In February 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice published a report that I have never before seen. Among its revelations: American Indians experience per capita rates of violence that are more than twice those of the U.S. resident population as a whole. In the category of murder, blacks lead the way by a vast number, followed by Native Americans and others.
Alcohol is the greatest contributing factor to reservation problems … thanks to the government atrocities that have occurred over the years.
Racism is alive and well in the United States. The sad fact is, however, that it is promoted not by action but by cowardly inaction. So often, each of us has a chance to stand up to racism and bigotry of every type. But we rarely do. The national media as a group foster erroneous judgmental actions by their reporting — or in the case of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline, by their failure to report.
A few cases in point: Keith Lamont Scott, a black resident of Charlotte, N.C., was shot by police. He was a family man with no criminal record, a recent victim of an accident injuring his brain, a man who had just taken his prescribed medication for that injury … a man sitting in his own car waiting for his children.
Charlotte police were on a stakeout in the area where Keith was waiting, but he was not involved in their search. Subsequently, it was determined he may have smoked marijuana (in itself not a capital offense) and may have had his personal weapon (a pistol in an open-carry state). Someone determined that they could focus on Keith; several officers went back to the station and donned their protective (bulletproof) clothing, then returned to the scene.
How they could determine he was smoking pot in a closed car was never disclosed. But they could see he was black, and that was enough. They had time to get their protection and return to the scene.
No one in law enforcement in Charlotte has wanted to talk much about what happened next. They initially stonewalled, refusing to disclose the officers’ personal video cams. Of course, this just caused the situation to escalate. (I’m not going to comment on the protests — both the legal one and those involving violence and crime, where arrests were, and should have been, made.)
Every night on the news, all we’ve seen or heard was the summary of what happened or, later, the video the decedent’s wife captured. Yes, she was right there! She was begging officers not to shoot this man. It has been established that, with or without a weapon, he made no threatening move against the officers.
Wow, now the well-protected officers arrive on the scene, and what do they do? They shoot him, not once but multiple times, even though he made no attempt to threaten them. I am no lawman, nor do I have officer training, but the police of Fargo and Moorhead would have killed many, many individuals if they had adopted that procedure. But they didn’t, and they don’t. In our area, the Law cares about the people. They value human life. There would have been negotiations, and methinks it would have ended far, far better for all.
Watching those Charlotte police made me ill. Do I think if that man had been white he’d be alive? You damn well bet I do. In parts of this country, minorities do have reason to be afraid — to feel insecure. They ought to clone Fargo and Moorhead police training nationwide! That alone would not stop racism, but it would reduce the number of killings of blacks by police.
If not for public outrage, even the limited videos available from both the police and the victim’s wife would not have been released. Their practice did not involve “transparency” in any way.
I don’t pretend to know how police should take place to eliminate situations like this one. But take place it must.
We have a candidate for president who says we should activate a “stop and frisk” policy nationwide, pointing to Chicago as the kill zone for gun-related murders. New York previously held the title, but once it stopped the “stop and frisk” practice — another term for targeting mostly black and brown individuals — crime dropped dramatically … and has continued to go down each year since they got rid of that discriminating and unconstitutional procedure.
New York police leaders know what the police know in Fargo-Moorhead: Good law enforcement requires education.
I have a relative in law enforcement and worry about her every day. But I do know she’s with a well-informed and well-trained department. That’s more than half the battle when it comes to bad enforcement.
Wiping out a whole way of life
There are many ways to kill individuals, but few to eradicate an entire way of life.
After his overreaction by calling for more law enforcement officers and National Guard troops to protect the Capitol, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple now asks the bad old Obama administration to pay the millions in unnecessary costs he caused to be incurred. When his unjust request failed, the state floated a loan from a state agency to cover the costs … notwithstanding that their financial guru, Rep. Al Carlson of Fargo, has clearly stated the fund they used was never designed for this purpose.
Remember my point about the national media? Well, let’s compare the coverage of Mr. Scott’s shooting in Charlotte, as opposed to the lack of coverage for the entire Indian Nation (my term for all the tribes). You can’t. Little or none here. Will it take a death to get their attention to cover a just cause?
So many great articles have been published on blogs like unheralded.fish, shared on Facebook and published or broadcast on Native American media … but little else. It’s sad when we have to find news can be found only on social media because the mainstream national press has little to say. It apparently doesn’t think much of Native Americans.
Some uncouth, uninformed and just plain ignorant folks don’t understand that what is happening at Standing Rock and the surrounding areas.
It is not just about oil.
It’s about a way of life the white man has been slowly but surely eroding for centuries. It’s a way of life that involves religious practices somewhat different than what’s talked about in white churches — love of land, water and wildlife — a way of life that strives to protect sacred burial sites, artifacts and all else that means much to Native American culture.
The comments on Web news sites and social media are disgusting. When I read the comment that “they just want more money,” I want to take a silver dollar and shove it up the subhuman commenter’s posterior. When someone talks about how other older gas lines underground were not protested by the Natives, I have to remind those people that, in the past, we did not have instant communication and social media we do today that enables the Natives to speak up.
At this point, someone always seems to argue that the Natives had an opportunity to speak at hearings in Bismarck. Let me refer them to my earlier article where I reminded our state leaders that they must respect the leaders of the various sovereign tribes as equals … equals who entered into treaties with the white man generations ago, trusted him, and have paid a horrible price for that trust.
We now have a situation in which the federal government is finally focusing on the problems. It is my hope that whatever is negotiated with the tribes is both acceptable and fair and does not result in unlawful behavior.
Bismarck attorney Sarah Vogel has just noted that the oil interests have now purchased 6,000 acres of private land adjacent to Standing Rock and the disputed site. This has given rise to rumors they want to build an oil refinery there. That better be their plan … or Sarah will rip them a new behind. As a former state agriculture commissioner, she’s very familiar with some North Dakota laws on corporate ownership of farmland. She is not one to stand idly by while the bully in the room tries to do his dirty work.
Sarah knows what a horse looks like, and surely knows a horse’s behind when she sees it.
I’m nearly to the point of taking my own aged body to the protest to get some firsthand information. But the fact is, I’m getting direct firsthand reports from people who’ve already been there. I’m not sure my presence would accomplish anything — except making some new friends. Amen.