Solidarity over profit

Police brutality at Standing Rock Reservation immoral

By The Advocate, Editorial Board

Brutal police actions at Standing Rock, North Dakota threatens further oil contamination of natural fresh water supplies and devalues human rights of protesters.

The unjust treatment of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters by a militarized local police force protecting private interests has garnered national attention.

But groups at Contra Costa College have not risen in solidarity with Native American tribes or environmentalists.

DAPL should be shut down.

But our collective silence, despite excess use of force against peaceful protesters, perpetuates a culture of conquest, degradation, marginalization of the original people of this continent or anyone skeptical of untethered industrial growth.

Local police departments have used attack dogs, pepper spray, police batons, armored vehicles and rubber bullets to protect Energy Transfer’s, the corporation that is building DAPL, investment against protesters armed with prayer sticks and signs.

Excessive retaliation by police toward peaceful protesters is not surprising, especially if they are Native Americans.

Everyone involved in moving this project forward is culpable of crimes not only against the original inhabitants of this continent, but also against humanity and the environment.

Corporations worship money.

Human and environmental rights do not provide the return of investment that the 1,168 mile-long crude oil pipeline is projected to produce.

But the jobs and low gas prices DAPL would create does not justify the military actions by the state of North Dakota, the lack of responsibility at the federal level to halt the project or our own hesitation to mobilize locally.

We live in a society of amnesiacs.

Biased film, news, music and art industries in the United States have immortalized an inaccurate portrayal of Native Americans in mainstream society and those inaccuracies are used to diminish the importance of Native American people and the issues that affect them.

The foundation that supports this perpetual ignorance was established by federally mandated genocide which spanned the 19th and 20th centuries. To see its effect, look no further than public schools.

Of the 2.4 million community college students enrolled in California for the 2014-15 school year, less than one percent identified as Native Americans, according to the state Chancellor’s Office DataMart.

The once thunderous and poignant voices of thousands of tribes have been degraded to a whisper, but their message of unity and environmental conservation affects us all.

This is not the first time private interests have taken precedence over cultural concerns in a court of law. And it won’t be the last.

We need to be the voice of a community that is rebuilding from near genocide, but our ignorance is stoked by 24/7 broadcast news outlets that portray the scenario unfolding in North Dakota as a Native American problem.

Many people think issues that Native Americans are protesting at Standing Rock Reservation are unique to this ancient and stoic culture — but it is a fight to protect a water source from oil contamination.

What is worse is that many news organizations and other media outlets choose to ignore the issue completely.

As students, our voices matter the most. Unity in the face of corporate greed is the only way to halt DAPL, and the exploitation of minority groups and the environment.