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Wed Jan 23, 2019, 03:37 PM

The US is still not ready to look at the ugly racism against Native Americans


The US is still not ready to look at the ugly racism against Native Americans
Julian Brave NoiseCat

The standoff between students and a Native American man reveals who gets compassion, and who doesn’t

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A student from Covington Catholic high school standing in front of Native American Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips in Washington DC on 18 January. Photograph: Social Media/Reuters

By now, you’ve surely seen the video (). On the steps outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, a white teenager sporting the red cap accoutrements of the Trump campaign stands nose-to-nose with a bespectacled Native American elder singing and playing a hand drum. The teen is smirking – his expression, for me, oozes entitlement. Behind him an unruly crowd – all male, all white, many also wearing the conspicuous Maga apparel – is jeering the elder in a frenzy of Lord of the Flies privilege. (In another video, some of the boys can be seen cackling while war-whooping and making the tomahawk chop gesture popularized by sports teams with Native American mascots like the Atlanta Braves.) Against the rabble, the old man is steadfast. In the stare-down, he never breaks eye contact. He just keeps singing. Off-camera, you can hear one or two voices rising with his. You probably didn’t recognize the song the elder is singing against the fracas, but I did: it’s the anthem of the American Indian Movement. We used to gather around the drum to sing it after powwow dance practice every Thursday night at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland, California. Some say it was composed to honor the life of Raymond Yellow Thunder, an Oglala Lakota beaten to death by two white men in Gordon, Nebraska, in 1972. Our elders told us to carry forward the legacy of the men and women who sang it.


When that clip first appeared on my Twitter feed, I could not click play. As an Indian, the fear of a face-to-face encounter with a sneering white superior is deeply engrained in my psychology. I cannot watch that film and not think about the youth hockey opponent who knocked me down while yelling “Indian boy!” Or the man who accused my father and I of stealing our own car. Or the Raiders fans who yelled epithets at a group of Native dancers and me performing for a heritage month celebration at their home game. Or the dirty looks I get in many parts of this country as a brown man with a braid hanging down my back. I saw that thumbnail image and thought about the Indian agents who kidnapped and assaulted my grandmother and took her away to Catholic school. I thought about my relatives. I feared that men younger than I still believed us all to be inferior; that an elder who reminded me of uncles, cousins and so many other Native men I’ve met and loved could still be put in his place; that the songs we sing are, to the Maga youth, a laughingstock.

Many on the internet were moved as I was. But others were not. They saw, in the teens, their sons and their own adolescence. They feared that a social justice witch-hunt was afoot.
There were many ways to follow this story. They revealed less about what actually happened at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday and more about who has the power to tell the story and the biases underlying how that story is told. From opposite sides of the socioeconomic-political-cultural-racial divide, reporters and citizen journalists followed the facts in opposite directions.
We learned that the elder was a sacred pipe carrier, activist, veteran and boarding school survivor from the Omaha Nation named Nathan Phillips. We learned that he was a founder of the Native Youth Alliance who helped lead prayer walks after Standing Rock and participates in an annual gathering for Native veterans at Arlington National Cemetery. We learned that he was in town for the Indigenous Peoples March. Some of us noted that the Washington DC National Football League team name, the Redskins, is a dictionary-definition racial slur. And in later interviews, we learned that Phillips was singing to pray for the young men staring him down.

We learned that the youth was an 11th-grade student at the expensive all-boys Covington Catholic private school in Kentucky. (Upon learning this, some of us may have noted that private schools sprouted up in the south to preserve segregation.) We learned that his school has no women or people of color in authority positions. A photo has circulated of Covington Catholic basketball fans, some in black face, yelling at an African American opponent. We learned that his mother is a vice-president at Fidelity Investments. We learned that the school sent its students to the capital to participate in the anti-abortion March for Life. And after we learned many of these details, we learned the boy’s name was Nicholas Sandmann and that his family hired a PR firm to respond to the controversy.

. . . .

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/23/native-american-racism-video-covington-school-nick-sandmann

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Reply The US is still not ready to look at the ugly racism against Native Americans (Original post)
niyad Jan 23 OP
guillaumeb Jan 23 #1
niyad Jan 23 #2
guillaumeb Jan 23 #3
JCMach1 Jan 23 #5
guillaumeb Jan 23 #6
suffragette Jan 23 #4

Response to niyad (Original post)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 03:48 PM

1. The early settlers to this country nearly committed genocide on the First Peoples.

That racism was extended to the African slaves brought here. And that racism has never ever gone away. It simply goes underground at times.

When my family first moved here, I was 16. I attended a local high school, and the very first week, I was asked a few times if I was oriental. When I said no, the next question was, are you an Indian?


I have very high cheekbones, olive skin, and dark hair and eyes, and my father's mother was Cri.

People are very attuned to difference, and different looks mark one as "different". And "different", in many cases, means "less than".

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Response to guillaumeb (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 03:50 PM

2. this nation's story is an unnding saga of genocide, hatred, racism, etc., not a whole lot

of which to be proud.

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Response to niyad (Reply #2)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 03:51 PM

3. Many nations share that story.

Our challenge is to rise above that.

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Response to guillaumeb (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 05:39 PM

5. Genocide had completely obliterated my family's story

Only uncovered it doing genealogy...

I can't really claim a tribe, but I sure as hell can speak up and break the silence!

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Response to JCMach1 (Reply #5)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 08:13 PM

6. Very true.

I am lucky in that the French side of my family was in Québec in 1600, and my father's mother was a member of a fairly large group of Cri in that area.

And this genocide also broke up African families and shattered those bonds as well.

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Response to niyad (Original post)

Wed Jan 23, 2019, 05:24 PM

4. Yes and Trump has only made it worse.

From placing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office to a legal challenge to sovereignty to using Pocahontas as a slur to all of his previous comments and actions regarding casinos.

The hat being worn is a symbol of what is really meant by MAGA and the actions toward Phillips fit right in with Trump.

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