I live in a very small town in Wisconsin. The population has only a little bit over 800 people in it. In the neighborhood, there are neither gangs nor, teenage drug abuse. The only problem that is noticeable and is of much concern is racism in the high school. In a thirty mile ratio there are six Indian Reservations and the town I live in has two. So natives make up most of the students at the local high school and mutual respect prevails among all groups that live in the area. As I grew up, we had a native for our sheriff which was a big deal back then. We also had one become our district Judge. That in itself is a big accomplishment for any one irrespective of race. I am not racist neither do I raise my children to be racist but when I go to pick my 15 year old son up from school, I hear repulsive remarks regarding the native teenagers both male and female.
Because racism is something that has been a growing problem in this country for years, it makes me wonder if we will ever outgrow it and help our future generation decide against it and show them all men and women are created equal. As Groom (2003) noted “far too many Americans speak of equality and hope, yet secretly rationalize hate, based on little than stereotypes and events that happened many years ago” (p.322)
It is actually possible to learn a lot from all races. It is possible to learn all the customs the “elders” had in the old days. I have for instance observed how different past funerals were different from our modern funerals. Another interesting part that I learned, after going to natives’ pow-wows, is how proud of their heritage they are: young girls as young as 12 sew their own costumes for dancing and the young boys make their head dresses with such unique designs. They were absolutely beautiful. Yet much debate that surrounds racism, as Kelly (2009) noted, has been centered on the black skin and less is known about the “covert racism” that afflicts Americans with a “red skin” (Kelly).
How can young children come to understand the difference of hate at such an early age and don’t the parents know this is just causing harm to them. I asked my son, who has been going to this school for 4 years now how this came to be. I know most of the kids in his class and know for a fact most of them were all friends at a younger age. Now certain ones want to have nothing to do with each other. Why in 4 years have the children’s mind changed so much that they have to result in fighting and name bashing and vandalism to each other’s property? Are there parent’s telling their sons and daughters not to be friends anymore? Are they the ones to blame? My son has told me when he goes over to some certain friend’s house; that their parents have rude comments to make about this one’s parents or that one’s parents. If this is the case the child will then make it a point to pick on the child of that parent that their own parent was bashing
It hurts me when my child thinks he should follow the crowd at some point knowing I am totally against it. Is most of this peer pressure to fit in or does he really feel this way also. It just doesn’t make sense. It reminds me of when I was a senior in high school and most of our friends were native. We all got along together until kids from the big cities came to our small school and saw things differently. Our high school was banned from going to the seasonal pow-wow that they have every year. This was the first time ever this had happened. It made wonder what is going to happen every year with the seasons of hunting and fishing. Will this people ever get over this? It affects the community at certain times of the season especially when deer hunting comes up or when fishing comes up. The season comes with immense conflicts which never existed when I went to school almost 23 years ago: this was never an issue until new people came to the small town. In the big city you don’t have hunting or fishing.
As Jock (2005) noted, in those regions of USA called ‘Indian country’, they are few natives who have not experienced racism. He added that many wish to go west to experience with ‘the Indians’: thus they are derogatorily referred to as figments of a vanishing race. Having come with such an attitude and having been to different racial settings, visitors decide to voice their opinion and cause problems. I have come up with ideas to approach the students and faculty of the school. I would love to have classes with the students and the teachers on racial tolerances to explain how they feel and what is and what is not acceptable. Maybe if they discussed it we could find out where the problem started from and how to end it. Maybe a letter to the editor or an article in the local paper would spark some interest in other people and parents besides me. Spear fishing has been a thing in our small town for centuries. All of a sudden outsiders come in voice their opinion, make an issue out of it and all hell breaks loose.
A lot of good things could come out of having classes with the students and with the teachers. They could possibly catch the problem or see the problem before it gets out of hand. We would address the issues and try to get by all of the nonsense about the hunting and fishing issues. We would also try to get to the real problem about each other’s differences. Why hate a person for what their ancestors have been doing for over 100 years. We had the elders come into our classroom as students and talk about the history of the natives and how proud one should be to be native. They have taught us quite a bit if you look back into history. We have learned a lot from them, but others see it differently. I think if we could sit down and talk to the students and rationalize the big picture, each side would see that it’s a he-said-she-said matter and they would realize that there not that different after all. We are all the same in some sort of way. We may look differently on the outside and but race it just another interesting way to be different from everybody else. If we all looked the same, it would be quite boring. Like the much talked about racism about African Americans, racism against Native Americans needs to be dragged under the rug and addressed fully.