Tag Archives: racism

Missing and Murdered Native Women

Everyone loves Canada, eh?  And no one can give you any specific details about Canada other than: two Olympics were held there, in Quebec they speak French, and, that it’s known for ice wine, ice hockey, and syrup.  *Update: Michael Moore isn’t from Canada.  He’s from Flint.*

But what about their issues?  Assuredly Canada deals with similar problems of race, class, gender, etc, but you never hear about Canada, so it must be fantastic there.  Right?

I recently learned from this Rabble news article posted on Racialicious that Canada has a high rate of missing and murdered native women, totaling nearly 600 women over the past 25 years, and half since the year 2000.  And more than half of these murders remain unsolved.  WTF?

In March, the Canadian Minister of Justice budgeted $10 million over two years to address the issue, yet they haven’t decided on how the money will be spent.  Many justice organizations, including Amnesty International and Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), suggest that the $10 million is not enough to support Canadian native women and solve “the problem.”  Mainly because the problem’s too damn big.

Photographs of missing or murdered women from British Columbia are displayed during a Sisters in Spirit vigil to honour the lives of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday October 4, 2009. Vigils were held in dozens of communities across Canada to highlight the issue of murdered Aboriginal women and girls. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

So what’s the problem?

Andre Picard from The Global and Mail states that these kidnappings and deaths are a result of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and race-based violence:

The women, most under the age of 30, are overwhelmingly victims of sexual violence. They are being preyed upon systematically by sexual sadists, killers and probably more than one serial killer.  How can this not be considered a national priority for police, justice and public-health officials?

Sadly, when a native woman is murdered or vanishes under suspicious circumstances, it does not mobilize police action nor generate near as much media attention as similar cases involving non-native women: They were drunk. They were sex workers. They came from unstable family backgrounds. They were runaways. They were party girls. An endless litany of excuses for inaction is trotted out with shocking regularity.

But it is precisely these circumstances – alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual abuse, the sequelae of residential schools, poverty, survival sex, etc. – that placed them at much higher risk.

NWAC Sisters’ in Spirit director Kate Rexe said if the money is spent wisely with commitment from all levels of government and NGOs, there is an opportunity to change the system and how it responds to violence and the disappearance of Aboriginal women and girls.

NWAC recommends a comprehensive action plan based on four key areas of priorities: Increasing access to justice, reducing violence against Aboriginal women and girls, increasing economic security, and reducing the impact of children in care (welfare),” Rexe said.

"There is evidence that a serial killer may also be at work in Manitoba, and a single man may also be responsible for the carnage along British Columbia's infamous Highway of Tears . (Highway 16 - The Yellowhead Highway, which stretches 750 kilometres from Prince George to Prince Rupert has been the site of nine murders and disappearances since 1990, all but one of the victims young aboriginal women.) But the reality is that the Highway of Tears stretches from sea-to-sea-to-sea in this country: Aboriginal women have been murdered or disappeared by the score in every single province and territory in Canada," says Picard. Photo by Vancouver Sun Files

Not to pick on Canada – the United States has a serious problem with these same issues.  Here are some stats about the situation in America:

According to Amnesty International, one in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime – Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than a non-native woman.

In 2007, Amnesty International published its findings in the study “Maze of Injustice: The Failure to Protect Indigenous Women from Sexual Violence in the USA.”

That same year, NPR did a two-part series on the subject: “Rape Cases On Indian Lands Go Uninvestigated” and “Legal Hurdles Stall Rape Cases on Native Lands.”

The NPR series chronicled horrific stories either ignored by law enforcement or unreported because they have become commonplace.  The investigation also revealed a system underfunded and often broken: a tribal health center inadequately staffed and without rape kits to collect DNA from victims; tribal leaders and Native police unable to prosecute non-native perpetrators; and a patchwork of confusing jurisdictions in which federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement intersect and clash with each other.

Underlying the issue is a terrible fact that makes justice all but impossible: 80% of rapes involve non-native perpetrators, and tribal authorities are powerless in these situations because only federal prosecutors can prosecute crimes on tribal lands.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) oversees law enforcement on the reservations, and many police departments are woefully understaffed; one reservation the size of Connecticut has only 5 officers to cover the entire area. One BIA officer told NPR he was “too overwhelmed and overworked to keep up with the number of calls for rape, sexual assault and child abuse” that came in each week.

