Friday, May 27, 2005

That and $1.99 Gets You A Cup of Coffee

Up in Kingston, Ontario it looks like there is a new meaning to DWI. Let's call it Driving While Indigenous. Yes, Natives have joined the ranks of the targets of racial profiling.

Looks like a study entitled "Bias Free Policing" found disparities in the justice system. Although Natives only make up 1.6% of the city's population, they account for 2.2% of all stops. That means you're 1.4 more likely to get stopped by the cops for Driving While Indigenous. (But never fear. There report also concludes that you are 3.7% more likely to get stopped if Driving While Black, even though Blacks make up a miniscule 0.6% of the population.)

The police chief has apologized, but of course admits no wrongdoing, prefering to blame "The System".

Speaking of apologies in place of action, Congress has put forth a resolution that would apologize to Native Americans for "many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States." I get the feeling that's a Big Deal, cause it turns out Congress has only apologized twice for official government conduct, those being the unlawful otherthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdon and the detention of Japanese Americans during WWII. No, no apology for slavery. That's crazy talk.

Apologies are a start. As the Great White Shaman Dr. Phil says, "You gotta name it to claim it."

But in both these instances, by the Ontario Police Chief and by the Congress of the United States, you have to ask what the point of an apology is if it is not followed by meaningful action. An apology alone may acknowledge the fact you know you did wrong, but if you don't do something to correct the harm you have done, then your words are empty. (Imagine if someone stole your car, apologized for it, but didnt give it back. Yeah, useless like that.)

So I am reminded of a Lakota friend of mine, who recently waxed pop music on the subject, quoting a line from a They Might Be Giants song, "Your Racist Friend": "Can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding." And you certainly can't just say you're sorry.


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