That was the fundamental question when a Lumbee friend called last week, outraged, after her high school-age daughter heard a trio of shock jocks trashing the tribe on Raleigh’s WDCG (105 FM).
Now, the first thing that might come to mind is last year’s April fool, Don Imus, and the "nappy-headed hos" remark that earned him a you-know-what-storm and cost him his CBS Radio show.
But if you listened to last week’s "Bob & the Showgram" segment—which remained up on the G-105 Web site for several days until cooler heads prevailed—some differences became apparent.
First, Imus’ callous comments:
a) Were in passing, off the cuff.
b) Lasted less than a minute.
c) Forced Imus off the air despite several profuse apologies from Imus (who admitted his words were "racist and abhorrent"), a meeting with the Rutgers women and an appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s show.
In contrast, the G-105 comments:
a) Were a clearly planned segment, with prepared background sound effects and traditional Native American music, in which the three white morning hosts derided an intern they called "White Girl" about her upcoming wedding to her Lumbee fiance.
b) Lasted 14 minutes, 33 seconds.
c) Brought a vague apology from the station manager "to any listener that may have found remarks or recordings played Tuesday, April 1st, 2008, during Bob and the Showgram to be offensive, derogatory or insensitive," and, a week later, resulted in a three-day suspension for the hosts.
One reason, of course, is that Imus is national. Even though the Rutgers players don’t listen to his show, they soon got wind of it. But there’s a more fundamental difference: Lumbees are a minority’s minority.
True, they are the largest tribe east of the Mississippi, but there are only 50,000 of them in the state and only about 5,000 here in Guilford County. They have been invisible, easy to ignore. Which, incidentally, explains why they are still waiting for federal recognition after 120 years.
It also explains why someone such as Bob Dumas felt safe saying the things he said—statements he would never dare insert the word "black" into, at least not on the air.
Then again, cowards never pick on anyone their own size.
(This is also why Americans lash out at anyone who says no to them--e.g., Jeremiah Wright, the French, Muslims. The brown skins and their defenders are getting uppity and the white skins are no longer in firm control. "We" need to put "them" in their place before they get the wrong idea about who rules the world.)
Dumas got the idea that it was okay to stereotype Indians because our society tolerates and mainstreams such stereotyping. Millions of people see Indian stereotypes as the norm: in mascot-laden sporting events, in TV shows such as Comanche Moon, and in magazine titles such as Redskin. Each instance of stereotyping contributes to the overall perception that Indians are primitive and savage.
Therefore, it's not totally surprising that Dumas did what he did. He probably saw a thousand depictions of Indians as savages and concluded, "Well, it must be true. Indians are savages. Everyone says so and how could millions of people be wrong?
"Therefore, it's okay to portray Indians negatively. Unlike other instances of racist stereotyping, these portrayals are factually true. I got my 'information' from a thousand different sources, so it must be correct."
Below: Some of the thousand sources of "information." Just look at them...they're savage! Isn't that proof enough of Dumas's claims?