Why This Election Was Dangerous for Indians (and Lots of Other Folks)

Dina Gilio-Whitaker

In the aftermath of this historic—if hideous—election, we are waiting for the dust to settle and see where we all stand. Although there are not yet statistics to prove it, I think it's safe to say that most of Indian country was opposed to Trump and favored Hillary Clinton, as we typically support Democrats to Republicans overall.

This election has caused seismic ruptures in the US, from the political sphere down to our own friendships and families. In one report, 30% of polled respondents claimed it was causing increased tension in their families. It's hard to think of a time when an election was more acrimonious or divisive.

The tensions are always heightened when an election is so close, especially when polling just the week before indicated a victory for Clinton, making the Trump victory that much more shocking. And also because while Trump won the electoral college, it still appears Clinton won the popular vote, in a repeat of the 2000 election when Republican George Bush became president only after a Supreme Court decision.

The legacy of the eight year Bush administration is, among other things, the quagmire of the wars in the Middle East that continue to haunt us, and ultimately the seemingly intractable ISIS problem. While that administration took us into foreign wars, however, this election has brought the war to our own backyard. And it is a war that pits us against each other.

This election cycle was a shameful debacle, a bottom-of-the-barrel display of little substance and a whole lot of venom, in which both candidates participated. But Trump's campaign was decidedly different. It was his campaign that exposed the latent racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia lurking just below the surface of basic American decency (if there is such a thing), and celebrated it with fervor.

Trump's hate fest was like walking into a room, turning on the lights, and seeing an infestation of cockroaches you suspected, but didn't know was there. Only instead of scurrying, they looked you in the eye, laughed in your face, and promised you they were the new bosses.

At first it was hard to take seriously the possibility that we could wind up with such an openly hostile bunch of people running the country. But now that we are beginning to see who is lining up to fill the leadership positions in a Trump administration, it grows more disturbing by the day.

It is clear now that it is white nationalism that will be the guiding ideology in the Trump White House, with Steve Bannon, former head of Brietbart News, as Chief Strategist (and who was Trump's campaign CEO). White nationalism is the new white supremacy, and make no mistake, this is the new war on people of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees, women, Muslims, and everyone else who doesn't fit the mold of white male-dominated Christian America. Do your homework on the alt-right to understand exactly who we are dealing with here.

These people are hyper-patriotic ideologues, and when they say they want to "make America great again," what they really mean is "make America white again." This is the kind of demagoguery that makes enemies of citizens who dissent, labeling them as "anti-American." They become the legitimate targets of state repression, disguised as national security.

Do a quick search on Breitbart News to see what they publish about Native Americans. For example, when security guards unleashed attack dogs on the DAPL water protectors on Labor Day, their headline was "Militant Native American Protestors Attack Pipeline Crews." Another claims that the "Army Surrenders to Indians in North Dakota", an obvious attempt to incite fear of a new Indian war in which whites are victimized.

For those who downplay the threat, who think that it is alarmist to even view it as a threat, all we need to do is look at history. And I'm not talking about ancient history, I'm talking about recent history, in my lifetime. Recall McCarthyism in the 1950's when anti-Communist hysteria led to the "blacklists" created as a result of the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) and the FBI. Innocent lives were ruined, people unjustly went to jail, and were even executed.

Then, from the 1950's to the 1970's the FBI ramped up its counter-subversion surveillance with COINTELPRO, designed to violently (and illegally) repress the civil rights movements, the anti-war movement, and the women's movement. The American Indian Movement was one of their prime targets, and virtually all of the AIM leadership was jailed under the program. Leonard Peltier still sits in prison forty years later, a political prisoner, as a result of COINTELPRO.

This is to say nothing of the obvious problem of the Supreme Court which will more than likely become stacked with anti-Indian justices. And an entirely Republican Congressional regime with the weight of the plenary power doctrine, which gives them the power to unilaterally decide what happens to Indian country. Do not be seduced into thinking that termination cannot happen again.

It is chilling indeed to know that Newt Gingrich, who will likely have a key role in the Trump administration, has expressed a desire to bring back the Un-American Activities Commission, this time in the name of anti-terrorism. History tells us how this would play out.

Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it, they say. This is no time for saccharine platitudes about giving Trump a chance, and uniting the country again. It was not united before, and is even far less now. There will be no Kumbaya in the aftermath of this election. It is insanity to think that all his campaign hate-speech and the revelations of his sexual assaults on women was nothing more than a harmless abandoning of political correctness or locker-room banter.

The signs are all there for the kind of country Donald Trump wants to make the US. And it is not a country that loves or even tolerates Indians. He has showed us who he is. And like the wise woman Maya Angelou once said, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them." We must stay aware, vigilant, and ready to fight like no other time in recent memory.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville) is a freelance writer and research associate at the Center for World Indigenous Studies. She was educated at the University of New Mexico and holds a bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies and a master’s degree in American Studies. Follow her blog at DinaGWhitaker.wordpress.com

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jaytaber's picture
When we helped defeat the Aryan Nations/Minutemen/Christian Patriot militias in the 1990s, the key to community organizing across five Northwest states was the marriage of anti-fascist researchers with networks of religious leaders devoted to respecting cultural diversity. Churches and synagogues were our educational meeting places, and provided the nucleus of leadership in the human rights task forces established in response to white supremacy violence targeting American Indians, LGBTs, Blacks and Jews. We helped shut down a hate radio station in Montana, and gathered evidence that led to the conviction of seven Christian Patriots in U.S. District Court in Seattle. These primary documents created a larger context of history, that serves as the basis for informed opinion based on knowledge. Our researchers set up a monitoring network to share information and intelligence on white supremacist organizing, that was used by law enforcement, major educational institutions, and news outlets in making sense of right-wing paramilitary terrorism in the US. You can read more about this history in the Public Good Archives. https://publicgoodarchivesblog.wordpress.com/about/