The memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Gyasi Ross: Struggles are the same for black people and indigenous people

With another Martin Luther King Jr. Day upon us and the nation focused on even more racist comments by our commander-in-chief, Gyasi Ross, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, takes a look at the shared struggles faced by indigenous and African peoples. It's all about the money, Ross writes on The Huffington Post:
The black reality is that if King had not been assassinated in 1968 he would probably have been assassinated in 1969. Or 1970. Or 1971, etc, etc. Or he would have been in prison for a long time. He definitely would not be as venerated as he is now.

That is the life of many black people historically, and especially black people who stand up to oppression. Damn, Justin Timberlake sounds nice right about now, right? Haters gonna say its fake

That same unforgiving life cycle has largely been true of Indigenous people on this continent as well. My hero, Uncle Billy Frank, Jr. likewise went to jail 50-some-odd times simply trying to be recognized as a human being. He was shot at for saying “You made these agreements with us. Honor them!” He was assaulted for it. He likewise got his name run through the dirt by non-Native as well as Native people who wanted this moving Native person neutralized. Fortunately, he was not assassinated, but predictably after he died the awards started coming in. Someone to celebrate! He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was awarded a wildlife refuge with his name on it. That’s the Indigenous reality.

All in pursuit of that elusive check. How do we get that check?

And that’s ultimately what this struggle has been about, from genocide to slavery to Jim Crow to the theft of 3.2 billion acres of land. The check. Opportunity. Equal opportunity as white people. Of course, we think it’s about race because race has been the primary tool for identifying people so that they could be deprived of a check. Race was really convenient in identifying who could be enslaved if we created a mythology that they were less than human. Dark brown skin? Free labor! No check needed! Race was likewise really convenient when identifying whose land could stolen with no recourse. Light brown skin? Free land! No checks needed.

Read More on the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Black People and Indigenous People: How We Cash This Damn Check (The Huffington Post January 11, 2018)

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