April 19, 2015

What "go back to the reservation" means

At the racist EMU party, frat boys in redface told an Indian to go back to the reservation. The "go back" sentiment often crops up when Indians dare to challenge white people.

Here's another example:

Lancaster School Board Candidate Agrees Indians Should 'Go Back to the Reservation'

By Simon Moya-SmithOn March 16, the Lancaster School Board held a special meeting where it announced the immediate retirement of the school’s mascot. The high school there has been mired in controversy every since two opposing schools refused to play Lancaster’s lacrosse team on account of its logo and moniker.

School board candidate Kelly Hughes Depczynski responded to a Facebook rant on March 9 where the writer, going only by the name of Lin, said Native American students who find the name offensive should, instead, get their education on the reservation rather than Lancaster.

“If this American Indian at Lancaster and his family are so ‘offended’ … maybe the school board can gently refer him to go back to the reservation for his education,” Lin wrote.

Lin also argued that Native Americans in Lancaster, New York who are offended by the school’s mascot shouldn’t have moved there to begin with.

“Maybe if ‘Redskins’ is too offensive they shouldn’t have moved to that district,” Lin wrote.
The contempt for real-life Indians is obvious. But writer Ramone Romero delves into what white folks mean when they say "Go back to the reservation."

What Does it Mean to Say to an Indian, “Go back to the reservation”?

By Ramone RomeroWhen Phillips replied that this was not honoring Natives—that it was racist instead—they started telling him to, “Go back to the reservation, you F-ing Indian, get the F out of here!”

Okay, obviously their “honoring” of Natives had absolutely nothing to do with honoring Natives. This is characteristic of sports teams using Native American names and mascots. It’s about sports and sounding like fighters, sounding strong and savage; it has nothing to do with honoring real living Natives. And this isn’t the first time that Natives have been told to “Go back to the Reservation!” when they protested Native mascotry.

But think about two things here.


Have you ever thought about what it means to tell an Indian to “Go back to the reservation”?

Of course it is completely racist. Thinking that you have the authority to tell an Indian to “Go back to the reservation” shows that you feel they are racially inferior and you are racially superior (otherwise you would have no authority to tell them where to go). But it’s much more than racist.

All of North America is their land. Never mind that most Natives actually don’t live on reservations, ask yourself: Why did Native people lose their homeland when they used to live free on the whole continent? What happened? Which side broke treaty after treaty (and is still breaking treaties now–just the other day the state of Michigan transferred 8,000 acres of treaty-protected land to a mining company)? Which side took away children and sent them to boarding schools where they weren’t allowed to speak their languages, got beaten if they did, and got abused in countless other ways? Which side didn’t have religious freedom until 1979? Which side had generations of children stolen and “adopted” to families outside of their community?

What does it mean to say to an Indian, “Go back to the reservation”?

It means, “Stay oppressed.” “Stay beaten down.” “We are better than you.” “You don’t belong in your homeland.” “You have to obey and go away because you’re inferior.” “You don’t matter.” “You’re nothing.” “Go back to your confinement.”

Saying “Go back to the reservation” to a Native American is nothing less than agreeing with the genocide America committed against them, and doing your part to continue it.

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