March 10, 2010

Alexie condemns "Native Extraction" ad

Valerie Taliman writes an op/ed piece condemning the "Native Extraction Service" classified ad.

Stop the racist attacks on our children

By Valerie TalimanThe message is clear: Native people are like pests or vermin, and can be disposed of by simply calling a free service to have them “extracted.”

It was the cyberspace equivalent of a “Wanted” poster, reminiscent of bounties once paid for Indian scalps in the old West. And in my view, it’s a classic hate crime, carried out for the sole purpose of inciting racism and hate against indigenous peoples.
More Natives condemn the ad:Tracy Rector, Longhouse Media executive director, said the use of their photo in such a “hateful and demeaning way was deeply hurtful to these young men and their families, and to the Native community as a whole.

“This ad could intimidate and incite violence against indigenous youth in North America, and we are joining with Manitoba chiefs to call for an end to hate crimes such as these. We want to see the perpetrators brought to justice.”

Author and poet Sherman Alexie, a founding board member of Longhouse Media, called for collective action. “As much as the world has changed for indigenous people in good ways, there are still many violent and hateful folks out there who seek to harm us, and we must condemn them in print and in action, and we must do this together.”
Why people should take this seriously:Walter Lamar, a twice-decorated FBI special agent and former national director of law enforcement for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said it was hard to imagine why a news organization would publish such a sinister advertisement.

“Those willing to demonstrate their hate publicly are equally capable of violence,” said Lamar, who now owns a firm that specializes in helping to reduce violence and drug abuse on reservations. “As a former FBI agent and Blackfeet Nation citizen, I have seen firsthand the carnage left by those consumed by racist hatred. History can produce example after example of racist hatred being translated to violence.”
Comment:  This is a textbook case of how to respond to a media controversy, especially in Indian country. Here's how it went:

When the story broke, I saw it first on Facebook. I think my boss Victor was the first to post it, but others soon followed. I posted an item on it in my blog that night.

When people discovered the misuse of the March Point photo, Tracy Rector posted a comment on my blog item. She or Valerie Taliman wrote a statement for Longhouse Media and posted it on the Longhouse Media website. They both e-mailed me about the statement to make sure was aware of it.

Now Taliman has written a followup piece to keep the issue in the public eye and make sure everyone knows about it. Indian Country Today has published it, is linking to it, and may link to it also. She and others are posting this followup on Facebook and probably on Twitter as well.

At this point, anyone who follows the Native media must've heard about this story. I'm not sure what they can do about it, but at least they're aware of it. From a PR standpoint, that's a good result.

For more on the subject, see Racists Lack Self-Esteem and Tribes Need Better PR.


Unknown said...

It's great that this story has gotten wide coverage in Native media. But, it's the mainstream media that need to be aware. This is not that shocking to the Native communities that have had to deal with this type of hate and racism.

That the publication chose to run the ad is disheartening, but if you navigate around YouTube for video pertaining to Native Americans you will undoubtedly start seeing videos entitled "Drunk Native American" and variations thereof. That people would video inebriated Natives who need our help and compassion and post it as entertainment for others is appalling. I've written to YouTube corporate but I see these videos are still up.

Unknown said...

I can see how this is disturbing. But yet on the other side I can also see it from a different perspective. I’m Native and live on Native land. There are quite a number of locals I’d like to see relocated elsewhere too. These are the local gang-bangers and drunks that do nothing but cause trouble and give a very poor image of our community and people as a whole. I’m sure I’ll get flamed hard for the statement I just made, but that is just how I feel. Sure you can blame their choice of lifestyle on poor parenting, no jobs, domestic abuse, etc. But the bottom line is that you make your life the way you want it to be. If you want to be a drunk, that’s your choice. Nobody forced you to be that way. If you want to be a gang-banger, that’s your choice too.

I’ll wait over here by the whipping post so each of you can take a turn.

Rob said...

I don't have a problem with tribes condemning the reprobates among their members. But:

1) Make sure the method is effective. I doubt insulting people in ads is the best way to change their behavior. Especially if they're alcohol or drug addicts.

2) Let Natives criticize their own people. Outsiders with a racist agenda have little or no business judging a tribe's internal matters.

3) Don't use a picture of award-winning young filmmakers if you mean to attack someone else.