Yes, There Is Racism Against Indians in This Country

Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji), Belleville News-Democrat (Illinois), October 6, 2009

A column by Raina Kelley, a black lady, in Newsweek caught my eye this week. She wrote about the code words used to hide the unvarnished racism that seems to be permeating the American scene.

Less known in most of America, but well known to American Indians, is the covert racism that afflicts those Americans with “red skin” as opposed to black.

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And in those regions of the United States we call “Indian country,” there are few Indians who have not experienced the covert, and oftentimes overt, symptoms of racism. To many easterners coming out west to experience a close encounter of the first kind with “Indians,” it is so easy for them to slip into using the captivating term, “our Indians.” It is almost as if Indians are property, albeit human property, to be possessed by those who would observe, pity, assist or praise them as figments of a vanishing race. Indians can then be safely relegated to the role of mascots for America’s fun and games. They can then be honored for what “they used to be” not for what they are today in modern America. They become warriors, chiefs, redskins and braves, everything but human beings.

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Like Raina Kelly, many American Indians are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Like the movie that coined this phrase, it is easily said, but hard to implement. Why? America does not want to hear about Indians. They should be left in the pages of history books or in old Western movies. America is not ready for the “tame” Indian because there are still many “shoot ’em up” Western movies on the horizon and Americans do not want to destroy this false image with reality.

But let a few Indians occupy a peaceful village like Wounded Knee and the press shows up in droves. Visions of “shoot ’em up” scenes of the cavalry (FBI) and Indians flood the stories they send back to the home office. The renegades waving rifles in the air make the nightly news.

Just what is racism? Some of it is indeed hateful and meant to hurt. Other aspects of it are strictly from ignorance. “You can’t change stupid,” was in the title of a column written for Native Sun News by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, a couple of weeks ago. Liz has seen the top and the bottom of racism, not only in South Dakota but in all of America. {snip}

But how are we going to change stupid if we don’t keep trying? My weekly column on indianz.com, nativetimes.com, or on Pechanga.net, is read mostly by Indians who know Indian Country and respond accordingly. {snip}

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Let me conclude with, yes, there is racism against Indians in much of America and like the racism against blacks; it needs to be dragged out from under the rug and addressed.

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