Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

i’m not going to make a price is right pun August 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 11:34 am
Tags: , , , ,

Before I begin, perhaps I’ll just state (as I have over and over again) that I’m for the abolition of all cages and all exploitation.

I saw a headline today that caught my eye: Bob Barker asks Cherokee chief to end NC bear pits.

“Fantastic.” I was glad someone was actually asking Native people instead of telling them.

Then I actually read the piece.

Oh, well. One could always hope.

Seems Barker and PETA are teaming up to force the closure of these bear pits and ship the bears to Cali where they can live in a sanctuary.

So how did Bob find out about these bear pits in the Smokie foothills? As he says in his CNN blog his good friends Bill and Beverly Young.

Beverly saw a sign that said, “Come Feed the Bears,” so they stopped at a roadside zoo. She described what she saw as “sickening.” There were six to seven bears in concrete cubicles. Their fur was hanging off, they were begging for food, and an employee was tossing one bear cub around by the scruff of his neck. Beverly said she had an uncomfortable confrontation with the person who was mishandling the cub and was asked to leave.

I agree that sounds sickening and something should be done (if this is the case). I wonder what Beverly Young, Bob’s good friend, had to say herself:

“We treat terrorists in Guantanamo better than these bears are treated, and these bears didn’t do anything to us. We invaded their land.”

Um. What?

But maybe Beverly and Bob are right. We’d all rather be at Club Guantanomo where the treatment is so much better. The statement also says that the bears have done nothing while all of those who were and are held in Guantanomo are completely guilty. You know, guilty of being brown. But at least we didn’t invade their land!

So who does Bob call. His “friends” at PETA. I’m starting to wonder about Bob’s friends. Maybe he’s not the best judge of character. But you know what they say: birds of a feather.

So PETA and Bob show up in North Carolina, detailing the horrible atrocities these bears face. Turns out he ain’t asking for shit.

“Things are going to change on the Cherokee Reservation, I promise,” Barker, a longtime animal rights advocate, said at the conference. “This is going to be a blight on tourism. Americans love animals, and all they have to know is that animals are being abused.”

Fantastic! We’ll boycott an entire nation, because we know that those folks love sticking bears in holes. Except… these menageries are privately owned. How about aiming the boycott a little. Besides, Barker was told by representatives from the Eastern Band that the zoos pass legally, both the feds and the Eastern Band have inspected them. So as far as zoos go, they pass the minimum that Bob is apparently ok with most of the time.

But we shouldn’t worry. Bob isn’t racist. He can’t be. Bob, and the AP, are quick to point out that Bob is part Native American himself.

Being part Native American myself and having grown up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I appreciated their interest in Indian culture. –Bob Barker

Barker, who is part American Indian and grew up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. -AP

We all know some blood quantum gives everybody free pass on being racist. So obviously Chief Hicks is over reacting:

“I’m appalled by his behavior and him accusing the Cherokee of being barbaric,” Chief Mitchell Hicks tells the Asheville Citizen-Times.

I couldn’t find where Bob said this, but there is no reason to believe he didn’t after two days of discussion. Especially when he gives choice quotes such as:

“We feel it’s a problem for the city of Asheville having this Third World spectacle happening right at its doorstep.”

Because everyone in the Global South commits animal abuse. But we don’t. If we want to talk Third World spectacles that people accept happening right next door.

PETA claims this campaign is just getting rolling, and I can already see what sort of mystical-fetishization campaigns those folks are gonna come up with. Or came up with already:

Although no promises were made at yesterday’s meeting, PETA won’t rest until the black bears are retired to sanctuaries. After all, according to Cherokee legend, black bears are the keepers of dreams. No doubt all of these imprisoned bears are dreaming of their own freedom.

Yep. I’m going to predict some spirit-animal-totem-Great-Father amalgamation mumbo-jumbo. Whatever it ends up being the PETAphiles are gonna love it.

I’m just going to hope that Bob and PETA respect some tribal sovereignty (and that Bob gets his white-privileged ass back to Cali).

