January 31, 2014

Redskins pay consultants for support

In an epic article, Travis Waldron writes about the epic battle over the "Redskins" name. Late in the article, he shares an interesting development:

The Epic Battle To Save The Most Offensive Team Name In Professional Sports

By Travis WaldronEmails obtained by ThinkProgress reveal that the team consulted with a group of high-profile Republican advisers, some of whose involvement with the team has not been previously reported, about how to handle this reporter’s questions about the organization’s approach to the campaign to change the team’s name.

Included in the email chain were Frank Luntz, the Republican messaging consultant famous for phrases like “climate change” and “death tax”; Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under George W. Bush from 2001 and 2003 and now runs a consulting firm called Ari Fleischer Sports Communications; George Allen, the former Virginia governor and U.S. senator who now runs the consulting firm George Allen Strategies; and Bruce Allen, George Allen’s brother and the organization’s general manager and executive vice president. Both Allens are the son of former Redskins head coach George Allen. The web sites for neither Fleischer nor Luntz’s firms include client lists. The Redskins’ vice president of communications, Tony Wyllie, confirmed that while Luntz had conducted a focus group on behalf of the team, he has not been paid for other work with the Redskins, and that Fleischer and George Allen’s firm do not have contracts with the team. Fleischer, Luntz, and George Allen had not responded to requests for confirmation at press time.

But the fact that the men participated in the email chain at all is revealing. Last summer, when ThinkProgress first reported Luntz’s involvement in the team’s efforts to focus group the name, the Redskins and Luntz declined to confirm that Luntz or his firm, Luntz Global, were involved in the project.

The email chain shows that after this reporter requested comment on a number of issues related to the Redskins name and claims made by its opponents, Wyllie forwarded the email to Luntz, Fleischer, and the Allens. George Allen’s response is the first included in the chain, and it suggests that the team reiterate its story about changing its name to honor Lone Star Dietz, even though the team can’t prove its claims.

“The point was that the Redskins owner at the time obviously believed that Lone Star Dietz was a Native American and named the team to honor Native Americans and be motivated by their heritage,” Allen, whose 2006 Senate campaign was marked by allegations about his use of racially charged language, wrote. “All the other aspects of the story about Lone Star’s adoption and other intrigue and speculation is undoubtedly beyond our ability to discern as to its veracity.”

“We don’t need to comment on all of these ignorant requests,” Bruce Allen wrote in response. “Tell reporter to call the family of the College Hall Of Fame Coach Dietz and ask them this insulting question.”

“I agree,” Fleischer responded, “not [sic] need to answer any more questions or waste any more time with this outfit.”
If you don't remember George Allen, another posting offers a reminder:

The Redskins Asked George 'Macaca' Allen to Help Defend Their Name

By Philip BumpIn 2006, Allen seemed like a lock for reelection in Virginia. Until, that is, he was caught on videotape calling a staffer for his opponent "macaca." The staffer was Indian; "macaca" is a derogatory term for people of color.

Allen already had a sketchy track record on racial issues. He voted against an MLK Day resolution in 1984. In high school, he was apparently involved in painting racist graffiti at his school. In 2011, Allen, who'd been thinking about reentering the political world, was criticized for repeatedly asking a black reporter if he played sports. (The reporter didn't.)

For what it's worth, Fleischer and Bruce Allen agreed with George, that Waldron should be ignored or told forcefully that the name stayed. They were all apparently being paid by the team to figure out how to fend off criticism, so it's a natural position to take. But the entire point of the fight over the name is that language like "Redskins" is now broadly considered unacceptable. Times change. You don't call people macaca; you don't call them redskins. If your goal is to understand and navigate that distinction, George Allen is not the best choice as an advisor.

Alyssa Rosenberg writes about the significance of these consultations:

Why The Redskins’ Secret Roster Of Republican Advisers Matters

By Alyssa RosenbergThese aren’t just questions that Travis has asked. They’re questions the National Congress of American Indians, the Morningstar Institute, and Oneida Indian Nation of New York want answered. They’re issues the President of the United States has raised in public. And they’re worthy of answers.

The dismissive tone isn’t all that matters here. It’s not as if it’s a revelation that the team doesn’t take the charges that its name is a slur seriously. Owner Dan Snyder is publicly contemptuous of any suggestion that he might change his team’s name, even if he loses trademark protection, and the profits that flow from it. Bruce Allen’s derision is consistent with his boss’s view of the issue.

But the men Wyllie and Bruce Allen reached out to for help, and for reinforcement, aren’t just general-interest media consultants or sports experts. They’re political figures, extraordinarily high-profile ones. And they’re men who have helped shape a sharply polarized environment that allows Snyder to cast himself as a victim of political correctness run amok, rather than a contrarian standing athwart a national consensus hollering that he’ll “NEVER” change his team’s name. Luntz, Fleischer, and George Allen, whose own struggles with racialized language are now political history, may be terrific people to consult if you want to win a bitterly divided election or policy fight. But their credentials don’t exactly suggest that they’re prepared to help a brand like Snyder’s team move into the future.

The organization’s official statements say that “We respect those who don’t agree.” But going to this particular group of men was a way for team officials to reassure themselves that they don’t have to take the charges seriously. The officials who work for Snyder could have shown that respect at any point simply by meeting with their critics. Snyder’s organization could have adopted Native American groups, which now have extensive experience in helping teams and schools navigate name changes, as partners in helping them plan for their strategic future–and in answering press inquiries like these. In responding to Travis’s request, the team’s officials might have consulted an independent historian to help them fact-check their history.

Instead, Wyllie and Bruce Allen sought to reinforce the narrative their organization is already committed to. Allen and his brother George are sons of a former head coach of the team, and deeply steeped in its traditions. And Luntz, who focus grouped the team’s name last summer, has every financial interest in flattering an organization that’s hired him once and might again. It’s hard to imagine a situation in which this group of advisers might have suggested that the team respond differently.

A team that was respectfully engaged with the possibility that its name was insulting, and that was willing to grapple with big practical questions that may be forced upon it, would be wise to reach out beyond an insular circle like the one that shows up on this email chain. It’s the team’s choice to huddle in a bunker instead, but engaging with consultants with a broader range of experiences and perspectives would have made for a more sophisticated response to the press and the organization’s critics, and would help the team begin a strategic planning process that the law and the National Football League may push on them anyway. Telling the team to dig in is just bad advice. But at least Wyllie told Travis that the organization wasn’t paying Fleischer, Luntz, and George Allen for it.
The last line was in error, as Waldron reports:

Redskins Paying Team Of Republican Advisers For Advice On Name Controversy

By Travis WaldronEmails obtained by ThinkProgress this week showed that the team consulted Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, and former Republican governor and senator George Allen when asked about issues around the team’s name. Luntz runs Luntz Global, a communications firm. Fleischer runs Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. Allen, the brother of Redskins general manager and executive vice president Bruce Allen and son of former Redskins coach George Allen, runs the strategy firm George Allen Strategies.

“When I told you that the team we’re assembling to demonstrate why there is so much support for the Redskins name was not being compensated, I made a fundamental mistake—I did not check,” Wyllie said in an email statement Friday. “I was wrong and they are being compensated.”
Comment:  So conservatives paid to put a conservative spin on messages say the "Redskins" name is okay? Can you say "worthless"? How about "meaningless"?

At least the general public--pro-mascot fans and anti-mascot activists--have no financial interest in the outcome. That Dan Snyder has to pay people to tell him he isn't a racist is a sad commentary on his position. He can't find genuine support from anyone with credibility, so he has to buy it.

January 30, 2014

NCAI releases Redskins video

ICTMN Exclusive: NCAI Releases R-word Video Ahead of Super BowlThe National Congress of American Indians has release a video extending their efforts to eradicate the offensive R-word.

Just days before Super Bowl XXLVII, the NCAI is reminding Americans that Native people are not mascots.

“This week’s celebration of football is exactly why we need to keep talking about the D.C. mascot,” the organization said in an email to ICTMN. “Cheering for a football team should never include the casual use of a racial slur. It is important for all teams and all of their fans that the name of the D.C. team is changed.”

In October 2013, the organization released a 29-page report called Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Sports Mascots, which ICTMN covered here.

The video called “Proud to Be” illustrates the strength and beauty of tribal nations and highlights prominent and influential Native people throughout history. The roughly two-minute video ends by saying that Native Americans call themselves many things, but not the R-word; and the last shot of the video is a picture of the ‘Redskins’ helmet.

