Image by T-Bone, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A cartoon published January 17 by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph in West Virginia of a grinning white man pulling on a Native American woman, bound at the wrists, is glaringly offensive, ICTMN Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith writes.

Moya-Smith: This Funny Isn't Funny; It's Racist and Sexist

Simon Moya-Smith

This piece is about blame and owning your fuck up, whatever your fuck up is and will be. We are human, so we fuck up a lot. Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Today’s mad rant was prompted by an insanely idiotic editorial cartoon ran by a newspaper-website out of West Virginia. You’ve already examined it, I’m sure. It’s the one right there at the top leading this piece.

Now, just to be clear, I reached out to the publication – the Bluefield Daily Telegraph – five days ago hoping to get a response from the illustrator (who goes only by T-Bone … ) and/or the editors there who thought such an obviously offensive illustration was okay to publish.

At the time of this publication, I still have not received a response from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. So, fuck it. I gave them ample time to respond, and maybe they’re hiding because they know there is no excuse for this kind of shit.

The reason the goddamn illustration is wrong and wretched will be apparent to the informed conscientious objector who is typically literate in corrected history. (Note: I say corrected history. I do not say revisionist history. The wrong history is the revisionist history – history revised to serve the purpose of the opulent oligarchs. U.S. History textbooks are CHOCK-FULL of revised history – page after page of lies and bullshit. It’s American history that has already been revised, so what are you going to do? Revise the revised? Shuffle around the bullshit? No. You correct it. Moving on.)

Here’s what you see in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph editorial cartoon:

A Native American woman in tears, looking circa 18th century in buckskin and fringe, bound at the wrists, barefoot, while some white business-cretin in a suit jubilantly leads her against her will from a building reading “Norfolk Southern Pocahontas Division,” pulling at her like an animal on a leash to somewhere off the page.

As you’ve possibly already surmised, this editorial is not only racist – it’s sexist.

At a time when thousands of Native American women (who are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other demographic) are going missing or found murdered and buried AND BURNED by evil motherfuckers who whimper and cry when caught, this type of assholery is inexcusable. Inexcusable. In-fucking-excusable!

Now, I did a little digging and found out the illustration, published on Facebook on January 17, was a result of Norfolk Southern, a railroad company, relocating its Pocahontas Division about a two-hour drive away – “a move that will impact management and staff positions in Bluefield,” Greg Jordan of the Telegraph reported.

Facebook user Amanda Sloan spears this offensive illustration calling it "disgraceful," while others find humor in it. Image courtesy

But this column isn’t about the relocation of some railroad division in West Virginia named after an adolescent – Pocahontas – who was molested by one of the first American pedophiles, John Rolfe (know your corrected history, friend). No. This piece is about the flogging responses Native Americans (and allies) are subjected to when we call out such putrid buffoonery like this goddamn illustration.

Native Americans routinely hear the following, among other finger-pointing things, when we call out the degradation of indigenous peoples: “You’re just being too sensitive” and “fucking P.C. liberals.”

You’ve met these assholes, I’m sure.

We started this piece talking about the ubiquity of fuck ups, right? Well here’s the thing, folks: Americans fuck up a lot when it comes to Native Americans, knowingly or unknowningly. And by fuck ups I mean they offend Native Americans with blunder after blunder, redface after redface, headdress after headdress, slur after slur, lie after lie after lie, and so on and so forth.

And these people fuck up SO much that, in their desperation to feel like they are not obtuse, they blame others – namely Native Americans, and not themselves.

Blaming others is a human flaw, not particular to any one race, creed or culture. Commonly, you will find people blaming others for their fuck ups when their fuck ups become routine, and in America, fucking up by offending Native Americans is as routine as drunks falling down on a Friday night.

In fact, do you remember that irresponsible asshat in class who never studied for shit? You had that one in class, I’m sure. We all have: The one who used to ditch a lot to masturbate to the oldies (70s porn) and to douse Fritos with nacho cheese at 7-Eleven. Every goddamn time he failed something in class he blamed the teacher. Now, there are bad, bad, BAD teachers out there, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes you come across a fantastic one who goes above and beyond to help fuckers like these. But no matter what, he would never own his fuck up, would he? He’d just go on blaming everyone and everything, never himself.

And that’s where we are in America right now. American society is like the guy I just painted for you: it fucks up again and again. Cultural appropriation, racist slurs, and offensive images are so omnipresent that by this point, the only conclusion society can come to is, “Wait a minute. I CAN’T be the one with the problem here. It’s got to be those other whiny sonsofbitches.”