“We’ll have ongoing conversations” with these businesses, Hicks said. “There may be opportunities for us to help them expand, but we’re not going to close the door and not be open to ideas.”Hicks said it was offensive for Barker and PETA to threaten a tourism boycott.

“It’s best for Bob Barker to stay in California and let us do what we know how to do here,” he said.


EDIT: I’m adding a link from cherokeebydesign that has an interview with the owners of one of the zoos.


63 Responses to “i’m not going to make a price is right pun”

  1. Thanks for a great blog, you can read more on 2 on my blogs.
    Please look for the 2 about Bob Barker/Cherokee Bear Zoos, and Bob Barker and the Blowhards.

    The last one give s a lot of PETA’s info on how they have killed more of the animals in their care than they have found homes for.


  2. johanna Says:

    *waits for people coming in to scream about how you’re not really a vegan & many Native Americans are speciesist & many of them collaborate with racist organizations & derail derail derail whine whine whine*

  3. Glenn Says:

    I don’t understand the point of this post at all… Are you attacking Peta and Bob Barker for bringing attention to bears in roadside zoos? Are you attacking Bob Barker because he is white and wealthy?

    How does this help animals?

    What does a statement like “something should be done (if this is the case)” mean? Are you only worried about the bears if they are actively being abused? Isn’t being caged enough?

    You also write “So as far as zoos go, they pass the minimum that Bob is apparently ok with most of the time.” Bob Barker, and Peta as well, have been opposed to ALL zoos for many many years. On what do you base this statement, that they are ever “ok” with any zoos?

    I’m so confused by this post. It feels like a David Martosko article, and really lacks any substantive analysis of the zoos, Bob Barker and Peta’s campaign to bring attention to them, and the native issues involved.

    • Royce Says:

      Bob Barker and friends aren’t protesting cages. From their perspective only these bears, on Native land, need to be saved.

      I’m not talking about the zoos. I’m talking about racism. No wonder you were confused.

      By the way. It is easier to comprehend if you go to the links.

      • Glenn Says:

        I’ve been reading this blog for a while and have often recommended it to others as an example of well-written analysis of the convergence of issues regarding all animals (human and non), but somehow, even after reading through it and all of the related articles that you link to, I don’t quite get it.

        There is quite obviously some opportunism on the part of Peta to jump on this case of roadside zoos to bring attention to captive animals. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. We are all humans, native, white, or otherwise, and criticising another nation’s treatment of animals doesn’t necessarily indicate racism.

        Also, you write: “From their perspective only these bears, on Native land, need to be saved.” I still don’t get this. Peta has been working for years and years to close zoos, to get people to stop going to zoos, and to improve conditions in zoos. Just because the focus of this story and this campaign is these 3 zoos does not mean that they are not working in other areas as well. That would be like saying that COK is only working on Dunkin Donuts because they have a current campaign focused on them.

        The reliance here on mainstream media, and the acceptance of the perspectives delivered by that mainstream media, is surprising. It reminds me of Peta’s recent campaign against the Canadian seal hunt, where newspapers reported that Peta was using a cartoon of an Inuit – but in reality the papers were all misreporting the images (which were actually altered versions of the olympic mascots, none of whom are Inuit) to get a good story. How much of that is happening here, and how much are you buying into so that you can write a post opposing Peta?

        Sorry, I guess I must not be that smart to have not understood your whole post right away. We all know that if someone doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, it must be their fault.

      • Royce Says:

        edit: When was the last time PETA protested an entire region, an entire nation over a zoo? Please find me evidence of Bob Barker protesting zoos before this. This is more than opportunistic in that colonialism, racism, and classism make the Cherokee an easier target than the Smithsonian or the Lincoln Zoo.

  4. C Says:

    No, it’s not Royce who isn’t vegan, it’s Bob Barker. A “long time animal rights advocate” who just happens to eat other animals! He admitted this on GoVeganRadio recently. So then what right is he advocating for animals? The right to remain delicious? The right to remain a part of his diet? That makes sense… Great work Bob and PETA, you fucking jerks.