The Redskins issue also got a mention in the NCAI's State of the Indian Nations speech, which I think is rare:

2014 State of Indian NationsWhile our nations may be old, our people are disproportionately young. Nearly 42% of Native people are under the age of 24.

Native youth are also disproportionately vulnerable. Many grow up in communities where jobs are scarce or even non-existent… where classrooms lack basic essentials… where parents go sick because they don’t have access to decent health care.

And yet, whatever hardships they might face, our young people grow up surrounded by family and enriched by our timeless traditions. In this spirit, the Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to keep Native children with our families and communities... guided by our Elders, learning about our culture, and taking pride in who we are and where we come from.

We want our young people to live proudly as First Americans… while also embracing, and being embraced by, non-Native America.

That’s why the mockery of Native celebrations and dress in the name of sportsmanship is not just offensive, but insidious… because it asks us to accept the denigration of our heritage. It erodes our children’s sense of self. And that is simply unacceptable.

January 29, 2014

Oscar nomination for Christian song revoked

In Oscar Nominations for Native-Themed Movies, we heard talk that there was something questionable about Alone Yet Not Alone's nomination. Turns out it wasn't just talk.

Oscars: In shocker, 'Alone Yet Not Alone' song nomination revoked

By Steven ZeitchikCiting direct campaigning that created “the appearance of an unfair advantage,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revoked an Oscar nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” the tune from the faith-based movie of the same name that had been nominated for original song.

The academy said that Bruce Broughton, a music branch executive committee member who wrote the song’s music, had emailed members of the branch during the voting period, a rule violation. No new nominee will be named; only four nominees will be eligible for the Oscar.

In a release Wednesday, the academy said the board of governors had made the decision in a vote Tuesday night after concluding that Broughton “had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period."

In the statement, academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said the actions were a perception problem, though she stopped short of saying that it actually had led to the song being shortlisted. “No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one’s position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one’s own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage,” she said.
'Alone Yet Not Alone' Oscar nomination rescinded; songwriter reacts

By Elex Michaelson"Right now, I'm frustrated. I'm a little confused. Initially, I was devastated," said Broughton.

Broughton served as an academy governor for 18 years and sent an email asking former colleagues to consider voting for his song.

"I didn't ask anybody to vote for it. I didn't do any campaigning for the film. I didn't do anything that I didn't read in the rules, frankly," said Broughton.

Broughton saw competing songs, like "Happy" from "Despicable Me 2," and others promoted in big money "for your consideration" ad campaigns.

"It's more likely that people would overlook my song since it had no promotion, no marketing, it had no word of mouth," said Broughton.
Comment:  It seems like a clear conflict of interest to me. Indeed, people were questioning whether the song even deserved a nomination. I.e., whether Broughton's connections got a mediocre song nominated.

January 28, 2014

Natives protest Patterson's "reservation" remarks

The controversy begun in GOP Official: "Herd All the Indians" continues:

Native Americans protest L. Brooks Patterson's comparison of Detroit to Indian reservation in New Yorker

By Gus BurnsNative Americans from across the state wrapped in brightly colored blankets performed a Circle Dance, beat drums and demanded an apology from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson outside the county courthouse in Pontiac Monday.

In the bitter, single-digit-temperature air they unfurled a long sign that read: "L. Brooks Patterson: 'Blankets and Corn,'" referencing anti-Detroit comments Patterson made to a New Yorker magazine article headlined, "Down with Detroit" that appeared on newsstands last week.
And:Patterson, who claims the reporter cast him in a "false light," said he regrets that something he said "30 years ago is causing such consternation today."

Brian Moore, whose hands quickly numbed in the 7 degree air as he beat a drum, said the comments have a lot of tribal leaders in Michigan were upset by the remarks.

"The comments that he made... are insensitive, they're unprofessional and they are disrespectful," "I'm a little confused by it. I think he was trying to relate an atrocity that happened a long time ago with Native people... and it sounded like he was trying to interpret that into what Detroit could be like.

But that's where I kind of lost it because to refer to African Americans that you would have such an atrocity again, in any context, is ridiculous... That's like if I were to make a comment about the Holocaust. It would be unacceptable."
Patterson Addresses ‘Detroit Reservation’ Comments Amidst Pressure

By Vincent SchillingBill Mullan, the Media & Communications Officer for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson told ICTMN, “He was being critical of the corruption and mismanagement in the City of Detroit.” When Mullan was asked how Patterson’s remarks about Detroit could elicit a statement about an Indian Reservation he told ICTMN:

“I know the connection is not clear because (The New Yorker) article does not have a complete context today or 30 years ago. But, it was part of a conversation about the corrupt political conditions and gross mismanagement in Detroit over the decades. Though he used those words, his statement had nothing to do with the Native American community itself.”

In Pego’s open letter, he criticized Patterson’s remarks as inexcusable while adding criticism to the Detroit News Editor for allowing the Indian Reservation comments to go unchallenged.

“Today I find it inexcusable that there are still individuals who carry hatred and blatant disregard for other cultures and race of people. It is not surprising however that serial­ offender Brooks Patterson used inflammatory language in talking about people of color. His comparison of the residents of Detroit to Native Americans who were forcibly confined to Indian reservations is shameful,” Pego wrote.

“It goes without saying that Mr. Patterson needs a lesson in civility, regardless of whether he was merely pandering to his base, or purposely inciting racial disharmony. It is surprising, however, and equally troubling to read that comments by the editor of the Detroit News who tacitly approved of Mr. Patterson's offensive characterizations of Indian reservations,” Pego’s letter continued. “I seriously doubt that both Mr. Patterson and Finley have ever even been to an Indian reservation.”
Comment:  First, Patterson quoted his 30-year-old remarks as if they were still relevant. In other words, he repeated them and made the claim anew. So the age of the original remarks is irrelevant.

Second, whose fault is it if Patterson didn't make the meaning and context clear? It's his fault, not the reporter's.

If Patterson wanted to make a potentially inflammatory remark, it was his duty to explain it fully. Better yet, it was his duty to rephrase the remark, or to refrain from using it. That way, he could've guaranteed that no one would misinterpret it.

Third, regardless of his intent, Patterson used a 19th-century stereotype to characterize Indians. I guess his message was something like, "Politicians want to keep Detroit's citizens impoverished." Well, what if he had said, "Politicians want to keep Detroit's (black) citizens in grass skirts with bones through their noses"?

Everyone would be grossly offended, and rightly so. But that's similar to what he actually said about Indians.

Fourth, he ignored the pain and suffering evoked by his "blankets and corn" remark. Suppose his message was, "Politicians are throwing Detroit's citizens to the wolves." And suppose he said, "Politicians are throwing Detroit's citizens into an oven like Jews during the Holocaust." Even if it were just an analogy, and Patterson felt no animus against Jews, it would be incredibly hurtful. Everyone would object to using the Jews' pain to score points about Detroit's situation.

Again, that's similar to what he did. The only difference is, he used outdated and painful stereotypes about Indians, not about blacks or Jews. And that's what people are objecting to, I think. That's what Patterson and his spin doctors don't seem to understand.

January 27, 2014

Whites think they're losing to blacks

Study Finds White Americans Believe They Experience More Racism Than African Americans

By M.B. DavidThere’s a saying that “the new racism is to deny that racism exists.” If that is the case, it may explain a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. Their findings claim that self-described white Americans believe they have “replaced blacks” as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.

The authors say that their study highlights how the expectations of a “post-racial” society, predicted or imagined in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency, has far from been achieved.

The study finds that while both Caucasian and African Americans agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased. Moreover, the study finds that the majority of Caucasians believe that anti-white racism is a “bigger problem” than what African Americans face.

Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, PhD is the co-author of the article “Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing,” from the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. He comments that ”It’s a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment.”
White supremacy wins again: Melissa Harris Perry and the racial false equivalence

What costs white folks a slap on the wrist, or a mildly disapproving look, costs black people our dignity

By Brittney Cooper
This faux-outrage on the right about MHP’s racism and insensitivity obscures exactly this set of truths about the right’s shoddy record on race. That both Mitt Romney and Phil Robertson have and love black grandbabies should remind us that racism is not primarily about individual attitudes. White folks can love individual black people and still build a world that is inhospitable to black folks. In fact, individual and exceptional black achievers are necessary to maintain the lie of racial progress. Their presence has very little to do with systemic change, though.

Two professors at Tufts released a recent study that found that white Americans believe they have replaced black people as the primary victims of racial discrimination. While both whites and black people agreed that anti-black bias was high in the 1950s and had decreased over time, white respondents to the study perceived a sharp increase in anti-white bias, while blacks perceived such bias to be nonexistent. The question is whether this perception of anti-white bias bears out in material terms.

