December 01, 2010

Stereotypes drive racism in South Dakota

Melvin Martin explains the link between stereotypes and racism:

Melvin Martin:  Stereotypes remain alive and well in South DakotaAs an Indian person who for years in South Dakota experienced daily exposure to a racism of the worst order, I can continue to say that there still exists a most concretized and extremely tangible link between Indian stereotypes and the racism and race-based hate crimes that are perpetrated against Indians in that state.

Since South Dakota's very own Indian haters never take the time to truly get to know Indian people, they are forced by virtue of this self-generated social distancing to rely exclusively on the prevailing stereotypical belief scheme concerning Indians that has been brutally operative there for decades:

Indians are aggressive, conniving, panhandling drunks; Indians are unable to work and most of them are unemployable; Indians are very dirty as a race and they will destroy any properties that are rented to them.

All Indians receive at least a couple of hundred dollars per month of "BIA welfare" that they quickly spend on alcohol and motel rooms where they make more "little Indians" like rats in Harlem; Indians are "wild and untamed" as the hickeys and black eyes that they often sport are the best indicators of their collective licentiousness and lack of a true moral base.

Indian religion infects the entire state with black magic and all medicine men are practitioners of witchcraft and other forms of the black arts, hence, Indians are still heathens "in league with Satan"; Indian men are superbly well-endowed, amazingly virile and they will take our wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces and girlfriends via their rap or by rape.

This is just some of the more pervasive anti-Indian mythology, the fundamental structure of which consists of stereotypes that are specific to South Dakota, that I have personally heard whites express on numerous occasions since I was in the first grade there in the late '50s (and that I have also heard in slightly different mutations as of late). Thus the nature and frequency of the various racist behaviors and hate crimes carried out against Indians in South Dakota, are indeed strongly driven by this perverse cavalcade of stereotypical ideations that occur nowhere else but in the diseased hearts and minds of my home state's many hardcore racists.
Comment:  Melvin's explication of the racism in South Dakota isn't far from the Landover Baptist Church's satire on the same subject. As I said, the Landover piece shows us how some people really think.

I'm guessing this "prevailing stereotypical belief scheme" exists wherever Indians and non-Indians interact in large numbers, not just in South Dakota. For instance, in border towns across Indian country.

For more on the subject, see Stereotyping Is Irrational But Normal?, Stereotypes as Mental Maps, and Why People Don't Care About Indians.

1 comment:

Burt said...

South Dakota is not alone. Oklahoma still harbors many small towns that do not hold African American people. With this, you see and experience a festering second class citizen status with the minorities that do live in these small communities like natives and Latino people. Opportunities and career development for minorties remains a challenge compared to whites that literally have doors opened for them in employment, education and scholarships; political support and clout; advertisement and media outlets. These factors are segregated by tribal and non-tribal venues where non-natives decry and exaggerate Indian opportunity as "unfair" and while resistance for opportunity begins in the classrooms and in the public arena with racists teachers and corrupt law enforcement working in sync to graduate native youth from high schools into the department of corrections. Where this is actively applied to whites, I do not see it happening.

Although it is a free country and communities cannot be forced to integrate racially, there lies a high risk of ignorance and deep seated racism against "outsiders" and people of different cultures. Some of the mythologies you list are applied towards all black men as sexual predators.

Some natives have adopted racist attitudes against African Americans as well in small town America, but that comes from a community that accepts racism as the norm and business as usual.

The biggest problem Oklahoma natives contend with is our own leadership. Our people condemn and neglect their own which expands and perpetuates racial divides. The adopted religious, political and social make-up of Anglo belief systems into the native community has ensured that any injustices in the courts, schools, the public in general, employment, churches, business dealings and tribal affairs also, has made it impossible for a legitimate case of racism against a native to pursue, especially when much of the law enforcement is native as well.

The only weapon we can wield against this established form of racism is education and some knowledge of law, after all, both native and non-native entities, governments and business are largely controlled and ran by un-educated families and good old boy factions.

Much of the difference between SD and OK natives is the obvious checkerboard ownership of "land in trust" with BIA jurisdiction in Oklahoma while South Dakota holds a percentage of reservation lands that keep Indians and non-natives segregated. Still, racism is strongly encouraged in both states to keep the myth alive that native people are a conquered people, a concept I find ridiculous and ignorant in itself. If this were true, our culture would not still be here.