Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 in Featured

“Trail of Tears” Signs Mocking Genocide at Multiple High Schools Point to Epidemic of Racism and Insensitivity Against Native Americans, By Danielle Miller

“Trail of Tears” Signs Mocking Genocide at Multiple High Schools Point to Epidemic of Racism and Insensitivity Against Native Americans, By Danielle Miller

Racism against Native Americans seems to be becoming an epidemic. Social media is giving Native Americans a platform to challenge acts of racism, but just as these acts are denounced, more instances occur. Many perpetrators are just plain racist, others, blissfully ignorant.

It seems as time progresses micro aggressions like cultural appropriation has evolved to even uglier acts of entitlement and racism. Kanye West put dead Native Americans on his Yeezus merchandise; the most criticism he received was about the confederate flag. The Native perspective was completely ignored by the mainstream media (as it often is) and Kanye continues to exploit the history of Genocide and historical trauma by selling the merchandise.

Another situation occurred where Native Americans are being mocked. There was no way that people could justify it because it was a blatant act of racism against Native Americans. A breakthrough sign at a McAdory High School football game stated: “Hey Indians get ready to leave in a trail of tears. Round 2”.

McAdory "Trail of Tears" Sign

McAdory High School “Trail of Tears” Sign in Alabama

An estimated 2,000-6,000 Cherokee died of exposure, starvation, and disease, during the ethnic cleansing event now known as the Trail of Tears. The Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw Tribes were also forced from their homelands during the Trail of Tears, an act of genocide endorsed and initiated by the Federal government through the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

McAdory students continue to tweet defending the banner, attempting to minimize the apology released by administrators, and in turn, the genocide that happened to Native Americans. Some even have the gull to say “they aren’t sorry,” and brag about being famous.

Tweets from McAdory High School students after an apology was issued

Tweets from McAdory High School students posted after an apology was issued

McAdory student tweets posted after an apology was issued

McAdory student tweets posted after an apology was issued

The following night, another photo was shared by a different tumblr user from the opposing team. The user posted a link to the other post and said it inspired them to share their own picture. The picture included was yet another sign, which says “Trail of Tears” being held up by a large crowd at a football game. If this was in fact a second sign at McAdory, it really demonstrates the neglect of administrators. Some users on twitter have denied that the sign was shown at McAdory but have not shown any evidence which disproves the blogger’s claims. Regardless of whether it was McAdory, the photo still needs to be shared to show this is a nationwide issue.

trail2

Another ‘Trail of Tears’ sign at a High School football game

Then YET ANOTHER instance of mocking the trail of tears emerged from a Tennessee school, on the Dyersburg football facebook page. The album contained two photos with a sign saying “Trail of Tears”.

Another 'Trail of Tears' sign in Dyersburg Tennessee

Another ‘Trail of Tears’ sign in Dyersburg Tennessee

How could anyone think that mocking genocide is acceptable in any context? I don’t understand how thought processes can be so disconnected. Football games are not a place where racism gets to be excused. People certainly wouldn’t allow anyone to mock 9/11, Hiroshima, or the Holocaust. If there was a sign about lynching at a football game it wouldn’t be a joke.  Even some black people with the shared history of oppression defend the issue and basically deem Native Americans unimportant. Why is the genocide and continued marginalization of Native Americans considered to be a “joke”? Has America devolved back to the era of Assimilation and Termination of Natives?

Why are all these administrators and educators ALLOWING this to happen? Clearly there must be institutional racism taking place. Schools also handle this situations terribly with apologies which put the blame on those victimized by racism. Their apologies are always something along the lines of: “We’re sorry YOU were offended. We will reteach about the Trail of Tears.” Great for you to emphasize that WE are offended, rather than taking responsibility. The acts of racism themselves are far more harmful than being “offended” or calling them out will ever be. Obviously repeating a lesson will not help the situation, if its colonized content was part of the reason this occurred in the first place.

It appears that America is harboring subconscious, engrained racism towards Native Americans; their actions are showing it. No matter what excuse or intentions they claim to have. If you act racist, you are perpetuating racism, period. The new racism is the denial of racism. People believe if they defend racism and deny that it is racist, it justifies them in whatever they do. That is completely absurd. If you are dehumanizing or marginalizing a race of people, congratulations- you are being racist! That is a fact, not an opinion!

Racists resort to playing the victim, claiming that they are being “attacked” whenever someone tells them their acts of racism is wrong. This shows how mislead many are- to believe that being told their racist action is ignorant is more harmful than the racist act itself. They dehumanize my people and laugh at our deaths, but think being called out on their ignorance and racism is unfair.

Because Native American mascots are not being  properly addressed my administrators, educators, and parents, we see students from schools all over the nation callously joking about the history of Native American genocide. The racist bigots who commit these acts, like the ones from McAdory High School, continue to post on twitter and other social networks about how happy they are to become “famous”. Other racists team up with them and talk about how no one has the right to be offended or to speak up.

This is not okay, and no matter how many times racists attempt to invalidate others, joking about genocide and dehumanizing a race of people is “a big deal.” If the United States truly values equality, it should stop perpetuating racist acts and ban Native American mascots. Racism should not be tolerated towards ANY RACE. Now is the time to acknowledge the harmful pattern of racism against Natives that is taking place before any further atrocities manifest.