White Americans currently have 19 times the wealth of African-Americans. That gap has increased, not decreased, since 1995 when it was at an all-time low of 7-to-1. A 2010 study from Brandeis University found that even among the wealthiest African-Americans, wealth has fallen from $25,000 to $18,000. Perhaps even more shocking is that the wealth of upper-middle-class whites “surged to $240K.” So not only is white wealth increasing, but among African-Americans being “wealthy” on average means you have $18K in assets. That is laughably absurd.

Yet 83 percent of white Americans believe that equality has been achieved or will be achieved in the foreseeable future. Are you crying yet? The rest of this study will make you weep.

But here is the larger point: Trumped-up white outrage has material consequences for black people. Yet it is rarely rooted in anything real other than the perception of black and brown threat. That perception got Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell killed. It put Melissa Harris-Perry’s job in jeopardy. It has caused us to be less vigilant as a nation in making the playing field equal.

This is the height of cultural delusion: blaming the person on whose neck you’re standing for twisting your ankle.

Blacks to blame, naturally

Not only has white racism against blacks ended, says one conservative nutcase, but blacks are to blame for it.

Yes, you heard that right. Blacks are responsible for causing the racism they experience. How? By complaining about racism, blacks make whites so angry that they can't control their feelings. As with George Zimmerman, rage drives white folks to discriminate against, persecute, attack, and kill black folks.

Fox News contributor: Angry blacks to blame for rise in ‘American Anglo-Saxon’ racism

By Travis GettysA Christian radio host insisted last week that white people were no longer racist, and even if they were, it’s the fault of racist black people.

Sandy Rios, of American Family Radio, was offended when a listener suggested she was racist toward black people, who she blamed for inciting white racism.

“I think the racist garbage coming from the—uh, a lot of blacks right now who are just filled with bitterness and rage is just amazing to me,” Rios said. “It is racism, I am seeing it constantly here in D.C., you know, I think—and it’s causing white citizens to become more racist than they ever were.”

She continued, referring to white people using the term for Germanic tribes that once dominated England and is now generally associated with British-American Protestants and white supremacists.

“I think for the most part, the American Anglo-Saxon crew really has moved past racism, they did it quite a long time ago,” she said.

Rios, a Fox News contributor, said racism had demonstrably ended because segregation was no longer legally enforced and the nation had elected a black president.

“I mean, they did elect Barack Obama twice, so I think it’s not nearly the issue in the white community that it was in the 50s, sure it isn’t, or the 60s—it just isn’t,” she said. “But it seems to be raging, racism seems to be absolutely raging in the black community.”

She blamed this rise of racist feelings among whites on this same black president who signaled the end of American racism.
White and Racist? Blame it on Black People?

By Robert De FilippisWell that settles it and puts the history of racism in this country in a new light.

Let’s take this back a couple hundred years. Now I know how Black slaves brought on their own bad treatment.

They were filled with “bitterness and rage” consequently the White slave holders were provoked into their racist feelings and treatment of Blacks. You know what I mean, lashing them, impregnating their women, breaking up families, taking their names, languages, religions, and cultures away from them. All these were valiant efforts to reduce White racism.

As anyone can now see, Whites have made great strides in trying to eliminate racism for over 200 years, like when they lynched Blacks for their own good. After all, getting rid of a source of White racism was a good thing, right?
And as our latest historian, theologian, and duck hunter extraordinaire, Phil Robertson recently told us, when he worked right alongside Blacks in the cotton fields as a young man, he never met an unhappy Black person in the South.

Now I understand better. An unhappy Black person could probably make several White people turn racist, so in order to keep racism as non-existent as it was in the South, most Blacks just sat on their bitterness and anger, swallowed hard and moved on. And it worked so well.

That is until some really “bitter and angry” Blacks tried to vote, get served in restaurants, sit anywhere on a bus, go to movies or stay in town after sundown. They really created a great deal of White racism. And Whites had no option but to turn police dogs and fire hoses on them to relieve their own feelings of racism.

Meanwhile, racism continues

Back in reality, it's unfortunately easy to find scientific data proving the ongoing harm of racism. For instance:

Study: Racism may speed cell aging and premature death in black men

By David EdwardsA study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this week found that aging was accelerated at the cellular level in African-American men who reported experiencing racial discrimination and who internalized anti-black attitudes.

Although it is well-known that African-Americans have a shorter life span than whites, researchers from the University of Maryland are believed to be the first to link biological aging to racism-related factors, according to UMD Right Now.
Comment:  For more on whites whining about being the victims, see:

Whites think they're discriminated against
Whites "sick of the race card"
Mentioning racism = dwelling on past?

For a few examples of people who didn't get the memo that racism is over, see:

Hating Indians is in vogue
Boastful cornerback = "thug"?
GOP official: "Herd all the Indians"
Tittler the Internet troll
Native stereotypes in Life of Brian

January 26, 2014

Hating Indians in in vogue

Hating the American Indian, A Time Honored Tradition

By Lawrence SampsonOne can hardly peruse the romance novel section of your local bookstore or sample any Wild West movie without reading or hearing about the noble people of the past. And that perhaps is the underlying issue, for as soon as people in the present have to learn, up close and personal, that American Indian people are not a forgotten relic of the past, but part of modern vibrant cultures, with human and civil rights that have to be recognized, we get an accurate snapshot of what America really thinks about Indians.

Maybe it's your local beloved sports team with a racist mascot like the Redskins being pressured to change. Perhaps it's the revelation that a so-called Christian adoption agency is targeting Indian Country to steal and traffic in Indian babies. From time to time it's when Indians stand up against the destruction of their land base as we've seen in Canada lately. Or possibly, as a small town in Wyoming is learning, that some treaties do matter, will get enforced, and the realization that Indians have legitimate legal claims that sets the pot boiling. Imagine it, American Indians having legal and civil rights. Oh the humanity.

One need only look in the comments section after these or any number of similar stories are run in a local or national publication to get a feel for how many Americans still feel about Indian people, and Indian rights. Safe behind a keyboard, Americans blindly call for a return to scalping, argue that the theft of Indian land are the spoils of war, and that God has decreed the decimation of the Indian race. I mean really you couldn't make this shit up. It's like we turn back the pages of history two hundred years every time an Indian stands up for him or herself.

This country has a guilt trip born of a denial of its history. Every American lives their daily live knowing deep down they are the recipient of benefits born of genocide.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Mascot Love = Lack of Empathy and The Capobiancos' Anti-Indian Agenda.

January 25, 2014

Indians perform "rain dance" to end drought

When in drought, rain dance

By Maureen MageeThe scent of burning sage wafted toward the inflatable bounce house. The beat of drums and the distinctive cries of Apache song caught the attention of boys playing soccer.

Smack in the middle of Mance Buchanan Park in suburban Oceanside on Saturday, dozens of Native Americans gathered in a circle on the brown grass to do what their ancestors had done generations before them: pray, sing and dance for rain.

As California enters its third straight year of dangerously dry conditions amid what Gov. Jerry Brown has proclaimed a drought emergency, Gil “Feather” Fernandez led a traditional rain dance on yet another hot and sunny winter day. He was joined by Sam Bearpaw, Windwalker and dozens of other Native Americans from multiple tribes who work to keep the traditions and rituals of their culture alive in a modern world.

“This is our way of bringing awareness to the severe drought we are having here in California,” Fernandez said. “We look at it from a spiritual angle. But we also want to remind people to respect the earth and take care of it.”
Below:  "Wind Walker bows her head in prayer as representatives of several tribes preformed a rain dance on Saturday to attack the drought from a 'spiritual perspective.'" (Earnie Grafton)

From the Coast News, 1/26/14, comes other tidbits about the event:In Oceanside on Saturday, Gil “Bluefeather” Fernandez and several Native Americans gathered to perform a rain dance and raise awareness of the drought situation that the state is currently facing.

Native American singer Windwalker was on hand to lead in songs, along with Sam Bearpaw performing Apache chants and dance.
And:There are variations in how these rain dances are performed in the different tribes, and individuals representing various tribes, including the Yaqui, Cherokee, Lakota Sioux, Apache, and Crow will be participating.

Native American singer Windwalker will also be performing during the dances.
So Lakota and Cherokee Indians were doing their traditional powwow rain dance in San Diego? Maybe San Diegans should send some Kumeyaay Indians back east to do a sunshine dance.