This, my friends, is called othering: Not taking ownership of what you have done or who you are, but instead demonizing others to absolve yourself of any wrongdoing.

Don’t other. Just don’t. Own your fuck up. Hell, I fucked up twice already today. But do you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t blame anyone else for my fuck up. I owned both of them and moved on hoping I learned a thing or two about myself, and then I zipped up my fly because it was open (for God knows how long) and we, as a people, haven't quite grasped how to delicately tell someone, “Sir, you were obviously in such a rush to put your penis away you forgot to close the gate.”

Do your fucking homework, America. Quit knocking one out to the oldies and pouring cheese on Fritos. Go to class. It’s YOUR responsibility in this social media, world-wide Web century to listen to the teachers so you won’t keep fucking up and we can move on to other subjects. We’ve covered this chapter already. We’re just waiting on you.

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, is the Culture Editor at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter @simonmoyasmith.

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Mary-jacq Holroyd
Mary-jacq Holroyd
Submitted by Mary-jacq Holroyd on
You have jumped to a conclusion without grasping the context, which is completely understandable given the written history with which you allude. First, Matoka is a very important historical and cultural reference to the Appalachian people of southern West Virginia, and Mercer County in particular. She was a mother, a daughter, and a sister. Secondly, history's lies insist that West Virginia, and especially the region South of the New River, was devoid of any indigenous population from 1607 onward because the Iroquois kept it for hunting and permitted no other tribes. In truth, many of Matoks's People came to southern West Virginia over the colonial days, joining the first tribe along with others from the Eastern Woodland cultures in Virginia. Mercer County and area around it are bounded to the south a high ridge mountain with the Cumberland pass is a thousand feet lower altitude on the other side of another high ridge mountain and another series of high mountain ridges forming a natural fortress. Many tribes and individual Native Americans, plus slaves and mixed race people, took refuge with the first tribal people of this high mountain fortress. The physical area of Mercer County does not appear on any maps until the middle of the eighteenth century. At the time of the Revolution this unmapped area was completely within "Indian Country". No removal from this area or Virginia or Kentucky occurred during the 1800s, but a movement called eugenics did arrive invented in Virginia, or at least applied to all Native Americans in Virginia (as mixed breeds). WV's eugenics laws required a juries universal consent, which was rarely given. Naturally, folks from Virginia and Kentucky made there way into the wilderness of the first tribe... And then America became addicted to coal, and forestry products and corporations, prospectors in the like came and raped the land while providing jobs to imported people and to local people. And finally, now that the world does not need our coal, they pull up stakes and move out of our area to far to commute, expecting their employees to follow them while still needing the rail yards in Bluefield to be operational. You see, far from being an anti-indigenous cartoon, the bound Woman is us or our People being forced from their homes, once again. The truth of the matter is, most will not move, or they will move back as quickly as possible, and after a hundred years the corporate shills have screwed us once again. In conclusion, we are not as sensitive as we should be about the plight of indigenous women outside of our area. We have such an intolerance for rape that it was the last crime for which the death penalty was dropped in the state. In our culture, a rapist will be sentenced to significant jail time and shunned for all their days. Men do not even howl at women on the streets. Unfortunately, most of our local people are unaware of the horrific treatment of Native Americans elsewhere, and especially the plight of Native American women. But the cartoon was about the local people, who collectively are best represented by a woman, and by Matoka specifically.

mem's picture
Submitted by mem on
@mary- how can one be so well read on history but so ignorant as to what the cartoon is about. What is used to represent a subject is very much reflective of those that design it - to use a bound women being dragged by any man is obscene and indicative of ignorance in this age of awareness. But then a rush to judgement as to who is and who isn't aware might be in order.

Mary-jacq Holroyd
Mary-jacq Holroyd
Submitted by Mary-jacq Holroyd on
@mem It is a very local reference. The cartoon depicts precisely what is happening: WV Appalachian workers are being forced to relocate if they want to keep their jobs. The ones that I know will ultimately not go. We have a local unemployment rate of 8% and this is a major company which is relocating their operations even though they have to have the rail yards where they are because of the lay of the land (its downhill in all directions). The company is moving solely based on bias. Anyway, the local Appalachian people are represented by the bound woman, and the bad foreign corporation (headquartered in Roanoke VA) by the man. Everything in that area is named after Matoaka including several towns. The people who drew the cartoon had no reference to women being assaulted; it would not have occurred to them, nor would they make fun of that. It is neither racist nor sexist. The reference is to the People themselves. It is an inherently local cartoon in a local newspaper depicting the local identity.