In a recent speech at Vanderbilt University, conservative commentator Michael Knowles challenged the narrative of colonialism perpetuated by leftists, defending the actions of history’s victors and civilizations. He argued that the notion of colonialism being universally oppressive, as claimed by the left, overlooks instances where it rid the world of some of the worst human rights abusers. Knowles highlighted the modern state of Israel as an example, pointing out its foundation through settlement and colonization, which, according to him, has been misrepresented by some as solely oppressive.
Knowles delved deeper into the idea that accusing nations of colonialism becomes problematic when examining history from a universal perspective. He argued that no nation could escape such accusations if history were scrutinized extensively. Drawing parallels to Adam’s existence in the Garden of Eden, Knowles highlighted that settlements and colonizers have been the founding pillars of all regimes throughout history.
Using American history as a case study, Knowles shed light on colonialist endeavors dating back to Christopher Columbus’ voyages and the controversies surrounding land acquisitions. He cited the instance of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the U.S. had unlawfully taken land from the Lakota Sioux tribe. Knowles raised thought-provoking questions about the impracticalities of rectifying historical wrongs, questioning whether compensations should be made to the Lakota or the Cheyenne, who themselves had taken the land from others.
Knowles went on to emphasize that certain acts of colonization and expansion had, in fact, conquered societies engaged in far worse practices, such as the Aztecs, who regularly performed human sacrifices. He argued that the best form of colonialism was one that instilled Christian values, favoring conquests that encouraged love for enemies over barbaric practices.
Concluding his stance, Knowles warned against an extreme anti-colonialist mindset, suggesting that Western-style conquest, despite its flaws, might be preferable to other forms of conquest. He cautioned against disregarding the positive aspects of Western colonialism, asserting that it was a better alternative when compared to other types of conquests lacking the values instilled by Christianity.