Lochmess, Racism, and the First Nations

Lochmess, Racism, and the First Nations
Dane La Born

Dane La Born

The big story these last couple of weeks has, of course, been the 2016 Rio Olympics. Even before they started, concerns over the athletes’ safety and well-being surfaced, stories of Rio’s crumbling infrastructure and impoverished citizens made the rounds, Americans and Europeans alike wondered why we were even having the Olympics there if it was such a terrible danger?

Enter Ryan Lochte, Olympic swimmer and… well… a generally dim bulb. Lochte’s antics have usually delighted in the past, since there is nothing innately harmful about being pretty dumb. There is something innately harmful about being a liar, another in a long line of privileged white folks blaming people of color for things that never actually happened.

Now, if you are thinking “Ryan Lochte didn’t do anything racist!” you’d be right. He didn’t, not on purpose, honestly I’m not even sure Lochte could define racism. Or race, outside of being a thing he does sometimes in pools, for that matter. However, Lochte’s insistence that he and his teammates were robbed at gunpoint preyed into American xenophobia of other nations and other colors. White folks have a long and storied history of blaming innocent people of color for crimes that didn’t happen, and other white folks are always happy to immediately believe them, without a doubt. This stands in stark contrast to the way people of color are treated in our nation, where generally much of what they say goes unheard or unnoticed.

I’m as sick of talking about race as I’m sure some of you are of hearing about it. The fact remains that it’s still a thing that needs to be talked about, and it needs to stop being a black and white discussion. The Black Lives Matter movement, as valuable as it is, has overshadowed the fact that there are many other ethnicities as equally or more mistreated in this nation than African-Americans. Even by the police. Statistics show that it isn’t African Americans who are killed in the greatest numbers by police in the U.S. Native Americans are. But we don’t hear about that.

You know what else has been happening this last week, while the world’s been distracted by the Olympics and Ryan Lochte’s harrowing tale of robbery (which was actually a pretty standard tale of getting white-boy-wasted and destroying something in a public space)? During all this excitement, the Lakota tribe in North Dakota have been staging a protest. The only place I’ve heard anything about these protests in any kind of meaningful way has been from the Indian Country media network, which is really the only place I can go to get news on U.S. tribes.

While the news has been busy talking about all things Lochte and Olympian, the Lakota are busy trying to stop the federal government from yet again encroaching on their land. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which was meant to start construction recently, would end up passing through the Missouri River just miles above the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, posing an imminent threat to their and millions of other people’s drinking water..

As I write this, hundreds of Lakota are blocking access to the construction site. Many have been arrested, and the federal government is doing the same thing it’s always done to the native peoples as the greater western world does what it does best: ignore anything that doesn’t directly affect them.

So I put this question to you, dear readers: If race is such a non-issue, if we just keep playing “the race card” all the time for no reason, then how come I’m reading stories like this in 2016? How is it that our government has still made no formal apology for slavery? How is it that state governments remove the messier aspects of our history from the books? How is it that unarmed black men and women are unjustly arrested or executed? That Latino/immigrants are still spat at and shunned and treated like they don’t belong here? If race is such a non-issue, if we live in a post-racial society, then how is it that this stuff still happens?

I don’t expect anything to change. Not really. The worst truth is that televised news and internet news are a ratings and clicks game now. They go for the narrative, the drama, the ratings, not the actual news. Ryan Lochte lying about being robbed in Rio was a shitty thing, but I don’t understand how it’s overshadowing the federal government screwing over the native Americans for the umpteenth time in American History. Well, that’s not true. I do. It’s a symptom of the “post-racial-racist” society that we actually have.

Categories: Commentary