Ethnic pride

Book pages 52

Later, whenever I lived with Indians, I realized that Wounded Knee had' become a symbol of pride for the Indians.

It was the start of a strong nationalism for this oppressed minority just as the armed revolt of the blacks in the ghettos had led them into a nationalist movement with black power and black beauty as symbols of pride.

I learned that such a nationalist period, in which all the values of the oppressor culture are rejected, is necessary and inevitable for all who attempt to free themselves from the self-contempt and self-destruction induced by centuries of oppression.

But I also learned that this demonstrative phase is the easiest and that the struggle which comes afterwards is far longer and more difficult - the struggle to create equality in the minds and the hearts of whites as well as of the colored minorities.

How complex this struggle is is shown by the Mexican Americans and the refugees from the U.S.-supported dictatorships in Central America who are an example of oppression's Chinese box. Though poor, they often represent the master-race in oppression of the Indian cultures in their home countries, and are now suddenly themselves exposed to a similar discrimination as an American minority group, making them a peripheral part of the economy not unlike the Latin American Indians. Having fled hunger, poverty, and bloody fascism, they are now being exploited as migrant workers because they fear being sent back if they stand up for their rights.

I remember how shocked we were in Europe seeing in the news the many attempts to crush Cesar Chavez' efforts to organize the Farm workers Union, and I therefore tried to work with the farm workers wherever I could.

It was in such demonstrations for human rights that young Americans taught me to see the intimate connection between the oppression of American minorities and the oppression of other Third World people.

In our groping efforts to understand the government's ongoing brutality against the poor in Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador, the concept of "the system" began to explain the origin of the suffering we are inflicting. And so the death of 3 million Vietnamese also was that which made me set myself outside the system and begin questioning it.



Copyright 2005 AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.


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