The Current TV documentary series Vanguard investigated this issue in their segment, “Rape on the Reservation.”  Correspondent Mariana van Zeller visits the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, where 19-year-old Marquita was raped, beaten, and murdered in an abandoned house.  Zeller looks into Marquita’s murder along with other harrowing stories of rape and abuse, and exposes the difficulties women face in their attempts to seek justice.

So what can you do?

Learn. Act. Share.  But most importantly, we need to work to end racism and sexism in our everyday lives.

How to act:

http://www.nwac.ca/act-now

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=18634748040

http://www.now.org/nnt/spring-2001/nativeamerican.html

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Photo Essay – Arizona Immigration Law

SB 1070, Arizona’s racist immigration law, would have taken full effect today if it were not for a last-minute injunction.  Today in Phoenix hundreds marched to support human rights for local immigrants.  However, many of the thousands and thousands of immigrants in Phoenix couldn’t march because they were doing what they do every day – working.

Here’s some photos to show my support for the cause.

DelMundo for News Paulo Castillo, 38, holds his nephew Edwin Galvez, 1, as they join fellow immigrants on a vigil outside Arizona’s State Capital. Read more:

“This is not just about SB 1070,” she said. “This isn’t just about Arizona. To some people it may seem like a victory; we are saying it’s not.”

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White-Washing in Regressive Comics

“Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back: Race and the Return of the Retro Superhero,” Glen Weldon, NPR

Comics blogger Chris Sims posted a thoughtful, nuanced and well-argued critique of a recent trend in DC superhero comics he finds troubling: The recent tendency for the publisher to reinstate the “classic” versions of heroes who had at some point exited the stage and passed their multicolored longjohns to a new generation.

Sims considers what he dubs “regressive storytelling” to be emblematic of the superhero genre’s ingrained fetishization of nostalgia, of the way the form remains perfectly content to trade on its past at the expense of its present — and its future.

But, as Sims points out, there’s a larger issue here.  Turns out, before the recent drive to bring classic characters back from oblivion got underway, that aforementioned younger generation of heroes was … slowly … beginning to look a good deal more racially diverse than, say, the Silver Age Justice League.

….Lotta white dudes, is what I’m saying here.

So an unintended effect of this recent practice of gradually reinstating all those old “classic” heroes is, in Sims’ words, “the piece-by-piece white-washing of the DC Universe.”

This is meant to represent the 31st Century, when the entire Earth is united and that draws on an entire galaxy. But racially speaking, there's not a whole lot of diversity: There's Jewish Colossal Boy and Native American Dawnstar, but to paraphrase Denny O'Neil, this Legion's got green skins and blue skins...

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“The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling,” Chris Sims

“The Good Old Days” have become a driving force in the comics industry in particular and DC Specifically (and Geoff Johns even more specifically, as DC’s Creative Director who is personally responsible for regressing Green Lantern, Flash, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Hawkman, Aquaman and others), and it’s all built around a desire to recapture a feeling these creators got when they were kids. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing — I’m certainly not an exception to fan culture, and there are stories that push my “Oh hey, I remember that” buttons as hard as anyone else’s — except that the form it takes ignores that much of what made Jack Kirby or Cary Bates or Alan Moore or Frank Miller so exciting wasn’t what they were doing, but that they were doing things that hadn’t been done before. Instead, we’re in an industry right now that wants to constantly reset itself, running on nostalgia rather than innovation, moving backwards instead of moving forwards, and while I complain about it both often and at length, it seems to be what the majority of comics readers want, no matter how wrong-headed I think it is.

But there’s an unintentional side-effect to all this regression that often goes ignored: The piece-by-piece white-washing of the DC Universe.

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Ok, if you don’t know comics then this is about to get real complicated.  So here’s the gist:

  • Most of DC’s popular and enduring characters were created in the early days — the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, when the only minority characters were outright racist caricatures like Ebony White and Chop-Chop — they were white.
  • Some characters, like John Stewart, were introduced explicitly to challenge notions of race, while later ones — Jason Rusch (Firestorm), Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle), and even going back to Kimiyo Hoshi (Dr. Light) and Yolanda Montez (Wildcat) — were more reflections of changing standards in regards to the media’s acceptance of non-white characters.
  • Roles are being passed from non-white characters to an Aryan ideal: Jason Rusch is still part of Firestorm, but it’s back to being Ronnie Raymond’s Caucasian body. Kimiyo Hoshi is still Dr. Light, but that name’s been permanently soured by “Identity Crisis” and the fact that James Robinson had the original Dr. Light threaten to rape her children on the Justice League Satellite.
  • Even the regressions of ostensibly white characters often have racially charged consequences: Wally West’s interracial marriage to Linda Park has been sidelined in favor of on-the-go suburbanites Barry Allen and Iris West, and Kyle Rayner (who was created as an Irish-American but later “revealed” to be the son of a Mexican-American CIA agent) has suffered the strange fate-worse-than-death of a fictional character who gets demoted from a starring role to a supporting one. He’s still a Green Lantern, but he’s not the Green Lantern.
  • This is often reinforced by fans; there’s an underlying resistance to change that seems to come out in a far more ugly manner when race is involved
  • Only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.
  • Ryan Choi was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.  And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.

