Reflection 3: “Lone Ranger and Tanto Fist-Fight in Heaven”

          Consequences of forced intervention and assimilation can be seen throughout history in many examples, ranging from captured foreigners, to previously native people. One of the most dramatic illustrations of this can be seen during the 18th and 19th centuries, right here in the United States. Previously spanning over three million acres from Washington to Idaho, the Spokane Indian territory used to be home to 2,500 of its people, providing them with bountiful resources and general peace of mind.However, throughout history much of what was once previously belonging to the Spokane Indians was seized, including its culture.  Exposure to exploring populations in the early 1800’s introduced the tribe to copious amounts of alcohol, and left their population combating new and foreign diseases. In 1881 legislation was passed dividing the territory into much smaller reservations, without the consent of the native inhabitants. This new sector was labeled as the Spokane Reservation. English was now mandated to be the exclusive language on all American Indian Reservations. The natives were treated as if they were beasts rather than human, being stripped of much of their culture and ancestral way of life, and being forced into boarding schools at an attempt to “civilize” them. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Native American Languages Act allowed the regular practice of Native American languages. The 20th century aftermath of such involuntary transitions towards the white man’s liking is described in Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which depicts the upbringing of a Spokane Indian named Victor. In this collection of interrelated short stories, Alexie describes many of the struggles of reservation life. In these, he applied what he personally saw and experienced as a Spokane Indian on the reservation.

          In many of the stories, Alexie’s portrayal of Native American life is filled with poverty and loss. Victor’s interactions with other members of his reservation paint a picture of destitution. An example of this is present in the story “This is what it means to Say Phoenix, Arizona”. Here, Victor is informed his father has died and he struggles with raising enough money to travel to bring his possessions home. A friend of his, Thomas Builds-The-Fire pays for the plane ticket but also travels with him. Upon reaching his late father’s house, a rechid odor greets them. Because of his father’s social class, he was not connected with many people, and seen as an outcast. His body was therefore left for days without anyone noticing. The loss of Victor’s father goes beyond his own sadness, as it displays the social view that others have towards Native Americans. His disconnection to the ‘white’ world underlines the lack of empathy that non-Native Americans have toward them. Taking a step back from the story, the differences between whites and Native Americans access to health care are somewhat alluded to. A major problem of the overall health of Native Americans is the lack of resources on their reservations. Throughout the past, groups were migrated and placed into areas in which the government officials thought would be least beneficial for them to lose; in other words, the more desolate lands were given to them while their fruitful territories were seized.  In a 2004 report by the University of Maryland, Native American Health Care Disparities Briefing, the physical inaccessibility of health facilities are touched on. For the majority, Native Americans living on reservations and other inhospitable climates “the roads are often impassable, and where transportation is scarce, health care facilities are far from accessible.” Almost 80 percent of the roads are unpaved, leaving its residents stuck in the reservation.

          A central and reoccuring theme displayed throughout the stories was alcoholism and its devastating impact on those living on the reservation. Not excluded from the influence of alcohol himself, Alexie dealt with an alcoholic father and hardworking mother who worked multiple jobs in an attempt to support her six children. Victor provides the readers with numerous examples of how alcohol has ruined the lives of his people and cast a shadow of depression over the morose group. It is illustrated as being the downfall of any promising possibility. Specifically, Victor’s acquaintance had the opportunity to use basketball as his ticket to leaving the reservation, but fell victim to the bottle. From stories like this, one can easily apply the common stigma of which many Native Americans are depressed and alcoholics. However, the health initiative organization Recovery states that the issue goes beyond simply drinking in excess. In an article written by Recovery author Emily Guarnotta, Native Americans and Alcoholism, the high rates of alcoholism can be attributed to a range of factors. Stemming from a history of abuse, many Native Americans had lost most of their original culture and traditions. Because of their past, they were labeled as inferior to whites, Guarnotta explains, which besmirched the view of Native Americans. On top of this severely depressing environment, they have much higher rates of unemployment, which can be attributed to fact that most had a degrading mentality towards them. Consequently, Native Americans faced harsh, unwelcoming environments where their values were cast aside and there was little, if any, opportunity for employment. Alexie speaks about this insufficient availability of work, saying that the major occupations on the reservation were involved with cigarettes and fireworks.

