Protecting Indigenous Persons Against Racism and Misinformation on Social Media and In Society
By E.M. Lunsford
Why October 1st? It’s what I see as the beginning of the Indigenous Appropriation Season.
Columbus Day, where many “celebrate” a man “discovering” land that was already occupied. We already knew it was there. He was a violent invader, who tortured, massacred, slaughtered many Indigenous people. They raped women and young girls, enslaved men, traded women and girls as young as nine for sex.
Settlers rage at Indigenous people, “He never touched this land (meaning what you call the United States today), so why are you complaining?” Well settler, first, why are YOU celebrating him, then? You’re claiming he “discovered America”. Think about that. You are still confusing “United States” with the “New World” (your words for it, not ours). You tell us we’re wrong to vilify him, but you’re right to celebrate him for it. You refuse to recognize that the entire western hemisphere is “The Americas” (again, your words, not ours). Also, through Columbus’ travels in our lands, we were blamed for the spread of syphilis into Europe. This is also not true. But you will argue that it is, regardless of more recent findings.
Next, we have Halloween. Our cultures are not costumes. Regardless of what you THINK you “mean” by it, to us, the actual Indigenous people, it is humiliating, demeaning, damaging. Much has been written about how it does actual harm, and is connected to many of the issues Indigenous people have today—poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, rape, and murder.
But you will argue with us, violently, that you can wear what you want. You are telling us you can do whatever you want with us. As if we belong to you. Every year, and not just at Halloween, we call you out for “dressing Indian”, and you argue, often violently, that we have no rights to our culture, everything belongs to you. (start here then Google “How Native mascots cause harm”, etc. Stop expecting us to do ALL the work for you, when Google is right there at your fingertips).
One of the worst costumes is “Sexy Pocahontas”. You say, “She is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER!” This is something we’ve heard a million times. Some honestly are not aware she was a real person. She was only about 9 or 10 when Smith and Company arrived, and that she did NOT fall in love with Smith; she was repeatedly raped by him and his men. And in the end, possibly poisoned.
After that comes November. Native American History Month. It is astounding how many people don’t realize it is Native American History Month. You argue with us that we were primitive, savage, bloodthirsty, we were all killing each other off, so it was okay for you to come in and do likewise in astounding numbers. Your “facts” are wrong, but you won’t hear of it. You “brought us civilization”. Civilization? When you couldn’t feed or care for yourselves in a strange land, didn’t bathe regularly because you felt that crust of filth kept you from getting sick? When in your land, you drank beer, because your water was too toxic to drink, and you were astounded we drank directly from the streams, rivers, and lakes? You claim we didn’t have the wheel … but we did, we just didn’t have a use for it as transportation. You claim you brought us the horse … even though there is much evidence some tribes did, in fact, already have horses. All of this information is available, if you look for it, but you won’t. You’d rather harass Indigenous people into doing the work, but when we do you ignore it, and keep arguing, harassing, abusing.
November also brings Thanksgiving. As usual, history favours the “victors”. What we are taught in school about Thanksgiving is hokum. The “traditions” you insist are valid, are in fact, not.
But you will argue to the point of violence that they myths you believe are absolute truth.
This time of the year, it’s one thing after another. But, we deal with exactly this manner of thinking all year long. We get a lot of abuse, and we’re expected, as minorities, to suck it up, grow a thick skin, be kind in replying, while we battle your racial slurs, your mascots, your abuse, your harassment. And this is why #Oct1st is necessary. Social media can be great. Our communities can interact, we can learn from each other, and we can defend each other from these onslaughts. But herein lies the problem. We’re expected, even by the social media platform owners, to take endless abuse and do nothing in return. If we do, we get reported, and can be suspended in under an hour. But regardless of the number of times we report abuse, harassment, and even outright threats, seldom do social media sites take any action to protect us. Platforms such as Twitter (probably the worst) and Facebook (close runner-up) egregiously disregard their own rules. They claim they look at context. They do not. It is evidenced in any person with a working brain seeing the context and realizing the suspension was wrong. They have no humans manning their appeals process, and often are willfully blind and racist. BUT, their algorithm will pick up “the n word” or anything to do with white people. One week in September, we lost FIVE Native activists (that I’m aware of), due to people harassing them. When they defended themselves against racism and hate speech, the Indigenous account holders were the ones suspended. Another Native activist was suspended permanently for her discussions on Twitter, because they were about death, embalming, etc. SHE. IS. A. MORTICIAN. And her threads were often helpful to those dealing with grief and final arrangements.
So, on #Oct1st, we will be posting on Twitter to @Twitter @TwitterSupport, @jack and others with our screenshots of vile hate we’ve received, that even when reported by multiple people, was allowed to continue on and on and on, and screen shots of what we did to get suspended.
A non-Native friend got suspended for calling a female celebrity “the c word”. I had a “celebrity” male call me that exact same word; it was reported several times, and, nothing was done. A man made at least two threats to anally rape me. Again, Twitter did nothing. Double, triple, quadruple standards in social media, and we need to call attention to it! On Facebook, I was suspended for a month for talking about members of my family being “white trash”. It was an all-Indigenous group, no one in my family could see it, Facebook’s algorithm picked it up, and I was suspended. Meanwhile, groups using racial slurs in their names are found to “not violate our standards”. Threats to us do not violate their standards. Abuse towards us in general do not violate their standards, unless they are coming from a person of colour. No, it’s not JUST Indigenous people that are treated like this, but this date is centered on us mainly. But anyone who has had this issue, please do share anyway. We need people to see how unfairly social media treats minorities. We must flood, inundate, social media with this hashtag for the world to see.