These statements, however, have thus far only been focused on the need to change the means by which we exercise the police power in this country. It is, perhaps, too easy for child welfare organizations to attack a problem they have not played a significant role in creating. But these same groups have not yet turned their eyes inward to ask whether and how the system they helped build is also deeply shaped by racism.
This is a moment that also must focus on how we exercise the parens patriae power in this country (the power of the state to protect the vulnerable). This starts with a major overhaul of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, often referred to by its initials ASFA, which was signed into law in 1997.
With certain exceptions that states too often ignore, ASFA requires that child welfare agencies seek to terminate the parental rights of children whenever they have been in foster for 15 of the most recent 22 months. Courts are instructed to terminate parental rights unless the parent can show that the conditions that led to the removal initially no longer exist. The law has been responsible for the massive destruction of black and brown families. More than 2 million children’s parents’ rights have been terminated by American courts since ASFA was enacted.
This is not about the intentions of those who developed the system we have. It is about listening to the people it harms. It is an unpleasant truth that many of the organizations whose collective voice is condemning racist police practices now have for decades celebrated the approach enshrined in law by ASFA, some by explicitly celebrating adoption and others using the euphemism “permanency.”
Here’s a quote from an L. Brooks Patterson defender:
As for his comment about the fulfillment of an old prediction he made that Detroit would become the equivalent of an Indian reservation, with the people waiting for corn and blankets to be tossed in, well, the remark was crude, but not far off the mark. Get off the freeways and drive into the city’s neighborhoods. You’ll see vast wastelands of blight and abandonment, with a population largely dependent on government hand-outs.
Get out of Oakland County, pal, head to Michigan Indian country and you’ll see a bunch of local governments near Indian reservations thankful for all of the economic development and shared governance generated by Michigan’s 12 Indian tribes.
From that article is a quote from the New Yorker article (which is under a paywall):
In answer to a question as to how Detroit might fix its financial problems, Patterson was quoted as saying: “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and the corn.’ ”
The Skagit County GOP (of Washington State) has again issued a platform calling for serious infringement of tribal sovereignty. This is a less obviously anti-Indian platform than the 2000 version that was eventually passed at the state level, but its effects–having the DOI guarantee representation of non-Indians in tribal governments–would be similar.
Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”
That would include, the documents say, that “the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy.”
The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”
Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.
It’s amazing how young, ignorant conservatives inadvertently reveal so much about their ideas about the racial hierarchy in the United States. It goes like this: (1) whites, (2) Asians, (3) Latinoa/s, (4) Blacks, and way, way down on the bottom, (5) Indians.
Check out the tiny print on the bottom right: “Native Americans $0.25” (now updated so you can see the bottom right)
More details and pics from the UC Berkeley College Republicans racist bake sale here.
It may have gone unnoticed, but Justice Alito’s concurring opinion in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Assn. listed a game where the “goal is to rape Native American women…” in his list of awful games offered by the video game industry. His citation for that game was a 1982 issue of People Magazine, available here (Custer Article). An old game, but it definitely is part of an ugly theme in Indian law and policy — sexual abuse of American Indian women.