You can see the muddled thinking in these excerpts. Was it *a* (single) rain dance? A bunch of different rain dances? General chanting (singing) and dancing with prayers for rain attached? Or...?

I don't think the event was at a powwow, but it sounds like they were doing powwow-style dances. Were they claiming these were authentic rain dances from particular tribal traditions? If so, which tribes?

Or were they doing typical powwow-style dances and separately praying for rain? And calling the combination a "rain dance," which is misleading if not stereotypical?

Rain dances are done by particular tribes at particular times of the year. They involve particular preparations, accouterments, and rituals. They generally are not ceremonies that anyone from any tribe can do without the proper cultural knowledge.

A tribe-specific rain dance with centuries of history is completely different from a made-up "dance for rain." It's like the difference between performing the Eucharist in church and eating a McDonald's hamburger named Jesus. They're both examples of eating the body of Christ, but with huge differences in terms of meaning and validity for the participants.

If I were an Indian and in charge, I'd curtail the practice of doing questionable "rain dances" as public stunts. The claim that all Indians have magical dances that can bring rain isn't much different from claiming all Indians are vicious warriors or nature-loving hippies. It doesn't help, it hurts.

As for "Wind Walker" or "Windwalker," is she an Indian or a wannabe? Which tribe is she enrolled with, if any? Who gave her the right to wear a headdress, usually reserved for esteemed male chiefs?

If she was singing rather than dancing, was she doing a "rain song"? Is there such a thing in her tribal culture, whatever it is? Or did she basically make it up?

For more on rain dances, see Oktoberfest Organizer Wants Rain Dance and No Such Thing as Rain Dances.

Village People in Family Guy

In an episode of Family Guy, titled Tea Peter (airdate: 6/13/12), Peter and his friends become enraged at the government. Their diatribe leads to this cutaway gag:PETER: Yeah, those bastards have ruined everything. The same way the Village People ruined any gathering of a cop, an Indian chief, and a construction worker.

BYSTANDER: Oh, my God! Can we get a picture with you guys?

COP: We're not those guys.

CHIEF: Yes, please leave us alone. We're very busy.

WORKER: Now where were we? Oh, yeah. We've got to solve that security problem for the Indian casino we're constructing.

Again, a TV show presents a mixed message. On the one hand, the gag undercuts the idea that a real Indian is a member of the Village People playing dress-up. On the other hand, it implies this is what a real Indian looks like. A Plains chief...standing in regalia for no reason...in Rhode Island.

The Narragansetts are the only recognized tribe in Rhode Island. Here's how they look these days:

A Narragansett chief might wear a Plains headdress on a special occasion--because many tribes have (mis)appropriated the Plains iconography. But a headdress plus buckskins? No. That's pure stereotyping.

January 24, 2014

Healthy Aboriginal Network's comic books

I haven't mentioned the Healthy Aboriginal Network in a while. They've been busy producing Native comic books.

Healthy Aboriginal NetworkWe create comic books on health and social issues for youth. The books we have in stock are listed below.

Financial literacy--The Game Plan. We all think we know what happens to our money--how much we make and where we spend it. And if we’re asked whether impulse buys and payday loans are a good idea, we all likely know that the answer is ‘no’. But making the right decision at the right time can be hard to do. Check out how money all finally makes sense to Jake once he relates it to his lacrosse aspirations.

Dog bites--The Gift. Dog bites are a real problem in some rural communities. Knowing what to do, but maybe more importantly what not to do, could help avoid a painful bite. It’s up to all of us to respect our relationship with dogs.

Residential school--Lost Innocence is a fictional story (but based on documented real life experiences of survivors) of a brother and sister's residential school experience in the 1930s. It's our longest book at 64 pages and has a truth and reconciliation theme.

Maternal child health--It Takes a Village. Our maternal child health book is about Lara, a young mom-to-be that is visited by Danis, a stranger. Danis teaches Lara the importance of eating healthy foods, avoiding alcohol, breastfeeding, keeping dad involved and bonding with your baby.

Sexual health--Kiss Me Deadly. A range of issues are covered in our sexual health comic book--from respect and communication in relationships, to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, two-spirit people and sexual health as a career or youth led project.

Integrating gang youth back into communities--Incarcerated youth were asked about their experiences with their gangs. Droppin' the Flag is the product of those discussions. When asked what we could change during the focus group testing process, gang youth said 'don't change a thing. That's the way it is.'

Youth in care--Lighting up the Darkness. Jenny returns to her community after living in the city with her aunt and uncle. While visiting family, she has a series of painful flashbacks to when she was a little girl. Jenny’s story is one girl’s struggle. But many youth will be able to relate to events in her young life.

Living with FASD--Drawing Hope is a collection of five stories, based on stories told by members of the Whitecrow Village community. The stories are about struggling in school, the importance of friendships and receiving support from friends and family.

Smoking prevention--River Run is the story of a group of youth that learn the traditional use of tobacco while on a canoe trip. One of the youth, who smokes, gets her world opened up along the way.

Sports/gang awareness--In Path of the Warrior, Cullen gets rolled out of his gang and is forced to reconnect with his family and community. Team sports and culture become his new support system.

Mental health--In Just a Story, Wendy doesn’t have any friends her age and feels overwhelmed at school. Her little brother is more social but he’s quick to lose his temper and get into fights. Something is clearly bothering them both. Good thing they’re open to getting help and breaking down the stigma of mental health.

Diabetes awareness--An Invited Threat is about a family’s realization that the food they eat and make available to their community is not good for them. It’s about making healthy decisions now, rather than waiting until it’s too late.

Dropping out/staying in school--In Level Up, Terry is contemplating dropping out of school. But before he does, he’s asked to spend some time with his cousin Dave, a successful game developer. Rather than lecture Terry, Dave makes the importance of school relatable - he compares education to moving up a level in a video game.

Gambling awareness--In On the Turn is about a young woman that learns how to play poker at school. Peer pressure gets the best of her and she learns what it feels like to hurt someone she loves.

Youth health issues--Standing Together was HAN’s first comic book. It was created by youth, on the issues that they felt were important to their community. As it turns out, health authorities felt the same.

"Thanks-Mas-Ween" in Cougar Town

In an episode of Cougar Town, titled It'll All Work Out (airdate: 5/15/12), Jules wants to hold Thanksgiving in the spring, when her friends and family are available.

To "celebrate," her friend Laurie wears a Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas outfit because she screwed up the previous holiday season. As Laurie put it:So today I'm going to represent all three holidays that I missed! Happy Thanks-Mas-Ween, everyone!Her outfit consists of a headband-like cord around her head, braids with feathers hanging from them, a short fringed vest, and a bone breastplate--all worn over a sexy Santa dress. You can see in the image below.

As is often the case, this bit has an uncertain effect. On the one hand, the Laurie character is dumb, and another character tells her the costume is crazy. Viewers could conclude that dressing like a faux Indian is a bad thing to do.

On the other hand, she wears the outfit for the rest of the show. And no one explicitly the costume is wrong--that it's racist or it stereotypes Indians. Viewers could conclude that if you want to be wacky and unconventional, there's nothing wrong with pretending to be an Indian.

That's the kind of mixed message a TV show shouldn't present. A straightforward message is much better. For instance, "That costume is racist, Laurie. I'm offended, so please change it."

January 23, 2014

Conservatives want to legalize discrimination

The GOP’s Birth-Control Trojan Horse

The right wants to use religion as an excuse to legally discriminate against gays and unmarried women—and, ultimately, anyone who doesn’t share their Christian faith.

By Amanda Marcotte
While stoking right-wing resentment over other people’s sex lives is a great way to sell the attacks on Obamacare to the masses, the real question is about whether employers have a right to discriminate if they claim to have religious reasons for doing so. Should employers be able to take away earned benefits from employees because they disapprove of the employee’s private decisions? Or does an employee’s right to religious liberty mean a boss can’t use compensation packages to try to force compliance with religious dictates?

The answer to the question is about way more than contraception. Indeed, there’s strong reason to believe that the battle over the contraception mandate is just part of a nascent conservative legal strategy to give business owners broad rights to discriminate against people—both customers and employees—on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. The right’s hope is to create a legal structure where business owners can cite religious objections to weasel out of a variety of legal obligations, from the obligation to pay employees what the law says they’re due to the obligation to treat all customers fairly. The attempt to sidestep a federal law stipulating that female employees get basic insurance benefits, including contraception, in exchange for the work they do is just part of this larger movement.

