Portraying the MAGA Teens as Victims Is an Extension of Native American Erasure

A woman speaks during the Indigenous Peoples March on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2019.Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

"So how did MAGA hats and a sneer steal the show?"

The Intercept, January 24, 2019

... In the face of this hostility, Phillips sang the American Indian Movement song, known as the “Raymond Yellow Thunder Song” in honor of the Oglala elder brutally murdered by white vigilantes in February 1972. It’s a song of resistance and remembrance, and it was sung during the Wounded Knee Occupation in 1973 and at the frontlines of Standing Rock in 2016.

The waves of history and emotion washed over me when I heard Phillips sing. I remember white boys from my high school chanting, “Get the fuck out of our country, faggot!” at me and my friends when we refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I remember being told, “Go back to where you came from!” by a white woman outside Los Angeles International Airport when I marched against Trump’s Muslim ban. I remember seeing my Native friends spat on by MAGA hat-wearing white men at a Trump rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I remember white men shouting, “Go back to the reservation!” at water protectors holding a prayer circle in a mall in Bismarck, North Dakota. In some of those moments of terrible danger, we sang the “Yellow Thunder Song” too and didn’t strike out against the threats in front of us.

This is what many of us saw in that video: steadfast resilience and discipline. We relive these feelings in our daily lives over and over again.

Instead of focusing on the DNA of this settler nation and its profound inability to confront its own history, however, we found out that the sneering MAGA kid’s mom is vice president of Fidelity Investments. The well-to-do family sent their son to a private Catholic school, whose students were once pictured in blackface taunting a Black basketball player in a photo circulating the internet. Sandmann’s family also hired a PR firm to protect his image.

On NBC’s “Today” Show, Savannah Guthrie interviewed Sandmann. The entire history of Indigenous erasure on that day boiled down to a single white boy’s testimony. He appeared without his MAGA hat and calmly mischaracterized his encounter with the Phillips.

You could feel the air being sucked out of the room.

“Umm, I just stood there,” he told Guthrie when asked if he should apologize. With that, the tables switched, and Phillips became the aggressor.

The fault, however, is not with the individual acts of one white kid; it lies with how this story was told and how it has obfuscated a movement and history. That was the greatest loss in this tale: This episode being twisted in order to reverse and then ignore the larger narrative.

Journalists are often the first to write history — and they are also the first to rewrite it. We’ve seen how cops killing Black kids is made to look like self-defense, how children crossing borders become “illegals,” or how Native elders singing songs become violent aggressors.

It’s the founding myth of this country: The cowboy will always be surrounded by hostile natives to make colonial invasion look like self-defense. That narrative won’t end unless we stop telling that story. ...
Read the full article at The Intercept

Comments