A few months ago, I was discussing the concept of “a little bit racist” with a friend on Facebook. Before long, the conversation turned to Indigenous people, and his discussion points started to incorporate common myths white people believe about Indigenous people.
Here are a few of his comments, for example:
- The handouts are what perpetuate the “lazy Indian” stereotype not my attitude that they should stop.
- We have taught them to put their hand out when in need instead of solve the problem themselves.
- We should have used better methods in the past to help them come to understand the world around them.
- It falls on both parties to stand up and put things right
To someone who doesn’t see their own racism, these statements may seem rational rather than racist. However, they are racist. These are common stereotypes about Indigenous people, and I will explain why.
1. Indigenous people are a drain on taxpayers
Everything Canada has is because they stole land from the people who were living here first. They slaughtered the people who were already living here. As much as 95% of the Indigenous population of what is now Canada was wiped out. Those who survived faced violence, disease, starvation, imprisonment, and cultural genocide. They were forced onto small areas of land to adopt a lifestyle they had never lived, and their previous cultural activities were criminalized. They couldn’t even leave reserves without permission from the state.
Without the natural resources (minerals, forestry, fishing, oil and gas, farming, etc) that the First Nations had managed for millennia, the Canadian wouldn’t exist as it is now. They wouldn’t have been able to generate the wealth that they have now. That wealth has been built on the backs of Indigenous people, and they are owed more than they have received. White people have benefitted from that wealth, from the deaths and oppression of Indigenous people. The money paid out to Indigenous people is money held in trust by the state; it is not taxpayer money. It is money generated by the resources that Indigenous people “handed over” via treaties. It’s money owed to them; money stolen from them.
2. Indigenous people are lazy, just need to work harder
Indigenous people work all the time. They solve their own problems all the time. But it often requires going off reserve, and on-reserve solutions often require sacrificing particular rights. For example, if a reserve chooses to charge property taxes to its residents, it may affect the federal payments they receive.
3. Indigenous people are unenlightened
Saying “understand the world around them” is saying that ignorance is inherent in indigeneity. The idea that Indigenous people aren’t as enlightened as white people is completely racist. It’s the height of conceit to consider your own way of thinking and acquiring knowledge to be the best and most correct way. The Indigenous ways of thinking and acquiring knowledge are no less valid.
4. Indigenous people should tell us how to fix things.
Indigenous people owe no one anything. They have no responsibility to “stand up and put things right”. All of this has been done to them. By no fault of their own. They just wanted to exist, as they had for millennia before Europeans arrived. If things need to be put right, it white people who must do it.