In fact, attacks on the right of gay customers to be served without being subject to abuse or discrimination is just as big a fight as the one against the contraception mandate. In many states, the battle over gay marriage is morphing into a battle over what conservatives say is a “right” to discriminate based on sexual orientation, so long as you claim Jesus is your reason for doing so. Across the country, right-wing Christian business owners are testing anti-discrimination laws by claiming that they have religious objections to doing things like baking wedding cakes or performing wedding photography for gay couples getting married.

So far, the pro-discrimination forces have been losing out as judges find that laws barring businesses from discrimination are not suspended just because of religious reasons. However, if the Supreme Court eventually finds that businesses such as Hobby Lobby can discriminate against their employees by refusing to offer federally-mandated health benefits because they disapprove of non-procreative sex, that could dramatically change the legal landscape. After all, it’s going to be hard to say that a business can’t refuse customers on the basis of disapproval of their sexual choices when the same business is allowed to deprive an employee of part of her earned compensation package because they disapprove of her private sexual choices.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Excerpts from Dog Whistle Politics and Satanic Statue Shows Conservative Hypocrisy.

Superman taught Alexie to read

Superman and Me

By Sherman AlexieI learned to read with a Superman comic book. Simple enough, I suppose. I cannot recall which particular Superman comic book I read, nor can I remember which villain he fought in that issue. I cannot remember the plot, nor the means by which I obtained the comic book. What I can remember is this: I was 3 years old, a Spokane Indian boy living with his family on the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington state. We were poor by most standards, but one of my parents usually managed to find some minimum-wage job or another, which made us middle-class by reservation standards. I had a brother and three sisters. We lived on a combination of irregular paychecks, hope, fear and government surplus food.And:At the same time I was seeing the world in paragraphs, I also picked up that Superman comic book. Each panel, complete with picture, dialogue and narrative was a three-dimensional paragraph. In one panel, Superman breaks through a door. His suit is red, blue and yellow. The brown door shatters into many pieces. I look at the narrative above the picture. I cannot read the words, but I assume it tells me that "Superman is breaking down the door." Aloud, I pretend to read the words and say, "Superman is breaking down the door." Words, dialogue, also float out of Superman's mouth. Because he is breaking down the door, I assume he says, "I am breaking down the door." Once again, I pretend to read the words and say aloud, "I am breaking down the door" In this way, I learned to read.

January 22, 2014

"From Super-Chief to Tonto"

From Super-Chief to Tonto: What comics tell us

By Niigaanwewidam SinclairGraphic novelist theorist Scott McCloud argues in Understanding Comics that "when we create and read comics we are really constructing reflections of ourselves over and over and over again."

In other words: we are telling stories to figure ourselves out.

This makes the history of indigenous representations in graphic novels so fascinating and one reason why we started a graphic novel collection both about and by indigenous peoples here at the University of Manitoba.

Called the Mazinbiige collection, it refers to an Anishinabe word meaning beautiful images and writing—something fairly easy to see in the dozens of texts by indigenous storytellers and artists representing their cultures and communities.

Something harder to see is in the approximately 100 graphic novels created by non-aboriginal artists in the collection that represent indigenous peoples in generally inaccurate and potentially damaging ways.
Sinclair goes through five categories of stereotypical characters:The Warrior

Angry and usually accompanied by a spiritual entity, warriors like Joshua Brand in Image Comics’ Shaman's Tears and Marvel Comics’ John Proudstar (aka Thunderbird) of the X-Men are isolated men with an axe to grind.

The Artifact

Off the pages of a textbook, clad in buckskin, and carrying archaic beliefs and weapons, characters such as Gold Key Comics’ Turok, DC Comics’ Super-Chief, and Eclipse Comics’ Scout: War Shaman are vestiges to a dying way of life in a modern world.

The Sidekick

Usually a decoration for a stunning, heroic, non-native hero, athletic and noble servants like Dell’s Tonto in the Lone Ranger comic books may have been ignorant or just played the role to please his handler, but either way relished in the role.

The Shaman

In his study Native Americans in Comic Books, Michael Sheyahshe writes that there is a popular “assumption that within every indigenous person there hides a potential shaman with 'magical' abilities to communicate with supernatural forces."

The Wannabe

Not an aboriginal character, but a non-aboriginal who is captured and/or raised by indigenous peoples, this character’s superpowers are gained simply by exposure.
Comment:  Most of the "warriors" are artifacts and most of the "wannabes" are warriors.

I wouldn't have labeled the range "From Super-Chief to Tonto," since those two characters span only a few years in the 1950s. "From Turok to Scalped" is a better summary of the genre.

I guess "From Super-Chief to Tonto" could be a commentary on the limited range of Native comic-book characters. Like they go all the way from A to B.

For more on the subject, see Mazinbiige Comic-Book Collection.

January 21, 2014

Boastful cornerback = "thug"?

Interesting case study of racial politics in 2014:

Richard Sherman goes on postgame rant with Erin Andrews (video)

By Cindy BorenThe Seattle Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl with an emotional, physical, exhausting victory over the San Francisco 49ers and no one was more heated after the win than Richard Sherman.

Here’s a transcript:

“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.” When Andrews asked who was talking about him, he replied, “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’ll shut it for you real quick. LOB [Legion of Boom]!”
This quickly brought out America's legion of racists:

Dumb People Say Stupid, Racist Shit About Richard Sherman

Racist Rants About Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman

Sherman apologizes

Richard Sherman: Rant was 'immature,' reaction 'mind-boggling'

By Lateef Mungin and Steve Almasy, CNN"I probably shouldn't have attacked another person," he told Nichols in an exclusive interview that will air in its entirety Friday night on CNN's "Unguarded."

"You know, I don't mean to attack him. And that was immature and I probably shouldn't have done that. I regret doing that."

But then, Sherman turned the spotlight on to him, making himself the victim, defending his actions and saying that what he regretted most was the way the media covered his rant.

He also said he was shocked by some of the racists responses he received.

"It was really mind-boggling the way the world reacted," Sherman said. "I can't say the world, I don't want to generalize people like that because there are a lot of great people who didn't react that way. But for the people who did react that way and throw the racial slurs and things like that out there, it was really sad. Especially that close to Martin Luther King Day."

"I learned we haven't come as far as I thought we had," Sherman added. "I thought society had moved past that."
Why Richard Sherman Shouldn’t Have To Apologize For His Post-Game Interview

By Travis WaldronI can only imagine that by now you’ve seen Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game interview from Sunday’s NFC Championship, the one in which he called San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree “sorry” and proclaimed that he was the best defensive back in football. The interview earned him no shortage of backlash on Twitter, Facebook, and all the other conductors of insta-reaction/outrage, and it earned him plenty of criticism in the sports media too.

Sherman is a “classless” “thug” who forgot for 30 seconds Sunday night that athletes are supposed to stick to language that would make corporate PR executives swoon. That’s the case even for an athlete like Sherman, who had a microphone in his face mere minutes after making the biggest play of his life in the biggest game of his life. There’s a code in sports that says you can’t talk smack about your opponents even if it’s what you believe, because that’s “classless” and “thuggish,” or something like that. It’s a code of dishonesty, but it’s a code Richard Sherman violated. And so Monday, he apologized.
And:We’ve been led to believe that Sherman said something awful, but watch the clip again. He criticizes a wide receiver on a rival team that he’s been battling for 60 minutes and he claims to have a personal history with. He claims he’s the best defensive back in the game. Neither of those seem to be outlandish enough to warrant the outrage they generated, at least not from anyone whose name isn’t Michael Crabtree. And neither of those statements seem to necessitate an apology, at least not to anyone who isn’t Michael Crabtree. So what’s Sherman apologizing for? For becoming a distraction. And that’s even more amazing, because the idea that he was a distraction—that catch-all term we use to criticize athletes when they step outside the realm of what the sports world deems acceptable—is nonsense that ignores that this turned into a major story for no particularly legitimate reason.

"Thug" talk

America’s racial double standard: White celebs are excused, but black stars are “thugs”

White stars escape the judgment Richard Sherman received--even if, like Justin Bieber, they get arrested

By Beanie Barnes
Following the NFC Championship game last weekend, Richard Sherman gave an interview to Erin Andrews. He yelled to millions watching in their living rooms about being the best and shutting down opposing receiver Michael Crabtree. However, following his interview, he somehow morphed from a football player who had just reached the pinnacle of sports achievement into a racial stereotype.

Suddenly he was “classless,” a “thug” from Compton, and any manner of other negative terms that one can substitute for the N-word. Sherman was no longer human, but a racist caricature.

