Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans share much in common

Gyasi Ross. Photo from Facebook

With the residents of Flint, Michigan, under a serious water crisis, author and attorney Gyasi Ross looks at the ways Native Americans and African Americans have been treated in history:
When I heard about the disgusting water that disproportionately affects black people in Flint, Michigan, my first thought was “There it goes again—using methods to harm black folks that were used to harm/kill Natives.” The Western Shoshone Nation, the Oglala Lakota, Navajo people, Hopi and the Spokane people all have contaminated water on their reservations as a result of uranium mining for decades. The result of this contaminated water? It’s pretty obvious—almost every single one of those Native homelands has a heightened proliferation of cancer cases. Not saying that it’s deliberate or not deliberate—I couldn’t speculate. Irrespective of whether there is intentionality behind any of these actions—from Flint to the Reservation—doesn’t matter.

It shows that the respective governments involved—whether the federal government in the instance of the Native nations or the state and city in Flint—just don’t care. History tells us that the government simply doesn’t care about Native people and black people as it cares for white people and this seems to be one of the latest manifestations of that.

We’re going to talk about more shared experiences in this series and talk about tangible ways to work together to improve life for both groups. Liberation. We’re also going to talk honestly about times that have strained the relationship between Natives and blacks. In the grand scheme of things, those strains were small and usually because of outside agitation. Still, we’ll talk about them for the history and to have a stronger basis to work together. We have to—we may be the only people that can share our experiences with each other and not think that we’re crazy. In that way, as Martin Luther King, Jr. prophesied Native people and black people are stuck together by experience and it would be foolish not to learn from each other. We can learn so much from each other; I have some suggestions.

Get the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Flint’s Poisoned Water, Slavery & Human Experimentation: Black History Month for Natives (Indian Country Today 1/28)

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Saginaw Chippewa Tribe donates bottled water for city residents (10/7)

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