Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Nouns: Hate is (and has always been) the problem


When I was a kid, I remember that going downtown was an event. I didn't necessarily have to dress up for the occasion, but my Mom told me to get out of my play clothes and dress in something nicer (and clean). She usually had several places to go...AD Martin Lumber, Bi-Rite, Safeway, the bank, the post office, etc. My favorite place was Woolworth's, mainly because of the fish and turtle aquariums, but also because of the myriad of knick-knacks and toys to wish for. If I was good, she'd get me a 7-Up at the soda fountain...I'd climb up on the stool and wait for that sugary drink which was, back then, a special treat. Nowadays, a "pop" isn't so much a treat, but back then (at least in our family), 7-Up or root beer was something that we were only allowed to have when we went on picnics or out to the lake on water-skiing weekends, or on special occasions. Same with potato chips...

Yes, I was one of the geeky kids who brought my lunch to school. Cheese and alfalfa sprout sandwiches on homemade wheat bread with soy apple, or vegetables from the garden (snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks) as a snack...and she'd send me with milk money. I usually had a big hearty breakfast, anyway (eggs, some sort of grain cereal, sausage/bacon, toast...and a horrible, homemade health drink called "Pep Up" that made me gag...oh, and a tablespoon of cod liver oil). Sometimes I was so embarrassed by my lunch, compared to the baloney sandwiches and Cheetos that other kids' moms packed for them...but in hindsight, I'm glad I grew up in a household where natural foods were the rule, rather than the exception. You know how your parents say: "You'll thank me later?" Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Okay, back to shopping...

Walmart is pretty much the only place in Riverton where you can get everything you need in one trip. Within the past year, they implemented a policy and procedure where beauty products (mainly makeup) has a separate check-out counter, and they had reconstructed the entire department for that very purpose. Why? Because shoplifting had become a problem...and (like Costco) Walmart has also started randomly checking receipts near the exits, brandishing scanners that "beep" the receipts. I had no problem with that, until...I found out that Walmart employees were whispering that it was because the "Indians" were the main offenders of the shoplifting problem.

Really? Really.

Photo by Rich Hoffman
So I decided to do a little experiment of my own. One afternoon, I decided to "dress like an Indian", and no, not in my Pow Wow garb. Being part Native, I can pretty much get away with it...and I completely own up to the fact that it is really sad that I know the stereotype all too well, but...for this experiment, it was paramount that I played the part well. So I wore very little makeup...put my hair up in a messy pony tail...wore sweat pants, an old t-shirt, a [more] ragged-looking jacket.  If I really wanted to "go Native", I'd braid my hair.

I didn't get a lot of items, just a few small ones. I went through Walmart's self-check, almost got to the exit and was stopped by the "Receipt Patrol". I saw others (white folks, I might add) go right on through, no problem. But I was stopped, was looked up and down with scrutinizing eyes, items in the cart and the receipt checked through, no smile, no "Have a nice day..."...then I was allowed through.

On another day...I went after work, in my work attire. Company shirt, black pants, phone holster. Impeccable hair and makeup. Bought about a half-cartload of items. Went through full checkout this time (with a cashier, who chatted with me like I was one of her best friends) to the exit. Was not stopped for any receipt or cart brief look, up and down, and it was "Have a nice day, thanks for shopping at Walmart..."

Experiment concluded. What did it tell me? Nothing, really. Nothing has really changed. Discrimination is alive and well. That it has always been about Whites versus Indians. That we're decades behind the rest of the USA, where what Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his entire (shortened) life fighting for, falls on deaf ears.

Here's what I have learned about my own tribe (Northern Arapaho), granted, in the short time I've been back home:
  • Not everyone agrees with what the Tribal Council says and does...nor does everyone agree with what our predominately white City and County government says and does.
  • There are many on both sides...Native and White...who wish that those in authoritative positions, Tribal and US Government...would just listen, but they don't.
  • There are many who are too afraid to step up and voice their opinions on change for the Tribe and on City/County government issues. So they remain silent, while the corruption abounds.
  • Not all Indians are drunk and on drugs, but many bad apples ruin the whole with any, yellow, black or white.
  • Money and control/power is and has always been at the root of the problem and the diversion of possible, good solutions.
Most of all...

