Tag Archives: first nations

The Racialicious Links Roundup 3.21.13

The daughter of suburban Sugar Land, Texas, played the cello. Since the second grade, she said, she dreamed of carrying on the family tradition by joining her sister and father among the ranks of University of Texas at Austin alumni.

And the moment for her to lend her name to the lawsuit might never be riper: The Supreme Court has seated its most conservative bench since the 1930s. The Court is expected to issue a decision any week now in what is considered one of the most important civil rights cases in years.

On a YouTube video posted by Edward Blum, a 1973 University of Texas graduate whose nonprofit organization is bankrolling the lawsuit, she is soft-spoken, her strawberry blond hair tucked behind one ear. Not even a swipe of lip gloss adorns her girlish face.

“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” she says. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”

It’s a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that’s been quoted over and over again.

Except there’s a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn’t really true.

“Many officers feel pressure to meet their numbers to get the rewards that their commanding officer is giving out,” says John Eterno, a former police captain and co-author of The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation. But if an officer’s union delegate is also pushing the numbers, “this puts inordinate pressure on officers, getting it from the top down and getting it from the union.”

The plaintiffs in the Floyd case allege that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy results in unconstitutional stops based on racial-profiling. The department’s emphasis on bringing in arrest and summons numbers has caused officers to carry out suspicion-less stops in communities of color.

As Polanco explained in court today, his superiors would often push him to carry out this specific number of summons and arrest stops per month:  ”20-and-1, they were very clear, it’s non-negotiable, you’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna become a Pizza Hut delivery man.”

“There’s always been some pressure to get arrests and summonses,” says Eterno. “But now it’s become the overwhelming management style of the department. It has become a numbers game. They have lost the ability to see that communities are dissatisfied with this type of policing, especially minority communities. They are the ones being overly burdened for doing the same sorts of things that kids in middle-class neighborhoods are doing—only they’re getting records because officers have to make these arrests.”

When asked for comment, Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said: “The PBA has been consistently and firmly opposed to quotas for police activities including arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks. These are all effective tools for maintaining order when they are left to the discretion of individual police officers but become problematic when officers are forced to meet quotas. This union has sought and obtained changes to state law making quotas for all police activities illegal. We have sued and forced an individual commanding officer to stop the use of illegal quotas and will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our opposition to police activity quotas.”

Schools on Minnesota’s American Indian reservations are already suffering from the across-the-board budget cuts of the federal sequester, taking a hit months before the rest of the country’s classrooms will feel the effects of reduced funding.

The White Earth Reservation could cut the school year short at its federally funded tribal school.

The Red Lake School District, where the high school was the site of a shooting that left seven people dead in 2005, has scaled back its security staff.

And school officials on reservations across the state have already slashed this year’s budgets in antici­pation of sequester cuts, packing more students in classrooms, trimming class offerings and letting vacant jobs go unfilled.

“There’s a real sense of frustration for everybody,” Red Lake Superintendent Steve Wymore said.

The cuts come as tribal schools have begun making strides against their historically low graduation rates. For the class of 2012, graduate rates for American Indians rose 3 points — the first sizable increase in years. Typically in Minnesota, 45 percent of American Indian students earn a high school diploma in four years. The statewide graduation rate for all students is 87 percent.

For instance, in She’s Gotta Have It, which tells the story of Nola Darling, a young, free, non-monogamous serial dater, the lesbian character, Opal, is portrayed as aggressive, predatory, thirsty, persuasive and dismissive. When I initially watched the film, I was just excited to see a black lesbian character in a film that was released in 1986. After giving it more thought, though, I couldn’t help but think about how stereotypical and problematic her portrayal is. A lot of people tend to believe that lesbians are just man-hating, girlfriend-stealing, desperate women who can’t wait to perform cunnilingus on every woman walking by them. Opal seems to fit that bill.