  5. Glenn Says:

    Yeah, I had read those. I was just confused by this particular post (which is why I took the time to respond to it). There are many good points in it. In particular, the comment about aiming the boycott. Yes, the boycott seems ill-conceived and poorly aimed. And sure, I can see the point about colonialism and racism being involved.

    Some of the sources used to back this up, though, were mainstream media sources, who often try to find a way to paint AR activists (all across the spectrum of AR) in as negative a light as possible. Leaving out a lot of evidence of previous work by Barker and Peta seemed odd to me, and I hoped to get an answer as to why their previous work was ignored.

    I was also troubled by the use of sources that use speciesism to justify the treatment of animals in the zoo – and the language in those sources that is exactly the same as the justifications used by industrial agriculture for their “accepted practices.”

    Do you find that it’s wrong of Amnesty International to work to stop stoning or “honor killing” of women in other nations? If it’s ok to criticize those practices, why is it not ok to criticize the caging of animals in another nation?

    • johanna Says:

      … I don’t know how many times people posting on this blog have to say things expressing the importance of working WITH communities/nations/etc. & not just charging in like imperialist idiots before people *get that* & stop freaking out w/the, “But OMG DOES THAT MEAN NO ONE CAN EVER EVER EVER CRITICIZE ANYONE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY????” stuff.

      It’s mentioned several times in those previous posts I linked to, in fact, as a starter! And I see Royce mentions it yet again upthread! In case people missed it the 78 billion other times.

    • Royce Says:

      Ever notice that the questions about stepping on the toes of folks in the global South, Fourth World, and the ghetto always center around saving either women, children, or animals?

  6. Glenn Says:

    “My question is does animal activism mean ignoring the rights of folks who have been historically oppressed and maligned?”

    I don’t quite see how keeping animals in zoos can be considered a “right” if it infringes on the rights of those animals – or are the rights of humans more important than animals?

    • Royce Says:

      How about a right of autonomy and self-determination? I’m sure that the Cherokee can decide how best to handle their issues. Acting like they can’t determine what is best for the bears is just white paternalism. In the interview the owners of zoo stated that they tried to do what was best for the bears, that they are always open to ideas, and that they are constantly trying to improve the bears’ space.

      • Glenn Says:

        And that is exactly (almost word for word) what any owner of an animal exploitation industry would say.

        Like so:

        “A hen in a cage is actually not that much different from a traveler in a hotel with room service.”

        -Trent Loos, spokesperson for agribusiness PR front group Faces of Agriculture, in Feedstuffs January 16, 2006

      • Royce Says:

        I still say if they are in the wrong let the Eastern Band deal with it. The Eastern Band doesn’t need you, me, or Bob Barker to save bears on their land or to tell them how to do it.

  7. Glenn Says:

    “I still say if they are in the wrong let the Eastern Band deal with it. The Eastern Band doesn’t need you, me, or Bob Barker to save bears on their land or to tell them how to do it.”

    But the bears might.

  8. adam Says:

    Glenn, If you’re still confused, you can read through this post on Animal White Supremacism or the whole series.

  9. vegadelic Says:

    Iappreciate seeing critiques of how white privilege operates in the animal protection movement.

    I don’t appreciate seeing what amounts to an apology for animal abuse though. And that’s how too much of the post read to me. Bear pits are not a Cherokee tradition, and this facility is deserving of criticism.

    • Royce Says:

      Never did I say bear pits were a Cherokee tradition. Nor did I say the facility wasn’t deserving of criticism. What I am saying is imperialist white-privileged people and attitudes should butt the fuck out.

      • C Says:

        But isn’t Bob Barker 1/8 Native? And he grew up on a reservation.
        I’m unclear on his “white savior…imperialist…etc..” label he’s received here. Does the 7/8 of his white heritage (assuming it’s all white) cancel out the 1/8 of his Native heritage and Native experience to you?

      • Royce Says:

        I don’t play the blood quantum game.

        And yeah, I’m a wary of white people who give their color in fractions. Because you can’t deny that Bob Barker is a white man steeped in all of his white privilege. I’ve known too many descendants of “Cherokee princesses” in my lifetime to give white folks, who may or may not have Indigenous ancestors, a pass on racism.