It seems that no one really wants to take open responsibility/ownership for their bigotry...or they're in complete denial of it. Especially those in positions of power. In secret,'s easy to be a hypocrite. I know plenty of church-going "Christians" proclaiming the love of Jesus...yet in the same breath, curse the Indians and call them ignorant, filthy drunks who should be eradicated from the map, and the Reservations plowed down to the ground. People might even say, "What are you talking about? I have a lot of Indian friends!"..."I have Native blood in my genealogy "..."You don't know me; I'm not racist" (but then privately share racially-motivated memes or comments on social media). Or talk about how gays are destroying the "family unit"...not taking into account their own abuse and neglect of their family unit. That's not a Black versus White versus Indian thing. That's a hypocrite thing.

So why deny it, if you're one of them? Why will law enforcement sit down at City Park and scrutinize the "Park Rangers", or an Indian woman who isn't doing anything but walking by...and not those who come out the cowboy bars on Main Street, drunk off their asses, keys to their trucks in hand? Because if you're an Indian walking down Main, you have to be stopped, because you must be drunk and/or high...or have a criminal record...or not "know someone who knows someone" who can get you (quietly) out of jail, because of the family name/reputation.

At the same time, I also see what alcohol, drugs and violence has done to the Native tribes of America. There are many Indians who are extremely anti-White, and claim that white folks just don't know the "Indian ways". But if alcohol, drugs, abuse, violence and murder of Native women...being drunk and being shown and known as the "Indian Way", who is really to blame for the prejudice, and what is really destroying the Native culture and families? It goes both ways.

I was told recently that a few of our [local] leaders actually want the division. They want the Whites and Indians to be separate...and they'll use every means and resource to keep it that way. Why? To what end? What possible thing could make something like this right, in a world society that would make Wyoming look so very bad on the planetary map?

Hate is alive and well in the place called Riverton, Wyoming...and plenty of other places on this planet called Earth...and it will be to all of humanity's destruction if it continues. Those who remain silent while all of this hate and bigotry abounds in ALL of our communities are no better than those who let the Holocaust happen in WWII. Because that is exactly what's going to happen if we don't eradicate hate in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, communities, towns, cities, states, tribes. What a slap in our WWII Veterans' faces.

There are good and bad things that happened in my childhood, as a Native raised in a white, Mormon household. There are good and bad things that have happened in my Second Life, too. But I will be damned if I'll let these sort of things just fly by in my Third Life. One of those things is to let hate and division abide.

And no, I'm not some weed-smoking, bleeding heart "Liberal" that joins marches and protests, because those have proven ineffective, too. No...I'm a human being with mutt blood running through my most Americans seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do believe in our Constitution...that our Founding Fathers left it up to us to make things better. There's a time for a massive Tea Party, a time to fight for what is right instead of what might be profitable for greedy politicians. There were Americans back then who knew slavery was wrong, and were silent...who knew what the KKK was doing, and were silent...and it has taken many, many generations of death and violence to get to a point where society is finally realizing that hate and bigotry is the ugly, horrible, intolerable thing that needs to be eradicated.

It's like my Mom always said: "Do it better than the generations before. Make it better than we did."

Anyone care to join me (people)...downtown (places)...for a nice cup of coffee...or a refreshing 7-Up (things)?

MATTHEW 23: 23-26

Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees
23 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you [a]to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the [b]best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your [c]Teacher, [d]the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be [e]humbled, and he who humbles himself will be [f]exalted.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [g]Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of [h]hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it. 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that [i]sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it. 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who [j]swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who [k]dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and [l]self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and [m]adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood[n] of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.


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