Mark Charles: Trail of Tears sign points to much deeper problem

Oklahoma State University fans posted this photo of a sign that made light of the Trail of Tears at a football game on Saturday night.

Mark Charles says a sign poking fun at the Trail of Tears underscores systemic racism facing Native people:
This past weekend, when I saw the banner that some students displayed at the OSU football game which made light of the Trail of Tears, I was extremely frustrated and angry. I felt an incredible desire to say something but was well aware that the student’s banner was merely a symptom of a much deeper, systemic problem. So I created a graphic using the banner the students displayed and adding some comments that connected the banner to the deeper systemic issues.

I posted this graphic on my Facebook and Twitter feeds in hopes that it would be shared, commented on and possibly even make its way into the mass media. But I was not counting on the latter. For an in-depth interview regarding our misinformed national identity, a broken educational system or the Supreme Court case law precedent based on a Doctrine of Discovery, would in no way help ABC, NBC, CBS or ESPN sell advertising on the opening weekend of the college football season. They would be looking for controversy, not dialogue. Their purposes would be much better satisfied with an angry Indian rather than a weary indigenous host.

But the graphic did get shared many times on social media. I have not gotten an overwhelming amount of feedback on it, but I have received some. And it is my hope that the systemic problems the graphic highlights will open new doors to the much deeper and broader conversations that need to take place.

The crisis of systemic racism is not that the water occasionally boils, but that it is kept simmering at a constant 211 degrees. Working for systemic change is not flashy, it will not get politicians elected, and rarely will it help sell advertising. For most people do not pay attention to things like systemic racism because, after all, "a watched pot never boils."

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Mark Charles: School Those Ignorant Fans With Their Trail of Tears Sign (Indian Country Today 9/16)

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