Friday, February 26, 2016

Native Lives Matter goes beyond police brutality

Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other ethnic group in the U.S., but the national dialogue about racial bias and criminal justice reform continues to exclude them. The absence of American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians from conversations about police brutality and social inequality exemplifies the United States’ complicity to the continued marginalization and neglect of Native communities.

Not only do Native Americans need to be included in the debate over police violence against minority populations, but their inclusion must also expand beyond such discussions to other social issues. Native men and women, for instance, are overrepresented in the prison system and as victims of sexual violence. Yet black and Latino males have become the faces of mass incarceration. Native students are suspended and referred to law enforcement and even expelled from schools at disproportionate rates. And Indian reservations have disproportionately high rates of poverty and unemployment.

Most Americans are unaware that a Native Lives Matter campaign even exists. Established in 2014, it speaks to the historical and contemporary oppression of indigenous people in the United States. With the national spotlight on police and criminal justice reform, the Native Lives Matter movement has an opportunity to highlight numerous issues affecting Native Americans.


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