Eighteen years later Lee released She Hate Me, starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington and Dania Ramirez. The film features Washington’s and Ramirez’s characters in a very complex lesbian relationship that ends up including Mackie’s character. I don’t even want to touch on the farfetched storyline of Mackie’s character becoming a lesbian-pumping, baby-making machine (the entire film is nothing short of bizarre); what kills me the most is that Lee couldn’t depict a healthy and happy lesbian relationship without a man’s penis in the picture.

As a queer woman of color, I have had to put up with a lot of disappointing and lackluster representations of women who love women. I understand that within the community there are lots of different kinds of lesbians, but I believe it’s important to call out problems when we see them, even if we’re calling out our heroes or those who have done well in offering other kinds of authentic representations. That’s how we learn from each other and hopefully grow as a society. The more we educate one another about what it means to live our specific and complex lives, the more we begin to break down barriers and understand one another. I believe that it is important for us to tell our own stories. It’s wonderful to have allies and people who support our community and causes, but if they’re only walking beside us and not with us, they can never accurately tell our stories.

A recent telephone survey sponsored by the CRRF, a federal agency, found that just 59 percent of English Canadians have a positive perception of aboriginals, down from 68 percent last year.

Although immigrants tend to have more positive attitudes than the general population, 25 percent of both the immigrant and non-immigrant respondents reported having low trust of aboriginals.

“The survey results tell us we all need to make greater efforts to identify how negative perceptions develop and what can be done to address them,” says Rubin Friedman, the CRRF’s principal operating officer.

“Over the years, we have had anecdotal reports of how quickly some immigrants picked up negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Peoples in cities where they live in close proximity to each other,” he says.

In Brittney Griner, Basketball Star, Helps Redefine Beauty, Guy Trebay highlights the ways in which the dominant narrative of Griner imagine her as not baller, as not student-athlete, but as signifier of gender and sexuality.

Feminine beauty ideals have shifted with amazing velocity over the last several decades, in no realm more starkly than sports. Muscular athleticism of a sort that once raised eyebrows is now commonplace. Partly this can be credited to the presence on the sports scene of Amazonian wonders like the Williams sisters, statuesque goddesses like Maria Sharapova, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, sinewy running machines like Paula Radcliffe or thick-thighed soccer dynamos like Mia Hamm.

While celebrating her for offering an alternative feminine and aesthetic, the media narrative of course represented her in ways limited to female athletes—she was confined by the stereotype of women athletes. Focusing on her body, and how she meshes with today’s beauty stands, all while defining her “as a tomeboy” the public inscription of Grinner did little to challenge the image of female athletes. In purportedly breaking down the feminine box that female athletes are confined to within sports cultures, Griner provided an opportunity, yet as we see the opportunity is still defined through feminine ideals and sexual appeal to men.

The limited national attention afforded to Griner irrespective of her dominance and her team’s success reflects the profound ways that her emergence has not ushered in a new moment for women’s sports. Unable to appeal to male viewers, to fulfill the expectations of femininity and sexuality, Griner has remained on outside the already infrequent media narrative of women’s sports. Even though there are multiple networks dedicated to sport, even though there are magazines, countless websites, and a host of other forms of social networking dedicated to sports, there are few places for female athletes, much less black female athletes. Studies have demonstrated that less than 10 percent (3-8 percent) of all sports coverage within national and local highlight packages focuses on women’s sports.

Is “Queen Chief Warhorse” Native? And Who Gets To Decide?

by Guest Contributor Deb Reese, originally published at American Indians in Children’s Literature

Yesterday (May 2nd, 2012), Latoya Peterson of Racialicious published my post about “Queen Chief Warhorse” at her site. In it I questioned the use of “Queen.” Latoya also posted an essay by Gyasi Ross and one of her own. The three generated many comments. Some people question the import of federal recognition. Some people see the discussion as racist. This is my response to that conversation.

In Part One (below), I return to the remarks made by “Queen Chief Warhorse” that night in New Orleans. Here’s the video, and beneath it are her remarks, followed by my thoughts (then and now) about what she said. In Part Two, I address some of the Latoya’s questions.

PART ONE

Warhorse:

“All glory go to the Creator. It’s an honor to be here today, but I love the theme: America Healing. But first, let’s think about something. Where did America come from? Have it always been America? Or was it just created to be America? Who are the real Americans? America keep changing and changing and changing.”

