Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Bemidji Pioneer

Published August 05 2009

Racism starts with issue of poverty at the center

I wish to respond to the article, “ACLU-MN Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project: Community dialogue focuses on solutions, “Bemidji Pioneer (July 24).

I wish to respond to the article, “ACLU-MN Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project: Community dialogue focuses on solutions, “Bemidji Pioneer (July 24).

Racial justice goes well beyond the issue of police/criminal justice system and community/race relations and I don’t think the article begins to cite “solutions” to our problems as native Americans.

Overwhelming poverty is at the center of each and every issue plaguing Indian reservations and native American communities which have unemployment rates rapidly exceeding 50 percent.

There is no doubt problems of racism do arise between the police and native Americans because we have serious problems of racism in our society. However, in order to get to the root cause of these racial problems we need to tackle the employment question as the primary issue and not allow this police/community issue to be used as a cover for not coming to grips with the fact that the poverty associated with this horrendous unemployment is responsible for bringing native Americans into contact with the police departments and the criminal justice system in the first place.

People tried to tell Mr. Ken Bergeron, the acting director of the U.S. Department of Justice who maintains that President Barack Obama is his boss, that poverty was the main issue needing to be addressed; yet, Mr. Bergeron, like politicians, refused to listen or respond — instead, he kept focusing and steering the discussion with a focus on racism in police/community relations which causes me to ask this very fundamental question:

Why hasn’t Mr. Bergeron directed federal law enforcement officials to prosecute those in law enforcement and the criminal justice system for violating the civil rights of native Americans?

Mr. Bergeron could begin delving into the lack of accountability in affirmative action starting with the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

How can there possibly be this huge discrepancy in unemployment between the rest of the population and the native American population if affirmative action programs are being enforced?

When it comes to native Americans, affirmative action guidelines are not being enforced because we have no representation in the Minnesota state Legislature or among the Minnesota congressional delegation; this is racism.

Poverty is easy to solve: Put people to work at decent jobs paying real living wages.

Pay people poverty wages like in casinos and keep people unemployed you get poverty and the crime that goes with it and problems with the police.

Gregory W. Paquin


Tags: opinion, letters