Comparable pain and comparable worth, or We need to pay attention to ‘No DAPL’

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, or even a recent reader who’s binged on my past posts, you realize that while a huge amount of my content here is around race (specifically with regard to Black people), that’s not the only social issue on my mind. This is even more clear if you follow me on Twitter and Facebook and see the things I share and the things that rile me up.

Issues of racism and oppression toward Latinx people concern me. Islamophobia concerns me. I’m deeply committed to gender equality and LGBTQ rights and safety. Anti-immmigrant backlash concerns me. Food insecurity, poverty and socioecnomic unfairness are close to my heart. As I move in and out of these spaces, I see many times when parallels are drawn between some of these struggles and the history of individual racism and state-sponsored oppression of Black people. And there are parallels and similarities at times, but they don’t reach the same level as anti-Black racism overall (for example, feminism is important to all women, but many white feminists fail to pay attention to how their white privilege always did and still does put them above Black women socially and economically. And while some aspects of LGBTQ oppression mirror Black oppression, the fact is most Black people are readily and always identifiable for abuse, whereas that’s not the case for all or even most LGBTQ people. Etc.)

But there is one group in America that I feel is entirely comparable to Black people in terms of oppression. Their trajectory and issues and history are be very different at times, but the pain, abuse and horrors visited upon them are entirely in the same ballpark as Black peoples’…and I’m referring to Native American people.

These indigenous people of this nation weren’t abducted, dragged to this country, forced to be slaves, and bred and sold like animals like Black people were, but Native Americans did have their children ripped away and sent to boarding schools to try to drive their native culture out of their heads and indigenous people were subjected to genocidal practices that flat our murdered them with weapons or even subjected them to early germ warfare. (Which helps explain how this nation went from between 20 million and 100 million indigenous people after settlers first came to a mere 5.4 million today, while non-Hispanic Black people number roughly 37 million.)

There has been much coverage of the inequitable rates of police actions and violence against Black people, which is far higher than for white people when you look at the proportions. And yet, on a proportional basis looking at the population numbers and percentages, Native Americans are treated more harshly by police than even Black people are. And yet the media outlets have mostly been silent on that front.

Black people never got their “40 acres and a mule” after slavery ended and have received no real reparations or even an adequate apology for hundreds of years of abuse, while Native Americans were at least given reservations. And yet, those reservations have often been tools to isolate and marginalize indigenous people and haven’t always been particularly good land, and poverty and other huge socioeconomic problems can be horrifyingly prevalent on those reservations. And then, to add insult to injury, there are the times that corporate and/or government forces find themselves coveting access to, control over and/or ownership of those native lands that were secured by treaties long ago.

And with that long-winded introduction, that brings me one of the big news stories lately, but one that still isn’t receiving enough attention in the media nor is being taken seriously enough by most Americans: The “No DAPL” protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other Native American tribes and various allies and supporters that is trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (the corporate/government party line can be found here and the more activist/citizen-oriented take is here).

Part of the issue is infringement on land that the Standing Rock Sioux and others consider sacred ground. A lot of Americans find that silly, but I think those same people would take issue with people tearing down Christian churches or Judeo-Christian holy sites around the world for corporate gain or political reasons. But it’s also an issue of water being put at risk; this is an issue of concern not just for Native Americans in the area but for millions upon millions of other Americans whose water tables and waterways may be put at risk of oil contamination. Y’all like your ability to drink, cook, clean and grow crops with healthy water, right?

Black Lives Matter has decided to stand in solidarity with the “No DAPL” protesters and so do I (and they have a great rundown on the situation here). So should you stand in solidarity as well. A #NoDAPL Global Solidarity Campaign was launched recently and while that’s important, more of us need to be putting the word out and keeping this issue alive, and for more about the campaign, go here.

Peaceful protesters are being aimed at, fired at, arrested and having hoods put over their heads and left naked in cells. They are being rounded up and threatened and demonized by a lot of people related to the pipeline and by a lot of white people who think this is about some whiny Indian Americans who want to kills jobs and ruin capitalism. They are being subjected to this anger and cruelty and violence for doing nothing more than protesting and sometimes actually praying publicly in groups. Journalists who have covered the story and seemed to be too sympathetic to the native views and cause and too focused on their mistreatment have been charged with crimes and accused of fomenting riots. Police have increasingly militarized their response to protesters.

All of this puts me in mind of Ferguson, Missouri, when peaceful protesters were painted as violent extremists and subjected to a military-style response and lockdown of their community to the extent that neighborhoods outside protest areas were teargassed and Black people were threatened by police for standing outside their homes on their own lawns…on private property.

So this disrespect for native lands and military-style response…this government support of corporate interests over Native American rights and safe water…angers me and makes me wonder how much farther America will go to “rein in” its “uppity” non-white citizens and try to hold on to imperialism and colonialism and white supremacy to the bitter end.

If you care about justice and about people. If you really think all lives matter…well, it’s not just Black Lives Matter. It’s Native Lives Matter, too. It’s long since time we stopped giving the non-white lives less importance on the scale of “worthy humanity.”
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