Feb 6, 2015 - Racism Should Burn To the Ground, By Jon Edwards
When I read on social media last weekend of how 57 Oglala Lakota children (and the human race in general), was disrespected by what boils down to a hate crime, I was initially full of hatred and disgust. I thought to myself, well, this is the prevalent attitude of race relations in that city, in the State of South Dakota, the Midwest, and in some form or another, this country, this continent, this planet. There is nothing I can do about it. My first instinct was to drive to Rapid City and go look for one of the guys responsible for this act, and break his nose.
This attitude in Rapid City, in this region, is not imaginary. It is very real, this attitude that one person’s skin color is superior to another person’s. It’s in the hospitals, the schools, the police department, the fire department, the mall, the civic center, and on the streets. It’s everywhere. It’s a fact of life.
Now mind you, although there are racist people in all of these places, there are also people who don’t hold this kind of hatred in their hearts. There are also good people who are not bigots who work in the hospitals, the police department, the fire department, and so on.
Nevertheless, racism is an everyday reality. It is in the undercurrent of race relations in you, Rapid City. It’s in you, Mobridge. It’s in you, Bismarck. It’s in you, Pierre. It’s in you: Timber Lake, Newell, Spearfish, Sturgis, Belle Fourche, Harding County, Hermosa, Midland, McIntosh, Eagle Butte, Little Eagle, McLaughlin, Fort Yates, Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Sisseton, Flandreau, and so on. It’s in you: Sioux Falls, Billings, Minneapolis, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wyoming, America.…do you catch my drift? That it’s in you, right now. Can you feel it? Can you read between the lines and feel what I’m really saying to you?
It’s in you, and its finally boiling over, and it is about time. If the D.A. hadn’t stepped in and filed charges, if they don’t get convictions, if this incident goes unpunished and is swept back into the current, like so many in the past, then perhaps Rapid City you will boil over, because a line was crossed bringing children into this, and it is not acceptable. Perhaps it’s the right time, now, for things to begin to change. Perhaps it’s the right time for certain groups of people to realize what’s inside of you, and pull it out.
It makes me ashamed to be a human being sometimes, because I know so oh very well what we are capable of. I witnessed death, pain, and suffering first hand for over a decade of life in Emergency Medical Services.
Perhaps in a larger scale of time, it will be a good thing that 57 little people were disrespected due to ignorance and hatred because this incident could very well be the match that lights the fire on a Civil Rights Uprising in Lakota Country, a fire that wasn’t burning so hot just a few weeks ago.
So thank you drunken ignorant human beings from Rapid City, who have white skin. Thank you for pouring beer and hatred on to 57 small human beings, who happen to have brown skin.
My heart goes out to both the 57 students who experienced this bigotry, hatred, disrespect, and ignorant stupidity, as well as the ignorant racist fools who poured beer on their heads. I feel your pain, because my skin is brown but I am also half white.
I know exactly who I am inside and I am not ashamed of this. What I am ashamed of sometimes is that I have to share the air I breathe with other human beings that are capable of so much evil who at the same time are capable of so much good. It’s a personal choice, it’s a learned behavior; this racism in you, Rapid City, in this planet of ours. It’s ingrained into our lives by the people who raised us.
My father, who was of European descent, a full blooded ‘white man’, is the most humble, caring, resilient, hardworking man I have ever met. My relatives on his side of the family are some of the most capable beautiful, intelligent people on this planet.
My mother, a full blooded Hunkpapa Lakota, now deceased, was a language and culture teacher her entire adult life who left her mark in every one of the students she taught over the years. She loved everyone, regardless of their differences, regardless of their skin color. She was and will always be a special woman who was able to see past petty differences.
Both of my parents have taught me invaluable life lessons, and have allowed me to open my mind and be able to see both sides of a problem- to sit in the middle of a problem, on a line between two races that sometimes hate each other with a passion. To sit calmly on this line and realize that Christianity is a beautiful religion, that the Lakota religion is a beautiful religion. I use what I need to from both of these teachings to keep me balanced inside. I can sit on this line between two races, and use my life experiences as a paramedic to be stronger inside than I have ever known.