        If you don’t think Bob Barker is a white man I don’t know where you’ve been, but I can’t help you.

        But if we want to do math: he is 7/8 white imperialist, and 1/8 Native who doesn’t respect sovereignty of other tribes.

      • Eva Says:

        As someone who is a direct descendant of Pocahontas, I wouldn’t expect to get a “free pass,” but… um, ouch? Some of us don’t lie when we tell you about our heritage.

  10. C Says:

    OK, Royce. And no, you don’t need to help me. As a matter of fact, I didn’t ask for your help. i asked a question. Thank you for answering it.

  11. C Says:

    Oh, and you give out passes for racism now? I know plenty of white folks who would want one ; ).

    • Royce Says:

      Didn’t say I did. A lot of white folks try to pass off racism as ok with their brown ancestor approach. Ya know, the more advanced “…but I have Black friends” approach.

  12. Casey Says:

    As the owners of the zoo point out in their interview with CU, these bears were born into captivity. So that makes it okay.

  13. Andy Says:

    Thanks for putting this together. I hadn’t heard about this situation, and I think you’ve done a pretty fantastic job of explaining the context and white arrogance on the part of PeTA and Barker.

    Off topic, but I’m just curious why link to a Mises Institute article? Don’t they work with Ron Paul and other right-wing groups?

  14. vguihan Says:

    There’s little meaningful difference between this kind of racist opportunism and the Michael Vick opportunism that’s been in the media lately. To be clear, I’m not in favor of national sovereignties as ends in themselves (although I think they can sometimes be mobilized in tactically useful ways) and I think all animal use should be criticized. But 1) there’s a gulf of difference between making an argument/criticizing, and using the law in a transparently authoritarian way to compel behaviour, 2) the question is not whether to criticize but why this group should be singled out when there are so many others ways we could criticize more effectively on behalf of nonhuman animals (e.g., by criticizing all animal use and promoting veganism) and 3) this kind of stuff is little more than a thinly veiled political theatre for the predominantly white, predominantly middle-class and predominantly privileged to masturbate their Nazi-esque fanaticism by sticking it to peoples of color in the name of nonhuman animals.

    In the interests of full-disclosure, I don’t have the exact calculations, but I can tell you that they’re all 100% thumbsuckingly misguided. Not only is this kind of work almost always thinly veiled racism, it reflects an appropriation of animal slavery by people who have shown time and again that they could care less about it. Seriously pathetic. Advocates who take nonhuman animals seriously address all animal use in their work, period. They don’t have a go at underprivileged communities because they’re socially vulnerable to drive their own lagging donations by playing to the Great White Imagination.

    • adam Says:

      Vguihan, very well put!
      I think you’ve explained it the best of us all.

    • Anonymous2 Says:

      Even if thinly racist comments are used, in your opinion does that imply that animal use/abuse is not happening as if “because there is thinly veiled racism…maybe they are not really abusing animals?”

  15. Jessica Says:

    I really appreciate this blog and all the blog writers. Thank you for making this resource available to people who need it (and who hopefully GET IT)

  16. Abram Says:

    I must admit that I flinch a little sometimes when things get heated in here, but as long as we can all dialogue and come away having thought more and harder about not only exploitation in its manifold variety, but also about our own blinders, then all the heat is worth it.

  17. vegadelic Says:

    I can’t think of an animal group or org that has criticized the Cherokee bear zoo that has not also taken on other, white-led zoos, as well as the practice of keeping animals in roaside zoos, period.

    Is the suggestion here that these groups only target roadside zoos owned by whites?

  18. Nancy Says:

    Many people can claim a percentage of Native blood, but not many can claim to have also grown up on a reserve. Barker is more than just a Native American by blood.

    • Royce Says:

      And the man is still being a white imperialist ignoring tribal sovereignty. Shocking.

      • Anonymous2 Says:

        With that reply it leads me to this question: would a POC be any more or less suitable to question the actions of tribal actions than a non POC?

      • Royce Says:


        Who am I as a Black person who currently lives in the Hudson Valley to tell the Eastern Band, or any other tribe, what they should do. That isn’t me being respectful, and it isn’t me working in solidarity with. I think if I feel strongly about something I could try talking to them, dialoguing, and let them decide what to do.

