About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hate Crimes, Indigenous Style?

Prairie Mary, whom I used to read with far more frequency before the baby was born, has posted an interesting note about a bar fight just off the Blackfoot reservation in Cut Bank, MT. Sez Mary:
The narrative: Three brothers, not Indians but possibly with some Mexican blood, liked to fight and had been drinking all evening. At closing time, 2AM, they chose as their victim a hired hand, a Native American single guy who was mild-mannered and well-liked, but not very good at self-control or social smarts, esp. once he was drunk. They picked a fight with him and all three began to beat on him. When he went to the ground, they began to kick.

A Native American county commissioner came out with his wife, saw what was happening and decided to intervene. At first he just remonstrated, saying he was going to call the police. (He had a cell phone.) So the brothers began to beat him and took him down. His wife tried to help but she, too, was shoved and sent flying. By that time enough people were there that the brothers thought they should get scarce.

But the county commissioner, a handsome and resourceful man from a strong rez family chose to make an issue out of it. He tried to press charges, saying it was a “hate crime” because the men were shouting phrases like “dirty Indian.” The white county attorney refused, saying that it was NOT a hate crime, just a fight as usual.

Read the whole post.... (A great discussion of race and class.)
Indigenous folks in the United States and citizens of Mexico (and the empire before it) have had close ties for generations. Nevertheless, I don't think most Anglos think about those ties - at least not since we quit making Westerns - and perhaps many U.S. Americans of Mexican descent don't either. Last semester one girl gasped when I said that we were going to talk about the right of those of indigenous descent in the United States, but that we were not yet going to focus on people who self identified as being descended from one of the Latin American nations. She raised her hand and said that she had never thought of herself and U.S. Native Americans having anything in common.

Anywho, a couple things struck me about this post from the talented Prairie Mary:

1) The county decision not to call it a hate crime. In Latin America if you have a few mestizo guys whooping up on a guy shouting "Indio sucio," I don't think anybody would think twice about calling it a racially motivated crime. Of course in Guerrero or Oaxaca you might just call it the police.

2) The fall back position that this was just a standard bar fight for the area. You know, all those hot-blooded folks like fightin' anyway. (***Please note that last sentence was written dipped in irony and dripping with exasperation***)

The Great Falls Tribune had an article on the incident, but what I liked most about that post was the comment of one of the readers. To find an "impartial" jury they moved the trial to the extreme NW corner of the state - the Lilliest portion of the state bristling with militia members, drugged up vets, and white supremacists (at least it was 15 years ago). Violence in Latin America, indeed.

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