I can use what I have understood, after burning out from over a decade of lights and sirens, of helicopters, airplanes, ICU’s, Emergency Rooms, after responding to thousands of other people’s emergencies, in perhaps 9 different states and most of the reservations in North and South Dakota, and some in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Montana. I’ve scraped up human brains off the highway, out of suicide victims homes, and seen with my own eyes that when our flesh burns away we are all the same color inside. From knowing first hand that a Whiteman’s brain, and an Indian’s brain, both have the same consistency. They are both the same color. They both feel like a handful of scrambled eggs when held in a gloved hand, before you respectfully place them in a body bag with the rest of the parts you just picked up.
I realize this, and if I just ruined your next breakfast of scrambled eggs, then good. Think about it while you sit there and eat your scrambled eggs. Who is scrambling your eggs?
Who taught us these things? Think about that for a moment as well…we as human beings aren’t born with the ability to hate people because of the color of their skin. This hatred, this bigotry, this attitude of superiority and inferiority is not there when we come out of the womb. It’s taught to us, like everything we learn or fail to learn. It’s called imprinting. What do you teach your children? Children are sponges for information; they soak up everything around them, including beer dumped on their heads while they are trying to watch a hockey game.
When I read the headline in the Rapid City Journal this past Saturday, I laughed out loud. The Journal was speculating that what caused the incident was that some of the children didn’t stand for the National Anthem, along the lines that the kids were responsible; which is humorous to me, because I view that as another form of imprinting. Let me explain.
Where I grew up, in a little town named after a BIA Agent called McLaughlin, at the center of the Standing Rock ‘Indian’ Reservation, in the middle of the United States, I started saying the pledge of allegiance when I was in the first grade. I didn’t know any better. I was a child and my sponge-like mind soaked this up. This daily influx of propaganda continued on a daily basis for years, up until probably the 8th grade. It became a normal thing. I was imprinted.
I laughed out loud after reading that headline, and the speculation that it was the children’s fault that they had beer dumped on their heads. Although I didn’t read the whole article, because I had more important things to do then to read something so poorly written by another ignorant human, the headline and the first few paragraphs were enough. It made me smile, because a few weeks ago I did a similar thing.
I went to a church service in Sturgis, SD. A friend had asked me to go with and I wasn’t doing much of anything so I did, because I believe in something greater than myself. But getting back on point here; when the preacher man opened the service, he asked everyone to stand for the Star Spangled Banner. He is an African American man who is very energetic about his interpretation of the Bible by the way, and his congregation is multiracial. Before I realized what I was doing, I was standing along with everyone else around me, because this was imprinted into me in elementary school. I didn’t sing along, because I likely have a horrible singing voice.
Instead, what I was thinking about during the entire song was this is really not what I came here for. I met quite a few interesting people that day. The congregation, like I said, is a mix of all races of people. The seating there is not segregated, however just as in most places, people with the same color of skin segregate themselves from each other.
The entire row of people behind me was white. The entire row of people next to me was brown, I don’t think much of it, because we’re all humans. I did however notice that one of the human beings behind me was, I believe, still intoxicated from the night before. They sang loudly, and I could smell the alcohol on their breath.
I sat and listened to the energetic way one man’s interpretation of the bible was presented. I took what I needed at the time from the sermon, and I left the rest there.
A week went by, and again a friend asked if I wanted to go to church. I did again, but this time I went for selfish reasons. To sit up in front where the preacher man would notice me, and I made sure he would see what I was about to do.
This time was the last time I will ever attend that church. When he said “those that are able please stand” as we open our prayers with the Star Spangled Banner, well, I was not able to stand. I did not stand. I did this not because I am a terrorist, or don’t respect veterans or some government officials, but because I don’t need to carry on behaviors that were intentionally imprinted into me as a child.
