In Whiteclay Nebraska, the law is only enforced in certain circumstances. This fact becomes obvious to thinking individuals who spend any time there, and it is certainly obvious to the residents of Pine Ridge for whom the racism of Sheridan County and Nebraska law enforcement is a daily reality. Proof of the criminal behavior of Whiteclay’s bars is everywhere. According to reporting by Stephanie Woodard at Indian Country Today, “offenses in Whiteclay reported by tribal members and advocates – but rarely investigated, much less adjudicated – have included sex trafficking of Indian women and children, trading of sex for alcohol, murder, rape, assault, drug dealing, soliciting, liquor sales to underage and intoxicated customers, illegal on-premises and public drinking, harassment by paid toughs, selling of stolen goods, and food stamp fraud, according to prominent social justice advocate Frank LaMere, Winnebago, who has long fought to stop the illegal flow of alcohol from Nebraska to nearby Pine Ridge.” The reality of Whiteclay’s effect on the Lakota isn’t so much disputed as ignored. The overall message from law enforcement, from the white communities that surround the reservation, and from the government at large has been, “it’s not our problem.”
“Negligence perhaps,” I can all but hear Whiteclay’s apologists protest, “but racism? Surely you exaggerate. There’s no proof of that.” The dozens of white people I’ve heard voicing this skepticism may as well be tying their own blindfolds and stuffing their fingers in their ears to avoid the truth of the situation. For a moment, let’s ignore the centuries-long historical trauma of colonization, racism, and genocide (a luxury, to be sure – as if America’s victims could ever ignore it) to focus on one example – one bit of proof – from August 26th, the day of the most recent action against Whiteclay.
Watch the video below of white alcohol purveyors affiliated with a bar called the Arrowhead.
You can hear them using racial slurs and intimidating language toward the Lakota. This video was taken minutes after four grown white men, including those in the video, surrounded and intimidated a fourteen year old Lakota boy, Wallace. The police, standing within earshot, did nothing to stop this racist intimidation. However, when the fourteen year old was forced to resort to self defense, he was immediately arrested and charged with a felony. The arresting officer attempted to take the minor into custody without parental consent or notification, though his mother was present at the march. When others approached the cruiser with Wallace inside in order to question the officer’s right to take him, they were maced. The arresting officer also hit an elderly woman, Helen Red Feather, in the leg with his car as he tried to leave the scene.
While the police were busy arresting a fourteen year old and macing a ten year old, both Lakota, crimes by whites, including the bar owners but also myself and the four other blockaders, who were blocking the highway, were left unaddressed. No justice, no peace, no racist police.