      • Anonymous2 Says:


        Do we need to worry about being respectful when animals lives are at stake? I mean certainly we could cultivate a multi-year relationship with the Eastern Band to get an understanding of their traditions and cultures…but in the meantime how many animals suffer? My point is that So we dont like a white priviledged person complaining but someone has got to stick up for the animlas and at this moment he is ( and Peta ). If the potential harm is that we are being disrespectful, In this specific case, I think I can overlook it.

        What I dont necessarily agree with is…”and let them decide what to do.” This has not worked in the major tragedies before…slavery, genocide, voting rights etc…where other people/nations say “butt out..this is our business etc ” If we just let it up to other people to decide what is right for animals…the animals will end up suffering.

      • Royce Says:


        Your response ignores that the Eastern Band can very well deal with speciesism on their own. That those of us who aren’t indigenous have our own issues to work out.

        Also, maybe history has taught a lot of us to be more than a little wary of white men showing up and telling us what we’re doing is wrong.

        I don’t know how many times I will have to explain that I don’t want any part in an animal liberation movement that uses white privilege/supremacy, male privilege/supremacy, het privilege/supremacy, or any other domineering networks of power.

  19. […] partnership with Bob Barker against roadside zoos in North Carolina / on the Cherokee Reservation, as reported by Royce at Vegans of Color. If you’ve no desire to download a Vegans Against PETA badge now, methinks you will by the […]

  20. […] n i’m not going to make a price is right pun « Vegans of Color […]

  21. Crys T Says:

    @Anon2: The question is do you want to change people’s attitudes and therefore make long-term, permanent changes to the lives of animals, or do you want to save a handful of animals right now but not do anything towards changing the culture of abuse.

    People don’t take too well to having outsiders, especially outsiders who have a lot more wealth & social privilege, come in, dictate terms & enforce compliance through main force, then breeze on out. Also, who are the tourists supporting this in the first place? The whole thing is hypocritical.

    Why do you suppose practices such as blood sports are so hard to wipe out, even when you outlaw them? Because there’s never any dialogue in these situations, only ultimatums.

    In the end, instead of convincing people that animals do deserve better treatment, you end up making animal abuse seem like a part of the culture that’s being threatened by outside forces, and people tend to rally round that sort of threat.

  22. vegadelic Says:

    And if the Eastern Band is not dealing with speciesism and animal abuse…then what do you recommend non-members of the Eastern band do?

    And, as asked before, how should those groups addressing widespread abusive practices, perpetrated by many different communities, do their work? Should only the offenses of individuals from dominant culture(s) be highlighted? Bear in mind that most animal advocacy is not the media grandstanding of peta–it’s slow striving for regulatory and legislative reform (and gathering evidence of animal mistreatment, at facilities such as the Cherokee bear zoo and many others, in support of such reform).

    I agree with the goal of an anti-racist (sexist, etc) animal movement, but it’s frustrating to not see evidence of what that movement would look and work like. Any examples of successful animal campaigns that fit that bill, that might be emulated?

    • Royce Says:

      How do we know what members of the Eastern Band are and aren’t addressing internally?

      Maybe folks should work in their own communities first?

      I don’t have examples, but that is often the challenge of activism: being imaginitive and innovative and trying to do work that doesn’t reinforce oppressions.

  23. vegadelic Says:

    Royce, when most advocacy groups start a reform campaign (as opposed to a peta-style media campaign) they do research past efforts, including local efforts.

    I worked for a group that was trying to change roadside zoo laws in many states, including NC. The Cherokee bear zoo was one of many zoos our campaigners researched and profiled, and our group worked with many local constituencies in common purpose at the legislature. This may have been due more to pragmatism than anti-oppression enlightenment, but still, connecting with grassroots groups is a critical part of successful advocacy campaigns. Alas, the work must still continue–the mistreatment of animals in these facilities is still legal under NC law.
    I don’t see a benefit for animals to leaving one of the most complained-aboutn abusive zoos out of a comprehensive campaign highlighting the state’s worst zoos simply because of who owns it.