Debbie’s response:
With her “let’s think about something,” she asked the audience to hit the pause button and be critical thinkers. That’s a good thing for any speaker to do.

I invite you (and her) to think critically about her question “Who are the real Americans?” It is factually incorrect for her to call the Indigenous peoples of this land Americans. When Europeans arrived here, they entered into diplomatic negotiations with leaders of Indigenous nations. The outcome of those negotiations were treaties, just like the treaties the US makes today with nations around the world. They didn’t make treaties with “First Americans.” They made treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations. None of them were called “America” and their citizens didn’t call themselves “Americans.” (If you’re interested in treaties, you can read some of them online, but I urge you to get the two-volume set, Documents of American Indian Diplomacy, edited by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Raymond J. DeMallie. It is more comprehensive and it provides context for reading the treaties.)

We were, and are, sovereign nations. Categorizing us beneath the multicultural umbrella obscures our status as sovereign nations and leads people to think that we want to be Americans, just like everybody else. In some ways we do, and some ways we don’t. For the most part, that multicultural umbrella is about people of color. We (Indigenous peoples) might be people of color, but we are, first and foremost, citizens of sovereign nations. Some of us look the way people think Indians should look, but some of us don’t. Some of us look like we ought to be called “African American” instead, and some of us look White. What we look like doesn’t matter.

Some might think that the “we are not people of color” statement is racist, I hope you see it isn’t about race. It is about sovereignty. Continue reading

Quoted: Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody

The Root: The experience of having your Miss Navajo Nation reign challenged calls to mind the debate over the Cherokee Freedmen. Is this a common issue across the Native community, of African-Native Americans having trouble finding acceptance?

Radmilla Cody: I grew up having to deal with racism and prejudices on both the Navajo and the black sides, and when I ran for Miss Navajo Nation, that especially brought out a lot of curiosity in people. It’s something that we’re still having to address as black Natives, still having to prove ourselves in some way or another, because at the end of the day, it all falls back to what people think a Native American should look like.

But there’s been many times when people have said to me, “Oh, my great-great-grandmother was an Indian.” I’ll ask them if they know what tribe, and they don’t. It’s very important because in order to be acknowledged as a tribal member, you have to be enrolled. So I can see where Native people are protective about defining who’s a tribal member, and are questioning of people claiming Native ancestry.

TR: Were you surprised by the backlash that you received?

RC: I wasn’t surprised. I knew it was going to happen. Right before I left to go to compete in the pageant, my grandmother sat down with me. She said to me, “My child, I just want you to know that there are going to be some people who are not going to be accepting of this.”

Growing up, I was taunted at school with racial slurs and would come home in tears. My grandmother would be there, waiting to console me. She always said, “Let ‘em talk. You are a Navajo woman. This is your land. This is how I raised you. You be proud of who you are.” Every time, that’s what she would say.

So this day before the pageant, when she cautioned me about people who wouldn’t be accepting of me participating, I turned around and told her, “Let ‘em talk, Grandma. I’m a proud Navajo woman, remember?” She had a big smile on her face. I think she felt content that I was ready for what I was going to be challenged with.

TR: Do you have any connection to African-American culture and community?

RC: I spent more time in the Navajo community growing up because my grandmother raised me. When I would come into town in Flagstaff, Ariz., to see my mom, who had black friends, and my dad’s relatives, I was in the black community more. I went to high school in Flagstaff, and one day a friend was wearing a T-shirt with a big “X” on it. I said, “That’s cool! I should get one that says ‘R’ for Radmilla!” I didn’t know anything about Malcolm X. He told me to join the black student organization. I had a lot to educate myself about and embrace, because I come from two beautiful cultures.

