Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people. Use this blog as a reference tool, not as the one and only view on the topic.
The great thing about Natives is that they only exist in imaginary places. Movies, on two of the pages in your High School’s history books and any time you need a quick sexy outfit. One that you wear out of your “love” for the culture. It’s lovely to know that a people that once were, have left us their pretty art and stuff that you don’t quite understand but think is super fashionable behind for you to “share.”
Okay class, how many of you know that there are Natives still around in America? Great! Now, how many of you know that there are actually a LOT of Natives still around in America?
I only ask because between the way non-Natives discuss Native peoples, the way the tribal and spiritual items are used for fashion and the way they seem to be completely missing from much of every day ideology, it’s difficult to believe that people realize that they haven’t gone the way of the Mayan. Oh wait! They have, the Mayan people are still here too. Oops!
Okay, I’ll put away my condescension shtick. I had to start with something other than horror because frankly, things are truly horrifying for Native people in this country. There is no better representation of systematic oppression than Native people. The problem is, the system has all but erased them from our minds. It’s increasingly more difficult to make things better for a group that so many don’t seem to realize are still around.
Here’s what I mean, The Violence Against Women Act was finally reauthorized this year. The biggest hold up was from Eric Cantor. He would not even allow the bill to make it to the floor for a vote because of one provision. It would now include protection on Tribal land. Yes, there were many who took issue with bill now covering Trans* women and same sex partners but it was the Tribal land coverage that stopped the bill from being voted on and inevitably caused the bill to lapse.
The thing is, before the uproar about the bill possibly not getting passed, many (including myself) had no idea that in the previous 18 years of the bills history, Native women had not been covered. Eighteen years. With no coverage. None. Really think about that.
Next, you can look at any random site that provides statistics. It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular. Just pick a topic and look for some stats. You will see a glaring omission, almost all of the time, of Native people. Even if you try to tell yourself that they are in the “Other” category, when you look closely, you’ll see that the numbers don’t add up.
Take for example the National Health Interview Survey released by the CDC. Racially, it covers white, Black and ‘Hispanic’ peoples. So ya know, there are no Asians ‘Nationally’ either. Take a moment to scroll through a few of the graphs they offer. This is a particularly irritating piece as the CDC’s entire purpose for being is to take the health of this country into account. The ENTIRE country. They have one job. One. Yes, they do offer breakdowns of specific races but even there, I wasn’t able to find anything on Natives. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t done it. I sincerely hope that they have but when I looked, what I found was Asian or Pacific Islander, Black or African American, Mexican American and white health care statistics.
The problem here isn’t simply the omission, it’s that the omission has a direct affect on the help Natives are not receiving. The CDC has a huge impact on who gets health care money. If there is a group that isn’t being measured at all, how can they get the help they need?
The worst part is that they do need the help. If it was a separate group that didn’t have a problem in the world and were magically left out, you could, at least make the case (although a shitty one) that they don’t really need the recognition.
The truth is, Natives have serious medical issues that could be helped with proper medical care. With the primary causes for medical care being: diabetes; heart disease; influenza; cancer, blood pressure; mental health care; or musculoskeletal problems. The prevalence of cancer within the study population was an unanticipated finding. Of those reporting cancer, 53% were uninsured and 43% were insured.
Native women having the highest rape rate in the nation is horrifying. Yet, they weren’t covered AT ALL in a bill that was specifically designed to combat these sorts of things. While Native rape statistics have been at the center of attention in the recent months due to VAWA, that is far from the only issue Natives face.
Case after case, topic after topic, situation after situation, Natives are completely omitted while being the biggest benefactors of pain.