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Let the Poets Speak – Harry Targ

This post is taken from Harry Targ‘s blog Diary of a Heartland Radical, and more specifically his recent post “Let the Poets Speak.” I first met Targ, a Purdue professor, at his on-campus screening of the documentary, Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound.  Although I don’t know him very well, his work is truly inspirational, and I strongly encourage you to check out his blog and his on-campus events!

In “Let the Poets Speak” Targ uses the poetry of Woody Guthrie, Carl Sandburg, Meridel Le Sueur, and Langston Hughes – poets who “described so well the nature of the empire in which we live and the need for resistance against it.”  Their words provide both wisdom and hope for political change.

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Harry Targ

Oil Spills as the Gulf of Mexico is Destroyed
-Judge with BP Stock Rules Against Government Regulation
-Several States Contemplate Arizona-Like Laws to Install Police Repression Against People of Color
-Millionaire Politicians Vote to Cut Off Benefits to the Jobless
-Media Ignores Massive Detroit Mobilization Against Poverty and War
-Media Continues to Advertise “Tea-Party” and Sarah Palin Without Ever Addressing Capitalism

(fantasy headlines by the author, morning June 26)


Meridel Le Sueur, the socialist/feminist poet, novelist, and chronicler of the Great Depression and beyond wrote with power about twentieth century America in a way that could have been written this week.

None of my sons or grandsons took up guns against you.

And all the time the predators were poisoning the humus, polluting
the water, the hooves of empire passing over us all. White
hunters were aiming down the gunsights; villages wrecked,
mine and yours. Defoliated trees, gnawed earth, blasted embryos.

We also live in a captive country, in the belly of the shark.
The horrible faces of our predators, gloating, leering,
the bloody Ford and Rockefeller and Kissinger presiding over
the violation of Asia (Meridel Le Sueur)

Langston Hughes, African American poet, captured United States history powerfully in the words of class and race

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
(Langston Hughes)

And balladeer Woody Guthrie wrote verses, often unsung, for the unofficial American anthem, “This Land is Your Land?”

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me? (Woody Guthrie)

Carl Sandburg, poet, biographer of Abraham Lincoln, and children’s author, reminded us of who has made history and ironically created the exploitation of the producing class.

I am the people–the mob–the crowd–the mass.
Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me?
I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world’s food and
clothes.
I am the audience that witnesses history. The Napoleons come from me
and the Lincolns. They die. And then I send forth more Napoleons
and Lincolns.
I am the seed ground. I am a prairie that will stand for much plowing.
Terrible storms pass over me. I forget. The best of me is sucked out
and wasted. I forget. Everything but Death comes to me and makes
me work and give up what I have. And I forget.

Poets usually are driven by a vision of a better world. For Langston Hughes:

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

And for Woody Guthrie:

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

And finally poets offer the hope of resistance and change:

How can we touch each other, my sisters?
How can we hear each other over the criminal space?
How can we touch each other over the agony of bloody roses?
I always feel you near, your sorrow like a wind in the
great legend of your resistance, your strong and delicate strength.

It was the bumble bee and the butterfly who survived, not the dinosaur.
(Meridel Le Sueur)

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me. (Woody Guthrie)

Sometimes I growl, shake myself and spatter a few red drops for history to
remember. Then–I forget.

When I, the People, learn to remember, when I, the People, use the
lessons of yesterday and no longer forget who robbed me last year,
who played me for a fool–then there will be no speaker in all the
world say the name: “The People,” with any fleck of a sneer in his
voice or any far-off smile of derision.

The mob–the crowd–the mass–will arrive then. (Carl Sandburg)

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again! (Langston Hughes)

Selections from the following poems:

Meridel Le Sueur, “Doan Ket,” http://workingwomen.wikispaces.com/lesueur

Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again,” http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/83

Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your Land?”
http://woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/This_Land.

