Perpetuating Prejudice: The Ongoing Struggle Faced by Native Americans

Perpetuating Prejudice: The Ongoing Struggle Faced by Native Americans June 2023

Perpetuating Prejudice: The Ongoing Struggle Faced by Native Americans

A study published a few years ago found that over 66% of Americans do not think that the Native people in this country experience any serious form of racial discrimination. This is far from the truth but before looking at why this myth exists, it is important to view the facts about prejudice against Native Americans.

Numbers Do Not Lie

  • Native Americans are more likely to be killed or injured by police when compared to those of any other ethnic group.
  • Native American teens are twice as likely to be subjected to bullying in schools as compared to “White” teens.
  • Native American teens are twice as likely to be incarcerated for minor crimes as compared to any teenagers of any other ethnicity.
  • Native Americans have the lowest graduation rates of any ethnic group.
  • Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to suffer sexual assault than women of any other ethnic group.
  • The suicide rate is higher than that of any other demographic.

Details of these and many other frightening statistics can be found in the Reclaiming Native Truth report. If these numbers do not represent systemic racism, what does? The widely held perception that Native Americans are not subjected to racial discrimination is obviously wrong. Pretending that it does not exist is not a solution – instead, it blocks all attempts to right the wrongs.

The Invisible People

Ralph Ellison’s great novel, Invisible Man, addressed and shone the spotlight on the many social and intellectual issues faced by Black Americans. Unfortunately, no such book has yet been written about Native Americans.

  • When school children are taught about the need for unity among the diverse races of the world, Native Americans are never mentioned.
  • No one can name a famous Native American actor.
  • Few, if any,can name 5 Native Americans living today who is famous (for anything).
  • In the 20 years from 1987 to 2007, there were 2336 characters on the 345 most popular TV shows, but only 3 were Native American.
  • Few states teach the history of the “Indian Boarding Schools”.
  • A study in 2015 showed that if a Google image search was done for Native Americans, out of the first 100 results, 95 were old historical images.

The list could go on, but there is no point. The fact is that while Native Americans are victims of prejudice, discrimination and injustice, most Americans feel that Natives do not suffer from discrimination because they do not hear of it in the news.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

The U.S. is not a young country. It has a vibrant history that is as old, if not older, than even the most ancient of other known civilizations. The first human inhabitants of the continent lived in highly evolved societies thousands of years ago. A great example of this is the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe in what is now California. A look at their website will show how much we, as a nation, will lose if we ignore their history along with that of the hundreds of other Tribes. A nation that forgets its history and perpetuates prejudice against a section of its citizens cannot reach its full potential. Hopefully, in the future, the struggles of Native Americans today will be a part of the history of the country that everyone will learn and benefit from.