An open letter to Radiohead, from an American Settler

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Thom, I was incensed by your triggered statement in Rolling Stone.  (I say triggered because you did seem very agitated.  I always find that when I am indignant about a certain issue, especially if I’m called out as being obtuse around a sensitive subject such as racism, it is usually because I am protecting myself from a truth that I don’t want to see.  But that’s me.)  Anyway, I’ve been twitter trolling you for months.  Because, you see, from my perspective, as a settler in a colonized land that was taken by force, you chose the side of genocide.

I am a European American middle class cisgender heterosexual woman.  My ancestors are from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany and Denmark.  I want to share with you how I understand White American culture to be devastated by a 500 year old genocide against Indigenous Americans, which, in turn has become devastating to pretty much the rest of the world.  This genocide, of course, was carried out by my ancestors.  

I see a terrible sickness in White Americans that comes from burying a forgotten genocide at the bottom of our psyches.  It violently erupts from within us.  Our boys and men act out repressed genocidal tendencies with mass-shootings.  (Killing Indians used to be a coming-of-age rite for young men, you know.)  Or the 53% of our women who chose a RAPIST as president, the ultimate act of self-hatred, to keep brown people outside our borders.  And this sick fascination with guns, which is absolutely connected with the fear of others taking what we have taken.  Our taking-without-asking policies have metastasized into a state of perpetual war.  MILLIONS are now dead because of it.

At home we teach our children that Indigenous Peoples are mystical and instinct. We dress them up in Indian costume.  Our favorite holiday, one that celebrates togetherness and family and warmth, all the best of American Values, also commemorates the massacre of 700 Pequot People.  It’s a mind fuck!  Every time that feeling of guilt comes up, we just push it back down again. “I am not responsible for the actions of my ancestors” has become our default saying.  

We have formed this irrational fear of black and brown bodies because we carry such an unconscious, heavy shame about what our ancestors have done.  We have turned ourselves into the victim!  We torture millions of people in prisons and carry out executions to provide an illusion of our safety.  We villainize, dehumanize, and assassinate black and brown people in the streets rather than face the truth that we occupy stolen land. 

This is what 500 years of genocide has done.  And Israel is only 71 years in.  I hope you understand this.  Thom, you said you did, in your Rolling Stone statement.  But you never gave us any evidence.  

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By playing in Israel, you chose side of Israeli fascism.  They used you as State propaganda, for crying out loud!  (The irony here, is that you are the band that created Ok Computer and Hail to the Thief, both of which I have always felt are the antithesis to State propaganda.)   

By playing in Israel, you chose the side of genocide of the Palestinian People.  When Noam Chomsky warned, “The road ahead is not toward South Africa (apartheid), as commonly alleged, but toward something much worse”, he meant genocide.  

This is my perspective looking in as a settler from an occupied land.  History, however, will determine where the lines are drawn.  Some of us only dream of a platform as influential as the one you floundered, so that the world might somehow be able to stop this fate.

Listen, I have loved you for 21 years.  I have let you in to influence me, to stimulate and sooth me.  You have helped to open my mind to understand the U.S. as an imperialist, murderous, war dependent, tyranny that thrives on my fear and ignorance.  You have helped me to notice the undercurrent, the unconscious, both within the system and within me, so that I am able to navigate in this world in a more conscious way.  It is because you have helped me along my path towards truth, that I feel it is my business and responsibility to reflect all of this back to you.  

Please, apologize to the Palestinian People for your ignorance, and use your position for their liberation.  It’s not too late.  And please seek out the works of Charlene Teeters, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Winona LaDuke and other Indigenous folk for understandings on the effects of inter-generational trauma from genocide and cultural extinction, and the continued state sanctioned violence carried out against Indigenous American communities today.

Onward and upward,

Molly Batchelder

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AIM North West Ex. Director, Dr. T. Thunder Child, Addresses JSUSD Education Board

Dr. T. Thunder Child American Indian Movement (AIM) North West- Executive Director

To: Board of Directors JSUSD

Re: Native American Indian pejorative mascot.

