I was all psyched as I typed a biting piece on ceremonial thieves and new age exploiters for this week. I had the majority of my weekly word quota posted up in a word document when a picture popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. It was an image of a racial slur someone allegedly wrote in a dormitory restroom on the South Dakota State University (SDSU) campus. I pray our Lakota students find the strength to move past those east river racist fools.
Yup, racism thrives in South Dakota. This publication really has no room for a photo depicting a racial slur directed at Lakota people. We publish the Lakota Country Times every week with the intent to offer positive reinforcement to our young people. So, I don’t think it would be appropriate to publish a picture of an overused racial slur containing the “n” word directed at those of us who live on the prairie.
This is the caption which accompanied the Facebook picture shared by Wayne Weston of the Pine Ridge Rez over the weekend: “This was seen by my nephew who is attending SDSU in his dorm bathroom our young Lakota men & women who are attending higher education institutions are also being educated on how racism still exists with their neighbors. For many of us who experience this for many years we learned how to tolerate this, yet for these young people they are traumatized. When my son attended USD [University of South Dakota] they wrote this on his dorm door and he was traumatized as well. We need to encourage these young minds to not give up, its continues to baffle me that these types of wasicus continue to fear us.”
South Dakota is the state where you see the license plates which proclaim “Great Faces. Great Places.” But all is not as it seems. I saw another picture over the weekend which said “Great Places. Still Racist.” I have lived here for most of my life. The only time I lived away from my homelands was when I attended college in another state.
Back then, the first few months in an entirely new place were kind of overwhelming. One thing I remember about those first days spent at that huge, out-of-state university is how I was treated. Many were amazed when they learned I was Lakota. They would excitedly ramble on about the cultural history I represented. They were in awe of my people. It was quite a different experience to be treated as a famous Lakota.
I grew up on the Rez in South Dakota where we aren’t considered famous by the locals at all. I’d become accustomed to being treated differently by non-Indians and it was never on the par of celebrity status. Many of the wasicu I encountered when I ventured off the Rez were (and still are) openly hateful.
Also, the single semester I spent at the University of South Dakota traumatized me. The non-Indian students and even some of the professors there viewed me with contempt. Some of them called me derogatory names.
How many of you left the Rez to attend college at a university in the “Great Faces. Great Places” state only to return home without finishing the semester because the wasicu treated you badly? It doesn’t have to be this way.
We get used to being treated badly when we step outside the boundaries of the Rez. I learned you can respond with extreme anger or you can keep on moving away from them with your proud, dignified Lakota strut. I used to get mad when I encountered prejudiced people but now I realize it is their problem, not mine.
Racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred are things which we should not have to become accustomed to. I believe our individual attitudes have a lot to do with how we are raised. Were your parents racist or were they tolerant? I had one racist parent and one tolerant parent so I guess I grew up somewhere in between the two extremes.
I have come to believe that all human emotions are prompted by either love or fear. When you view life from the vantage point of love, you will feel more joy, peace, bliss, contentment and tolerance. When you operate from fear, every experience is clouded with anger, hate, guilt, judgment, racism, etc. Do you walk in fear or love?
I have learned that people who operate from deep fear quickly become angry. Don’t look at them wrong because right away they start screaming angry words at you while spewing out spit all over your face. Instant rage is simply a cover for intense fear. And don’t try to tell them they are operating from fear because they will just get angrier at you!
I have learned that the majority of the racist people who inhabit this state of “Great Places. Great Faces” are operating from a personal state of fear. This fear causes them to see Lakota people as some sort of threat. I truly believe it is the guilt they carry deep in their subconscious minds which prompts them to act out as extreme racists. After all, they are guilty of stealing the majority of our homelands, right?
On the other hand, people who operate with love as their motive are mostly tolerant. They encourage you with kind words. When you see them they are smiling and happy. There are lots of Lakota people like this; there are lots of non-Indian people like this too. I pray for the day when all humans can operate from an emotional base of love.
We have to be the example. We say we want a better future for our coming generations. I believe this future should be one where we no longer allow racism to affect how we feel about ourselves. I want our students who attend a university in South Dakota to be strong. You are Lakota, strut your stuff!