Tag Archives: violence against indigenous peoples

Tentative steps forward

There’s actually quite a few recent, optimistic stories I thought might be worth highlighting. In France, the Senate passed a legal expansion of marriage rights to include same-sex and same-gender couples. The bill hasn’t quite become law, but the last major chance for opposition has come and gone. I think it’s important not to view such acts in and of themselves as cause for celebration exactly, as they’re merely instances of basic human decency on a very specific issue being carried out. This is not the end of heterosexism or cissexism in any sense, but a good blow against the first especially (much like the British version of marriage equality, we’re apparently settling for depressingly little in terms of protecting the rights of transgender and genderqueer people, however).

(Green French Senator Esther Benbassa, whose car was vandalized, seemingly in connection with anti-marriage protests, from here. She voted for the new marriage laws.)

That said, I do think it is something worthy of praise that a majority of the French Senate voted for this given the climate of physical threats to them that surrounded it. They were given every excuse imaginable by bigots to cave, but a slim majority didn’t. More than the actual results, that tenacity is something to appreciate.

In other news, the Malaysian government has at long last announced the date of the coming national election (as well as organizational due-dates for candidates proceeding that). There’s an interesting situation developing with the currently governing political party, which has maintained power since independence, has started to offer specific economic reforms as part of a way of undercutting opposition reformers. Of course, the opposition has been promising even greater reforms and to examine racist inequalities within Malaysian society. This is the kind of democratic competition the world could do with more of.

Meanwhile, Colombia seems to be moving in the direction of not only a ceasefire but substantive negotiations between the leftist FARC rebels and the government. This is particularly important as the on-going conflict has fueled violence against indigenous peoples, most recently the Nasa. While unfortunate in that it has taken this much time and require so much public outcry, the end of the de facto civil war will hopefully benefit Colombian civilians. Likewise, weakened by the longstanding conflict, the resultant government might need to acquiesce to the demands of various indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups. The future of Colombia is still uncertain, but there seems to be cause for optimism today.

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Violence is multifaceted

TW: racist criminalization, cissexism, transmisogyny, forced displacement of indigenous people

I mentioned this late last week, but one of the key things to remember is how violence and inequality can be expressed in so many different ways. This past week was a fairly blunt remind of this with three separate incidents throughout the Americas – which show that a government’s intervention or non-intervention in a situation can be violent, and that violence is by no means the exclusive property of governments.

In New York, a child was handcuffed and subject to police interrogation for multiple hours. You’ve probably already realized it, but the child was, of course, Black. Likewise the alleged crime, which all indications point towards him not having committed, was stealing $5 that a fellow elementary student dropped on the ground. I tag a lot of things as “racist criminalization“, meaning the way a person’s race can make police and other authorities more likely to perceive them as criminal or their actions as more severely criminal than they actually are, but this pretty much takes the cake.

South of there, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the police are refusing to organize searches or assist community efforts to find Sage Smith, who has now been missing for two months. Again, Smith is Black, but beyond that, she’s a transgender woman. While her race might make her seem to be a more plausible culprit, her gender identity is apparently a plausible reason to particularly ignore her likely status as a victim of kidnapping or murder. This sort of refusal to intervene as police and provide services that are expected is common when it comes to violence against transgender women, which has lead to what many are calling an epidemic of transmisogynistic attacks.

Even further South, in Brazil, the government has essentially ceded control over a mega-dam project in the Amazon to private interests, which won’t be held responsible for the ensuing environmental impacts and 40,000 indigenous people who will be forcibly relocated by the dam. The Belo Monte dam threatens the most politically marginal populations in Brazil, and again the government is refusing to intervene with regulations that are already on the books. You can sign a petition asking for Brazilian President Dilma to review the decision to approve the project, here.

(Indigenous protesters against the project in 2011, from here.)

In short, there’s a lot of violence in the world, and only some of the time is the issue that the police or other governmental figures have intervened where they shouldn’t. Much of the time, protections are selectively enforced, primarily to protect the enfranchised, leaving many diverse groups, from transgender women to indigenous peoples, without recourse should private enterprises or actors harm them. Any effort at establishing actual equality between those who are cisgender and transgender or indigenous and non-indigenous needs to acknowledge both of these dimensions of violence.

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Give thanks

TW: military coups, ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples, political killings

I am thankful that I live in a country with democratic norms that are strong enough to prevent military coups.

I am thankful that at least one country that is not so lucky has at least a chance of improvement on that issue.

I am thankful that the United States is neither assisting the military regime nor treating them as a legitimate government, as we have done before throughout the region and previously in that country.

(“In the Freedom Party, the people are the ones that choose (the presidential nominee)” – originally from this excellent Spanish-language overview of the current politics of Honduras.)

I am hopeful for Honduras today.