I am an adult now. I am not a child and it is a free country, allegedly. If I don’t want to stand for the national anthem, or pledge my allegiance to a piece of cloth, then I won’t. That’s my right. Because this country is as free as you make it for yourself. I won’t attend that church again because I was a guest there and my action caused a lot of negativity in an otherwise peaceful morning for these people. I went along just to see what kind of attitude was present in a Black Hills church on a Sunday, and as a guest there I probably shouldn’t have done that. But do I really care what those people now think of me? No. Do they realize that they are guests in Lakota Country, just as I was a guest in their church, just as we are all guests on this planet? No, I don’t think they do, yet. That’s their choice in this free country of ours.
If you choose to be ignorant, if you choose to be brainwashed, if you chose to be a bigot and a racist, fine. That’s your prerogative. But realize what your actions are doing. They are not only affecting you, but they are imprinting the next generation around you. If you choose to carry on the hatred and racism that was imprinted into you as a child, fine. Be that way. It’s a free country, and before you get all White supremacist on me or get all Wounded Knee on me, or put me on a terrorist watch list, realize that I do in fact respect the warrior tradition, and I do realize that “freedom isn’t free.” I also realize that I know I am far from perfect and I know very well that in the past I have not been a very positive role model at times. That’s not what I set out to do in the first place, nor is it what I am doing now. I’m just speaking my mind in a free country. Mostly thinking out loud to myself anyway, because when it comes down to it, I really don’t care what you think of me.
I realize these things, just as well as I realize that I don’t have to carry on imprinted behaviors, or have a world view, that’s the same as yours.
You should know that I seriously considered joining the U.S. Military. I still do sometimes- to get away from this ignorant, racist State, this region. I have veterans of foreign wars in my bloodline, and that I respect them. I have many friends who served this country that I identify with them most, because I can talk with them about things that bother me occasionally from a decade of work in EMS. They’ve seen some of this first hand, and they don’t look at me like I’m crazy when we tell stories about these things that civilians will never understand. You don’t have to understand it. It’s not your job.
They understand how these things affect a person inside, just as my brothers and sisters in EMS, in healthcare, in some Police Departments, in some Fire Departments understand.
You should also know that I’ve also sat in recruiter’s offices on numerous occasions in the 34 years of my life, that they occasionally still call me, and I occasionally think about it as an option. My mother’s maiden name is Shoots the Enemy and I realize that the original Shoots the Enemy did not receive that name for weaving baskets.
Also, that before I signed a contract to join the military, I talked to people I respected in my family: my father, my mother, uncles, my grandfather (in the Lakota way, a great uncle in the Caucasian way) Joe Flying By, who happened to be a Lakota medicine man, that these positive role models in my life left the decision up to me.
They said I could do “anything you want to,” that I could go and become a warrior for the United States government, because it is in my bloodline. That “we have relatives who fought for the U.S. military, and relatives who defeated the U.S. 7th Calvary,” on June 25th, 1876.
That I could do this; join the military and it would be an honorable thing.
One of these positive people in my life also told me that I didn’t have to go to the other side of the world to prove myself, that there are problems right here in “our backyard” I can help with.
Thank you Mom, for telling me that, and God rest your soul. Thank to all the positive influences in my life, and thank you to the negative people as well, for making me not ashamed of who I am.
I am not ashamed that I have witnessed close to a thousand deaths in the past 12 years of my life. I am not ashamed that it made me very sick inside for quite awhile, because I am strong inside now because of that. Awake because of those things I witnessed, everything means more to me, because of where I’ve been. Because I’ve seen what human beings are capable of, with my own eyes; beautiful things, as well as hateful evil things, and all of it means something to me.
All of it has helped me look at things from a larger perspective; to be able to see the propaganda and imprinting ingrained in us, how it affects our thoughts, our actions and everyone around us. I really don’t care what you think of me, I know who I am inside and that we all have our parts to play. If you’re part to play is to judge people based on their opinions and the color of your skin, then do your thing.
I don’t have children, and that is a personal choice to me. I’ve been busy doing my job for quite awhile, and at one point thought why would I ever want to bring a child into this evil, messed up place I live in? I focused on only the negative aspect of life, which is fairly easy to do when all you see is pain, death, sickness, and suffering. So I decided I didn’t want children a long time ago. What about you, do you have children? What do you imprint in them? Can you look at a larger picture, and remember that we are all human beings? That we all live on a tiny blue marble floating through a Universe whose size is incomprehensible to our small minds?
