May 19, 2016 - Racism for You, Me, and Everyone By Maleaha Brings Plenty
The other day, my family and I were driving to Savannah for a weekend vacation. On the way there, we stopped in Spartanburg, South Carolina for dinner. While we were driving to the restaurant, we passed by a restaurant that struck me as odd and infuriating. It was called “Chief’s: Wings and Firewater”.
This struck my family and me on many different levels; the first one being the obvious and blatant racism. The fact that someone would name their business after something so racist blows my mind and infuriates me at the same time. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind the name is, but I’m sure it’s nothing good. I’m sure that if we were to talk to whoever started the business, the reason would be along the lines of they were “honoring the people and culture”.
Another reason this was and is so enraging is that there is still racism like this. This shows that we as humans have barely evolved past the outdated 1950s-and-before idea that Indians are either dead or lesser people than whites. Why is it that in 2016 we are still facing the same stereotypes that were alive and well in 1950?
People still think that Indians are dead and treat the culture like it’s a joke or a catchy restaurant name or sports team name and/or logo. Until those ideas change, this racism will be never-ending. Pessimistic, I know, but that’s the harsh truth of the issue.
Before we can stop racism and offensive events like this, those perpetrating it need to acknowledge that they are in the wrong. Often times, the people that are being offensive justify it away with arguments like “we’re honoring you”, “it’s just a joke”, or “you’re overreacting”. Then and only then can we move on with racism and put an end to it.
The title of “Chief’s” hits me on an extremely personal level as my grandfather was a Tokala Chief of the Oglala Sioux nation. Using that title degrades who chiefs are and what they do for the tribe that they represent. Firewater is also very offensive. The origin of the term came from traders referring to good whiskey as “fire-water” because it would ignite a flame, rather than putting the flame out. Firewater was used to trade furs, and has become an “Indian” word in the public vernacular. So, firewater is offensive as it is very stereotypical, much like the name of the restaurant is.
I am appalled by the fact that this has happened, and even more appalled by the fact that it still happens today. I am sincerely hoping that this generation can help stop it, or at least reduce it so that it’s not an everyday, constant trouble that Indians have to deal with.
by Maleaha Brings Plenty
Maleaha (Oglala/Eastern Band of Cherokee) is 14, home schooled 10th grader and lives in Cherokee, NC.