In the black community I also had my challenges. I was always told, “You think you’re cute because you got that long, fine hair,” and I would have to stand up for my Navajo side because of stereotypes placed upon the Navajo. When I’d go back to the Navajo community, I would have to stand up for my black side because of stereotypes.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Image credit: unieketrouwringen.nl

Wopajo

by Guest Contributor Brandann R. Hill-Mann ( OuyangDan)


I grew up a happy, well loved child. I spent my summers resisting shoes and with water-logged skin, insisting I wasn’t cold, even when my lips were purple. My world was a moose’s walk from Canada where I straddled two worlds, never knowing it because I was blissfully unaware until I was much older that I was any different than the other people around me.

One world was that of my Mother’s family. Just off of a Reservation, humid and sweltering in the summer and man-high piles of snow and ice in the winter. We built houses with doors on the second floor, and two mailboxes to make sure you could reach one in the winter. A Northern Michigan Tribe with roots shared in Southern Canada’s First Nations, we were just emerging from that place where it was embarrassing to be ‘injun’. A Native fishing family, we were not exactly well off, but we had floors in our houses and indoor plumbing in an area where owning your own septic system was a sign of great privilege. My grandparents were well respected in our community for being fair and honest, if my Grandfather had a bit of a reputation for a temper if you were trying to be unfair to someone less fortunate than he was.

My mom met my dad when they were very young, and the stories varied depending on who did the telling – and I can’t ask him anymore since he’s been passed away ten years, but I know that my mom was about ten or so. She was about thirteen when they snuck smokes together, and I don’t know how old they were when they realized that they were dating. I do know that they spent about a year apart after my mom graduated high school, and when she showed up with me in her arms, my dad didn’t flinch, and adopted me straight away. Biological or adopted, I was fathered by a white man of European descent.

My Dad’s family was another world. His parents were first generation immigrants — depending on who did the defining — with my grandfather an unexpected surprise to his parents who had just immigrated from Italy, and my grandmother of Dutch parentage. My dad grew up in a privileged white world to a smart businessman of a father who ran a fair business in beer distribution. Every one owed my grandfather,or Papa Joe, a favor at one point or another, even if he had a bit of a temper if you were trying to be unfair. This family loved and doted on me, and I never knew that I was not of their blood until I was a much older child in need of a full medical history. My grandfather even created a unique nickname for me: wopajo. Continue reading

Canada’s swine flu shame

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Comment is Free


For Canada’s First Nations communities, being denied our basic and fundamental human rights is, sadly, not at all a surprise. So after last week’s report that the Canadian government had postponed the delivery of much-needed alcohol-based hand sanitisers to reserve communities with massive outbreaks of the swine flu virus out of apparent “fear” of theft driven by alcoholism in the community, I stopped to think about it for a second. “Same old stupid government perpetuating the colonisation of our people,” I thought. But there’s more going on here that needs to be addressed.

Let’s review the facts. In the two and a half weeks that the government deliberated over whether to send hand sanitiser to reserve communities, this is what happened:

    • More swine flu cases developed

    • Chiefs, community leaders, nurses and community health representatives scrambled to deal with the escalating outbreak without help from a non-responsive government

    • Families, children, elders and community members in these areas had no choice but to wait and see if they were going to get any type of diagnosis or care as conditions worsened

    • The wider Canadian population heard occasional reports of the virus developing more in First Nations communities but not enough to warrant a national outpouring of support.

Continue reading

Racist names, Racist Places

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Savage. Squaw. Indian. Would we all agree that these are immensely derogatory names that should not be, in this day and age, still used to geographically locate places? Or even people, for that matter?

From the varying answers I’ve received when posing this question, it all really depends on who you ask and what it’s for. Percie Sacobie from the Maliseet Nation in New Brunswick, is currently lobbying the city council of St. Mary’s to change the name of “Savage Island”, located seven kilometres west of Fredericton, to something less demeaning to the Wolastoqiyik people.

He went to city council with historical documentation of its origin, and the full support of the Maliseet chiefs from Oromocto, Kingsclear, Tobique, Woodstock, Madawaska and St. Mary’s First Nations, only to be told that he has to submit some sort of formal application process, and maybe, just maybe, they might consider changing it.

