Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Houston Councilman: Stop Apologizing to American Indians
By Rogers Cadenhead
Watching the Watchers
A Houston city council member said on his radio talk show that the U.S. should "stop the continuous apology for what was done to the American Indians" and drop federal programs and treaties that provide casino rights, educational support and welfare.
Houston City Councilman Michael BerryMichael Berry, a Republican councilman in his third term and mayor pro tempore who hosts a morning show on KPRC, said on the air March 27 that he opposes such benefits for the same reason he opposes paying slavery reparations. "If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you gotta be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. ... We conquered them. That's history. Hello!"
Representatives of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston have been e-mailing Berry's remarks, urging people to contact the station and Houston mayor's office in protest.
Jim Roberts, a Sioux/Chippewa member of the PowWows.Com community, challenged Berry's premise that American Indians lost a war. "If American Indians were 'conquered,' why did the United States put peace treaties on the bargaining table to end the wars?" he posted. "A conquest is an unconditional defeat of an enemy, and many Indian tribes were never defeated (since they were never at war with the U.S. in the first place)."
Berry, who claimed to have "enough American Indian in me" to be justified in making his comments, actively courts controversy in a morning radio timeslot he began in early 2006.
"Our entire Department of the Interior, practically, is the Department of Indian Affairs. Why are we still giving Indians exclusive rights to gamble, exclusive rights to print money — which is also known as a casino?" he asked listeners.
When a caller said that the programs result from treaties rather than an attempt to make reparations, Berry responded, "The treaty involved land and sovereignty. It did not require that we continue to pay for education. It did not require welfare programs. It did not necessarily mean we had to grant them casino licenses."
There are more than 1,000 casinos, bingo parlors and other gambling facilities operated by Indian tribes on tribal land or reservations. They grew from a $5.4 billion industry in 1995 to $19.4 billion a decade later, according to the Indian Gaming Commission.
This isn't the first time reparations have been an issue of emphasis for Berry. The Houston Chronicle reported in 2006 that he was originally elected to the council by "an unusual coalition of blacks and conservative whites," but when he voted against a study of reparations, black activists held a protest in front of his home and declared that his "ghetto pass" had been revoked.
Here's a transcript of his remarks from the 8 a.m. hour of the March 27 show, available as a download from KPRC's web site:
Now let's be consistent here. If you don't want them issuing an apology for slavery because this isn't, shouldn't be, which I feel — if you believe with me that way then you should also believe with me that we need to undo, do away with, starting today, all this stuff for American Indians.
And if — I dare you to call me up and give me your reasons why. If we're not going to apologize for slavery, then we need to stop the continuous apology for what was done to the American Indians. We need to stop that right now too. We need to stop apologizing to the American Indians, which we continue to do on an ongoing basis, day in, day out. We do it with incredible resources from our treasury. Our entire Department of the Interior, practically, is the Department of Indian Affairs.
We continue to give land — you know, at the Grand Canyon this group that got a private developer to come in and put this $30 million dollar glass skywalk out over the Grand Canyon, which I will go and see, I admit it, as tacky as it is —- why are we still giving Indians exclusives rights to gamble, exclusive rights to print money, which is also known as a casino? Why are we still doing that?
If you believe that we should not issue an apology to the descendants of slaves for what happened 150 years ago, then it strikes me that you have to believe we need to stop apologizing to the American Indians, which we continue to do. And I got enough American Indian in me that I qualify for enough things that I can say that. And even if I didn't I'd still say it.
It is stupid and inconsistent to me that we don't want to apologize to the slaves, which I don't, but we do apparently want to continuously apologize to American Indians and give them money. You tell me why that's consistent. ...
[I]'ve read the treaties; I'm intimately familiar with the treaty. ... first of all, the treaty involved land and sovereignty. It did not require that we continue to pay for education. It did not require welfare programs. It did not necessarily mean we had to grant them casino licenses. We can argue over that, and by the way it's almost 200 years ago. ...
You'd be surprised how many Anglos out there that will say in one breath, "Stop kowtowing to this whole slavery issue; this is just ridiculous political correctness; they're trying to get the black vote," but then you say well what about the American Indians? "Now thats not right we did them people wrong."
