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raceAhead: For Indigenous People, A Seat At The Table

November 15, 2018, 3:24 PM UTC

In a passionate call for inclusion, newly elected Representative Deb Haaland [D-New Mex] recalls for Fortune a recent past where Native Americans were left out of the important conversations that could shape the directions of their lives.

“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household, I never imagined a world in which I would be represented by someone who looked like me,” she begins. “That might be because just over 50 years ago, Native Americans in New Mexico couldn’t vote. It also might be because when I was young, people didn’t even think girls could play sports, let alone run for office.”

It’s a milestone long overdue: Haaland is one of two Native American women ever to be elected to Congress.

While Haaland makes it clear that she aspires to represent everyone, it’s worth noting that Indigenous people have been long burdened by a unique set of issues stemming from a legacy of plunder and abuse.

Consider this horror story from Canada. Indigenous women are being forced into sterilization procedures against their will across the Canadian territories, an abhorrent practice that many had thought had been abolished. Some Native women are suing, but it is a newly elected senator for Ontario, Yvonne Boyer, who is insisting the government take on the issue. It will be the subject of her first address to Canada’s upper chamber.

“If it’s happened in Saskatoon, it has happened in Regina, it’s happened in Winnipeg, it’s happened where there’s a high population of Indigenous women,” Boyer, a Métis lawyer and former nurse told the CBC. “I’ve had many women contact me from across the country and ask me for help.”

For her part, Haaland outlines a list of needs she plans to tackle, based on her experience of the community. “I think of my mother, a veteran and disabled, who is in danger of losing her access to Meals on Wheels, a service that delivers meals to people unable to obtain them on their own. I walk down the street in Albuquerque and see people who are homeless, often suffering from mental illness, and aren’t getting ahead despite what the Republicans say about our booming economy,” she writes. “Far too many New Mexicans—and Americans—are fighting to survive right now.”

But part of what makes her new position so important is that she will be representing an entire demographic of people who have never had anyone this prepared to hear their voices before. Haaland, along with Sharice Davids in Kansas, offers the same kind of possibility for progress, equity, and justice that Senator Boyer is currently delivering for Indigenous women in Canada.

A seat at the table means hope.

On Point

Facebook is in trouble, y'allA damning investigation from The New York Times alleges that Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg not only failed to properly protect the data privacy of Facebook users, when the extent of the damage that was being done on the platform was revealed, they went on the attack. “Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view,” says the story. Sandberg led a lobbying effort to shift blame to other companies and discredit their growing number of critics. “Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros.” More than fifty people with knowledge of the company were interviewed for the story.New York Times

A white nationalist bent on violence was arrested on gun charges
Jeffrey R. Clark Jr., 30, was an avowed racist, and online "friends" with alleged Tree of Life synagogue shooter Robert Bowers. He was also a deeply disturbed man, one of a pair of brothers who fantasized publicly about killing black and Jewish people. Clark was arrested on illegal weapons charges after his family alerted the police about his alarming outbursts. At one time, he called the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh a “dry run.” His brother had fatally shot himself within hours of the Pittsburgh shooting. Both had attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

A shift in diversity in Congress
While there are still a couple of races yet to call, a photo tells the tale: Incoming members of the House of Representatives show a stark racial divide between the country’s two major parties. The proportion of white men within the Democratic ranks will drop from 41% to 38% next year, and will rise among Republicans from 86% to 90%. The Republicans were particularly hurt by a spate of retirements from (white) female members.
The Guardian

Shonda Rhimes reviews Michelle Obama’s book
This wonderful review begins with Rhimes’s own delight at being tapped to give the memoir an early read. (It’s also an insight into what gets the greatest showrunner in the world’s attention.) “So when the super top-secret package with the manuscript for ‘Becoming’ inside is delivered to me, I get serious,” she says. “I shoved it in my biggest handbag and carried it around with me like it was a live baby I was afraid to leave home alone.” As she began to read, she gets swept into the book after one anecdote awakens her to the story’s power – it’s a candid and personal look at what it took to become happy, excellent and powerful in a world that can be an unfair and unequal place.


The Woke Leader

Working the race beat in journalism
You don’t have to be a journalist to feel this essay, anyone who is “on the race” beat in their jobs will find wisdom in Errin Haines Whack’s story of how she became AP’s national writer for race and ethnicity. “The appointment also cemented my sense that, throughout my career, long before my role as a race reporter was made official, it has been crucial for me to seek out stories that help bear witness to and for my community—and then, in the newsroom, push past the comfort of some white gatekeepers,” she says. She places her work in the context of civil rights history and the Kerner Commission findings, and lets us know that there is so much more to do – pushing past mainstream ideas about black communities long held by mostly white newsrooms, trying to establish trust with the wary communities whose stories desperately need to be told.

Talking about race: The devil in the advocate
Maya Rupert holds nothing back in this essay on the painful folly of playing “devil’s advocate” when it comes to something as important as race. Discussions about race are already necessary, but now, in a time of heightened white supremacy sentiment, there is “a dangerous tendency for white people to engage in these discussions with people of color by summoning the devil himself and treating racism as a political disagreement around which two opposing viewpoints can reasonably form.” This is madness. What you’re asking when you play devil’s advocate is for a person of color to justify to you their own value, safety, and status. “There is no way to productively ask a person to participate in an argument that questions their equality as an epistemological experiment,” she says.

Technologist Kathy Sierra received her first online threat fourteen years ago
Back in the mid 2000s, Kathy Sierra, a busy technologist and blogger, was one of the first women ever to be harassed, receive sexualized death threats, doxed, and ultimately driven from online life. She wrote a blog post about the experience a couple of years ago which is worth revisiting now. “I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting,” she explains. “In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) ‘drunk the Koolaid’. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.” It is a painful, necessary reminder.
Serious Pony


However excellent the day school may be, whatever the qualifications of the teacher, or however superior the facilities for instruction of the few short hours spent in the day school is, to a great extent, offset by the habits, scenes and surroundings at home — if a mere place to eat and live in can be called a home. Only by complete isolation of the Indian child from his savage antecedents can he be satisfactorily educated, and the extra expense attendant thereon is more than compensated by the thoroughness of the work.
John B. Riley, Indian School Superintendent