Black people exist in a “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” space within American conversation. If a black person does something that’s seen as negative, that negative behavior is used as yet another example of how “we” are. Negative behavior, so it goes, is just inherent in “us.”

On the flip side, if a black person achieves something positive, the positive achievement is often dismissed as either undeserved or the result of an innate gift the achiever can’t take credit for. Many people believe President Obama only got into Harvard because of affirmative action, and just as many believe he was only elected into office (twice, no less) because he is black. In sports, the success of white athletes is most often attributed to “smarts” and “hard work,” but the success of black athletes is often attributed to “natural ability” or “God-given” talent.
Richard Sherman, Thugs, and Black Humanity

By Olivia A. ColeToday I’m wondering what it takes for a black man to be regarded as human in America.

Today Richard Sherman is being lambasted for his animated post-game interview in which he dared to express emotion outside of the cubic centimeter men of color are allotted. A cornerback in one of the most physically demanding sports in the country—after a game in which bodies were injured and crushed; after a game that required players to be helped off the field—wins a critical game and has a microphone stuck in his face. He says what he says, and suddenly the nation is clutching its pearls, tutting and making pretend-concerned remarks about sportsmanship and graciousness. Today, Tom Brady criticizes Richard Sherman for his lack of “graciousness.” Today, Richard Sherman is being called a thug, and I’m wondering what that word really means.

Does it mean foul-mouthed? After all, Tom Brady was never called a thug. Not when he got in the ref’s face when losing to the Panthers and dropped the F-bomb on national television just two months ago. What about Richie Incognito, when he called Jonathan Martin the n-word on his voicemail? That’s a foul word, isn’t it? I didn’t hear Incognito referred to as a thug either. Or does “thug” mean violent? I’m not sure. Because, despite his animation, Sherman didn’t use a single curse word. He didn’t threaten anyone’s safety or injure anyone.

The truth is, I only ever hear “thug” applied to black people. And not just adult men. A black toddler made news recently when Omaha police posted a video on their website of the child cursing and holding up his middle finger. The child was described as a thug by Omaha police, who insisted they only shared the video to show “the cycle of thuggery.” The video was posted without the knowledge or consent of the child’s mother.
Richard Sherman: “Thug” is simply the “accepted way of calling somebody the N-word”

The Seattle Seahawks player calls out those who demonized him for his post-game remarks

By Elias Isquith
Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman spoke in Seattle on Wednesday with the media, expressing regret that his infamous post-game boisterousness had distracted many from appreciating the hard work and talent of his fellow teammates and calling out those who were quick to label him a “thug.”

“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” Sherman said. “It’s like everybody else said the N-word, and then they say ‘thug.’ And that’s fine. That’s where it’s kind of, you know—it kind of takes me aback. And it’s kind of disappointing, because they know. What’s the definition of a thug, really?”

Sherman isn’t the only one who has noticed a not-so-subtle racial subtext in some of his harshest critics’ words. Forget subtext, actually—as the sports blog Deadspin has shown, much of the response to Sherman, especially on Twitter, was blatantly, unapologetically racist. But the “thug” charge has been more prominent. As Deadspin noted in a separate post, the Monday following Sherman’s post-game interview saw the word “thug” used on television 625 times, “more often than on any other day in the past three years.”
Has 'thug' become a covert substitute for the N-word?

By VeronicaSComedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” said something interesting on his show Friday. He thinks the T-word (thug) is being used as a weapon today like the N-word (nig**r) was used in the good ole days of open racism sanctioned by the Union.

Does he have a point?

It does appear that those loudly calling every black guy a thug on television, the Internet and talk radio have found another way to denigrate, dehumanize and spew bile at black men.

When white men or white teens act out, take drugs, rape, riot, get arrested, commit mass murder and repeatedly break the law, they are never called thugs in the media.

When Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who came from Compton to beat the odds and attend a prestigious university like Stanford, gets pumped up on victorious excitement, adrenaline and aggression—all things football encourages—he is promptly labelled a thug. The 25-year-old’s taunting antics have even cost him a $7,875 fine.

But when teen pop idol Justin Bieber breaks the law numerous times here and abroad, racks up more than $20,000 in damages by vandalizing other people’s property, takes drugs, gets arrested, assaults people, drag races—no one in the media refers to him as a thug.

Uppity? Too bad

Finally, a columnist ties this incident to what Indians and other minorities have to deal with.

We Are Not Your Grandparents’ Minorities: The Richard Sherman Debate

By Lyle JacobsSo why, over the past 24 hours, has Richard Sherman been the hottest topic in sports? Simple: because Richard Sherman is a black professional athlete who refused to conform to the role of the obedient negro that white America expects a black professional athlete to play.And:Is Richard Sherman acting like a thug in this video? What about a monkey? Asshole? Cocky nigger? Or is Richard Sherman acting like a guy who just made the biggest play of his career to reach the biggest stage his livelihood offers and was high off of emotion after battling a rival who was obviously talking trash throughout the game? In the whitest of all sports, hockey, when a guy violently attacks another he isn’t labeled a thug, he is labeled a perfect teammate. What if someone like Tom Brady gave an interview like this? Would he be a classless, cocky thug? Of course not. Tom Brady would probably be called “emotional,” “fiery,” and “inspirational” after an interview like this. Man, that guy has a desire to win. What a competitor! Look at the fire in his eyes, the passion in his speech! A million different variations of that bullshit would be spewed by all the racially biased internet trolls and commentators in the mainstream. But because Richard Sherman is a black professional athlete, a minority, not a white man, who showed some personality and got “cocky” on national television, he is labeled a thug.And:Too often minority men in all aspects of life are ostracized for not fulfilling their assigned role in society. The moment one refuses to play the subservient, obedient, white-washed, “masta please” role they are a thug, classless, and an embarrassment. Richard Sherman broke that role and told society that minority males are no longer allocated to the back page by playing the role you want us to play. We are stepping out of your glass box with our talents, educations, and communities behind us. The days of you telling us how we are supposed to act is over. Thank you Richard Sherman, for smashing that glass box that kept us in the back of the bus for so long.Comment:  We've seen this hero/thug dichotomy many times during America's Native history. People such as Columbus, Jackson, and Custer have been called heroes for killing or enslaving Indians. Unlike the Indians, they were lionized for their savage behavior.

For more on the subject, see The Rage of Angry White Men and "Defund Obamacare" = "Nigger, Nigger."

GOP official: "Herd all the Indians"

Michigan GOP official: ‘Herd all the Indians’ to Detroit, build a fence and throw in corn

By David EdwardsIn a recent interview for a profile by The New Yorker titled “Drop Dead, Detroit!” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson admitted, “Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough sh*t.”

Patterson recalled telling his children to “get in and get out” if they needed to go to Detroit.

“And, before you go to Detroit, you get your gas out here. You do not, do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking,” he said.

Patterson also proposed a fix to Detroit’s financial problems: Turn the city into a reservation for Native Americans.

“I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and the corn.’”
And:Activists with Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network had planned a news conference on Tuesday to call for Patterson to apologize.

National Action Network’s Michigan chapter president Rev. Charles Williams II said that the comments were “repulsive” because they were an insult to the city’s African-American population and “a direct slight to the American Indians who occupied the land before Detroit was Detroit, and Oakland County.”
L. Brooks Patterson's Detroit bashing in New Yorker draws fire

Comment:  Patterson's comments are offensive in at least two ways:

1) The idea that Indians could, would, or should be herded onto a reservation, where they'd be caged and fed like animals. This is a textbook example of racism--of discriminating by race. Patterson would never say something similar about blacks or whites.

2) The idea that Indians aren't modern-day people who wear regular clothes and eat regular food. That they'd need or want "blankets and corn," which wouldn't have even satisfied their distant ancestors. These days, Indians want sushi, Gucci, and Wi-Fi just like everyone else.

January 20, 2014

Tittler the Internet troll

A few days ago, political activist Michele Tittler said she found the message of the "Got Land? Thank an Indian" offensive. CBC quoted Tittler uncritically, making her sound like the voice of the opposition.

Activists slammed CBC for not looking into and disclosing her background. Now CBC has published this:

Racially charged Internet trolling draws harsh criticismAggressive online trolling by Michele Tittler, a Vancouver woman who posts inflammatory comments about Aboriginal issues and people, has led to at least two police probes—although the most recent case has been halted according to RCMP.

Tittler's rants, last week, on the Facebook page of First Nations teenager Tenelle Starr led police in Saskatchewan to open a file.

