May We Never Adapt to Injustice
The name Trayvon Martin brings an instant image of a young man looking out from the hood of his sweatshirt with soulful eyes. We know the facts—a young black man walks through an ethnically diverse neighborhood when a vigilante half-Hispanic man shoots and kills him during an ‘altercation.’ Twenty years ago, the incident might not have garnered public attention. Due to social media and the Black Lives Matter movement, we have learned to adapt our perspective and take action when we see injustice.
But have you heard of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind? A white woman lured the 22-year-old pregnant Native woman into her apartment and murdered her so she could kidnap Savanna’s unborn baby. Savannah lived with her parents and brother in a basement apartment in the same building as her murderer. Her parents suspected the 38-year-old woman in the third-floor apartment but feel that the police didn’t take their suspicions seriously.
Two young Native children now live with relatives. Their mother disappeared over a year ago. No one knows what happened, and the police don’t seem to care. Two little ones now face life alone. Children shouldn’t grow up no knowing what happened to their mommy.
Just thirty miles away, a Winslow, AZ police officer shot and killed 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine, a Native woman with a history of mental illness. Her crime? Resisting arrest and walking towards the officer with a pair of scissors pointed at the ground.
All four instances reek of injustice, prejudice, and misunderstanding. Only one of the incidents received widespread national and international attention. Let me assure you that I believe that ALL lives matter. But I do want you to understand what Native women and girls face. If you do, perhaps you’ll adapt your actions in ways that bring attention to an under-represented sector of our population.
But as a white woman with education, I face little statistical chance of encountering violence at the hands of anyone—whether law enforcement, family member, or stranger. If I do experience violence, I have a high probability of finding justice through the legal system. Roughly 35% of the general population of women in the United States experiences some form of violence. Two percent of the general population of women will experience sexual violence.
Eighty-four percent of Native women, on the other hand, experience violence. Fifty-six percent of Native women will experience sexual violence—studies show that the majority of perpetrators are white males.
The justice system on reservations has serious flaws. US Attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of all crimes that occur on reservations. And of those crimes they declined to prosecute, 67% of them involved violence against women.
I work at a school for Native Americans. Unfortunately, the statistics bear themselves out, even for Native girls and young women. Let that sink in for a moment.
What Can You Do?
Good question!Four ways to raise awareness of the plight of Missing and Murdered Native Women. #NationalDayofAwareness #MMIW #MMIWG #fmfparty Click To Tweet
Raise awareness. Share this post. Research the names of the two Native women mentioned in the post and share what you find on social media. Use the hashtag #MMIW and #MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Girls) and #NationalDayofAwareness.
Wear red on Saturday, May 5—a day set aside by Congress to raise awareness for missing and murdered native women and girls. Flood social media with the hashtags and selfies of you wearing red.
Shock some people with statistics—what we don’t know CAN hurt us. It can make us indifferent when we have no awareness.
Pray for further guidance. I don’t have all the answers. But I can tell you what I will do. I work with Native youth, so I have the opportunity love them more deeply, mentor them when appropriate, and pray for them by name.
Whatever you do, do something. Don’t adapt to injustice or indifference.