          The compilation of interconnected short stories written by Sherman Alexie includes numerous examples of the struggles and oppression that Native Americans have had, and continue, to deal with. Inequalities resulting in massive poverty and a descending spiral of depression leading into alcoholism is a major influencer of the stories in his work. The vast majority, if not all, of the problems that Native Americans currently face can be attributed to their persistent history of unjust treatment.


Native Americans and Alcoholism

A Debt Unpaid



Still Reflection 2: Chappelle’s Netflix Special


Dave Chappelle’s two part Netflix special, Equanimity and The Bird Revelation, does not shy away from discussing some of today’s, as well as the past’s, most controversial issues. His viewpoints are not always agreed with, which is evident is the audience’s reactions. Trans-issues and their perception in today’s society, alternative opinions on the “Me Too” movement, and race and gender inequalities rooted in our culture were included. The methods in which he presented his jokes and sketches were very meticulous, so much so, in fact, that he influenced the manner in which the viewers felt toward topics and himself.

Current issues regarding transgenders and trans-rights are thought of as a “sensitive topic” for some, which may contribute to its inclusion in the special. Stemming from an antidote about a fan letter, Chappelle discusses an account he had with a transgender. The words he uses while telling the story, as well as his body language, initially portrayed a somewhat disapproving mindset. He elaborates about a “wild night” he had while out at clubs in which he unknowingly danced, and eventually had relationships, with a trans woman. Not taking her sensitivity seriously, he played off her reason for not being upfront regarding her sexuality as unjust and unthought of. This demonstrates an internal theme that is present in our culture today, which is the overall uneasiness and expectation of being told, as if it is someone’s right to know about another’s personal choices. Her response of not wanting to ruin the night because she was having “such a good time” seemed to not justify her actions for him. Transitioning to a more well famous example to further his bit, he discusses Caitlyn Jenner and a rumor he had heard about her nude modeling. His reaction after introducing the rumor was one word: “Yuck!.” Chappelle jokes about how he “isn’t strong enough NOT to look at the pictures”, which can be taken several ways. Possibly revealing uncertainties about his own sexuality, or labeling the photos as being so taboo that he must look among other reasons. This undermines the strides taken toward equal treatment and inclusion of the trans community, hurting many organizations such as The Human Rights Campaign, whose goal is equal treatment for those in the LBGTQ community. Many trans people are facing ridicule and exclusion solely because it is seen as “different” and “strange” by some. Chappelle’s remarks about Jenner’s body undercuts the actions taken by trans supporters to enforce the idea that their bodies are just as important and beautiful as a normal woman’s  or man’s. The HRC has several articles discussing the importance of the way in which transgenders are viewed. These equal rights activists state,

Contrasting transgender people with “real” or “biological” men and women is a  false comparison. They are real men and women, and doing so contributes to the inaccurate perception that transgender people are being deceptive when, in fact, they are being authentic and courageous.”

This specific article continues on by explaining the importance of the overall comprehension of what it means to be trans as well as the integration of the trans community into everyday society. Chappelle continues his performance with some support of the trans community, saying they are very “strong” and that he has nothing against them (which for some members, may not be believable).

His second episode, The Bird Revelation, is a much more personal and intimate encounter with him. The tight, low-lit setting creates a more somber and serious feeling, foreshadowing the nature of discussion. Beginning with a tongue-and-cheek joke about how our society is going off the rails, he backs up this claim with the rise in debate regarding the “Me Too” movement. Chappelle talks about his comic acquaintance, Louis C.K., and his tie to the movement. Emphasizing that he was oblivious to the accusations before they came out, he moved his stance in favor of C.K. Repeatedly stating that he was a supporter of women’s rights and that they should report sexual abuse demonstrates to the audience that he doesn’t side with the abusers. However, the comedian changes the dynamic of the “conversation” with the audience and somewhat criticizes the course of action the victims took. ‘If you are uncomfortable you should leave’ seemed to be the main point he was making which translates to women should be able to express their feelings and show opposition to their assailant. Disapproval of some members of the audience became evident at this time, as this is a common mentality for those who have not been directly affected by sexual assault or cannot empathize with the stress of the situation. Trying to strengthen his argument, Chappelle also incorporates another common skeptical ideology in our society; due to the vast amount of accusations in such a short amount of time, surely some of them must be false claims. Both of these diminish the support and strength of this movement, hindering its overall goal of creating a safe and enriching environment for women. In a recent article in USA Today, these mentalities are brought up. The movement is relatively unstable due to the skepticism by some, according to the article, and this skepticism transcends through our society working in opposition to the movement. In an effort to show indifference and avoid bias, the article incorporates facts from both sides of the argument. Regarding the faux claims of sexual abuse, the piece states,

