October 29, 2008

"Help! The young Indians are coming"

Racial overtones mar race for state superintendentThe campaign for Montana's top K-12 educator position has taken on racial overtones, sparking debate from observers about race-based comments made on a talk show and a Web site.

The statewide election for superintendent of public instruction pits Elaine Sollie Herman, a Republican, against Denise Juneau, a Democrat and enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes.

Herman has been criticized for a recent Internet message posted under her name on the Web site MeetUp.com, which encourages people to abandon their computer keyboards and meet face-to-face on interests ranging from knitting and independent films to political views.

Here is the post:

“I am in MT running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I am asking for HELP from young concervative (sic) Bloggers. My web site is: electelainesollieherman.com. ‘I live in the ‘Peoples Republic of Helena.' My opposition is a young Indian.”
And:Some liberal political blogs posted comments regarding the MeetUp.com site, including:

Left in the West: “Help! The young Indians are coming.”

Indn's List, Indigenous Democratic Network: “A young Indian--Republican says that's a bad thing.”

The Daily Kos: “We'd object if McCain said ‘Contribute to my campaign. I'm running against a young black man,' and we should object to Herman's words, too.”

Herman said she doesn't understand the negative reaction.

“Whoever is bringing an issue to it must be a racist, in themselves, to be saying that ‘Indian' is a problem, you know?” she said. “There is Indian education. And my opponent is an Indian. You could write, ‘old black,' or ‘old white lady.' I am old. And I am white.”
Comment:  I'd say Herman's comment was more of a minor problem than a major one. Still, her choice of words was poor.

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