You remember the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? This one was taken at a “Teabagger” rally and clearly says: ASSHOLE!
Tag Archives: bigotry
Earlier today I visited my local barbershop in suburban Dallas. It’s literally the quintessential small-town barbershop with a candy-stripe barber’s pole out front and an ancient Coca Cola vending machine inside. The two full-time barbers are as folksy as they are friendly; subdued and quietly professional. But, I prefer it to an overpriced salon any day. A television sits atop the vending machine, and the barbers frequently have it turned on to old programs. I often wonder if they can’t get anything except TV Land. Today I saw the end of a “Have Gun, Will Travel” episode. That was even before my time! I busied myself with a magazine, however, and didn’t pay attention to it. I forgot the title of the next show that came on – although it may have been another episode of the same series – but I distinctly remember a line from one of the characters; a blonde Caucasian woman screaming something about “all Indians are savages.” I could forgive the label, considering the time in which that show was produced; just like I could forgive Theodore Roosevelt (one of my favorite presidents) for his Eurocentric views. He was a product of his time. We all are.
Yesterday, however, I was cruising through my slew of emails and noticed one with the word “Comanche” in the title; a post someone had made on one of the many Linked In groups to which I belong. He was publicizing his recently-published book about a Civil War veteran returning home in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. What does the Comanche Indian nation have to do with that? I have no idea. But, the blurb stated upfront that the Comanches were “fierce and savage fighters.” There’s that word again – “savage.” Savage as in “noble savage,” as in A Man Called Horse savage, but not Dances with Wolves savage. I had to look at the email date again – July 9, 2012. If I could somehow earn a dollar every time I read about Indians who were “fierce” and “savage,” I could pay off my student loans.
“Savage,” along with “fierce,” always finds its way into characterizations of Indigenous Americans. It’s like you can’t describe the Pacific Ocean without using the word “deep” at some point in the verbiage. Rarely, I’ve noticed, do I see such terms as “advanced,” “agrarian,” or “intellectual” in conjunction with Native Americans. They’re always “fierce,” “wild” and, of course, “savage.” Even contemporary writers can’t seem to get away from those words. It’s part of the vernacular; like a separate dictionary was composed by the Euro-Christian scribes a century ago to describe Indians when writing about them. I reach for a 30-something-year-old thesaurus when I want to find different adjectives. Some writers of the western genre clearly reach for that stock encyclopedia of stereotypical definitions.
In the “Old West,” Native Americans are never “people;” they’re “Indians,” or “natives.” They’re grouped into “tribes,” instead of “nations,” or “communities.” They still live in “tipis,” not “houses,” or any kind of stable structures. They wear “animals skins,” not “clothes.” They have “medicine men,” not “doctors,” or “physicians.” They tell “stories,” but they don’t relay facts. They worship the sun and the moon, but they don’t seem to understand their machinations. The older ones can offer sage advice about life’s little mysteries, but overall, none of them comprehend the greater purpose of humanity.
I shouldn’t be surprised. What can we expect from non-Indian writers? I posted a comment to that one writer’s statement, remarking about such stereotypes. He came back saying his book had nothing to do with Native Americans. Huh? Then, why the Comanche Indian correlation? Oh, I get it! The White Civil War soldier returning home had become as “fierce” and “savage” as an Indian because the Negro people were now free. I guess. It still doesn’t make sense. It’s almost not worth the trouble even to discuss it – almost.
Believe me when I say I can forgive the stereotypes of 1950’s era television. They didn’t know better back then. But now? We still have that now? In the 21st century? That only makes me savagely and fiercely angry! Oh, God! Now, I owe myself two dollars.
Imagine – if you can – there are two professional sports teams, the Washington Niggers and the Houston Hebes. And, they are meeting to play a game; football, basketball, whatever. And, outside of the arena, large numbers of African and Jewish American citizens have gathered to protest against the teams simply because of their names. Meanwhile, fans of both teams – many of whom may be part Black or Jewish themselves – parade into the stadium dismissing the protesters by saying things like: ‘It’s just a game.’ ‘Don’t take it so seriously.’ ‘You people are so sensitive.’
This is taking for granted, of course, that any sports team could get away with names like those in these times. But, if you can imagine the uproar that would cause, then you can understand how Native Americans feel about the Washington Redskins football team.
The term “redskin” is as vile and demeaning as any other racial slur; one created by early English settlers to describe the native peoples, a direct reference to the latter group’s often-ruddy complexion. Yet, the Washington Redskins insist they will not change their name and that any such attempt is just political correctness run amok.
Well, there is a stark difference between political correctness and factual correctness. For example, it’s not politically correct to say Christopher Columbus did not discover America. It’s factually correct. The Western Hemisphere wasn’t virgin land, devoid of people, when Columbus arrived. He had wanted to find a western route to India to gain an advantage in the silk and spice trades. His own country, Italy, refused to help him; so he turned to Spain. Spain’s Queen Isabella consented and provided him with financing, ships, and supplies. When he made landfall, he thought he’d reached the east coast of India and thus, called the people he saw Indians.
