Truth Be Told

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Native Perspective on Monday Night Football and the Las Vegas Shooting

Photo by Rhoda LeValdo
Last night on ABC/ESPN Monday Night Football, the visiting team came out of the tunnel with a racist mascot on their jerseys and helmets, and mere minutes after the playing of the National Anthem, the host team's fans were still on their feet, mimicking the throwing of tomahawks and singing some sort of pathetic war whoop. Both team’s owners seemed fine with it. No one in the broadcast booth said anything. President Trump declined to tweet about it. And all the sponsors and advertisers like GMC, Geico, Applebee's, several beer companies and many other mainstream corporations (both foreign and domestic) shamelessly hawked their wares throughout the entire event.

This all happened less than 24 hours after a white man (Stephen Paddock) shot his, legally purchased, fully automatic weapon into a crowd of people. Killing 58 in a horribly evil and incredibly tragic event in Las Vegas. But earlier in the broadcast, just prior to a moment of silence being observed, ABC/ESPN announcer Sean McDonough repeated a lie that many news organizations had been reporting throughout the day. That this shooting was the "deadliest mass shooting US history." Apparently, they forgot about the massacre at Wounded Knee, which left 350 dead, or the massacre at Sand Creek which killed nearly 200 men, women, and children from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Or perhaps they only meant massacres for which the U.S. Congress DID NOT award Congressional Medals of Honor.

On top of that, according to the broadcast, only one person (KC player Marcus Peters) did not stand during the playing of the National Anthem before this game. Unless you count me. That raised the count to a grand total of 2. Perhaps there were more. I hope there were more. But it was striking that less than a week removed from one of the largest stands of solidarity against racism the NFL has ever seen, and now at a game where both teams blatantly represented the implicit racial bias the league has against indigenous people, the cameras caught only one person protesting.

My mother is American of Dutch heritage, and I'm proud to be an American, but I lament much of our nation's history. My father is Navajo, from the Waters that flow together people and the Bitter Water clan. And I'm proud to be Navajo. The unspoken history of this country says that these two sides are fundamentally incompatible. I'm expected to stand for the honoring of a flag that literally represents a history of genocide against indigenous people. And then I must sit silently during a game where both teams, and their fans, openly mock and belittle native people.

But I don't believe being both Native and American are incompatible. The problem is our country doesn't know it's history. The United States of America has a memory problem, we also have a race problem, a gender problem, a class problem and, most definitely, we have a gun problem. Therefore, I'm determined to do what I can to teach our history accurately and help create a common memory. Because unless we address these problems head on we're going to destroy ourselves.

George Erasmus, an Aboriginal leader from Canada, says, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”

I'm convinced that the United States of America needs a national dialogue regarding our history. A dialogue on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that took place in South Africa, Rwanda and Canada. Beginning this week and over the next several weeks I will be traveling to Tennessee, Michigan, Washington DC, Arizona, Virginia, California, Alaska, Connecticut, and New Mexico. I will be speaking about the Doctrine of Discovery, teaching American history, and inviting my fellow citizens to join me in initiating this dialogue. A national Truth and Conciliation Commission that I call #TCC2021.

Until we understand and acknowledge the racist and sexist history that our flag stood for, we will not be able to transform it into a reality that all Americans can stand for.

Mark Charles

1 comment:

Carl Proper said...

I agree with your proposal for a national dialogue regarding our history. Here's a short response.

My father found a job in the 1930’s as a government agent on the Navaho reservation near Canyon de Chelly and Window Rock, in Arizona. I believe that is where your parents lived.

…Our European immigrant and Native American cultures have something to learn from each other. Modern science, for example, recognizes what my ancestors would have laughed at, but Indigenous Americans understood. Other animals and even trees ARE our relatives. We all have DNA.

My Church, All Souls Unitarian-Universalist, supports some Indigenous causes. We have heard from Indigenous speakers. I am sure our members would like to hear from you, as would the members of another discussion group I belong to. Please let me know if you are open to this.

Carl Proper
Bethesda, MD