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Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: A Sleeping Giant - Black and Native American Unity

Those of our viewers who have been visiting over the past 33 months know of our great conviction that there exist no better potential coalition partners in American politics than Native Americans and Black Americans. We continue to watch in disappointment and dismay as the Black political establishment continues to seek political partnerships and participate in coalitions where others benefit from the power of the Black vote more than Blacks themselves, while ignoring new options, alternatives and opportunities.

This conviction of ours has caused us to be sensitive to the numerous avenues by which the cultural, historical, and political interests of Blacks and Native Americans can eventually be united. We are not alone. For better or worse. Over the past few years we have noticed a small but increasing amount of discussion "behind-the-scenes" in political-intellectual circles regarding the potential "problem" that the unity of the Native American and Black electorates could pose for this country's ruling elite and political establishment.

An article that provides a glimpse or hint to the wise of the potential "problem" was published in the November 13, 2002 edition of the Los Angeles Times. It is called, "Indian Casinos Open Way for Black Reparations". linked to the article soon after it was published, as did several other news services. Then, suddenly, the article "disappeared". The link to it no longer worked and no further information regarding it was available. The Los Angeles Times even told that the article could not be found in its database. A couple of people at the paper said they could not remember this happening before. In our nearly three-year history we had certainly never seen an article handled the way that this one was.

In the Black Electorate Insider Newsletter, published tomorrow, we get into the details of how was eventually granted the article from the Los Angeles Times. We also provide an analysis of how the unity of the Native American and Black electorates can be produced and how its power can be leveraged.

Here is the article. It is probably one of the most important that you ever read. Hopefully Blacks and Native Americans can see the implications. Others sure can.

Indian Casinos Open Way for Black Reparations

However you cut it, gambling monopolies are compensation.

Home Edition, California, Page B-13
Editorial Pages Desk
21 inches; 767 words
Type of Material: Opinion piece

By Fred Dickey

There has been so much dust kicked up by arguments over reparations in recent months that most people can't see that it's already an accomplished fact. Not for African Americans, who have been the ones most insistent -- and most rebuffed -- in seeking redress of historical wrongs, but for American Indians.

Don't start surfing the Net looking for recent laws that authorize checks for Indian reparations. These payments came through the back door, accompanied by slot machines, blackjack tables and cheap buffets.

In March 2000, California voters passed Proposition 1-A, which gave the state's registered Indian tribes the right to a virtually unrestricted and thinly regulated monopoly on casino gambling (similar provisions are in place in many other states).

The tribes and their supporters use historical injustice as the centerpiece of their pleas for public approval of their gambling privileges. They cite a litany of grievances, and most have merit. But the point is that the Indians themselves consider their gambling monopoly to be their due, though they don't use the R word.

The reparation reward to tribes is grand indeed. To own a casino is to be backed up to the loading dock of the federal mint. The 50 casinos operating in California -- and more are on the way -- overflow the pockets of the 49 tribes that operate them. The gambling haul for the tribes in California this year alone should be about $5 billion -- all of it free of federal and state taxes.

Tribal advocates also maintain that their right to have casinos is justified by their status as "sovereign nations," and therefore they should be able to operate free of regulations by "other" governments, i.e., the state of California and the United States. They base that idea on the original 19th century federal description of the tribes as "domestic, dependent, sovereign nations."

However, the meaning of that definition is that the tribes and their reservations are subject to the whim of Congress. So it's fair to say that if your status is at the mercy of someone else's say-so, you might be domestic and you might be dependent, but you're definitely not sovereign.

Sovereignty in its governmental sense is New Zealand or Norway, not a small reservation reliant on local government for public services.

Pretending that tiny Indian tribes with a handful of members are sovereign nations is a logic-stretching legal artifice to justify letting those tribes operate casinos and reap other lucrative tax-free privileges.

Call it by its real name -- reparations. The reservation system was instituted to give tribes a haven from exploitation by non-Indians. No one then envisioned creating enclaves where visiting gamblers would be left naked of protection from civil law.

An additional benefit of the casino monopoly is the generation of mounds of cash to invest in "friendly" legislators such as Sen. Jim Battin (R-La Quinta), who, as the tribes grew in wealth, suddenly had his eyes opened to the justice of the tribes' legislative agenda. Campaign contributions of $700,000 since 1998 may have also helped him see the light.

Battin is not alone. Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee said the tribes couldn't get the time of day in state government a few years ago. Now they own the place.

Is this an argument against what Proposition 1-A gave the tribes? No, they won it fair and square by convincing voters of the justness of their cause. But the unprecedented generosity with which the public responded certainly shouts what it was -- reparations.

The history of the United States is of a nation that was a blessing to many but a curse to others. Those who bear scars of injustice form a long line, with Native Americans at the front. But no scar is uglier or deeper than the one that runs from the memory to the soul of those who carry the devil's DNA of bondage and Jim Crow.

Advocates for African American reparations have a stronger claim now that opponents have to explain the multibillion-dollar reparation given to 36,500 tribal members in California alone.

To cast the issue in gambling terms, the chance of African Americans achieving reparations faces very long political odds. But they are at least entitled to an answer to this question: If you open the door for Native Americans, why do you slam it on us?

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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