Hello my name is Dr. T Thunder Child Ph. D. I am an enrolled member of the Chumash Nation I am Hunkpapa Lakota and Chumash by blood. I grew up in Western Contra Costa County and received my bachelors and my masters from SFSU. I am long time resident of the area. I am writing this letter in the capacity of- Executive Director of American Indian Movement North West. AIM North West stands firmly with Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT) on the mascot issue. It has recently been brought to my attention that John Swett School District Board of Directors who had previously in a unanimous voice acknowledged the removal of the mascot- which pejoratively depicts Native Americans-it a has also unfortunately been brought to my attention that the board decided back peddle on this very historic and important decision. We applauded your conscious move forward in removing the hyper racialized Native American stereotyped mascot from your school banner. In kind i astonished by your decision to revert to an even older mascot name-“The Warriors”. This name change is akin to changing the name from “the negros” to “spear chucker”, which we could all agree is no change at all.


While these names- demoralizing Africans in America are extremely offensive. And, no one would ever even consider “honoring” our African American relatives by naming schools after them in this way –it is some how extremely acceptable to employ historically weighted phrases and iconography depicting Native American Indians in that same dehumanizing light. This practice of dehumanizing Native American Indians needs to come to an end. It is antiquated and beneath the values of our democracy. We could all agree- that these phrases and iconographies our unacceptable to the moral fiber of our country. A country whose constitution ensures that “all men are created equal” these dehumanizing caricatures symbolically construct Native American Indians in antithetical terms. We can also all agree that our civility and humanity should be held to a higher standard. In forming our “more perfect union”- that higher standard ought to as a -foundation of our civility -of our humanity- ensure empathy perception and innerstanding towards our countrymen. These words and iconography exercise non of that- they are offensive- hurtful and demeaning. It was for this reason that Assembly Bill 30 (AB 30) the California Racial Mascots Act prohibiting public schools from using these terms as a school or athletic team name; mascot, or nickname was introduced and passed. The spirit of the bill is to institutionalize this higher standard so as to ensue equitable representation of all Peoples.


California is the state with the largest Native American Indian population in the country. This practice of institutionalized racism within our schools should not be allowed to continue. It’s time for John Swett to do the right thing and out right end this practice.

Thank you very much for your time I know you will do the only conscionable thing –giving a proper name that will rightly honor your prestigious school.

In Spirit,
Dr. T Thunder Child Ex. Director
AIM North West

John Swett Unified School District, “Our Children are Warriors”

Molly Batchelder – SSPRIT Ally

 

On February 11, 2015, Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT), a Vallejo based organization, advocated in partnership with The Carquinez Coalition to Change the Mascot (CCCM) to remove the Indian mascot at John Swett High School located in Crockett, CA. After a unanimous vote, John Swett Unified School District (JSUSD) removed the nearly 90 year old mascot. On February 10, 2016, John Swett Unified School District replaced the Indian mascot with Warrior. Why has JSUSD, Board of Education decided to choose Warriors as a replacement after the removal of an Indian Mascot? Why is JSUSD subjecting young people to images, and ideas that promote, and support war, and violence in school?

As a United States Army Veteran (Desert Shield/Desert Storm), trained in methods of war, I am disappointed that an institution of education would promote violence in connection with their schools. Personally, I would never want my daughter or grandchildren to glorify the horrors of violence, mutilation, and death promoted by war through a school mascot (or by any other means for that matter). The root of the word Warrior is “War”. A Warrior is someone who is engaged in conflict carried on by force of arms. War is a state, or period of armed hostility. War is active military operations, and is a method, or principle of waging armed conflict. War is the soldier’s business, and involves being active in hostility, contention, and conflict. Weapons training, and tactical defense training are not to be taken lightly, as they are used for killing during war. Why then would JSUSD feel a mascot associated with violence is acceptable? Young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of exposure to violence. Young people are subjected to violence, and violent imagery in the home, the community, the media, and in schools. Whether the violence is real, based on real events, or fictional; the effects on youth include reduced sensitivity toward others, being more fearful, and behaving more aggressively. Some school districts across the United States have resolutions forbidding violent imagery in connection to their schools. Ironically, the JSUSD Board’s resolution forbidding violent imagery within the school district, recognizes the ways that violence negatively impa
cts youth; yet the school board contradicted their own resolution when electing warriors as a mascot.

JSUSD Board Member, Deborah Brandon has publicly defended the warrior mascot stating, “Our children are warriors. Anyone can be a warrior”. These statements were made by Deborah Brandon on more than one occasion during JSUSD board meetings in 2015. This is problematic because it goes against the districts resolution, and also contradicts the districts missions and beliefs. JSUSD Mission & Beliefs can be found on the district’s website, and states “John Swett Unified School District’s dedicated professionals work for the good of all students, focusing on promoting higher student achievement by motivating, and challenging every student to strive enthusiastically toward academic, and personal success. All Students can, and must experience success in their own learning.” “Professional staff must put forth high quality
effort, employ multiple teaching strategies, and work as a team to educate their students. Professional staff, and students are responsible for the quality of the educational experience, and all will be accountable for it. All people deserve to be treated with respect, and are expected to treat all others with respect. Partnerships among professional staff, students, parents, and community are most effective when positive attitudes are sought, encouraged, and shared”.

Replacing an Indian Mascot with Warrior is not an example of treating others with respect and is not an example of accountability; Warrior mascots are often associated or depicted as Native American. Depicting Warriors as the John Swett’s High School is synonymous with the legacy JSUSD has created with the former John Swett High School Indian mascot. John Swett High School yearbooks, student newsletters, school team sporting events, cheerleading, scoreboards, and uniforms have all promoted, and upheld this legacy. JSUSD yearbooks over the decades have included the term “Warrior” in relation to their Indian Mascot, and is documented online. For this reason alone, JSUSD should abandon Warriors as a mascot. Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes will continue to advocate for the removal of Native American mascots/Institutionalized racism, and mascots that promote violence in schools.

For More Information please contact: Sacred Sites Protection Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes at: sspandrit@gmail.com or visit our Facebook Page: Save Sacredsites. 

Audio Recordings of JSUSD Board of Education meetings are available online. To listen to the February 10th meeting, click here.  The mascot issue starts at 2:03:10.

The next JSUSD meeting is on March 9, 2016 at 6:30pm. (Please refer to the above link for the districts office location) SSPRIT will be in attendance, addressing the Warrior mascot. The public is welcome to attend. SSPRIT will be providing a teach-out prior to the board meeting. For more information about the teach-out, please email: sspandrit@gmail.com or visit http://www.facebook.com/save.sacredsites.1

Molly Batchelder and reflections on attending a highschool with an Indian Mascot

Molly Batchelder – SSPRIT Ally

My name me playing indianis Molly Batchelder.  I am blessed to be a member of Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes.  And over the past two years I have been involved in the mascot decolonization work at John Swett High School, my alma mater.

This was me, playing Indian, when I was in high school.  This was me, isolating the Native American experience as a 16 year old white girl:  with faux buckskin and face paint, and tomahawk, likely performing the gestures we’ve all learned from Saturday morning cartoons and from playing cowboys and Indians.  We all know these gestures.  And this behavior was reinforced as acceptable, not only by mass media and pop culture, but by my learning institution.  I was encouraged to actually BE an Indian.  While opposing teams held up banners at football games that read: “Kill the Indians”; “Scalp the Indians.”

After the John Swett Education board voted unanimously this past March to retire their Indian mascot, one former student messaged me and said, “Great, thanks to you no one will even remember that Indians existed.” To which I replied, “Do you think Native Americans are extinct?”

The lines of fact and fiction are so blurred because of these mascots. For so many people in this country, the Indian I played in high school has actually replaced real human beings.  Please, I ask you to think about the implications when the dominant culture gets to control the image of another culture.  And then teaches its children to use the horrors of forgotten genocide as common sports banter.

I am not an Indian. I am European American, with a whole history of stories of my own and lines of ancestors that have contributed to the person I am today.  I have a responsibility grow and develop my own image.  Indigenous peoples have a responsibility to do the same with theirs, however they choose.  And we all have a responsibility to see each other as human.

This is an exciting time.  We are all now part of a mass movement where we have a chance to recognize the truth about these mascots and bring in together a new era of education and awareness for our future generations.   Please, join us.