Starr, 13, was posting updates on her experiences from early January when she wore a "Got Land? Thank an Indian" sweatshirt to her Balcarres, Sask., school.

Tittler leapt onto the teen's page to denounce the message of the sweatshirt. In an interview with CBC News, Tittler admits to posting harsh, race-based comments on the teenager's Facebook page, considered a form of trolling. None of her words included physical threats.
And:Meanwhile, CBC's ongoing examination of the woman, a 52-year-old mother of two, reveals Tittler has a history of harassing people. In 2006, a criminal court judge in B.C. granted a peace bond against Tittler after a neighbour complained of harassment. A peace bond is similar to a restraining order. In order for a judge to grant a peace bond, the neighbour would have to show "fear on reasonable grounds." In the B.C. case it was not clear whether the fear was that Tittler would cause personal injury or damage property. The imposition of a peace bond does not result in a criminal record. Tittler admits to other confrontations in which the police were called.

In September 2013, Tittler registered a not-for-profit organization with Industry Canada called ERBL Inc., or End Race Based Law Inc. Its Facebook page has 3,100 likes. In an interview with CBC, Tittler explained that she is unemployed and spends most of her time on-line denouncing Aboriginal treaties, posting rants on YouTube and engaging in caustic debates with vocal critics. She's registered several domain names containing the words "Idle No More" to intercept web traffic from the actual site of the group. She has also filed formal complaints against people to Facebook and internet providers alleging that some sites are promoting racism.

"It got to the point that my hair was falling out of my head," Tittler told CBC News about the energy she has expended. "[I] was going to sleep for a few hours, then waking up and reporting [people]. Then I'd go to sleep for a few hours, then I'd wake up and report. My whole 2013 life was reporting."

Tittler defends her decision to troll a teenager's Facebook page, insisting it's a public space.

Tittler's ERBL has been dubbed an "online hate group" by Idle No More organizers, many of whom have filed their own formal complaints to Facebook, domain name registries and police.
An excellent posting describes what was wrong with CBC's initial approach. It's worth quoting at length:

CBC’s interview with Tittler reveals the problem with “objectivity”

By Kyle FarquharsonAfter locating Tittler, CBC journalist Bonnie Allen interviewed the 59-year-old. The eventual result was a radio segment and an online article in which Tittler’s views were broadcast, with little objection raised to the views she expressed. In the written piece, Tittler’s views are simply described as “intense criticism.”

I understand what Allen and her colleagues were striving to accomplish. Journalism is a medium driven by narrative tension. In order for a story to be compelling, there must be at least two sides, and there must be conflict. There is also an accepted ethical principle, particularly in North American journalism, that hard news stories should be “objective” and “balanced”: that is, the facts and opinions they convey should be completely unadulterated by the journalist’s own opinion, and both sides of the conflict should receive roughly equal airtime.

However, the problem with this approach becomes obvious in situations where one party to a conflict is correct, and the other is wrong.

No journalist in h/er right mind (at least, I sincerely hope not) would publish a story reflecting both sides of a “debate” on whether or not the Holocaust happened—the historical evidence of that genocide is unquestionable, and those members of our society who continue to deny it are rightly considered pariahs. And though it has taken some time, many television news organizations have yielded to the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change by declining to offer equal weight to both a climatologist and a climate denier or skeptic, which for many years was common practice.

Though the lesson from these examples is clear, the credo of balance and objectivity still leads many journalists woefully astray. Where CBC’s coverage of Tenelle Starr’s sweater is concerned, the only real conflict is between reality and nonsense.

Let’s examine the question of whether the message on Starr’s sweater is racist, as Tittler claims. Though racism is a notoriously imprecise term, it is commonly understood to be the notion that one’s own race is superior to others. However, while anyone may hold racist attitudes, in the North American context, institutions that enforce various forms of racial discrimination and racial privilege are dominated by white people. Thus, even if a First Nations person or group were to hold racist views against white Canadians, the detrimental consequences to our ethnic group would be negligible.

However, Starr’s sweater does not express the view that her race is superior. Rather, it recalls the undisputed historical fact that Indigenous peoples populated this land for thousands of years before the settler-colonial experiment called Canada took shape. As the Canadian enterprise has evolved and expanded, various treaties between settlers and Indigenous peoples have granted the Crown access to vast expanses of land and a wealth of resources. There are also many areas of the country, including Tittler’s hometown of Vancouver, where treaties have not yet been established. In either case, it is the Indigenous population’s acquiescence to the presence and activities of newcomers (in some cases willingly, in others under duress) that enabled Canada to not only exist, but to become one of the most prosperous countries on earth. Far from “racist,” the fact that some Indigenous peoples should desire a measure of gratitude is warranted.

There is another, more profound issue at play here, however. Michele Tittler is not merely a citizen with a point of view. She is an ideological campaigner who advocates a specific set of policies—namely, the abrogation of treaties, reserve lands, and legal rights that apply specifically to Indigenous peoples in Canada. This idea is not unique to Tittler; since the foundation of the Canadian state, various efforts have been made to integrate the Indigenous “other” into the mainstream of Canadian society—including residential schools and the Trudeau white paper.

Historically, and today, there are many Canadians who sympathize with aspects of Tittler’s message, despite her marginal status. Even among those who reject the contention that the message on the “Got Land?” sweater is racist, there are some—including current and former members of our federal government—who hold that the “special” or “race-based” rights accorded to Indigenous peoples ought to end. These individuals typically dismiss or fail to appreciate the importance of Indigenous concepts of nationhood, sovereignty, and connection to the land, in favour of a “solution” that involves assimilation/integration, and nullification of Indigenous rights that pre-date European contact, and have been affirmed by the United Nations.

To most people, geography is a key component of identity. For example, if the land of France ceased to exist, the claim of French nationality would be rendered meaningless; the French would become a rootless diaspora. This is so to an even greater extent for Indigenous peoples. The earliest inhabitants of Turtle Island already face extraordinary hostility from Canadians over their desire to preserve their heritage, traditions, and rights. By amplifying the voice of Tittler, and offering little in the way of challenge, our country’s public broadcaster has done Indigenous peoples a grave disservice.
Comment:  I believe I responded to the Facebook posting shown below. To be fair, Tittler didn't say "I hate Indians," or list Tenelle Starr's address, in that posting. Unless it was in the comments, which I didn't read in detail. I don't know for sure that she did either of these things.

Also, this article says Tittler is 52, while the previous article said she's 59. I don't know which it is.

Excerpts from Dog Whistle Politics

First, some science-based racial theories:

How conservatives hijacked “colorblindness” and set civil rights back decades

MLK dreamed of a world where race doesn't divide us—not one where we pretend it doesn't exist

By Ian Haney-Lopez
Today the dominant etiquette around race is colorblindness. It has a strong moral appeal, for it laudably envisions an ideal world in which race is no longer relevant to how we perceive or treat each other. It also has an intuitive practical appeal: to get beyond race, colorblindness urges, the best strategy is to immediately stop recognizing and talking about race. But it is especially as a strategy that colorblindness fails its liberal adherents. We cannot will ourselves to un-see something that we’ve already seen. In turn, refusing to talk about a powerful social reality doesn’t make that reality go away, but it does leave confused thinking unchallenged, in ourselves and in others. The Austin children exemplify this. Differences in race—including physical variation and its connection to social position—resemble differences in gender: they are plainly visible to new minds eager to make sense of the world around them. When unexplained, however, children (and our unconscious minds) are left susceptible to the power of stereotypes. As the Newsweek authors conclude, “children see racial differences as much as they see the difference between pink and blue— but we tell kids that ‘pink’ means for girls and ‘blue’ is for boys. ‘White’ and ‘black’ are mysteries we leave them to figure out on their own.”

We should also acknowledge that colorblindness has an additional appeal: it seems to provide a safe route through the minefield of race relations. Many whites are understandably nervous to talk about race at all, though especially in racially mixed company. What if they slip and say something that sounds ignorant, or worse, bigoted? Simply avoiding race altogether seems to offer a solution. Yet, those who adopt a colorblind strategy often come across as more racially hostile, not less. Refusing to acknowledge obvious social differences creates an impression of suppressed dislike, and studies have shown that whites who studiously avoid mentioning race even when it is clearly relevant are perceived as more bigoted. Perhaps this contributed to how the Austin children came to interpret their parents’ racial attitudes, after their parents tried so hard to suppress references to race. Asked “do your parents like black people,” more than half either said “no, my parents don’t like black people,” or simply answered, “I don’t know.” The researchers remarked, “in this supposed race-free vacuum being created by parents, kids were left to improvise their own conclusions— many of which would be abhorrent to their parents.”

