During the Western Expansion under the genocidal Manifest Destiny ideology, the press in the east was an effective tool used by the settler government to spread propaganda and sway public opinion by dehumanizing Native peoples, and attempting to justify it’s lust for land and further conquest.
This, sadly, has never stopped being the case, and is exemplified by the most recent abhorrent case of racist anti-Native commentary, published this week by the New York Times on the event of Dennis Banks’ death.
The 80 year old Pulitzer prize winner Robert D. McFadden, saw fit to try and include as many racial tropes as he could possibly fit into a single obituary, seemingly in an attempt to castigate Native peoples for not being forever grateful to the murdering, lying, genocidal colonists and their paternalistic government and occupation of our stolen lands.
As is more typical with arrest reports, or reports of extra-judicial killing by police officers than acceptable for an obituary, McFadden saw fit to focus only on Banks’ largely trumped-up rap sheet. Let us not forget that the “laws” put in place to subdue protest are anti-Indigenous and anti-Black in nature, and were created in order to criminalize our protest. A fact which McFadden clearly refuses to acknowledge in his obituary-cum-hit piece.
McFadden correctly references the poverty and alienation of Native people towards the opening of his piece, yet makes no mention of why it’s occurring. At no point during his racist diatribe does the writer mention U.S. Indian policy, the Corporatization of America and it’s effects on Native communities, the criminalization of Native spiritual practices through the 1970’s, or the institutionalized racism that this country is founded on. Instead, McFadden chooses to reference legitimate protest as
“….mass disorder, shootouts, deaths and grievous injuries”,
rather than presenting the the fact that the government response at Pine Ridge in 1973 was extra-judicial, and that the FBI/BIA started the shooting spree, (which in addition to warrantless wire-tapping, as McFadden correctly cites, is why there were no convictions of those who took part in the protest). McFadden fails to acknowledge that the members of the American Indian Movement were merely protecting themselves from yet another attempted invasion by government controlled forces on rightfully-Native lands, similar to what happened at the very same place in 1890, when more than 300 unarmed Native men, women, and children were slaughtered by the U.S. Cavalry.
The writer goes on to incorrectly state that:
“Mr. Banks achieved few real improvements in the daily lives of millions of Native Americans, who live on reservations”
Firstly, let me correct the assertion that most Natives live on the reservation prison camps that the government created in a failed attempt to starve us off in two generations. The vast majority of Natives live in American cities because thanks to U.S. Government policies, cities are the only places with any appreciable level of opportunity, as the government doesn’t give Natives checks each month – contrary to what most settlers tend to believe. It is also thoroughly steeped in erasure to refer to us as
“..the nation’s oldest minority”
when there were more than 2,000 Nations here, and millions of Native peoples before you turned us into a minority through planned genocide. Before you attempt citing evidence that the majority of our peoples were killed by disease, particularly smallpox, we would strongly suggest that you familiarize yourselves with the words of Lord Amherst, who put in writing in 1763 that a subordinate should:
“…do well to try to Innoculate the Indians by means of Blanketts as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race”
Secondly, and more importantly, after the occupation at Wounded Knee there was a Congressional inquiry into the activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, from which came several changes to the way the BIA interacts with the Native communities they are supposed to be serving. Laws banning the practice of Native spirituality in public were rescinded with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, and there were many other very real changes that came about from the actions of the American Indian Movement and Dennis Banks. Sadly, these were not enough, largely due to the way Native peoples are viewed by the white settler majority as evident in your trope-laden, and downright offensive obituary.
As one group of journalists to another, the editorial staff would like to respectfully suggest to the New York Times Editorial Department, that you not only post an apology to the family of Mr. Banks and the Native community, but also restrict McFadden to pet obituaries until such time as he retires – or can write an obituary that is respectful to people races other than his own.
Then again, if anyone could find a way to construct a racist obituary for little Fluffy or Baby Boo-Boo, it’s probably “Racist Rob” McFadden, with his history of blatant white apologism.
In closing, we wish to address Robert directly; Yes, Robert, only white people can be racist in a white-controlled society, and your recent work serves as yet another shining example.