The Wolastoqiyik people are recorded to have used Indian (as it’s locally referred to) or Savage Island as far back as 1762, when Surveyor General Charles Morris described it as “a place where the Maliseets held their annual council.” It was a place where disputes were settled and hunting grounds allotted to each family before they began their summer hunts.

Percie Sacobie is suggesting the island’s name be changed to “Eqpahak Island”, which means “at head of tide on river or inlet.”

This is quite a similar story to a recent number of name change requests, or challenges to the history of the seemingly racist names places have been given. In December 2000, the province of British Columbia passed legislation that removed the word “Squaw” from all public establishments where the word is used. Although the act of carrying out this legislation has been less than desirable, British Columbia followed suit from Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and the Yukon, as well as a number of U.S. states who also passed similar legislation.

Yet there are some people who contest that “squaw” isn’t even an offensive word. They claim that this was an honorable word for women, before it was twisted around to mean something racist and degrading by the colonizers. Even if the word were ever to be reclaimed, it has certainly been tainted for good by its misuse. Continue reading

Confrontations, Indian Villages, and the start of Black History Month

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Okay, so I’ll be honest, my night didn’t really start off too well. Waiting for the streetcar to come so I can go check out the much anticipated photo exhibit for “Prom Night in Mississippi” I see this gem of a display in a popular Queen West shoe store right across the street:

Between debating on going inside to voice my annoyance and offense, or hopping the fast approaching streetcar on this bitterly cold night and making my opinions heard later, I chose to go inside, and become angrier by the second as I make my way over there. Who the hell do they think they are? I’m probably like the tenth person who complained, I mean this is Toronto, for heaven’s sake!

“Excuse me, I am extremely offended by the “Indian” village display at the front of the store, can I speak to the manager?” I ask.

“Thank goodness you said something! No, he’s not here, but yeah, I said something and since I’m just an employee, it didn’t change.” she replies.

Turns out the company making the moccasins, mukluks, and boots on display is called Laurentian Chiefs, and she proceeds to tell me how they are actually from a reserve in Quebec (although I still have yet to confirm all the details of who this company really is).

“So does Laurentian Chiefs mandate the store to put on a display like that?”  I continue.

“No, my boss just went out and bought the stuff.” she says.

Well that’s just great, especially considering all the amazingly gifted (and popular!) Native fashion designers, photographers, artists, and countless others in Toronto who could have easily given them some better guidance on how to put together a more realistic and ethical display.  There are more than 60 000 Aboriginal people who live in this city. And apparently, I’m the first person who has said anything about it.

After collecting said manager’s info and being assured my comments would be passed along, I go back outside to wait for another streetcar, when a group of young Native women come along and also take notice of the display.

“That’s just racist, man.” one of them says. Continue reading

Native Land, Youth, and The Future

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Much of what people know about historic Native issues has to do with land on some level. Indeed, much of what we are about today has to do with our land also. Our Mother Earth is the ultimate living entity, something that sustains life and guides us as a people. They say that without our land, we are nothing.

Nowadays, the news that is frequently dispelled from our communities if you are involved in any left-learning circles are about things like land claims, environmental degradation and destruction, and the suffering and plight of our people as a result of our Mother Earth being taken away from us. While this is all true and essential to acknowledge that we need land for the people, we also need people for the land. I know for myself that whenever I enter an activist space of some sort, I’m constantly being asked about whatever land struggle that is currently going on in some Native community, to which I’ll often reply “I work in sexual and reproductive health. Do you know the latest statistic on AIDS in Aboriginal communities?”

People ask me this I think for maybe a few stereotypical reasons (like they think that we all know everything about each other and send smoke signals the other way to find out), but mostly because it would appear that these are very key issues for us to be involved in, and in reality, we do need this place for the prophecies of our next 7 generations to come true. While I am still a learner when it comes to subjects like environmental justice and food sustainability, I know I cannot separate myself from my community whatsoever, and these are the simultaneous realities we must deal with when even discussing things like sexuality and violence prevention in our communities. I have to be informed.

We cannot pit one issue on top of the other as being more pressing; it’s all affecting us somehow. Continue reading