Political Matters
Political Matters: #BlackLivesMatter at MOA
Tuesday, January 13 2015
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgOn New Year’s Eve two years ago, Idle No More, the activist movement for Indian rights that started in Canada and spread across North America, staged a round dance at the Mall of America that drew hundreds of participants. When the group tried to repeat the event on Dec. 31, 2013, organizers Patricia Shepard and Reyna Crow were arrested when they entered the mall.

In a way, Idle No More’s tactics were the precursor to the Dec. 20 #BlackLivesMatter demonstration, which brought several thousand folks, a mainly young, racially diverse group, to the East Rotunda of the largest mall in America.

On one of the busiest Christmas shopping days, MOA officials brought in dozens of private security guards, and cops from around the Twin Cities reinforced the Bloomington PD troops trying to repress the demonstration against the recent police killings of unarmed black men and children. In the end, the huge throng that came to the mall on a Saturday afternoon forced the assembled security force to do what it could to contain the protest, by closing about 80 stores and blocking off aisles leading to the packed rotunda. There were 25 arrests, according to press reports.

MOA officials whined to the press about protesters intruding on their (taxpayer-subsidized, publicly accessible) private property and the inconvenience to holiday shoppers from the mass demonstration. Thankfully, the Bloomington riot cops behaved with restraint and the protest proceeded in a boisterous and nonviolent way.

Political Matters: 'An act of war against our people'
Friday, January 09 2015
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpg‘An act of war against our people’

I tried to call Cyril Scott, the president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate), after Thanksgiving. Nobody in his office was answering the phone; but I was a little surprised that the on-hold music was “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix. So, there’s that.

On another tangent, I recall visiting Rosebud more than 30 years ago. I stopped on the way to one of the Black Hills survival gatherings, in 1979 or 1980, and interviewed Leonard Crow Dog, a Lakota spiritual leader who came to prominence during Wounded Knee II. And I later spent time at Crow Dog’s Paradise to support a friend on a Vision Quest and at a Sun Dance.

On one of these trips, I traveled by car from Minneapolis with friends and we stopped in Winner, on the eastern border of the rez. The off-reservation towns in South Dakota and Nebraska have a reputation for anti-Indian racism. As we were about to enter a café in Winner, my friend, who was from Rosebud, commented, “Mordecai, they don’t like Indians here; but after Indians, they don’t like Jews.” I was a stranger in a strange land.

Political Matters: Pipelines on the rez
Saturday, November 01 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgPipelines on the rez

This is separate from the column topic this month (oil pipelines running on and near reservations in Minnesota), but it’s a positive sign. Venerable rocker Bob Seger has a new album out titled “Ride Out.” One of his songs, “It’s Your World,” surveys various environmental threats and includes the lyrics: “Let’s talk about mining in Wisconsin, let’s talk about breathing in Beijing. / Let’s talk about chemicals in rivers, let’s talk about cash as king.”

The front man for the Silver Bullet Band seems to have weighed in with the environmental movement, including a nod to the Bad River band and others opposing the proposed Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) iron ore mine in Wisconsin.

Regarding pipelines in Minnesota, an Oct. 28 story in the Star Tribune caught my eye. The headline read: “Enbridge files to replace problem pipeline in Minnesota.” The story is about the decaying Line 3 pipeline, which runs from Joliette, N.D., to Superior, Wis. It’s part of what is called the Lakehead System.

Now, I’m not against all pipelines; as Enbridge, which has its headquarters in Calgary, Canada, points out on its Web site: “Petroleum products are part of our everyday lives – from how we fuel our cars and heat our homes, to the clothes we wear, the household products we buy, and how our food is grown. But before those products materialize, crude oil must be refined into petroleum.”

And then made into an attractive polyester suit.


Political Matters: Sports and degradation
Saturday, October 11 2014
Written by Mordecai Specktor,
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mordecai_specktor_some.jpgSports and degradation

I’m happy to report that school board officials in Coachella Valley, California, decided to change the name and mascot of the high school sports teams. Al-Jazeera America reported in September that the “Coachella Valley High School Arabs will now be known as the Mighty Arabs … They also agreed to change CVHS' Arab mascot to look less barbaric and more distinguished.”

The old evil-looking “Mighty Arabs” logo image and mascot – apparently based on stories from “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as “Arabian Nights” – have been recast, after complaints from Arab-American individuals and organizations.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the old mascot is “basically an angry ‘Arab’ head – hooknose, long beard, headscarf and all.’”

Over many years, officials in charge of prep and college sports across this country have responded to complaints about ethnic and racial stereotyping and made changes to respect diversity. They’ve done the decent and right thing; but this has not been the case in pro sports. An egregious case of racial insensitivity is the National Football League, which also has been coming under attack for its tolerance of players who beat their wives and children.


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