We all have to live here together…we are stuck here with each other.
Can you think of time on a larger scale other than just the short span of a human life? Where I’m from, that’s roughly 60 years. If you think of your time here on a larger scale of time, not Central time, or Mountain time, or white man time, or Indian time, but Universal time; your life is over in a heartbeat. Do you really want to spend that time as an ignorant, uneducated, short sighted bigot?
Adolf Hitler did; when he studied the extermination policy of the United States government that was most recently aimed directly at the Lakota Nation. Most of the world decided Hitler and Nazi Germany was ridiculously psychotic and went to war against that attitude of White Supremacy while simultaneously, those attitudes were alive and well in America, and remain ingrained here today.
Hitler put a bullet in his head rather than face the world, probably because he was ashamed of being responsible for causing 20 million deaths.
The attitude of supremacy that Hitler studied was Made in America. Called the Eugenics, this ‘movement’ was partially fueled by the ethnic cleansing of the Lakota in this country. The attitude that Hitler admired so much, depending what book you read, caused the deaths of anywhere between 1-100 million Native Americans here, in our backyard. Did you read that in American History class?
What it took to get the rights of African Americans in this country acknowledged, was an uprising. Riots, beatings, killings, hangings, hatred, KKK members killing black men, now an African American sits in the Whitehouse as the most powerful man in the world.
Is this what it takes for the Lakota nation to be strong again and claim our lives? Does it take riots, and uprisings, and more death, hatred and destruction to finally get attitudes to change in Rapid City, in South Dakota, in the Midwest?
Maybe so, time will tell. Do we have to sit back as drunk people disrespect children who want to watch a hockey game? Can you stand up and speak your mind when you see this happening? Can you do this in a respectful way, without losing your temper, can you act like an adult about it?
Can I walk down the aisles in a store in a Rapid City shopping center with brown skin and not be followed, without the aisle that I’m in conveniently needing to be dusted, or restocked, because I might steal something?
Probably not yet.
Perhaps it is time for Rapid City to get over it’s White Supremacy Complex.
Can you move past it Rapid City, Pierre, Bismarck? Do you need riots, and beatings, and civil unrest, and the National Guard, and people killing more people? Is that what it takes?
Do you need a watchdog agency? Do you really want thousands of righteously angry Lakota’s to burn you down and kick you out of the land that is rightfully ours? Or can you realize that the differences can be resolved peacefully and that you’d better get it right on this one? If not now, then people with brown skin will righteously burn you down Rapid City, Pierre, Bismarck, because it’s time now and in our lifetimes this attitude in you Rapid City will begin to change. It is the 7th generation.
Are we going to let 57 little people grow up hating everyone with white skin they see? Or do you think by that time these petty differences can be resolved?
Get it right this time Rapid City, or this one act of disrespect will be the fuel for the fire that’s coming soon anyway.
Convict these human beings for pouring beer onto other little human beings heads. Step up race relations efforts. Learn about cultural sensitivity. Remember that we are all guests on this planet, and also remember that Rapid City is in the Lakota’s ancestral homelands, and that you are built there in direct violation of treaties between the U.S. government and the Lakota Nation.
Also remember that the U.S. government did not want to fight the Lakota anymore, because we refuse to die quietly. The 1868 treaty between these two nations says that “from this day forth all war between the two parties shall forever cease.” That, “the Government of the United States desires peace and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it,” and because this treaty was violated, if I, or 57 Lakota children don’t stand up to honor a flag, that represents a nation who has little to no honor, then that is our business. That this treaty gives the Lakota Nation every right in the world to stand up for itself, and do whatever it takes to make this right.
There are thousands of Lakota warriors, and even some who don’t know they’re warriors yet, sitting idly by waiting for a common cause to unite them. This is only the beginning. Remember that Rapid City, remember what’s coming. Remember what’s in you right now, and choose wisely.
Editor’s Note: Rapid City Police Officer Anthony Meirose, who shot Native Allen Locke 5 times in the presence of his children, is back out on patrol in Rapid City, SD.