A Washington Post report on a lawsuit by the Miami Indian tribe to regain ancestral lands in Illinois (2/13/01) severely trivialized the genocide and ethnic cleansing faced by Native Americans. Post reporter William Claiborne, attempting to put the dispute in context, wrote:
"As in similar Indian property claims that have been growing in number across the country, the historic roles of white men and Indians have been reversed. White landowners are complaining that they are the victims of a ruthless land grab by greedy Indians backed by a complicit federal government."
While an editor might eliminate a reporter's off-hand reference to "greedy Jews," "greedy Koreans" or the like, for some reason "greedy Indians" seems not to have set off any warning bells at the Post.
After suggesting that the Miami tribe might settle its claims in exchange for a relatively small amount of land and the right to build a casino, Claiborne wrote:
"Many of the 4,700 residents of this 150-year-old farming community of ornate Victorian homes and leafy neighborhoods say they are fearful that a gaudy new Indian casino will go up on the western edge of Paxton alongside Interstate 57. They say an injustice is about to be committed on them that will equal those inflicted on American Indians throughout the 19th century."
Is it really necessary to point out that having a casino in your neighborhood-- even a "gaudy new Indian casino," in Claiborne's racialized phrase-- is in no way comparable to the mass killing and forced displacement faced by Native Americans, not only in the 19th Century but for the last several centuries? Yet this attitude is not only unquestioned, it dominates the Washington Post's article, with no Indians or supporters of Indian claims quoted until the 22nd paragraph of a 27-paragraph article.
With so little balance, the article comes across not only as a slanted attack on tribal claims, but as a racist attack on Native Americans as an ethnicity.
ACTION: Please contact Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler, and ask him to review the February 13 report on the Miami Indian lawsuit. Ask him to clarify that it is not the Post's policy to republish ethnic slurs without context, or to equate casino-building with genocidal crimes against Native Americans.
CONTACT:Michael Getler, Ombudsman email@example.com The Washington Post150 15th Street, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20071
William Claiborne, Staff firstname.lastname@example.org