Racial Bullying Persists in Northern California
Although Martinez applauds the Native students and their parents for taking a public stand against bullies, he predicts further difficulties for them. As they move through the school system, they may continue to be targeted—by teachers and administrators as well as students—because they spoke up.
That kind of future can be frightening, but it doesn’t mean Native students should keep quiet, Martinez said.
“This fear you see in children is not only a legitimate fear, but there’s something inside that says they can’t live with this fear every day,” he said. “They have to stand up for themselves.”
Theda New Breast, of the Native Wellness Institute in Gresham, Oregon, points to a legacy of white privilege to explain the mindset of the students and especially Caldwell, the columnist.
“What they’re really saying is that they’re part of a generation that thinks Indian people are less than them,” she said. “White privilege shows up when people say Natives shouldn’t be complaining. They’re so overt in their racism they don’t even know it.”
The effects of this kind of systemic racism can be widespread, New Breast said. Young people who endure it won’t come out unscathed.
“When you’re young and you’re targeted because of the color of your skin or the length of your hair, it damages the spirit,” she said. “That damage takes a long time to heal.”
New Breast wants Alexis and the other Pit River students to know they are not alone in the fight. She is publicly calling on Caldwell to apologize for his column.
“He obviously thought he had all the privileges to write like that,” she said. “It’s like during the gold rush when it was OK to hurt the Indians and kill them. This man thinks it’s OK to kill us with an article. I say No. It’s not OK.”
You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page