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Bryan Fischer on racially-imbued religious bigotry

TW: islamophobia, coercive conversions, US military occupation, “manifest destiny”, demonization of indigenous cultures

The past decade has been a windfall for all of the members of the “clash of civilizations” crowd, but radio show host and frequent political commentator Bryan Fischer really takes the cake. His statements on the subject of potential and actual US occupations of Muslim-majority countries make Ann Coulter seem sensible. His main argument is that the United States should cleanse the world of the totally homogeneous Muslim population, by conversion or force:

if we want to see freedom come to those darkened, benighted lands, we should be sending missionaries in right after we send in the Marines to neutralize whatever threat has been raised against the United States. So we say to them, look, if you don’t want our missionaries, fine, that’s your choice, we’ll take our missionaries and our Marines, we’ll take them home, but we’re gonna let you know we have no hesitation about returning with lethal force if the forces in your country threaten us again. This time it’s Marines and missionaries, next time it’ll be Marines and missiles.

This would be the same “reasoning” behind US military contractors putting biblical quotes on sniper scopes.

(A reference to Corinthians II 4:6 which discusses Christians being God’s light on earth, on a contractor-produced scope used by the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. Originally from here.)

You’ll notice, in this narrative how there’s only three overlapping options the US can take with Muslims: occupy their countries, coercively convert them, and eradicate them with the incredible might of the US military. All of those potential approaches share the trait of effectively erasing Muslim people from existence either by making them something other than Muslim or by killing them. Fischer likewise speaks of Muslims as living in some distant location which the United States has every pretext to invade for no reason other than their Muslim identity. So how does Fischer feel about Muslims in the US? He thinks we should ban immigration of Muslims, since they’re so utterly politically dissonant:

Islam, all the values in Sharia law, are absolutely, fundamentally contrary to all of the values and freedoms that we cherish in the West, and so I’ve suggested we need to rethink whether we can afford any more Muslim immigration into the US, whether we can afford to have more mosques built [in the United States…]

Of course, this incompatibility is rarely explained in terms other than a vague affiliation between all of the millions of Muslims in the world and terrorism. For instance, Fischer complained that a vaguely-Muslim-friendly event which roughly coincided with Eid (the celebration at the end of Ramadan) which was in mid-September, was insensitively close to 9/11. Unless all Muslims everywhere constantly apologize for what one small segment of the world’s Muslim population has done, Fischer can’t view any of them as compatible with his country, and consequently has repeated talked about bans on Muslim immigration.

Fischer’s still not content with a draconian ban on a specific religious group immigrating. He explicitly wants to reduce their quality of life in the United States – ostensibly to facilitate conversions or repatriations. On his program, he’s aired guests who have argued that if Muslims don’t like being banned from, for instance, serving in the military, as Fischer’s advocated for before, “they can go back to where they came from”. This sort of argument for second class citizenship is about more than military service, as Fischer’s called for the revocation of Muslims’ rights to be free of a religious test to be Presidentto be free to build properly zoned mosquesto express their faith publicly, or even basic First Amendment rights. There’s a couple of indications too, that Fischer doesn’t want this to just be a passive process of mass discrimination, where new mosques aren’t built and new Muslims don’t arrive or convert, but where his prayers for the destruction of mosques are answered.

While he had the propriety to mask his prayer for the destruction of mosques as something God would (vaguely) do, Fischer has been quite clear on how he views Anders Breivik’s massacre of 77 Norwegian liberals for their toleration of Muslim immigration. Fischer labeled the violence in Islamic terms, calling Breivik’s logic “jihadist” – so even a violent islamophobe is rhetorically understood as “Islamic” in some sense. In spite of his criticism of the use of violence, however, he admitted that in his opinion, “[m]uch of his [Breivik’s] analysis of cultural trends in Europe and the danger created by Islamic immigration and infiltration is accurate“. So he views violence as uncouthly “Islamic,” but legitimizes the motives for doing so among his listeners – both shielding himself from culpability, equating political violence and Islam, and rationalizing political violence against Muslims and tolerant non-Muslims.

Discontent with only chanting “ASSIMILATE, ASSIMILATE” at Muslims the world over, Fischer also levies this garbage at Native Americans. Aside from the standard racist view of Native Americans as a uniform and monolithic group, he has popularized a lovely “compassionate conservative” sentiment which erases the experiences of discrimination for many Cherokee among other Christian converts:

“[Native Americans] were, virtually without exception, steeped in the basest forms of superstition, had been guilty of savagery in warfare for hundreds of years, and practiced the most debased forms of sexuality […] The native American tribes ultimately resisted the appeal of Christian Europeans to leave behind their superstition and occult practices for the light of Christianity and civilization. They in the end resisted every attempt to “Christianize the Savages of the Wilderness,” to use George Washington’s phrase […] Many of the tribal reservations today remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture.

