Significant time and energy have been given to two major events which have had a global effect on everybody’s life: COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd.
Racial inequities have permeated this country since its founding and the privileges therein have been present since the U.S. Constitution was written. Historically, and specifically for the dominant culture, racial hierarchy has been treated by whites as a natural order of things. Racial hierarchy has no place in natural law. Especially, organically speaking.
In my columns I have spent a significant amount of time focusing on natural law, original teachings and land-based cultures of Indigenous people, but never considered what the white racial frame considered as the natural order of things. Since some racial privilege occurs at the subconscious level, as well as the conscious level, we have not had to pull those concepts together out in the forefront in a way, as we try to make sense of a very complicated situation.
For example, where is the resistance for racial social justice coming from? Are financial motivations still out powering moral decency? Since we find ourselves in a new time and place due to our environments (urban-rural) and climates (peaceful-unsettled) we must not overlook the opportunity to bring everyone to the same page. This is not to say that Indigenous and people of color are going to solve the racial disparities, this is to say that we want to know what our white community is doing to make a sustainable difference in our shared community.
In the broad continuum of Indigenous and white you will find numerous levels of social-political consciousness, some who are able to, and willing to work with others to seek solutions all the way to the other end of the spectrum, where the topic of racial justice is something better left unsaid. The choice of where you situate yourself in this spectrum is a privilege that no longer works.
Have you thought about how many actual police officers have served in the military? The connection between police militarization and military training go hand in hand. For the police who have experienced both the military and serve as police know that there is a fine line that separates what the government expects of them.
Why do our military want to be healed and whole after the damage is done, why are they not prepared for their consequences before they happen, given choices and the opportunity for finding peaceful solutions? As a society we need to think clearly about what is being done to solve our racial inequities, what are people afraid of?
We need to live in the moment and not be afraid to reach out to those who are suffering. COVID-19 and the stay-at-home enforcement allowed many people of all backgrounds to join in the George Floyd demonstrations across the country.
How many of those same people would have risked their safety and/or comfort for a just cause if they had to take off work or make a financial sacrifice to be there? How many will remain true to the cause five to ten years from now? What kind of fallout should people of color expect for the outward way racism was addressed? Not knowing is knowing.
The greatest challenge is that white people are going to have to listen. They will not be the only voice going forth, they will be one of many among the nations.
Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.