Carl Sandburg, “I Am the People, the Mob,”
http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15264

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NPR – Ban on Race-Based Team Names

This article was written by Brian Bull for NPR.  Listen/read the story here.

School team nicknames like the Chieftains and Braves may soon be a thing of the past in Wisconsin, where a new law allows the state to ban race-based mascots and logos. If a complaint is upheld, school districts face fines of up to $1,000 a day.  A provision in the law says schools with mascots specifically named after a federally recognized tribe could keep it, if they have that tribe’s permission.

This is a Jay Rosenstein documentary on the use of native images as mascots in American sports. "In Whose Honor?" examines the issues of racism, stereotypes, and the powerful effects of mass-media imagery. It captures the passion and resolve articulated by both sides of this contemporary controversy, and also shows the extent to which one community, that of Champaign, Illinois, will go to defend and justify its mascot. Click to watch a short clip.

It’s been 42 years since the National Congress of American Indians challenged the use of Native American mascots. Today, an estimated 900 high schools and colleges still use Native American names and images for sports teams. And of course, there are the professional teams — the Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, among others.

For decades, Native American civil rights groups have called on these teams to change their names. They’ve had little success. But Dave Czesniuk, of the Boston-based group Sport in Society, thinks the Wisconsin law may turn out to be a game-changer.

“I think what’s going on in Wisconsin is exciting, and it’s a true sign of real change,” he says. “You know, social responsibility is on the rise, even in the ranks of professional sports and the corporate level.”

Czesniuk says attitudes have changed since the 1970s, when an estimated 3,000 schools and colleges had Indian mascots. He says the key to making the case is teaching team officials and fans how they perpetuate stereotypes and hurt some Native Americans.

Check out the video clip from the documentary, In Whose Honor? above to learn a little more about this debate.

These links are from the documentary’s website:

Links to other mascot resources:

Links to other American Indian video resources:

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A Classroom Divided

“Oh Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.”

After Martin Luther King Jr.’s death April 4, 1968, elementary school teacher Jane Elliot created an exercise for her students to learn discrimination.  With no formal training in psychology, she created the famous “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, first done with grade school children in the 1960s, and which later became the basis for her career in diversity training and critical pedagogy.

In the all-white, all-Christian town of Riceville, Iowa, Elliot created an exercise in which students would discriminate against other students based on eye color.  The “blue eye/brown eye” exercise, as shown in the video, pitted blue-eyed children against brown-eyed children.

Elliot’s experiences with the exercises were turned into a documentary and book, The Eye of the Storm.  14 years later the children participating in the experiment watch the original video.  What’s most interesting is how, although the children spent less than a week being discriminated against, how traumatized and positively changed they were due to this experience.

The video, a segment of PBS Frontline, also includes a diversity training session with adults(who work at a prison) using the same principles.

To learn more about Jane Elliot and her “blue-eyed/brown-eyed” exercise, you can check out her website here, or her Wikipedia page here.

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From Wikipedia:

Elliott was invited to appear on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.  At the commercial break, audience reaction to her was instant as hundreds of calls came into the show’s switchboard, most of the reaction was negative.) The most often-quoted letter states “How dare you try this cruel experiment out on white children.”

The exercise and the publicity that it was getting did not make her popular with her neighbors. When Elliott walked into the teacher’s lounge the day after being on the Johnny Carson show, several teachers walked out. Her children were taunted and/or assaulted by other children. Her family was shunned, forcing her father into bankruptcy as her parents’ store was boycotted. All of this convinced Elliott of the need for her exercise. She felt that it would be wrong to do nothing and the people’s lack of understanding and fear of change allows racism to exist and grow.

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Do I Look Illegal?

I haven’t posted anything yet about the new immigration bill because I’m still at a loss for words.  I’ve got some words for Arizona now.

May 1 to May 8 Facebook members can participate by posting the question “Do I look illegal?” as their status to protest Arizona’s new immigration bill.  The law requires the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization.  It also allows the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents and allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.  And most importantly, the law sanctions racial profiling.  When Governor Jan Brewer was asked what an illegal immigrant looked like, she replied, “I don’t know.” (See video below)

The Facebook event encourages participants to, “wear shirts, buttons or hold signs saying, “Do I look ‘illegal’? and take pictures to send to Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona.”

Her mailing address is:
Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

I know what I’m going to be doing next week.

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