The original post at the American Family Association has since been taken down, but Right Wing Watch still has their excerpts up, as well as a clip from his radio show where he reiterated these points. What prompted this racist rant, of course, was the inclusion of indigenous as well as Christian invocations at the funeral service in the wake of the shooting of Representative Giffords, which killed six attendees to the public event she was speaking at. As with Muslims building mosques or having imams that shared opinions, any non-Christian viewpoint expressed in public in the United States is treated as a target for assimilation by Fischer. He states in this rant, Native Americans “rejected Washington’s direct counsel to the Delaware chiefs in 1779” at which Washington told them, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ.” This refusal apparently “morally disqualified” all indigenous people from sovereign control of their own land, in Fischer’s own words.

It’s irrelevant to him that other Native American tribes responded differently and faced the same waves of violence and disenfranchisement. The forced assimilation and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of the United States, according to Fischer, is a justified and inevitable result of some Native Americans’ non-compliance with Fischer’s brand of Christianity, which to him is the greatest sin. He’s content to judge a diverse population for the actions of the few, provided it allows him to appeal for coercive mass conversion to Christianity.


This is the first of four posts as part of Bryan Fischer Week, in which I hope to lay out that Bryan Fischer is among the worst human beings on the planet, a terrifying influence on the United States’ body politic, and a threat to the security of a sizable chunk of the country’s population

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The Obama administration officially needs to buy a calendar already

TW: political killings, marginalization of and violence against indigenous peoples, military coups

I mentioned late last week the unfortunate anniversary of the US-backed 1973 Chilean coup which coincided almost exactly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration that the United States is a clear force for global liberation. What I left out of that discussion was the later American support for the brutal regime, namely the apparent complacency between at least one US-based bank and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in hiding illegally obtained funds which he intended to access after fleeing Chile. While the US government armed and otherwise assisted his violent take over of the country, its role in the 2005 probe which uncovered the bank’s unsavory deal was a bit of a fig leaf. Although it didn’t exactly correcting the past mistake, it at least made some gesture of reparation. No domestic suits were filed, but the revealed information assisted prosecution efforts in Chile.

A few years later, then presidential candidate Barack Obama would deliver a rather impacting speech on flaws in the United States’ policies with regards to Latin America, saying:

From the right, we hear about violent insurgents. From the left, we hear about paramilitaries. This is the predictable debate that seems frozen in time from the 1980s. You’re either soft on Communism or soft on death squads. […] The person living in fear of violence doesn’t care if they’re threatened by a right-wing paramilitary or a left-wing terrorist; they don’t care if they’re being threatened by a drug cartel or a corrupt police force. They just care that they’re being threatened, and that their families can’t live and work in peace. That is why there will never be true security unless we focus our efforts on targeting every source of fear in the Americas. That’s what I’ll do as President of the United States.

And yet, his administration just refused to extradite or permit domestic legal cases against the former Presidents of Mexico and Bolivia, who are charged with killing or permitting the killing of civilians who held opposing political views. This from the administration that justified the assassination of multiple targets (sometimes US citizens) in other countries often with little or no involvement of the territories’ legitimate governments. Evidently, jurisdictions only exist for other countries.

The case against former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo has been widely publicized, with The Economist and Bloomberg News both fairly explicitly calling the Connecticut-based civil suit a sham, potentially motivated by historic political rivalries. Given the dissolution of the same case against Zedillo in Mexico amid accusations that the plaintiffs were fabricated evidence, it’s necessary to not reject these claims outright. That being said, declassified US intelligence shores up the claims that Zedillo and his government either exhibited criminal negligence of government-trained paramilitaries, deliberately used them against Zapatista-supportive civilians, or did both.

While Zedillo’s and his administration’s culpability in a 1997 massacre could arguably have been adequately examined in Mexican courts and this case is only a shameful circumvention of double jeopardy restrictions (common to both Mexico and the United States), the case is much clearer against the former Bolivian President. Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada has been charged by Bolivian courts with legally condoning violence against indigenous protesters, which left 60 dead and at least 400 injured. As the current Bolivian government sees those protests as being legitimate opposition to efforts to erase the social and economic viability of indigenous communities among other groups which then faced excessive police violence, he has been charged with genocide. He has not stood trial for this actions anywhere, and the request of the Bolivian government is for him to be extradited so he could stand trial there, rather than a suit being brought to him in the United States.

(Left, police violence against protesters in Bolivia, October 2003. Right, protests for the extradition of Former President Gonzalo “Goni” Sánchez de Lozada, June 2007.)

Earlier in President Obama’s term in office, Human Rights advocates, many of them based in the United States, were optimistic about the possibility of Obama’s new commitment to reducing all forms of violence in Latin America driving an extradition of the former Bolivian president, now six years after the killings. Last Tuesday, however, his administration’s Department of State made clear that extradition was not an option for either of these former heads of state. Again, this statement was made on the anniversary of the US-backed Chilean coup in 1973 – showing a hint of ignorance or malice in the policy decision. As with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks, the timing could not have been worse, let alone the substance of her statements or the State Department’s release.

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