Mark Rogers: Some truths of the ethnic experience in America

YouTube: America : Welcome to the Reservation with Russell Means

Mark Rogers wonders whether reservations can be compared to inner cities like Baltimore, Maryland:
An interesting question was posed to me in light of the recent injustice and unrest in Baltimore. The question: is Baltimore or life in Baltimore, comparable to an Indian reservation? On its face, the question seems to be a request for comparison of the two, but under the surface, I think it becomes a question about the truth of the ethnic experience in America.

The question also brings to mind the thought-provoking documentary Welcome To The Reservation by the late, great Russell Means. He makes a strong case using a powerful analogy that the governing institutions in America are creating a state of perpetual dependence and fear through the use of police tactics, economic exclusion and revocation of liberties. It is a sound analogy, but let’s examine a more direct comparison.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have never lived in Baltimore, or on a reservation, so these thoughts are mere observations. My expertise lies in the fact that I share Indian and Black heritage, and have lived in urban and suburban settings for most of my life.

A march through the streets of Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Devin | Allen / Twitter
To begin with, one has to understand the uniqueness of Baltimore. It’s South, but not the deep South. It’s urban, but doesn’t have the same population as New York or Atlanta. It’s a Mid-Atlantic hub between the North and South—everything flows through it, but its people tend to stay put, and rarely migrate, for better or worse.

I was not surprised by the brutality described by the city’s residents during their confrontations with the Baltimore Police Department (during the recent protests in the city). I have been a brown man in urban environments, and I know first hand that the police will treat you differently no matter what the infraction or perceived infraction. Let’s remember that the initial encounter that resulted in Freddie Gray’s—the 25-year-old African American man who died several days after being arrested by Baltimore police—death was about perception; how Gray looked at the officer. It’s no secret, in my own neighborhood, and in neighborhoods where large numbers of young black men reside, that “look” at the police can get you stopped and cuffed. Running from the police could get you hurt or killed.

Get the Story:
Mark Rogers: Is Baltimore Like a Reservation for Non-Indians? (Indian Country Today 5/19)

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