May 17, 2015

Stereotypes turn Indians invisible

In response to Ecoffey's and Davies's downplaying of racism, I posted:

How do people not get this? Mascots and stereotypes => no understanding of Indian country => lack of laws, services, jobs, etc.

The following article explains the direct connection between stereotypical thinking and lack of philanthropy:

Implicit Bias and Native Americans: Philanthropy’s Hidden MinorityAccording to Michael Roberts, a member of the Tlingit tribe and president of First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit institution and grantmaker that has been a fixture in philanthropy for almost 35 years:

“I would say that American Indians are mostly invisible to philanthropy, and where there is some semblance of awareness, that there is definitely implicit bias. [For] most foundation program officers, most of what they know is what they were taught in school. Generally, Indians are examined in one of two ways, that they are either relics of the past (lived in tipis, hunted buffalo and were either savages or at one with nature; the mythical Indian), or that the study of them is like a tourist visiting a culture.”

Rick Williams, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and former president of the American Indian College Fund, the largest and arguably one of the most successful Native nonprofits, noted:

“The current myth of wealthy Indians not needing help relates directly to misguided media presenting only information about [Native] nations that have done well financially and have casinos. The other myth is that we no longer exist. And if we do exist, it is easy to ignore our plight. Implicit bias carries all the stereotypes and subconsciously influences one’s actions. I often see/feel that bias even when it is unintended or sublimely disguised.”
The invisibility problem is closely related to the issue of stereotypes. How? As many have said, people expect Indians to look like savages--dressed in leathers and feathers, living in teepees, etc. When they don't see any stereotypical savages, they assume Indians are dead and gone. They overlook the modern-day Indians all around them--thus rendering them invisible.

Going back to Ecoffey and Davies...if my formulation doesn't explain the lack of laws, services, and jobs, what does?

A paucity of media coverage? Who's been running newspapers such as the Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, and Native Sun News for the past few decades? Not me. If the operators are incompetent as journalists, how is that anyone else's problem?

Again, are Ecoffey and Davies seriously arguing that two weeks of Adam Sandler coverage is responsible for a century of the "Indian plight"? What, was the NY Times about to print a killer expose of the problems? And it got bumped because of Sandler?

How stupid can you get? Like other pop controversies, the Sandler coverage only increases awareness of Indians. Therefore, it's good, not bad.


For more on the invisibility of Indians, see America Constructed to Erase Indians and Tarantino: "Indians Have More or Less Disappeared."

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