John Stossel

It Didn't Go Away in 2011: Racism Continued

Gale Courey Toensing

Many people in Indian country thought it would be hard to top New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s racist comments in August, 2010, when he advised then Gov. David Paterson on how to collect taxes from cigarettes sold on Indian reservations. Using images of racial stereotypes from Hollywood’s shoot ‘em up cowboys-and-Indians movies, the Jewish mayor encouraged the African American governor to act with violence. "I told David Paterson, I said, you know, ‘Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there's ever a great video, it's you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, 'Read my lips – the law of the land is this, and we're going to enforce the law,'” Bloomberg said in a television interview. He now has the dubious honor of being outdone in his racist remarks by others in 2011.

  • In January, in an article called The Language of Savagery Indian Country Today Media Network staff reporter Rob Capriccioso summarized the remarkable casualness with which elected officials, celebrities, and the mainstream media express racial disrespect, even hatred, toward Indigenous Peoples. The article notes the feeding frenzy of bigotry that took place when Carlos Gonzales—a Pascua Yaqui citizen and medical doctor— offered a prayer at a public event for the recovery of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who had survived an assassination attempt a few days earlier. Fox News analyst Brit Hume, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, conservative websites, including Power Line and and others all attacked Gonzales for expressing elements of his religion, including using the word “Creator” instead of “God.” Capriccioso told readers that Robert Williams, a law professor and director of the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona, has come up with a label for the phenomenon: the “language of savagery.”  “Some conservative commentators have an agenda against Indians, (Williams) said, noting that some see any minority as representative of an ‘us versus them’ threat. In his state, some conservatives conflate illegal immigrants and Indians, he said, although the irony there is that all non-Indians are (and were) the illegal immigrants.”
  • In February, March and April, Maine’s Regional School Unit 12, struggled over the issue of banning the offensive Redskins mascot from Wiscasset High School. The previous summer, the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission had asked the board to drop the name, because it offends Native Americans in general and Maine’s four Wabanaki nations in particular: The Passamaquoddy, the Penobscot, the Maliseets, and the Micmacs view the name as symbolic of the region’s historic racist policy of genocide toward indigenous people. The battle to remove the name was so contentious that during an unofficial survey when Wiscasset residents voted 503-128 against the change, someone wrote on a ballot slip, “Those who want to change this should be shot.” The board banned the offensive name in February, reinstated it in March until the end of the school year after students walked out of class in protest, and held a poll for a new name in April. When students returned to school in September, the new team name was the Wolverines.
  • In March, Fox News contributor John Stossel contributed some astonishingly ill informed and gratuitously offensive remarks on the air, limping together Indians, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and the Irish in a kind of melting pot of the socio-economically need. “Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs?” Stossel asked with incredulity. “There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse.” No further comment is needed.
  • Maine was in the headlines again in April when Philip Congdon, the commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, drew fire after allegations that he made offensive and racist statements at a Chamber of Commerce awards banquet in Aroostook County. He blamed problems among youth on “bad parents,” education and economic declines on educating African-Americans, and said those who want economic opportunities should “get off the reservation.” He resigned a few days later.
  • But perhaps the most audacious example of racist expression came in May when Indian country learned that the executive branch of the federal government had used the codename Geronimo for Osama bin Laden in the May 1 operation in which the U.S. military assassinated the world’s most infamous terrorist. Indian country reaction was swift and angry and spread throughout the world. Jeff Houser, the chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe – the successor to Geronimo’s Chiricahua Apache Tribe – asked Obama to issue an apology, but none was forthcoming.

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rawblue's picture
Submitted by rawblue on
Racism is wrong and I'm afraid it's never going to end.

ppmickey's picture
Submitted by ppmickey on
Ignorance breeds ignorance. Some politicians are so racist and stupid that it's a wonder how they ever made it into the positions they have and don't belong in. It takes a person with a pure heart, devoid of racist thoughts that should be in a political position of any type no matter how small the office or large the office and/or position they have in government. It's time for Native Americans to receive the recognition that has so long been denied. As for the news media, most of them aren't hired for their intelligence, with the exception of maybe 10 who have some intelligence and can answer questions, aren't prejudiced, and can ask questions that are sensible, and have seen prejudice and point it out. The rest are talking heads who don't belong behind a camera and ask the most stupid questions I've ever heard asked and if they don't get the answer the want, try asking it using different phrases over and over. There is no excuse for comments like those in this article, which was well written, to be made by anyone, let alone someone in a position that can influence other people. It's akin to the signs up in the 18th century and early 19th century that said, "Every Good Indian is a Dead Indian". That's what these politicians are like. They are dangerous people because they get press time and people listen to them. Advocating violence or even joking about it should be cause for impeachment of a politician. This is nearly 2012, when is the world going to become enlightened and recognize the aboriginals that were living here before the white man came and immediately started taking land, using resources inappropriately, then resorting to violence when the aboriginals were trying to protect their homes and ways of life? So much has been taken and so little has been given back. I'm glad to see the one school changed their name to Wolverines. Geronimo was another term used in ignorance. John Strossel and Philip Congdon should be removed from their positions for racial hatred, which is something that is intolerable. It's also time that the news media starts to hire people not for their looks but for their intelligence and overall knowledge of human affairs in America. Most don't report the news, they have to put their own opinion in. I don't want their opinion, I can form my own. I just want the news, pure and simple. It's when newscasters fall in love with themselves being on camera that they think their personal opinions are important. Well, I've got news for them, I'm intelligent enough to form my own opinions and don't care to hear theirs. They have no right to foist their often racist opinions for others to hear because they are in a position to inflame the hatred of people watching and hearing them towards others and making them resent what the newscaster is resenting. I think this is going to take a real long time before all aboriginals start hearing fewer racist comments, let alone getting needed recognition, not being made fun of, and being treated fairly and justly, let alone getting the restitution long overneeded. There are racist people in every race and ethnic background. When is it going to end?

crowlaguna's picture
Submitted by crowlaguna on
It's ignorant people like this, who are the first to Put Native People down when they try to devlop their resources and get ahead. They profit off the sins and thievery of their forefathers!!! They're not worth listening to!

dmkorman's picture
Submitted by dmkorman on
I am somewhat at odds to understand why the author of an article that decries the patent racism in 2011 against American Indians, finds it necessary to start by mentioning the race of a governor and religion/ethnicity of a mayor for events of 2010. Also, although John Stossel’s arguments are often “limp,” I think he inappropriately lumped together “Indians, Puerto Ricans, African Americans and the Irish.” Historically, all of said groups have had members made lame by oppressors, but I don’t think that John Stossel was personally responsible for the maiming. Best regards and wishes of the holiday season and new year to all.

ahliss's picture
Submitted by ahliss on
Bloomberg needs to pay more taxes on everything he owns and needs to keep his mouth shut. All the other idiots need to shut the !&#% up !!!!

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
Look up the definition of colonialism and think of the centuries the European and American governments have invaded and manipulated weaker countries to enable their thieves, freebooters and corporations to steal their natural resources and lands for colonization. With the enslavement, rape, murder and genocide of the Indigenous People. The survivors were herded onto concentration camps on reservation lands the whites deemed worthless. Theft and Murder. Look at what the American government has morphed into. Instead of By the People, For the People, it has morphed into By the Corporations, By the Corporations. All legislation and policies are geared to the enrichment of a very few and the defunding of programs that benefit the vast majority of Americans. The leaders of the Indigenous refuse to take our cases to the Indigenous Peoples Forum of the United Nations. Why? Because they have been indoctrinated to lose, to not think outside the box.