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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:


The Terrifying Indian Massacre


Bless casinos'
Better pay;
Left my old job,
Right away.

Recently, without enthusiasm, I boarded the 7:07 am from Stamford to Grand Central. Especially revealing was the lengthy required pause, as we first had to stand aside to let arriving travelers get off. Those hundreds of disembarking commuters were exclusively African American and Latino. Their job? To keep Stamford's infrastructure operating for yet another day.

Darn nice of them to do it actually, considering their rock-bottom wages. You'd think they'd rather stay home in Bridgeport, sleep in a little later, and work decent jobs up there. But as we all know, there aren't any decent jobs up there, which is what makes Bridgeport the cheap labor pool for all the sleek towns of Fairfield County and beyond.

Now though, an ominous alien cloud has cast its alarming shadow over this benevolent colonial landscape. Indians. The war drums are beating loud in distant Kent, wooded home of the dreaded Schaghticoke (Skat'-i-coke) tribe. But this time those warriors have forsaken arrows and tomahawks. Instead they're brandishing weapons of mass destruction: Lawyers.

These soulless mercenaries, funded by the owner of the Subway sandwich chain, have already gained the tribe formal recognition from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The implications are enormous. With final approval in hand, the tribe could negotiate a casino agreement with some welcoming city. Read...Bridgeport. Or, maybe Waterbury. And with a casino offering 5,000 or so decent jobs near home, many of those bleary-eyed commuters would no longer choose to make that dreary dawn trek to Stamford.

That's scary. With no indentured labor supply, suburbia might have to pay a fair wage to attract store clerks, janitors, home health aides, day care workers, grass cutters, security guards, and maintainers of every stripe. Basically, the end of civilization as we know it. There would also be more (shudder) traffic.

Clearly it was time to call in the cavalry. And indeed the cavalry have arrived. Every elected official from the governor on down, or up, is shocked...shocked...at what the BIA has done. Senators and congressmen feel betrayed by this subversive action. The attorney general has donned his seamless robe and gone to court. Mayors and selectmen of threatened towns have gathered to chant their incantations of opposition. No one can believe that 300 marginal citizens of dubious lineage, possessed of only 400 acres of uninhabitable rock, could propose to erode our highly cultivated lifestyle.

And inhospitable their reservation is. We once hiked through it on the Appalachian Trail, circumventing its chief landmark, Rattlesnake Den. As elsewhere, the white man had usurped all their good land, frittered away their trust funds, and demeaned their children. It is truly astounding that the tribe remains as intact as it is. Unfortunately mere gambling profits could never pay due reparations to those abused generations who went before, but they could impose punitive social damages on us current beneficiaries of that shameful past.

Equally shameful is the cynical chief objection to recognition raised by the political establishment. Traffic. Yes, traffic is already terrible, but when yet another 400,000-square-foot office building was announced here in Norwalk last month, rather than obstructionist lawsuits, there were balloons, Chablis, and a promise of $40 million in tax credits. The sure flood of new rush-hour traffic was ignored. The same hypocrisy accompanies any new project in Stamford, Danbury, and Greenwich.

So while Bridgeport officials would relish a casino, and Waterbury is open-minded, the rich towns are appalled. They're fighting to retain their God-given right to cheap labor and to a reserved driving space on I-95, I-84, or the Merritt Parkway. Sitting Bull would understand.

Columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk.

Rob's comment
This op-ed piece ends up being pro-Indian, but you wouldn't know it from its first few paragraphs. No matter what Collins's point is, he uses stereotypes to make it. Among the stereotypes:

The Terrifying Indian Massacre
an ominous alien cloud
this benevolent colonial landscape
The war drums are beating loud
the dreaded Schaghticoke (Skat'-i-coke) tribe
forsaken arrows and tomahawks
call in the cavalry
300 marginal citizens of dubious lineage

Collins doesn't get any points for sending a positive message using negative stereotypes. Even satirically, he's implying that past Indians beat the war drums before massacring the benevolent colonials. He wouldn't use these stereotypical images if they didn't resonate with his readers, who are equally inculcated with stereotypical thinking.

For the basics on the Schaghticoke decision, see Benedict:  Schaghticoke, Eastern Pequot Tribes Are "Bogus."

Related links
The critics of Indian gaming—and why they're wrong
Savage Indians

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