Friday, March 25, 2005

Cedric on Red Lake and Ohio and the exclusion of coverage on non-white persons and issues

Cedric wrote the following in an e-mail that arrived last night.

Cedric: This morning on Democracy Now this was said:

JUAN GONZALEZ: Audrey Thayer, what about that issue, again, comparing this to the tragedy of Columbine several years ago when the entire nation seemed to grieve, and the press coverage was almost non-stop of the incident? Do you think that there is a marked difference in the reaction because this occurred on native land?
AUDREY THAYER: Well, I have to agree with Mattie on this issue, and I have to talk a little bit about even the Bemidji community and what has happened up here. And of course, what I do in the Racial Justice Project which is focusing on the 97% of six counties up here that are incarcerated with Indian people, and we're considered the Birmingham of the north, you know, the city of Bemidji, in regard to the three reservations. Right now, of course, the law enforcement of the Beltrami County is doing a very, very fine job of being in support of Red Lake, and that's important. But it is interesting. It will be interesting to see the Governor Polenti come up here, who has completely massacred -- massacred programs that would affect Indian people, state programs. We have an administration that does not serve any dollars for indigenous people. You know, I get calls in my office of indigenous people and ironically, I have talked with some of the families that we are going to be burying some of their family members this next few days, but you know, they'll call and say, you know, I am the landlord or the landlady of this country, and yet I don't have enough money to pay for my gas, you know, to keep my home warm. You know, because there's no programs extended. These are the working poor. Indian people are known for their hard work, their diligence in the community, and if they're offered something, a job, they’re working. But you drive to the city of Bemidji, in very few of the stores will you see Indian people working. I have been disappointed in both of the prayer services in Bemidji. I thank so much the people from Bemidji that came to the pipe ceremony on Tuesday, to the two prayer services at the two separate churches the last few days. But those churches should have been full. And there was only 100 at the Catholic Church. There was very few at the Episcopal Church which has a huge population of urban Indians from Bemidji that they have a mission church for in the city here. I had expected to see an outpouring. Now, needless to say, many, many cards and gifts and monies are going to Red Lake. So, I don't want to offend those who are giving, because there is a population of people that know that this country has failed our people, have failed indigenous people. And now, all of a sudden, we are focused like Columbine. And it's a class issue. Columbine was an upper middle class community. This is not. This is not. This is totally different. I like to think that the people in Red Lake Nation, Leech Lake, White Earth and the indigenous nations, we are givers in this country. We have given, given and given. So I'm hoping that something good -- something good will come out of all of this.

The school shooting is one more story that's not going to be heard or addressed because the nation will focus on only one story. So to recap, Native Americans in Red Lake suffered a serious tragedy this week and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones went to a Congressional hearing in Ohio to draw attention to the voting problems but those stories were hushed up by the big media and by the new media. What do they have in common? The stories deal with nonwhites and it's getting harder and harder to not feel that racism is at work.

Week after week, day after day, we get silence. One week the excuse is that this can't be covered because the big news is that. Then the next week, we hear another story. It's not that people of color can't 'wait their turn,' it's that we're just starting to wonder when that turn ever comes.

As a black man, I am taking the ignoring of Stephanie Tubbs-Jones very personally. She is a member of the United States Congress and she chose to fight this issue all along but here we are two months after everyone was jawing about it and she's still fighting this issue but few people can find time to note it. And I'm finding it hard to believe that if Barbara Boxer had gone to Ohio Monday all the people being silent now wouldn't have rushed to write about it.

In Red Lake, the victims were not white. And the situation is ignored in the same way that Ohio isn't dealt with by the new media and people of color have a right to ask if this new media is going to continue to be as guilty as the big media in ignoring the needs and issues that impact them.

I'll be listening to The Laura Flanders Show this weekend not just because she'll be addressing Ohio but because Laura Flanders makes a point on her show to open it up to all people. It's a real and continuing tragedy that others don't follow her lead. In a world where they could learn from her or Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Juan Gonazalez, they choose to instead copy the likes of Larry King and Tim Russert and new media and the discussions get a whole lot whiter.