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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Radio Interview: Sameera Khan Reporting from Standing Rock

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Sameera Khan, Miss New Jersey 2015 and political activist, who was in Standing Rock supporting Water Protector efforts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Our interview took place just one day after the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would NOT be granting an easement necessary for construction on the pipeline to continue, a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and for all who believe in justice.

In addition to the potential disasterous effects the pipeline could have on the water supply, the Standing Rock Sioux also argued that the pipeline would pass through and likely destroy Native burial sites and sacred places. It's worth noting that an original proposal for the pipeline would have taken it north of Bismark, the capital of North Dakota and a city that is 90% White.

As I mention at the start of the interview, and as I have often said in the past, we cannot fully understand race and politics in America without understanding this country's TWO original sins:

  • the "peculiar institution" of slavery, which shaped America's constitutional principles--including the Electoral College which many people are currently seeking to change--and which has influenced American politics, either explicitly or implicitly, since that time; and
  • the theft of Native American lands, genocide (both in terms of lives lost and cultural attacks) against Native American nations, and violations of Native American sovereignty via treaty violations that continue to this very day.

The battle at Standing Rock is the most recent in a string of examples of disrespect toward Native American lives, land and culture.  However, in the context of the recent presidential election and attempts to understand "Trump voters", it is also a reminder that White "economic anxiety" has always taken precedence over the rights of "others".  This country was founded on White economic anxiety.

Although the recent decision by the Army Corps of Engineers is a victory for the movement, we should be clear that the battle is not over. Sameera addressed this issue during our interview.  First, Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, issued a statement clarifying their intentions to move forward with the project. Second, it's very clear that Trump fully supports the project and could pave the way for the project once he assumes office in January--that is, after he gets done with the other 50 things he said he would do on "day one" of his administration. So just as the Water Protectors are bracing for a protracted struggle, we who can't actually make it to Standing Rock should remain vigilant and continue to send whatever support we can (see my previous blog for some ideas).

Enjoy the interview, and please be sure to 1) share it with friends/colleagues and 2) click the follow button so you can receive updates of other upcoming shows. I'm lining up some GREAT interviews with community activists, elected officials and scholars, all of whom will share useful insights as we explore the intersection of race and politics and discuss concrete strategies for building power in communinities of color. Try to catch us live and JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

I'm Cliff, and on that note... I'm out!

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