There are no saviors for Native people in the 2016 elections. The privileged white folks running for president (and one crazy-ass black dude who literally said, “…Obamacare is “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery…”) are gonna have a hard enough time keeping this ridiculously fractured nation together to focus on building Native nations.
But that’s cool—Native people don’t need saviors. We survived before “America” was a thing and, if we reconnect with our homelands and ancestral ways, we will be here long after.
If the US simply lived up to its treaty obligations like an honorable nation/dealmaker, tribes could navigate our own ways. Obama spoiled tribes and actually largely dealt with tribes as Nations in a way that no president has never done before; imagine that—a leader of the US actually honoring its agreements. No other US president has honored its obligations to the degree Obama has done it and there’s no sign that any of the 2016 candidates have Obama’s sort of pedigree (although I think Bernie Sanders could get it, with proper training). The best of the presidential candidates from both parties are folks who have never taken a leadership role in helping Native communities. The worst?
That’s right: there is one singularly bad candidate for Native people who shows an ugly hate toward Native people and just shows a nastiness towards brown people in general. That’s right: Donald Trump. He’s kind of a scumbag. I laughed about it early on, “He doesn’t even believe what he’s saying.” And I still don’t think that he believes 90% of what he says—but it doesn’t matter. If you rile up enough racist/xenophobic/misogynistic energy—as he has done—things get dangerous. It changes the tone; America already struggles getting past it’s racist past. It certainly doesn’t need new bigots stirring the pot.
And even if Trump doesn’t believe the racist garbage that he spews, it still has a hateful effect and stirs up the genuinely racist folks within America. And it’s not just the toothless, uneducated masses that have latched onto Trump’s prejudiced dog-whistles (they have); the neo-conservative bigots who utilize passive aggressive race-neutral language to antagonize people of color also have heeded his call.
Of course his hate speech toward brown skinned migrants is epic; he seems to despise our brothers and sisters to the south (who have more right to be on this continent than he does). Yet, he says that the Mexicans who come here “… have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Well damn. It’s no surprise that his hate speech inspired hate crimes by some Neanderthals in Boston against a homeless Latino man. When the men were arrested they said, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
Idiots call this type of racism “Nativist,” but that’s an evil lie. Donald Trump is not Native to this land and it’s not Native people carrying out this hate. It’s other immigrants. White immigrants who don’t like brown immigrants.
He’s kinda equal opportunity in his hate of people of color. When speaking about the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement dedicated to securing basic human rights for black folks in this nation, Trump said, “I think they’re trouble. I think they’re looking for trouble…And I think it’s a disgrace that they’re getting away with it.”
But even with his obvious distaste of Mexican folks and Black folks, he has the longest history of antagonizing Native people.
Obviously, there’s the history of Trump crying to Congress that American Indian casinos should be shut down because Indian casinos are going to create “…the biggest organized crime problem in the history of this country. Al Capone is going to look like a baby.” Then, there was Trump playing racial police about mixed members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe saying "They don't look like Indians to me.” Additionally, recently Trump was kind enough to speak for Native people about the Washington Redskins franchise, saying , "I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name." (in fairness, Jeb Bush did this same thing—these over-privileged and rich white men love to speak for Native people).
Trump also recently went on record to say that if he were elected President, “I will immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline...” that tramples on the sacred sites and water supplies of many, many Native people.
There are plenty more examples. And while we don’t have absolute certainty as to who will be best for Native people in this upcoming election cycle, we do know who will be the worst for Native people, Mexicans and black folks.
Thank you Donald Trump for making that clear.
Lina, a Syrian refugee, comforts one of her children in Lebanon. Photo courtesy UNCHR.org.
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
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