralyzes individuals and creates resentment and anger. ESD’s main job is to educate children, period. Education is the great equalizer and is the best way to help a person escape the past and create a successful life.

Thomas Sowell, a 94 year-old African-American, was not only one of the country’s top economists, but a thoughtful philosopher as well. His thoughts are relevant here:

“The past may be many things, but it is clearly irrevocable. Its sins can no more be purged than its achievements can be expunged. Those who suffered in centuries past are as much beyond our help as those who sinned are beyond our retribution.”

“Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

Isn’t the role of educators to promote an atmosphere where all children are given opportunities to thrive, without judgment for past actions? Why is it so important that ESD divide people? Why would we call certain groups of people oppressors now when they weren’t responsible for past actions. And why would some students be considered oppressed simply because of their ethnicity, for example, when they weren’t even alive.

One last story: One of the other shameful periods in our history was the Japanese internment camps in our backyard. My sister and I once visited the Bonsai/Internment exhibit, and we met two Japanese American women who told us their father was interred. We asked about his experience and they said he never wanted to talk about it. He told them that he didn’t want the camp to define him. He wanted to put aside the bitterness and rebuild his life. When all was done, he said he was an American.

Vivian Cadematori