But, if you ask the average American citizen who discovered America, Columbus’s name is almost always mentioned. In fact, in his 1997 book The Perfect Storm, author Sebastian Junger begins one particular paragraph with the statement, “Almost as soon as the New World was discovered, Europeans were fishing it.” And, for many years, Italian-Americans have hailed Columbus as a cultural hero who paved the way for future generations, even though Columbus wasn’t on a mission from Italy in the first place, and people didn’t begin emigrating from Italy en masse until the 1880’s.
If American history has acknowledged the presence of people here before Europeans, it has done so begrudgingly and then, viewed them as nomadic bands of Neanderthal-like beings with no true sense of community or family. In reality, most had established large, complex societies and spent more time interacting on peaceful, social levels than they did fighting. Yet, images of “wild Indians” or, at best, “the noble savage,” persist, both in so-called historical texts and in popular literature.
Whenever I do mention the plight of Native Americans, the most common response is, “What can be done about it now?” Well, the simplest answer is, of course, nothing. But, then again, nothing can ever be done about past events, can it? But, let me take that question, ‘What can be done about it now?’, and apply it to other tragedies.
Take Pearl Harbor, for example. Sad as it was, shouldn’t the U.S. Navy have known better than to place so many of its warships in such close proximity to one another? Besides, what’s left of the U.S.S. Arizona is a rusting shell of a vessel that is still leaking oil. If its hull shatters, millions of gallons of oil could pour into the ocean, creating an environmental disaster. Shouldn’t that be a far more pressing concern than honoring a bunch of dead sailors?
What about the European holocaust of Word War II, in which over six million Jews were systematically massacred by the Nazi regime? Notice it’s always referred to as ‘The Holocaust,’ as if no other similar genocidal event has ever occurred. The decimation of the Western Hemisphere’s indigenous peoples was also a deliberate, concerted undertaking by Europeans, especially here in North America. One specific example concerns Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War, Lincoln directed the U.S. Army to hang over a hundred Indians per day in the western states. He then limited the number of daily hangings to twenty-eight, but only because the bodies were piling up too fast. Yet, there are no memorials or museums in this country acknowledging those horrors.
Let me come closer in time: the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Only two men were responsible for that act, as far as we know; two devout Christians, two former soldiers with a passionate hate for the U.S. government. Both were caught and one is now dead. So, doesn’t that mean justice has already been served? And, there’s no need for a memorial? Ironically, Oklahoma is where many Native Americans were forcibly isolated at the end of the 19th century to live out their lives in despair and poverty.
Let me come even closer: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. But, as horrific as it was, does this mean we’ll be reliving that nightmare every September 11 from now on, just like Pearl Harbor? Shouldn’t our government have realized sooner that foreigners with expired visas could pose a security threat? And, why have airlines only recently taken greater safety precautions? Now a memorial is being erected on the site of the World Trade Center. Some call it hallowed ground. Hallowed ground! They were office buildings, not homes or religious centers. White settlers destroyed thousands of Native American communities across this continent, believing such destruction was necessary and righteous.
Why do we keep dredging up these awful memories? Aren’t we supposed to let these things go and move forward with our lives? Is that how we should remember these events? Is that how we want future generations to look at them? Like trite insults.
Well essentially, that’s how this nation regards the Native American experience. If building memorials means resurrecting the past to do something about it, then it’s pointless. Jorge Santayana, the Spanish novelist and poet, once warned of such ignorance by saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We are civilized and intelligent enough to acknowledge the injustices done to our native peoples without dismissing them or calling them names. It’s not an issue of political correctness. And, it’s not a case of being too sensitive. It’s simply a matter of respect.
“During the conversation, Ms. Brunstetter said her husband was the architect of Amendment 1, and one of the reasons he wrote it was to protect the Caucasian race. She said Caucasians or whites created this country. We wrote the Constitution. This is about protecting the Constitution. There already is a law on the books against same-sex marriage, but this protects the Constitution from activist judges.”
– Chad Nance, a freelance journalist in Winston-Salem, NC, paraphrasing a comment made by Jodi Brunstetter, wife of North Carolina State Sen. Peter Brunstetter, about North Carolina’s “Amendment One,” which would outlaw same-sex marriage in the state.
Jodi Brunstetter conceded using the word “Caucasian,” but now says she was misquoted. Wow – even the spouses of politicians have learned how to play the victim!
Every time I hear of a hate crime committed in the U.S. I’m as angered as I am frustrated. Even after 2 centuries of civil rights activism and legislation, occasionally an incident occurs that just smacks of blatant racism and disrespect. The Trayvon Martin case in Florida has captured the nation’s attention recently, but not because the alleged perpetrator is a self-proclaimed White supremacist. The lackluster reaction from the local police is what aggravated the victim’s family. But, there are other more glaring cases of racist activity, often at the hands of people we’re supposed to trust. One such recent event comes out of Rapid City, South Dakota.
