Politico.com mistake marginalizes Native Americans
As noted in the sidebar, I am a double Government and Native American Studies major. Just yesterday I took my final in a Gender Issues in Native Life course. I don't want to get into a lengthy discussion of it today, but I do want to say that Indigenous issues extend far, far beyond casinos (and 50% of casino profits go to just ten tribes) and affirmative action. 1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped at some point in their lifetime, compared to 1 in 6 nation-wide (you can blame the Supreme Court for that); many remote homes on South Dakota and Arizona reservations lack electricity and running water; sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) occurs three to four times more often among Indian babies than white babies; and the tuberculosis mortality rate is 750% of the national rate. Throw in alcoholism, diabetes, and a poverty rate double the national average, and you've got yourself a real problem. Arm-chair pundits are often quick to blame genetics, tribal inaction, and perosnal irresponsibility, and I don't deny that these all play some role, but many of these issues are the result of past, and sometimes even current, colonial behaviors and institutions.
My goal to day is not to rant, explain the problems, or even propose solutions. I only want to make one point: We, as American citizens, are more interested in watching Dancing with the Stars or following Britney Spears' latest escapades than we are in paying attention to the problems of poverty and colonialism that exist in our own house, right under our own collective nose. Such issues are almost never discussed. These problems and the people they affect are invisible to us, and inexcusably so. Even when it's easy to give a quick media shout-out, and even when we can learn a little cultural or political fact without any extra effort whatsoever, we look the other way. What brought this to my mind today was the following story from Politico about Joseph Cao, the newly-elected House member from Louisiana's Second Congressional District (my enthusiastic congratulations to New Orleans for finally ousting Dollar Bill Jefferson):
The 41-year-old immigration attorney and community activist, the first Vietnamese-American ever elected to Congress, will be the only Asian-American Republican in the 111th Congress and the only non-Hispanic minority in the House GOP.
Cao joins three Cuban-Americans — Florida Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — as the only GOP House members who are minorities. The only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, Mel Martinez of Florida, recently announced he will not seek a second term in 2010.
What's wrong with this story? Cao will NOT be the only non-Hispanic minority in the House GOP. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), pictured at left, is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.
I don't think the reporters of this story are racist, which is why I'm not including their names in this post. I do, however, think they are guilty of lazy reporting - they previously knew of the three GOP House Hispanics and no other minorities, and assumed that was all there was and ran with it without checking further. As a result, this story from two reputable reporters at a major political newspaper further marginalized Indian political clout, helping make the already-invisible just a little more so.
I have e-mailed both reporters a quick note politely highlighting the omission, and hope it will be corrected.