April 28, 2007

More on Imus and Indians

Harjo: Why the Imus story still mattersImus has a public record of having insulted many peoples, including Americans Indians, from a position of white privilege and perceived superiority.

I remember Imus using disparaging terms for Native people; claiming Navajo men prefer men and sheep to Navajo women; questioning Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's Indianness; alleging that Taos Pueblo's legal rights are bogus; and characterizing tribal casinos as illegitimate.

I wrote and called him about these things and asked others to contact him, too. His anti-Indian chatter tapered off and, after the Mohegan Sun Casino entered into a business arrangement with Imus, I never heard the Imus crew make any other crude remarks about Native peoples.

The Mohegan Sun was not among the advertising heavy-hitters that expressed their disapproval of the Imus slurs by withdrawing sponsorship from the program. American Express, Sprint Nextel and the others that pulled their business are to be congratulated, along with African-American journalists and leaders, for pressuring the networks to cancel “Imus in the Morning.”
Why the story matters?The Imus story still matters as long as the language of war remains the language of the United States' side of the Indian wars. When American soldiers in Iraq go into “Indian country,” it means they are going into enemy territory. When they're “off the reservation,” it means they've broken rules or they're traitors. Words matter. Imagine how these words matter to American Indian soldiers in Iraq today.

The Imus story still matters as long as there are “Indian” names, mascots and other references in American sports, and as long as comedians and talk show hosts continue to make fun of Native peoples who are trying to do something to get rid of them.

The Imus story still matters.

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