“False reports of sexual assault are rare —  2% to 7%, according to studies cited by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center — but, as Weiss pointed out, they are remembered.”

Such small percentages shift in favor of the movement, but, as the article continues to describe, one false claim undermines the credibility of others (in the minds of some in our society). Overall, the “Me Too” movement, as discussed in Chappelle special, relates to those in the audience who also share some skepticism of the validity of the accusations.

The two part Netflix special by Dave Chappelle was much more of an elaborate performance than I had initially thought, which topics of discussion had great relevance to current societal views. His controversial nature, in addition to playing both sides of most arguments, was used in his favor to increase the intrigue of his special. However, not only did his routine undermine several current issues of equality, including the “Me Too” movement and trans rights, Chappelle also demonstrated many ingrained discriminating ideologies in our culture which hinder our societies path to one of equality and comradery.

Matt Still Post 1 – The Craft Narrative


          The issues of racism and discrimination have been evident across the world and throughout history. Most thoughts about these matters are concentrated around the 18th and 19th centuries when slavery was at its peak. The narrative written by William and Ellen Craft (1860) describes an arduous and treacherous journey taken by themselves to escape the ever-gripping bonds of slavery. Sometimes lost or overlooked, this passage elaborates on many of the everyday oppressive nature that goes hand-in-hand with being an African American during this time period. Craft explains how he is strictly seen as a piece of land or an ‘item’ of his master, permanently under the thumb of another human being. This seems to be a recurring theme during this time period, as similarly stated by an article regarding antebellum slavery. This resource states that “Enslaved African Americans could never forget their status as property, no matter how well their owners treated them“.  Obvious divisions in social class and economic status also further perpetuate the ability for the whites to dominate over other ‘out-groups’. Thus, African Americans facing this white superiority had minimal chances of experiencing any of the God given rights he or she was entitled. But simply being white doesn’t necessarily guarantee power and entitlement, as Craft reports.

          Many children who were white (as well as his wife who was the daughter of her white master and had fair complexion) were stripped from their families or taken when separated and sold into slavery. This is an important inclusion in the passage as it adds to the overall understanding of the internal identities of the time period. These superficially can be seen as differences in race and class, as this is the most evident divide in the social standings of the time period. However, the inclusion of some whites into slavery convolutes this seemingly simple divide of power and creates different levels of oppression. Craft sees himself as a Black man, one of God, and his master’s chattel or item. He explains how he is also assumed to be just that, an item, and to wait hand and foot on white men. His role, as well as the role of others in a similar position, was to facilitate the lives of whites at the cost of his own and his freedom.

          Contradicting the stereotypical norm of the era, his account includes many sources and poems that further describe his perception of his reality and maltreatment. His vivid descriptions of the conditions he experienced creates a window for those to look in. Using first and second-hand accounts of such incidents, his credibility strengthened, and gave his story even more insight. This conflicts the social norm because blacks at that time were thought to be uneducated and unworthy of the ability to be educated. Evidence for this lies in an account of a woman, Mrs. Douglass, attempting to teach her slave to read the bible. The penalty for this was imprisonment for 30 days. Such unimaginable laws existed for the “best interest” of the slaves, from the perspective of whites. In this perspective, inhumane laws were written, justifying this indecency toward slaves, stating, “robbery, rape, and murder are not crimes when committed by a white upon a coloured person.” The existence of such laws and mindsets further fortify the importance of the Craft’s endeavor to liberty. Craft’s narrative of his escape embodies the inglorious identity of slaves and provides a powerful response to the cruel society in which he lived, breathing air into the embers of freedom and equality.