July 30, 2012

Councilor compares town to reservation

Native stereotyping isn't limited to the US. It occurs in the UK too.

Councillor branded a bigot after comment on websiteA TOWN councillor has been accused of bigotry after describing a neighbouring area as an "Indian reservation."

Roger Avenin made the comment during an online argument on a community news website.

The Bradley Stoke town councillor, who represents the Baileys Court ward for the Conservatives, intervened in a debate on politics triggered by the defection of fellow Tory councillor Kim Harris to the UK Independence Party, as reported in the Post last week.

During the discussion Mr Avenin, who chairs the town council's finance committee, asked other people who had made comments: "Do you even live here or are you, as I suspect, refugees from the Patchway Indian reservation?"

Dave Tiley, a Patchway Labour town councillor, was one of those commenting in the thread on the Bradley Stoke Journal.

Mr Tiley described Mr Avenin's remark as "bigotry"–and said he would make a complaint to South Gloucestershire Council, whose standards committee deals with complaints about possible breaches of the Members Code of Conduct by town and parish councillors.

Mr Tiley told the Post: "I find Bradley Stoke Conservative councillor Roger Avenin's remarks offensive as bigotry towards my friends, neighbours, constituents and all the good people of Patchway.

"I have heard this offensive term used against council house tenants previously, and it's clearly unacceptable from anyone, let alone an elected representative."
Comment:  Avenin claims he made the comment because Patchway is more liberal than the surrounding areas. That's not the likely reason. More likely, Patchway is poorer or browner than the surrounding areas. That's why it's more liberal, and that's why Avenin called it a reservation.

Let's assume Avenin was talking about Patchway's economic status and proceed accordingly.

One, not all reservations are poor. Two, even if they were, many poor areas are predominantly white. Why not use one of them for an analogy?

No, Avenin clearly cast a race-based aspersion. Indians are poor--presumably because of their savage, uncivilized ways. No one who makes this analogy ever blames his own culture for causing the poverty.

If Avenin made the comment only once, we might say he was thoughtless rather than bigoted. But Tiley the Patchway councilor says he's heard it before. If it's common in the UK to compare poor areas to reservations, and Avenin knew about it, then his comment seems bigoted.

If Avenin made the analogy for some other reason, it's still a race-based distinction. It still implies that Indians are somehow different than other people. That's a risky position to take. You need a better reason than Avenin had to categorize people by race.

For more on poor reservations, see Life on the Rez Reviewed and Economic Development on Pine Ridge.

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