No One Should Be Nonchalant About Native Lives
Roughly 5 million Native people live in the United States, and yet even during November’s Native American Heritage Month, people do not acknowledge Native lives.
While many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, many American Indians mark another Day of Mourning.
The eager shoppers who storm the halls of malls for Black Friday deals may not know, or care, that the Friday after Thanksgiving is Native American Heritage Day.
Taken together, the jeering juxtaposition displays the coldest extremes — of a cruel and careless climate — in a country that has advanced but hasn’t changed.
America has a pervasive and persistent nonchalance about Native lives.
This nonchalance is one of America’s oldest ones, and it has made indigenous people either — near last or almost first in the worst.
The needed concern for the most unnatural challenges that beset Native people is spotty.
Too often, Native people are off the intersecting grids of concern, and the spotlights that could quickly focus America’s flighty eyes are grimly dim.
One eye-opening, underreported, and sad fact is in police violence against Native people. Police violence isn’t Black and white.
Why aren’t more people talking about that specifically?
With the concerns Native Americans have, some of us don’t know, and some of us don’t care to know.
But reversing America’s perverse narratives and its longtime nastiness against Native people is necessary.
America’s hideous and heinous hypocrisy with Native people helps to continue other hypocrisies — big and small.
For a just society, America must make life right for Native people.
Native leaders are clear about what they want.
The Native American Rights Fund has 5 priorities which include Existence, Natural Resources, Human Rights, Accountability, and Indian Law/Issue Education.
In February 2018, President Jefferson Keel, of the National Congress of American Indians said Trump’s infrastructure bill must include the priorities of Native communities.
The US government has also paid numerous financial settlements to Native people and tribes.
But some American Indians have refused the payments. They say the land theft was one of the greatest harms, and they want the US to honor the treaties.
Besides that, America pays no attention to the other ways it harms Natives.
Under the hashtag #DearNonNatives, Native people also say what they want.
They want non-Natives to stop lying about history.
They want non-Natives to stop appropriating their culture.
They want non-Natives to stop stereotyping them, and they want non-Natives to stop commercializing them to sell products.
Our nation’s capital is not a good example. The name of the D.C. football team is a slur for Native people. The fans don’t care; they cheer, and the players and owners shrug their shoulders as they hop, skip, and jump to the bank.
Recently, that football team with a name many consider racist, signed a player accused twice of domestic violence. The team adding the accused player rightly upsets people.
But is anyone surprised? Injustice breeds injustice.
America automates many of us with the scary ability to take part in, and overlook the dehumanization and marginalization of people.
Anyone can cooperate with corrupt systems. Without action, even our awareness can degrade into a pitiful nonchalance.
True solidarity is a start.
Multiple forms of oppression can besiege people. All the systems can work together, and every day in America it’s — all systems go.
Not every system of oppression is the same, but every unjust system should matter. If we want all lives to matter, then all oppression has to matter.
That could be a reason all lives don’t matter because all forms of oppression don’t matter.
Even marginalized people can afflict a particular pain on other marginalized people, especially when society values one more than the other.
The ability to have your pain be so prominently above others who may suffer the same or more — isn’t a person’s fault, but it can perpetuate hidden harms.
A proverb says “misery loves company,” but America’s worst systems do everything possible to divide the people experiencing the mandated miseries.
With social justice, I’m not sure a rising tide lifts all boats, and if power concedes nothing without a demand, shouldn’t the demand be plural?
Instead of demands, America prefers weak thoughts and rote prayers. Even then, people are selective with their penny thoughts and sentence prayers.
Does America think about Native people?
Tristan Ahtone, a journalist and a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, told Voices of America News in 2018, “I think here in the United States, we [Native people] are pretty much an afterthought.”
Ahtone is right about what’s wrong. Justice requires Native people to be at the forefront too.
I’d say we have to do more than keep Native people in mind. We have to stop keeping Native people behind.
In case it’s unclear, that usually means — get out of the way.
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