Last Saturday, the ninth of November, I went to see the author Sherman Alexie speak for the Chicago Humanities Festival. Perhaps the part of the event I enjoyed most was what Alexie had to say how about advancement in civilization occurs. Alexie talked about how the human race all began in a single area, in Africa. For a while, there were probably only a few, close tribes of people with little diversity between each other. So how did we end up with so many different cultures and civilization today? Alexie’s answer: Someone decided to walk because they got pissed. The only way things can change is if someone decides to leave their people, and tries to make something better.
Throughout Alexie’s speech, I couldn’t help but relate this point back to the formation of America, when Puritans left Great Britain because they couldn’t stand the Church of England; because they were pissed. This idea connects to many more events in history, another being the very example Alexie used himself: Native American tribes. Jokingly, yet also accurately, Alexie stated, “My direct ancestor was an African who got pissed.”
Since the theme of the festival was ‘Animal: What Makes us Human’, Alexie also touched on the stereotypical and racist assumptions some people make towards Native Americans: being ‘in touch’ with animals and nature more than others. This led Alexie into addressing racist Native American sports mascots, such as the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins. On this subject, Alexie boldly stated that anyone who thinks that these Native American mascots are okay is a racist, bottom-line.
Today, Native Americans are the single ethnic group that don’t have any say in America. Alexie pointed out that any caricatural mascot from another ethnicity, such as African American, would be seen as extremely racist and would not fly these days. Alexie pushed the fact that Native Americans are socially and politically weak in modern America, and I feel that things have been this way ever since contact with Europeans in the 15th century.