By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
I followed a Facebook conversation string on TSA-LA-GI VOICE (a Facebook page hosted by Lea Wolf) this weekend that concerned an incident of racism experienced by some Braves fans at Thursday’s game against Smokey Mountain High School.
I think Wolf does a very good job with her page, and if you haven’t visited it, I offer it as recommended reading.
Just a quick note about the game, which was televised regionally…while the Braves took a loss in the contest, I think the Cherokee community can be very proud of the incredible heart and determination the Cherokee Braves team exhibited throughout the contest. Playing a strong team from a bigger conference may have intimidated other teams, but the Braves were strong and stayed in the game down to the very last play. Even in the face of significant injury, they just kept on pushing. It was a rough game and emotions were high, but, all in all, it was still a triumphant contest for the Braves due to their heart and determination.
Unfortunately, there were things going on in the stands and on the sidelines that were not something that anyone may be proud of. It seems that, away from the camera’s eye, some of the security officers at the game made some very racist comments to members of our Tribe. They are alleging that some of the security officers said some of those who came to cheer the Braves team on should “go back to the rez where you belong”. All of this arose from what, as the posts state, a security officer determined to be inappropriate behavior. And, yet the behavior was being tolerated from non-Native spectators. In one instance, the parent had already corrected the behavior before the security officer approached and confronted a child.
As I read the post and subsequent comments, I could see the pain and outrage of those in our community who have endured this type of abuse and are quick to equate it to the atrocities of the treatment of Native American peoples of the past. Others, who commented on the post, recounted their own experiences with bigotry and racism.
There is a great quote attributed to George R. R. Martin that states, “Some old wounds never truly heal and bleed again at the slightest word”.
When a person or a people is deeply wounded, as the indigenous peoples of America have been since the immigration of outlanders to the continent, it is pure ignorance for anyone to assume that, because the land grabs, forced removals and attempts at genocide happened long ago, those whose lineage include those atrocities could “forgive and forget”, especially when some small-minded individuals wish to remove all doubt of their ignorance by making a racist comment like “go back to the rez where you belong”.
It is very unfortunate that this family, who came to enjoy a football game and support their community, had to endure the stupidity that is called racism. Racism is an evil that divides people like no other mindset. It is a sickness that has been passed from one generation to another. The children involved in this incident will not forget being told that they don’t belong in a place that used to be part of the Cherokee nation. They will remember the comments of the security officers as they will remember being taught of the history of abuses suffered by their grandmothers and grandfathers. They will no doubt feel at least a sense of segregation because one person assumed too much authority. I doubt that the security officers’ supervisors would support their comment. And I doubt that, as a community, the people of Jackson County would either.
As we see mascots and team names that remind us of insensitivity of corporate sports team owners who prefer dollars to ethics, morality, history and unity, we wonder how widespread this mentality of racism is. When we watch corporations and courts attempt to endanger precious water sources of a tribe, all in the name of dollars from an oil pipeline, we doubt the sincerity of those who say they care about our people.
The father and family involved in the incident at Smoky Mountain are seeking relief or at least awareness from the employers of the security officers involved. I wish them well in their efforts and I hope that those employers and the people of Jackson will voice their disapproval of racism in any form. Hatred in the form of racism should not be tolerated by anyone.