    From what I can tell from your posts, you feel such collaborative efforts (which really are needed for broad reform, IMO) are too reflective of the oppressive dominant culture, and that each local/micro community should clean up its own messes.

    To me, this kind of Balkanized approach is counterproductive in many cases, including animal reform. If disparate groups and communities cannot work together on behalf of a constituency (animals) that have NO voice, then there is no hope.

    Also, it bears repeating that peta’s tactics and strategies must not be held up as representative of the animal protection movement as a whole. Granted, it is a movement with many problems, but peta’s are in a league of its own.

    • Royce Says:

      I have no issue with collaborative efforts. What I have an issue with is praxis that utilizes preexisting and oppressive power dynamics. I fail to believe the ends justify the means. I see organizing on the community level as one of the strongest methods of creating real change, for every one.

      I want disparate groups to work together. I just don’t want one group dominating others for change.

      “I don’t see a benefit for animals to leaving one of the most complained-aboutn abusive zoos out of a comprehensive campaign highlighting the state’s worst zoos simply because of who owns it.”

      And I see but won’t accept the benefits of utilizing white privilege/supremacy to additionally target those who already suffer from the effects of white supremacy.

      Also I know PETA isn’t representative of the animal protection (a paternalistic term I haven’t heard much of), animal rights, animal welfare, or animal liberation movements for the simple fact that it isn’t representative of me.

  24. Eva Says:

    I apologize if this is a naive look at the situation, but it seems to me that the problem is not whether or not the bears are being mistreated. Maybe they are, maybe they are not. (I don’t have enough information to lean either way at the moment, although I tend to mistrust PETA.)

    I think the issue is how people are protesting the state of the bears living conditions. PETA is pretty much incapable of producing a rational above the board campaign to change anything and mixing that with a low level of underlying social acceptance for racism against native peoples and a general poor understanding of the group of people they’ve lumped in with the zoos is turning this into a giant gross mess.

    I firmly believe that anyone (ignoring race) should be able to protest the living conditions and civil rights that are due to people and animals, but I also think that you need to understand a situation fully before you start trying to change things and you should try if possibly to work with people rather than against them. I think this case probably called for a lot more research and respect, rather than a media circus.

  25. Some of these posts are pathetic. Any intelligent human realizes that this is not an issue of white man attacking the indians. It is merely a concern for the bears and other exotic animals living in horrid, inhumane conditions. I wrote Bob Barker a letter concerning his visit, and believe it or not, he called me to discuss the Cherokee bear issue. I am not a member of PETA,,,,only a concerned citizen who is asking other concerned people to join me in the fight to either (1) close the zoos down forever or (2). create a better habitat for these animals on the reservation. Anyone interested in supporting this issue may write a letter of support to or visit the “Cherokee Bear” profile on MySpace. I have a wildlife management degree and have also participated in bear density surveys in the NC mountains,,,,so, yes, I do have a clue as to what I’m talking about. Thanks for reading.

    • Royce Says:

      Maybe you have a very simplified view of issues, but I’m gonna have to say I’m no fan of the white saviors who swoop in to save people of color, or to save someone from people of color. I also am gonna say that sometimes intent doesn’t mean shit:

      I’m sure many American slave owners owned slaves not out of some hatred of Black people, or out of a desire to oppress Black people– doesn’t mean they didn’t.

      I’m sure that some American feminists really thought that bombing the shit out of Afghanistan would liberate women there.

      I’m sure a lot of missionaries really thought they were saving people of color around the world as they destroyed indigenous cultures.

      Intent doesn’t mean shit.

      I don’t care how warm and fuzzy someone who reinforces systems of oppressions feels about their reasoning and intent.

      And I don’t consider Bob Barker an ally, despite his good intentions.

  26. Theron Says:

    Per Bob Barkers ancestry,

    His father’s mother was half-Lakota. He lived part of his childhood on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Because he was part Indian, the Office of Indian Affairs kept track of his school attendance.

    He is certainly not someone claiming to have a 4x great grandmother who was a “Cherokee princess” or a direct descendant of Pocahontas.