It is funny how inconsistent and hypocritical people are. Do you know why that is? Because most Anglos in this country either identify with American Indians or think that they have some American Indian in them. And so as a result they want to help that. So let me tell you something. You know who impresses me: People that impress me are blacks who say, "You know what, Michael, don't send me my $40 reparation check. I don't want it. I want to live as a full citizen. I want my kids to be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin." That's who impresses me.
If you are saying, "Well, you know, I'm really just if my group can be be benefited, if i got some American Indian in me then I'm for the whole American Indian thing," you know what? You don't impress me, 'cause that just means if your ox is being gored then your going to squeal, but otherwise you really couldn't care less. You really couldn't care less.
So you dont care about "the principle of the issue's 150 years old, we ought not be dealing with it." You just don't like those people that might benefit from it. And if that's your shtick, I cant go for that. I cant go for that. Have a principled philosophical reason for why you oppose it and not because you don't like rap music. That's, I sense that, I don't like it.
If you're against apologizing for slavery then you gotta be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. And let's just call it what it is: They lost a war. Why don't we go hand the Germans a few million dollars and the Italians and the Japanese — OK, so we did rebuild their country — we don't continue to give them aid because they sit around whining about a war from 200 years ago. Are you kidding me? Seriously? And what's interesting is, it's one thing when we do stupid things as a government and we oppose it. Whats interesting is how many people out there believe thats a good idea — "Oh, you gotta help the American Indians, what we did was so wrong." What'd we do? We conquered them. That's history. Hello!
Radio Host Apologizes For Remarks On Indians
Friday, April 6, 2007; A07
HOUSTON, April 5 — A Houston City Council member and conservative radio host has apologized for saying taxpayers are paying large amounts of welfare to American Indians who are "whining" about having been "whipped in a war."
Michael Berry said Thursday that he posted the apology on his station's Web site the night before "not because I offended people but because I was wrong."
"My facts were wrong, and the basis of my facts was wrong," he said.
Berry said on his KPRC-AM talk show March 27 that Indians do not deserve the "incredible" amount of federal assistance they receive.
"We conquered them," he said. "That's history."
Berry made the remarks while speaking against a proposal in the Texas legislature for the state to apologize for slavery.
"If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you've got to be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war," he said.
"Why don't we go hand the Germans a few million dollars, and the Italians, and the Japanese? Okay, so we did rebuild their country. We don't continue to give them aid because they sit around whining about a war from 200 years ago. Are you kidding me? Seriously."
Berry said that among the "several hundred" e-mails he had received about his remarks were several that pointed out "intellectually and politely" that American Indians do not receive a disproportionate share of federal assistance and are not singled out for scholarships and other federal programs.
"I've done my homework and learned that I was wrong," he said. "I'm big enough to admit when my facts are wrong."
Jacquelyn Battise, a member of the Coushatta and Alabama tribes and the host of a Houston radio show on Indian culture, said Berry's apology "looks real, and it has the feel that he put a lot of real thought into it." But she said she was surprised by it.
"It sure is quite a turnabout, an overnight transformation," she said.
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Racism: Houston Councilman admits he was wrong about American Indians
Houston councilman says he was wrong about American Indians, but steers clear of the "A" word: "Apology"
By Brenda Norrell
HOUSTON — Houston Councilman Michael Berry, who serves as mayor pro tem, now says his radio comments which insulted American Indians were wrong. Berry says he was re-educated by American Indian responses.
Houston Natives, however, say they'll wait and see if Berry has had a true change of heart.
American Indian responses to his racist radio talk ranged from, "sounds like he needs a small pox infested blanket," to a Red Lake, Minn., reader telling him to "try talking crazy in Red Lake" and they will send him home with a Walleye shoved up his "political ass."
In his change of heart statement, Berry said he was touched by the response of Indian veterans and now understands the difference between sovereign and welfare nations.
Berry said, "I also began learning more about the lives of those who consider themselves Native Americans in modern America . Most don't receive any governmental assistance of any kind, much less welfare. Almost none of them get any special scholarships from the government for their education. What I believed was 'governmental' assistance and scholarships is in fact tribal programs from a sovereign Indian nation. I do have two law degrees, but I lacked a good understanding of the Constitutional law on Indian treaties and Congressional action on the matter.
I was simply wrong."
