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Gyasi Ross: Don't fall for false binary in Indian mascot debate

Gyasi Ross continues the discussion on the use of Indian as mascots:
As a result of that debate, many folks suggest that Natives are required to make a "clean air or school lunches" decision. See, a lot of non-Natives, who have never, ever been to Indian Country, smugly suggest, "Aren't there more important matters to talk about in Indian Country? I heard that most Indians live in poverty and are alcoholics and have really short life spans. Aren't those issues more important?" That's the million-dollar question -- and those smug non-Natives, who have never been to Indian Country, think that if the answer is "yes," then they promptly respond with a "Gotcha suckers!" (like another Eddie Murphy movie), thinking that makes the political Redskins discussion moot.

"Ah, see, the decision here, Indians, you have to choose between dying young or racial discrimination." A false binary.

The Redskins political issue was not a topic I cared at all about until pretty recently. Like many others, I also fell for the false binary. It made sense -- I am from the reservation, live and work on the reservation and am intimately familiar with those grim statistics that oftentimes accompany reservation life. Those social problems are very real and acute, as they are in most poor communities, and we are in need of real solutions; poverty; suicide, six times the national average; drug and alcohol abuse; crime (the unique legal character of reservation lands -- oftentimes non-Native criminals move there intent on doing bad acts because tribal law enforcement generally cannot enforce against them -- makes them a haven for drugs). Those things are real within our communities and we are in dire need of resources and advocacy. Those fundamental life issues should absolutely be a top priority for all Native people and if a Native person doesn't recognize the immediacy of those pocketbook/fundamental needs, then they need to spend more time in Indian Country. In fact, there will literally be Native people who are alive right now who will not be alive at this time next year because those fundamental needs weren't addressed.

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: The False Binary of the 'Redskins' Controversy (The Huffington Post 10/30)

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