The last few months have seen much attention given to Whiteclay, NE: a lawsuit against the liquor store owners, beer distributors, and brewers was filed by the Oglala Sioux Tribe; the first blockade of the town in June spread across the internet, , the Denver Post and New York Times published articles, and the August 26th blockade by Deep Green Resistance made the nightly news and was published as far away as San Francisco.
While this (appropriately negative) publicity has certainly helped put Whiteclay on the map for many to whom it would otherwise be just a ‘no-name’ highway pit stop in Nebraska, others have reacted differently, many calling on the Lakota take ‘personal responsibility’ for not drinking.
But whose responsibility is it to fix the continuing problem of Whiteclay? And in the context of 500 years of genocide, what does ‘personal responsibility’ mean?
As we’ve said elsewhere before, Whiteclay is a creation of Invader Culture, just like the genocide of the Lakota was and is enacted by Invader Culture, and hence the burden of ‘personal responsibility’ for Whiteclay falls on members of Invader Culture.
The Lakota did not systematically steal land and break treaties (often using alcohol to “lubricate” the deals). That was done by Invader Culture.
The Lakota did not use alcohol, along with smallpox-infested blankets and Cavalrymen, as a tool of genocide. That was done by Invader Culture.
The Lakota did not build Whiteclay, nor fill it with alcohol. That was done by Invader Culture.
To say that the Lakota should take “personal responsibility” by not drinking is no different than telling them to take “personal responsibility” for the murder and oppression of their people by White society. Not only is the sentiment wrong and demeaning, it represents an abrogation of the responsibility members of White society (and it’s almost invariably members of White society who make this assertion) have to dismantle and stop that murder and oppression.
Additionally, this argument betrays the racism that still runs beneath the flesh of our culture. Alcohol is a poison, a drug, and like any drug, it destroys lives and families. Those who bring and deal poison within our communities will continue to destroy our communities until they are stopped. If drug dealers in suburban Omaha, Sacramento, Miami, or Chicago were selling to minors or trading drugs for sexual favors, would we ignore those crimes to tell those addicted to substances that THEY are the problem? Would we defend those predatory drug dealers, claiming that they’re just “trying to make an honest living?”
Within the context of more than 500 years of genocide at the hands of whites and Invader Culture, “personal responsibility” is worse than a confused or meaningless phrase; it actively denies the historical and ongoing context of what Whiteclay is: a tool of genocide. One hundred and fifty years ago, it was smallpox infested blankets. Today, it is Whiteclay, Nebraska.
The problem isn’t people drinking, so much as it is people preying on (and profiting off of) the continued destruction and genocide of the Lakota. As members of Invader Culture, we each have a real personal responsibility to stop that, and to stand in solidarity with the Lakota for justice.