Stereotype, Racism, and Microaggressions
By: Kendra gray
Because many people have such a limited knowledge of Indians, they are one the most misunderstood ethnic groups in the United States. Native Americans are also among the most isolated groups. Thus the knowledge that most people have about Indians does not come from direct experience. What people know is limited by their sources of information — and, unfortunately, much of the information about Indians is derived from popular culture.
Common Stereotypes of Native Americans:
- Indians all have black hair, tan skin and brown eyes.
- Indians are all full bloods.
- All Indians have an “Indian name.”
- Indians get a free ride from the government.
- Indians were conquered because they were inferior.
- Indians were warlike and treacherous.
- Indians did not value or empower women.
- Indians are a vanished race.
- Indians are confined to reservations, live in tepees, wear braids, and ride horses.
Discrimination against Native Americans is the longest held racism in the United States. It dates back to the arrival of the pilgrims and the invasion of the continent. In an effort to obtain much of North America as territory of the United States, a long series of wars and massacres forced displacements (including the well-known Trail of Tears), restriction of food rights, and the imposition of treaties. Ideologies justifying the context included stereotypes of Native Americans as "merciless Indian savages" and the quasi-religious doctrine of manifest destiny, which asserted divine blessing for U.S. conquest of all lands west of the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific.
Once their territories were incorporated into the United States, many surviving Native Americans were relegated to reservations— constituting just 4 percent of U.S. territory— and the treaties signed with them were violated. Tens of thousands were forced to attend a residential school system, which sought to reeducate them in white settler American values, culture and economy.
To this day, Native Americans are the most harshly affected by institutionalized racism. The World Watch Institute notes that 317 reservations are threatened by environmental hazards. While formal equality has been legally granted, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders remain among the most economically disadvantaged groups in the country, and suffer from high levels of alcoholism and suicide.
Native American women are also at a high risk of sexual and physical abuse, recorded at three and a half times higher than the national average. This estimate is very low because 70 percent of abuse cases go unreported, often due to mistrust Native American women feel towards government and police.
Failure to prosecute those guilty of committing crimes against Native Americans is keeping the cycle of violence normative and a commonplace.This violence and fear is now translating to the younger generations, as acts of physical and domestic/date abuse are now becoming common among Native American teenagers.
A few microaggressive themes experienced by Native Americans are that they're:
1. “Lazy and Undeserving of Assistance":
- "Native Americans are undeserving because they are "lazy", they don‟t contribute to larger society, they are too savage/primitive, the government should give the assistance to those who are “more” deserving, to those who contribute."
- Native Americans are treated as if they are basically primitive in nature and thus clueless about modern technologies and constructs.
3. “Prone to Alcoholism”:
- "Native Americans are perceived to be much more prone to alcoholism than others." This appears to be said most often whenever the microaggressor is speaking of how he or she believes that a Native American is incapable or irrelevant. This stereotype appears to be so deep and strong that it is often used to dismiss Native Americans with phrases such as “just a bunch of drunk Indians”.
4. "Uneducated and Unable":
- Native Americans are presumed to be uneducated or at least undereducated and thus not worthy of playing an active role in decision-making nor handling anything complex or challenging.