January 28, 2010

Blame Indians and Haitians for problems?

Paul Shirley:  (Donated) food for thought?

By Gyasi RossSee, I hear “intergenerational trauma” arguments over and over and over. I hear that the reason why Natives consistently serve as the poster children for FAS, teen suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence is because of what happened to us in the distant AND not-so-distant past…ok, I can dig that. That makes some sense (and I’ll hold any questions regarding whether ALL people have gone through some trauma in the past).

Still–like in Haiti–at some point we have to ask the question, “Despite the intergenerational trauma, how much of our pain/suffering is of our own creation?” I venture that the answer is “more than we like to admit.”

Thing is, if we use that intergenerational trauma rationale as the reason for our continued struggles/destruction, exactly where does it get us? Dead, but with a great excuse for our demise?? Drug addicted, but with a great excuse for our addiction?? A people filled with teenaged mothers, but with a great excuse for why we simply perpetuate the same cycle? See, we can continue to use, like Haiti, colonial mistreatment and governmental antipathy as an excuse for every failure under the sun–but it doesn’t help any of our kids to get college degrees or any of our teens to get out of the suicide-laden rut that we’re in. Excuses will not help us to escape our rut–they only provide our children another reason to believe that they are not equal with non-Natives.

So yeah, we can ramble on and on about how Natives have been screwed historically and that some poverty is a by-product of that; we wouldn’t be lying. Still, we can also say, since we’re being so honest, that we really don’t use condoms nearly enough and we create more acute poverty because of our lack of self-control. Further, yes, we can honestly say that Natives got the short end of many sticks. But can we can honestly say that Natives, collectively, do a good enough job proactively teaching teaching drug and alcohol prevention?

I think that if we were to answer that question honestly, the answer might make us mad. It would be one that we wouldn’t want to agree with. But the answer would be there, looking us dead in the eye.
Comment:  A few thoughts about this posting:

  • Explaining a problem isn't the same as excusing it.

  • Does Ross think Indians are happy wallowing in an environment of poverty, crime, substance abuse, depression, and suicide? Why would they be? Because they enjoy a "primitive" or "savage" lifestyle?

  • Ross doesn't identify which tribes he thinks are wallowing in self-pity. He doesn't distinguish tribes that are doing everything they can with their limited resources from tribes that aren't.

    This is probably a wise move on Ross's part. If he identified which Indians he thought were lazy, good-for-nothing slackers without self-control, they'd probably ream him for his ignorance. I'm guessing Ross doesn't have a clue about all the tribal programs fighting poverty, crime, and other social ills, and why they may or may not be working.

  • Are Indians just stupid, or what?

    If "intergenerational trauma"--i.e., historical forces--isn't responsible for the plight of Indians and Haitians, I wonder what Ross thinks is responsible. I gather he believes Indians enjoy being poor and hungry, sick and addicted, vandalized and victimized. But why do they enjoy it?

    If this self-destructive attitude doesn't come from some external source, it must be internal. So what is it, Ross? Are Indians lazy? Stupid? Mentally ill? All of the above?

    Why haven't Indians, Haitians, and other minorities learned what every white man supposedly knows? Namely, that pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is the road to success. That hard work can overcome any problem. That the only people who are sick and poor are people who choose to be that way.

    Ross says making excuses doesn't help. I say blaming the victim doesn't help either. Spare us the content-free condemnations of entire nations and races.

    Unless you can tell us exactly what the problems are and offer concrete solutions to them, don't bother opening your mouth or pointing a finger. All you're doing is contributing to the widespread belief that brown-skins are less human than white-skins. That these people choose to live like animals because, well, they're animals.

    For Pat Robertson's attempt to blame the victim, see Haitians and Indians Cursed? For more on the subject, see Trimble to Indians:  Get Over It and Why Indians Remain Poor.

    P.S. Ross touts the Paul Shirley column that blamed Haitians for being earthquake victims. Check it out for its not-so-veiled racism against minorities.

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