    Just to clear things up.

    • Royce Says:

      Like I said, I don’t play the blood quantum games. I know Bob Barker has indigenous ancestry. That said one would have hoped that his experience on a reservation would have made him more empathetic to other indigenous folks, more aware of his own white privilege, and more aware of what words like barbaric really mean.

      Bob Barker is no ally of those of us who are staunchly anti-racist.

  27. Anonymous Says:


    You claim to be staunchly anti-rascist. Your apparent contempt for anyone white suggests otherwise.

    • Royce Says:

      I only dislike defenses of white and colonial power structures– otherwise how could I be staunchly anti-racist. I would hope that most people could distinguish between a critique of white power structures and a contempt for white people.

      • kent adams Says:

        Last weekend, I visited Cherokee for the first time in 30 years. I must say that not much has changed. Driving down the winding road I can see the houses and trailers of people that have been bypassed by any help the casinos were suppose to bring. I see the billboard of the Chief of the Eastern Band proudly welcoming me to his country, but he looks white. I see the dark skinned children playing in front of dilapidated homes and trailers. I wonder, what has changed in those 30 years? Best I can tell is not much.

        I grew up in Asheville and spent the first 18 years of my life there. I remember the roadside shops and the indians dressed up in chief clothing waving the tourists to the strip malls and native shops. Even as a child I felt dirty and guilty by the unfortunate circumstance that would have a man on the street parading himself in some form of false Hollywood Indian makeup and dress, asking me to come in to buy corncob pipes made in China. Even as a youngster I could see and feel empathy for his plight. See I too grew up poor and into a multi generation of Appalachia poverty. There were some days we had no food to eat. I slept on donated couches and beds. I ate at tables ripped up from old diners and donated. I had a strange person come every christmas and give us presents, only knowing later that it was a charity program for poor families. We had no plates made of stoneware or plastic but only paper plates that came from donations. I knew what it was to be poor and segregated on a dirt road at the bottom of a mountain, surrounded by rusting trailers and people too poor to afford the means to get rid of busted appliances and old furniture so they put them in the yard. You see, I understood, as a small white child what it meant to be poor, to receive the plastic red token NC children were given at school that signified that our parents were too poor and couldn’t afford the 25 cents for us to eat a hot meal at lunch. So, I understood the Cherokee in the way that I understood poverty, segregation and lack of opportunity.

        So I go back, 30 years later, thinking that perhaps things had changed for some. I suppose that perhaps they have in some ways but I didn’t see it. I step into Harrah’s and see only white faces behind the desk. I pass the McDonald’s and the Holiday Inns. I see brown faces outside, but only white faces inside. Why?

        I remember the bear pits too. It was dramatic for me, as a child, to see an animal in such conditions. Until I came across this on the web, I assumed those places didn’t exist anymore. But I guess they do. I’m glad I didn’t visit them. Now, as I read the linked stories, it sounds as if it is a white man that is running some of those bear pits. He has a Cherokee wife and is taking advantage of it to run this type of business? I could be wrong. Anyway, it is sad what I saw. It is an outrage.

        I was able to escape the multi-generational poverty of my family and ancestry. But I have been given the task of raising a severely developmentally disabled child, the most segregated and discriminated class of people on the earth. But I draw strength from my childhood and how we lived to learn and understand how to sacrifice today in order to make my son’s world a little better. There is white priviledge, no doubt. I was able to take advantage of it, despite my background. But, ironically, I find myself teetering on the edge of poverty again to take care of my son. How the circle has come full round for me. I think I understand the Cherokee better than most white folks because I understand the multi-generational segregation and poverty. I know what it is not to have food in the house and to live in the shame that society fosters on poor and outcast people. I today see the terrible discrimination against a small white child with a developmental disability and how the world is extremely hostile to his inclusion, more so than any other group of people. There will be no casino, no country, no scholarships for my son. There will be no one to advocate for him when I am gone.

        I hope the Cherokee and all native peoples and all poor and outcast people in the world are able to make a better life for their children. We are all one people, we are all native peoples from somewhere. We should all love and help each other.

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