Public comment is being sought on whether Native Americans face discrimination from law enforcement and in the criminal justice system. The testimony gathered is part of a public hearing on bordertown racism to be held in Hardin, Montana on March 29, 2018.
Gwen Kircher, the chair of the Montana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says racism is more than just an issue between blacks and whites.
“Sometimes it’s like the Native Americans are a giant, pink polka-dotted, purple elephant in the room that nobody ever sees,” she says. “How is that?”
Since August 2016, the Montana panel has been looking into bordertown racism. Their first meeting on the topic was held in Billings. During the March 2018 meeting, she says a panel of law enforcement and criminal justice officials will testify, answer questions and then the meeting will be open to public comment.
Kircher says testimony from that hearing reminded her of what it was like growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Kentucky.
“They use the same wording. They use the same stories. They say the same things,” she says. “You don’t hear positive things about you, and they say the same kinds of negative things, ‘They’re thieves, they’re this, they’re that.’ Anything but a good American citizen.”
Kircher says one way to get to the heart of the matter is for people to realize that racism does not always mean hate.
“And they all think that if you’re a racist that you hate the other races but that’s not the case. Racism is believing that your race, whichever one it is, is superior to the other races. That is it in a nutshell. It’s very simple,” she says.
The problem is when that becomes systemic, Kircher says. “It sort of implies that this race is better than the other races and because of that people don’t realize that sometimes their statements are very racist.”
Meeting: March 29, 2018,Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Hardin Middle School, 611 5th Street W, Hardin, Montana.
Kircher says if people are unable to attend or submit their testimony in person, they can listen in via a telephone conference line.
Public Call Information: 1-800-293-6960, Conference ID: 498 5239
Written comments can also be submitted to: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 300 North Los Angeles Street, Suite 2010, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Faxed: (213) 894-0508
Email: Angelica Trevino at email@example.com
The Montana Advisory Commission will roll the results of its fact finding into a report along with its recommendations.