If colorblindness seems to backfire, is there something that does help our children—and us—navigate the dangerous shoals of race? Yes: talking openly about racial differences and what they might mean. Psychological research shows that cognitive biases in social judgment “can be controlled only through subsequent, deliberate ‘mental correction’ that takes group status squarely into account.” The Austin researchers reached a similar conclusion, for they urged parents to use in the racial context the express methods they employ to help children overcome gender stereotypes. “Parents are very comfortable talking to their children about gender, and they work very hard to counter-program against boy-girl stereotypes. That ought to be our model for talking about race. The same way we remind our [children], ‘Mommies can be doctors just like daddies,’ we ought to be telling all children that doctors can be any skin color. It’s not complicated what to say. It’s only a matter of how often we reinforce it.” In other words, best practices in the area of race involve doing the opposite of what colorblindness seems to command. We must notice and talk about race, self-critically and carefully, in order to understand and attempt to set aside its power over our imaginations.
Next, how conservatives ignore the science and exploit racism to further their agenda:

The right’s dog-whistle trick: How it exploits racism to rip apart the social safety net

Conservatives use coded racial appeals to win very specific policy goals, law professor Ian Haney Lopez explains

By Sean McElwee
Martin Gilens has an essay [“How the Poor Became Black”] about how media influences racial perceptions, and he talks on the national level about how when CBS reports on the undeserving poor it’s more likely to be a black face and when it’s the working poor or hard times it’s more likely to be a white face. What effect does the national media have on dog-whistle politics? How have they been complicit in this?

The impact is tremendous. Politicians can seed the media with these frames and because these frames have a strong racial logic behind them, they end up being picked up by the media and amplified dramatically. An example would be Ronald Reagan’s warnings about undocumented immigrants and the threat of them pouring across the border. He essentially creates that issue as a sort of a media frame. When he’s first elected people don’t have a sense that this is a major social problem facing the United States, but by [Reagan] constantly talking about it, the media begins to pick up on it and report stories on it and it becomes a national hysteria. I would say he does the same thing with crime. The more he talks about crime, the more it becomes an issue, the more the media find that it’s actually easy to report on crime stories. Reporting on crime stories goes up by 200 or 300 percent while the incidence of crime doesn’t. That generates a tremendous amount of fear around these coded threats that the politicians are using to campaign on.
And:The Tea Party shares a lot with the Barry Goldwater style of conservatism, except now the racism has expanded to include Hispanics and Muslims.

With the Tea Party there is both a racial hysteria that is occurring on a national level and at a more regional level. On a national level, you have organizations like Fox News, which understand perfectly well that they can energize and mobilize a large portion of the white population by constantly hammering away at racial issues. That’s exactly what it does with Obama, with the notion that he is foreign, with the notion that he is Muslim, with Sarah Palin’s notion that he is “palling around with terrorists.” She makes that comment with respect to a white activist [Bill Ayers], but with respect to the time, terrorist codes as “Muslim.” On a national level, a lot of energy is being expended by Tea Party mobilizers to motivate people in terms of race.
And:The toughest part is identifying the solution. As soon as you start talking about the Tea Party and race they turn around and say, “You are the racist for saying that we are the racists.” Can you elaborate on some solutions?

The solution is clear, although it’s not short-term. We have changed the way race operates. The rhetoric of race has changed dramatically in a way that racial justice projects have lost, but also, and more fundamentally, liberalism has lost. It’s lost because race has shifted to a coded and expressed register and on both registers the language of race is controlled by conservatives. So on the coded register, you have this constant drumbeat of insinuations that taint liberalism as a giveaway to minorities through language like “welfare” or “amnesty” or “causing terrorism.” And you don’t see liberals using a coded racial language to rebut that. Then on the express level, conservatives have made racism mean only an open reference to race itself. What that means is that whenever liberals or racial progressives say, “Hey, you know racism remains a big problem in our society,” something as innocuous as that, they immediately get slammed for playing the race card and conservatives run around saying, “Hey, we’re a post-racial society, but you just introduced race into the conversation.”

An interesting example was when Obama made the brief remark that he doesn’t look like all the other presidents on the dollar bills. He doesn’t! We ought to be able to say that, and we ought to be able to say that there has been a practice of scaring people around race. The minute he said that, he was the racist, he was the one injecting race into the conversation and poisoning the post-racial harmony that otherwise defines the U.S. as far as conservatives were concerned. We cannot restore a robust commitment to progressive government that helps everybody until we can challenge that rhetoric. And we can’t challenge that rhetoric until we once again engage with the power of race in our society. And that is a medium-term project. But it requires the commitment of lots of different actors, from politicians themselves, from foundations, from unions and from the media to really reengage with the role that race is playing and to be much more sophisticated in our understanding of how racism works and the many different forms of racisms. We have to get away from this idea that there is one sort of racism and it wears a Klan hood. Of course, that is an egregious form of racism, but there are many other forms of racism. There are racisms. And until we recognize that and start talking about it we’re going to see that some of those forms of racisms are easily used to manipulate broad swaths of the American electorate.
Comment:  For more on conservative racism, see Robertson Says What Conservatives Believe and Republicans Hate Government Aid for Minorities.

The radical Martin Luther King Jr.

The radical MLK we need today

As the nation rediscovers poverty, it’s time to replace the safe, airbrushed icon with the revolutionary he was

By Joan Walsh
[H]ere’s one of King’s most famous, resonant quotes about capitalism, from his August 1967 speech: “Where Do We Go From Here?” (I like this version, because it’s punctuated by his SCLC audience’s replies):What I’m saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. (Yes) Capitalism forgets that life is social. (Yes, Go ahead) And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. (Speak) [applause] It is found in a higher synthesis (Come on) that combines the truths of both. (Yes) Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. (All right) These are the triple evils that are interrelated.Labels don’t matter, but solutions do. Rather than remembering King solely as a civil rights leader, we must reclaim him as a radical advocate of economic justice, looking to lead a multiracial movement of poor people to complete the unfinished business of the civil rights movement. As King put it plainly, “What good does it do to be able to eat at a lunch counter if you can’t buy a hamburger?” Post-integration, too many black people couldn’t sit down at integrated lunch counters and buy a hamburger; 50 years later, too many people of every race have the same problem.

We are ready for the radical King now. President Obama, perhaps belatedly, has declared income inequality “the defining issue of our time.” Even poverty seems back on the agenda. The man who may be doing the most to advance these issues right now isn’t a politician or a rabble rouser; it’s Pope Francis, who’s been hailed by everyone from Obama to Paul Ryan (Ryan gets him wrong) as helping us make the issue of poverty central to our politics. “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be in Rome visiting Pope Francis holding a joint press conference to summoning the world to aid the poor eradicate poverty,” Clarence Jones says. The president promises he’s going to the Vatican to meet the new pope, and that’s a start.

For now, though, all these years later, King’s allies and inheritors are still fighting fires in a burning house. It’s time to rebuild the house with room for everyone, and keep it safer from the fiery danger of injustice.
MLK's vehement condemnations of US militarism are more relevant than ever

His vital April 4, 1967 speech is a direct repudiation of the sophistry now used to defend US violence and aggression

By Glenn Greenwald
King argued for the centrality of his anti-militarism advocacy most eloquently on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City--exactly one year before the day he was murdered. That extraordinary speech was devoted to answering his critics who had been complaining that his anti-war activism was distracting from his civil rights work ("Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask?"). King, citing seven independent reasons, was adamant that ending US militarism and imperialism was not merely a moral imperative in its own right, but a prerequisite to achieving any meaningful reforms in American domestic life.

In that speech, King called the US government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today," as well as the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long" (is there any surprise this has been whitewashed from his legacy?). He emphasized that his condemnations extended far beyond the conflict in Southeast Asia: "the war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit." He insisted that no significant social problem--wealth inequality, gun violence, racial strife--could be resolved while the US remains "a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift"--a recipe, he said, for certain "spiritual death". For that reason, he argued, "it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war." That's because:"If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over."Working against US imperialism was, he said, "the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions." For King, opposing US violence in the world was not optional but obligatory: "We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy . . . ." The entire speech is indescribably compelling and its applicability to contemporary US behavior obvious. I urge everyone who hasn't already done so to take the time to read it.
Comment:  For more on Martin Luther King Jr., see Sanitizing Martin Luther King Jr. and King on Indians and Genocide.