Tuesday, January 31, 2006
AMERICAN INDIANS, RACISM AND THE ABRAMOFF SCANDAL
The first article below is taken from the San Francisco Bay View, an African American newspaper in the Bay area. The second is from Op-Ed News.com.
Defamation of Indians on trial
by William Reed
A blockbuster Washington, D.C., scandal will produce racial epithets aplenty. Jack Abramoff and an associate currently face charges of conspiracy and fraud, allegedly having lied about assets to secure financing to purchase a fleet of gambling boats. Evidence in Abramoff’s case illustrates the American establishment’s continual condolence of discrimination and will produce congressional corruption and criminal cases against up to 20 lawmakers and staff members.
Annals of Washington politicians contain many grubby chapters of unscrupulous behavior toward Native Americans. But in terms of sheer greed and exploitation, few can match the tale of Jack Abramoff’s and Michael Scanlon’s milking of half a dozen Indian tribes newly enriched by gambling revenues. Tribes were bilked of vast sums to protect the casino gambling operations that are their financial lifeline – in return they got called scandalous names and empty promises of access to corridors of government power.
In late 2001, Abramoff and associates backed a grassroots lobbying campaign that led to closure of the Tigua Casino in El Paso. Then they contacted the tribe and offered to use their influence on Capitol Hill to get the same casino reopened. All the while they were in that business, they heaped scorn on the Indians, referring to tribal officials as “morons,” “troglodytes” and “idiots.”
For months, prosecutors in the nation’s capital focused on whether Abramoff defrauded his Indian tribe clients of millions of dollars and used improper influence on members of Congress. The lone Native American in the Senate, Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado, told Scanlon, “For 400 years, people have been cheating Indians in this country, so you’re not the first. It’s just a shame, in this enlightened day, that you’ve added a new dimension to a shameful legacy.”
The American deception will be to call Abramoff a “jerk,” contending “racist” doesn’t accurately characterize his remark. They’ll just say there’s no evidence that he actually believes Native Americans are “troglodytes” or “monkeys” or that their race is inferior or his race is superior.
Sadly, some Blacks will acquiesce and join into such deceptive debates. The reality is that bigotry, racial discrimination and economic exploitation still exist for Native Americans – big time. Racism permeates the country for African Americans, but we’re in the back of the bus when in comes to Native Americans.
The reality is, the North American continent is comprised of ghetto and reservation systems. Native Americans have been asking for justice since initial contact with whites. Their population prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, their numbers have dropped to 237,000.
The U.S. has broken every single treaty it made with its natives. Discovery of gold in California in 1848 prompted American migration and expansion into the West. The greed of Americans for money and land was rejuvenated with the Homestead Act of 1862.
Recently a movement among Indians is helping them regain their cultural identity and see things through the lens of their own culture. Also, gaming has emerged as a major catalyst for Native Americans’ community development. After decades of poverty and high unemployment, gaming provides sources of employment and governmental revenues and a promising enterprise for tribes to achieve self-sufficiency.
The Indians thought Congress was there to help. In a five-year span, ending in early 2004, Indian tribes represented by Abramoff contributed millions of dollars in casino income to congressional campaigns, often routing the money through political action committees for conservative members of Congress who opposed gambling. If we allow it to degrade to just a debate over words, that will allow too many Americans, Black and white, to pardon establishment bilking of the Indians.
Economic power is a combination of wealth, income, status and occupation, access to education and health care, connections and geographic and social mobility. These in turn translate into political power, organization and access to media, business and government. A great deal of the damage done by racism is done through the economic system. It’s time for people of color to pay attention, see how we’re too often denied or relieved of economic power in discriminatory ways.
William Reed is president of Black Press International (www.BlackPressInternational.com). Email him at email@example.com.
Anti-Native American Media Bias
By Stephen Crockett
The reporting on the Abramoff lobbying corruption scandals by the mainstream corporate dominated media has demonstrated an anti-Native American bias. This anti-Native American media bias has been effectively exploited by Republicans to paint Democratic lawmakers as being an equal partner in the Republican culture of corruption partially revealed by the Abramoff operation.
First of all, the Native American tribes were victims of Republican exploitation. Abramhoff was a major Republican operative. He headed the national College Republicans early in his political career and stayed connected at the highest levels of national Republican politics from that point until now. Jack Abramoff was a frequent guest at the Bush White House. His personal donations were huge and Republicans received the money. He was hardly on speaking terms with the Democratic political establishment.
The Native American tribes were being threatened by Republican politicians in DC and in the various state governments with taxes and laws aimed at their newly organized gambling facilities. Republicans were looking to balance state budgets and offset the deficits created by the tax breaks they had given large corporations by taxing the profits of the Native American businesses. In some cases, the Republicans involved seemed to be acting to protect large corporations already engaged in gambling from the new upstart Native American competitors.
When the Bush Republicans took control of the White House after the disputed 2000 Presidential Election, Native American tribes had real reasons to worry about the future of their businesses. After the 2002 Congressional Elections, Republicans were in full control. Jack Abramoff was able to exploit the situation to his personal benefit and to the benefit of mostly Republican officeholders. Abramoff robbed the tribes blind with the active help of other Republican politicians and officeholders. Money for direct government actions seemed to be part of the normal operating procedure among this Republican cabal. Democratic officeholders did not engage in such blatantly illegal behavior.
Native American tribes had traditionally supported mostly Democrats. They continued some donations to Democrats. Democrats had been friendly to the interests of the tribes to a much larger degree than the Republicans. Political donations by Native Americans are not inherently dirty. Only the racism of the mainstream media can explain why these donations are being portrayed as corrupt by the media.
Institutional racism by newspapers, cable, TV, radio and Internet journalists has combined with institutional laziness to falsely color the story. What is essentially is a republican scandal has been colored as bi-partisan. More importantly, Native Americans have been largely frozen out of playing an important role in national politics. They have been denied the use of their new wealth to influence political campaigns because politicians they support are unable to accept donations from them without being falsely tarred by the media with an unsupported taint of corruption.
Large corporations like Enron could act illegally and give huge amounts of their illegal profits to Bush and his Republican allies without those politicians being directly connected to corruption by the media. The Native American tribes were not engaged in crimes. They were victims of crimes. The criminals were all highly placed Republican political figures. The Democrats were just friends of the victims and hopefully will remain friends of the Native American tribes.
I am of mixed pioneer and Cherokee blood. I am a Democratic activist. The Abramoff rip-offs personally offend me. The racism of the mainstream corporate dominated media toward Native American political involvement is worse.
Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host, Democratic Talk Radio http://www.democratictalkradio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, MD 21919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .