A Thought About Native Racism and Business
By Glenn C. Zaring
What is the message you deliver when you talk about working “for Indians” and getting rid of white employees in your government, at your casino or at other tribal enterprises?
Let’s think about this a bit because our approach to this very touchy subject is vastly important for our existence as Indians in the future and for our businesses now.
Think about the following, real-life examples. A tribal manager was famous for expressing in meetings and conversations a desire to get rid of the white directors in the government and bring in tribal members. This person was a half-blood with a white mother who worked in government.
• A security supervisor at an Indian casino habitually commented to his staff that he really wanted to get the whites out of the casino so they could bring in Indians. He is a quarter-blood.
• A habitual candidate for tribal council has as his main campaign theme that it “is time to get the whites out!” He is a quarter-blood.
The hypocritical theme throughout is that it is OK to trash whites who work on behalf of our tribes and businesses, even though their only crime is to not be Indian. Nothing was mentioned about the employees not doing their job or doing it wrong. No, it’s their blood that is the problem (But, please, don’t look in the mirror at your own blood quantum.)
The overriding, apparently, acceptable and stated purpose is to clear the whites out so that the Indians can have the jobs and benefit from the tribal businesses.
Herein lies our quandary. Many tribes no longer have that many pure-blood members to carry on the line. We also have a shortage of tribal members in many places to fill the jobs (competently) at our companies/casinos/governments. Oh, yes, also remember that most of our customers are white as they are still 70 percent plus of the population. What message are we giving out with our “get rid of the whites” efforts? Are we not saying that we don’t want their participation, support or business?
The truth is many of our tribes are entering into history books and not into the future.
One Midwestern Tribal Enrollment Department got into hot water on this subject last year because it authored several actuarial reports examining the question about closing tribal enrollment and limiting membership to quarter-bloods. The reports were scholarly, accurate and gave the membership information on a critical proposal up for a vote.
The report’s conclusion was that by closing enrollment, the government was dooming the tribe to disappear in the not-to-distant future. The tribe closed enrollment and the department director was censured for having the audacity to tell the politically inconvenient truth.
It is truly admirable to want to do anything you can to advance your people and your tribe. However, is it truly in the tribal interest to persecute non-tribal people? When your racism is worn on your sleeve for all to see, do you stand the chance of driving your customers away? When a white couple who are gold club members of your casino clientele continually hear about the desire to get rid of white employees, can you blame them when they realize they are only tolerated for the money they bring in and take their business to the next casino down the road?
The whole issue of establishing blood quantum for tribal membership was enacted to do what it is actually accomplishing: causing tribes to bring themselves into obscurity and to just become footnotes in history books.
Truly, we are hastening our demise by actions such as the examples given of the tribal manager, the security supervisor and the council candidate. Before long, some tribal organizations will not be able to find workers willing to do the job while they are abused for their blood, and customers will turn away to where they are appreciated. ♦