In August 2011, Vernon Traversie, a 68-year-old member and resident of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, suffered a heart attack while at the Heart Doctors office in Rapid City. They immediately sent him a few blocks away to Rapid City Regional Hospital for emergency surgery. Traversie, who is blind, said, “I was supposed to have emergency surgery on my heart, but they (the hospital) had scheduling problems. Every night they would prep me for surgery which went on for four or five days. Every night they would shave my chest and stomach and wouldn’t feed me.”
Traversie said he didn’t even know what was done to him until a RCRH employee came into his room and advised him to have pictures taken of his torso as soon as he got home. He says she told him that she could not testify for him, but that her conscience got the better of her and she didn’t agree with what they did to him.
Last Real Indians, a site dedicated to raising awareness of Native American issues, asked Joyce Anderson, a retired surgical nurse from Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, AR, to view a photograph of Traversie’s injuries. “It appears the area under the incision was done with a scalpel for drainage of the incision,” Anderson says. “The other wounds seem to be necrotic, meaning the tissue is dead. This could indicate the wounds were burned into his skin.”
Traversie has no resources for an attorney but did say council member, Ryman Lebeau, and Tribal Chairman Kevin Keckler are trying to get an attorney for him. “Those Ks are causing me pain still,” he adds, noting that “not all White people are like this.” Still, he emphasizes, “And, I have to live with that on my stomach the rest of my life.”
Here is a video Traversie made detailing his experiences at the hospital.
This Facebook page also has been established to help push for a legal resolution to the matter.
Since this appears to be a hate crime, a federal inquiry may be warranted, which means the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder could be drawn into the matter – just as with the Trayvon Martin case. Since Traversie also is blind and 68, charges for abuse of a disabled and elderly individual also could apply. All the legislation and affirmative action programs won’t eliminate bigotry and racial prejudice. But, in the current environment, no one has to tolerate it anymore. Native Americans and Hispanics, especially, have been too conciliatory over the years. Whenever incidents like this occur, we can’t just get upset – we need to get mad!
Conservative commentator and author Michelle Malkin – a darker, shorter, but much more attractive version of Ann Coulter – apparently posted the item above to “Twitchy,” her Twitter-based project with the following caption:
“Recognize these two people? If you don’t we’ll help you out. The man on the left is George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering the boy on the right, Trayvon Martin. The mainstream media won’t show you these two photos because they convey a message that no one else wants to take into consideration.”
There is one glaring error: the “boy on the right” is not Trayvon Martin. Who he is, I don’t know and I’m not certain if Malkin herself composed the poster. Twitchy has since retracted their “mistake,” an honorable admission in a business that doesn’t like to let truth get in the way of hyperbole. This is not the first time Malkin has made outrageous statements.
Like any good right-wing American, she supported Bill Clinton’s 1998 impeachment trial and thought the U.S. Supreme Court got it right in Bush v. Gore. But, she criticized former Congressman Dennis Kucinich for wanting to impeach Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2007. You know Dick Cheney – the man who used every excuse under the sun to avoid the military draft, then sent thousands of real heroes into a war based on lies. But, like most conservatives, Malkin feels lying about a tryst with a two-bit overweight intern is worst than lying about a war. Not surprisingly, Malkin waded into the Obama “birther” controversy; first advising conspiracy theorists to approach the issue with caution, but then saying they have a legitimate concern.
Malkin has had her moments of clarity. In 2007, she criticized the New York Times for not covering the Medal of Honor ceremony for Lte. Michael P. Murphy, a Long Island native and Navy SEAL who had been killed in Afghanistan two years earlier. Murphy was the first Navy SEAL since the Vietnam War to receive the honor and the first in the current War on Terror. In 2008, she rightfully dubbed the Bush Administration as “illegal alien-enabling” and the banking industry as “crime-enabling.” But then, she threw “ethnic lobbyists” into the same mix. “Ethnic lobbyists?” That could only mean Negroes and Mexicans who’ve historically been the subject of unfair housing and banking practices.
As a first generation Filipino – American, Malkin should know a thing or two about race relations in America. Like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Malkin is a rare (token) Asian in the Caucasian-dominated Republican Party. Christianized to look more Americanized and therefore, made more palatable to a base that acts as if bigotry is akin to Black slavery itself – it disappeared decades ago, and any inclination of its presence is just an overreaction from bitter, fragile souls. I don’t know what Malkin’s personal experiences are with racism, but if she’s like many non-White people in this country, she’s either fortunate never to have endured much of it, or floats in some sort of bubble of denial. I’ve met both types.
Regardless, the picture above is another example of the covert racism of the ultra-conservative crowd. It intimates that crime always has a dark complexion. I can’t say if Malkin is directly responsible for its presence on her web site. But, it’s still a site she established, and ultimately, she bears some accountability. I wouldn’t expect her to apologize; extremists – conservative or liberal – rarely admit they’re wrong.