Berry's racist comments might have gone unnoticed nationally, if the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston had not asked Natives to respond. Indianz.com published an article from the information on the "Censored" blog. AP has now followed with an article.
Unfortunately, Berry's comments were not a slip of the tongue, nor can they be wiped away with a few gestures.
Berry gave voice to the racism that grows as a cancer in America.
Berry's comments came during his radio show, during a discussion of slavery and American Indians.
Berry said, "If you're against apologizing for slavery then you gotta be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war. And let's just call it what it is: They lost a war. Why don't we go hand the Germans a few million dollars and the Italians and the Japanese — OK, so we did rebuild their country — we don't continue to give them aid because they sit around whining about a war from 200 years ago. Are you kidding me? Seriously? And what's interesting is, it's one thing when we do stupid things as a government and we oppose it. Whats interesting is how many people out there believe thats a good idea — "Oh, you gotta help the American Indians, what we did was so wrong." What'd we do? We conquered them. That's history. Hello!"
Berry's change of heart statement:
Houston Councilman Hears from American Indians
Wednesday 04-04-2007 9:15pm
The reason I love hosting a talk radio show is that it gives me an opportunity to share ideas that I have, and to hear from listeners from all walks of life. That exchange, sometimes confrontational, sometimes comical, often informative, and hopefully entertaining, can be magical. While I hope listeners learn from hearing my perspective, I know for sure that I learn from them.
In the course of three hours every morning, I hope that listeners will look at issues in new ways, from different angles. Often I intentionally provoke, in an effort to push listeners to challenge ideas that may be held more by habit than reason.
In so doing, I may say something to a disembodied audience of listeners that I wouldn't say to a person in a face-to-face meeting. I want to make people react, to pierce that veil that prevents our true thoughts from surfacing. Likewise, in the fast-paced spontaneous moment that is radio, I did not consider the full effects of my words.
When I'm wrong, I'm big enough to admit it.
I received quite a few emails from listeners of American Indian descent regarding some comments I made recently. Those comments were intended to spark a discussion on how we view past transgressions against American Indians as compared to those against Blacks in America. I intended to challenge policies, and not to demean or insult any group of people.
I read every email I received on the matter, and considered each in turn. Some were threatening, some were insulting, some were angry, some simply politely disagreed. Those, I consider, come with the turf of being a talk show host. I expect that.
What bothered me was that my comments were construed as insulting and demeaning to American Indians. That was not my intention. However, I went back and re-read my comments several times, and I can see how someone might come away with that idea.
Some of the emails, though, pricked my conscience and forced me to think deeply about a number of matters. Most troubling were those I received from veterans of foreign wars who spoke of their love for our country, and their sacrifice and service to America.
I also began learning more about the lives of those who consider themselves Native Americans in modern America. Most don't receive any governmental assistance of any kind, much less welfare. Almost none of them get any special scholarships from the government for their education. What I believed was "governmental" assistance and scholarships is in fact tribal programs from a sovereign Indian nation. I do have two law degrees, but I lacked a good understanding of the Constitutional law on Indian treaties and Congressional action on the matter.
I was simply wrong.
I've decided to make the occasion a learning experience for me, and hopefully others as well. I'll have an American Indian expert guest on the show within the next week to discuss American Indians and answer questions on the matter. If I had misconceptions, perhaps others do, too.
I don't back down from my desire to challenge others to think outside their personal prejudices, habits, misconceptions, and tired ideas. But I apply the same standard to myself as well. Here, I was wrong and I learned from it.
I'm not making this statement because I received heat from people who were offended. I can handle that. I'm making this statement because my method of framing the discussion seemed to attack people rather than policies, and my facts regarding those policies were wrong.
Finally, I don't think that challenging policies of our shared government as they relate to any group of people is insulting to that group or any way racist or hateful. It is a healthy part of making good public policy. What is not healthy, or productive, is hateful speech toward others. I didn't intend to engage in that, but my actions left some American Indians feeling that I did, and I should have been more careful in how I expressed myself. I regret that.
I look forward to hearing from more of you on this, and other, matters, and I'll continue to be open to considering your opinions, as I hope you will be with mine.
Indians as welfare recipients
Indian rights = special rights
The facts about Indian gaming
. . .
All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.
Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.
Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.