Multicultural Affairs Department Presents “Bordertown Racism”

On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Department of Multicultural Affairs presented the event “Bordertown Racism.” The topic was presented by Gloria Grant of the Navajo Nation; she was the Associate Superintendent for Assessment, Data and Curriculum for the Chinle Unified School District. Her mother is Navajo, while her father is Omaha Native American. She first learned of racism through her father, who told her about the racism that he experienced or heard of when people would come through Omaha from the east on their way to the west.

The Navajo Nation is located in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado, and Grant said it is “about the size of West Virginia” in area. She also mentioned that she does not like using the term “reservation” when describing the land the Navajo Nation is on; she doesn’t like this term, because the Navajo Nation has its’ own constitution and language. She prefers the term “nation,” because that is what the Navajo Nation is.

The focus of the event was racism that takes place in border towns; there are a number of border towns that surround the Navajo Nation, where people from the nation regularly go for shopping, eating and anything else they need. Despite this, people from the Navajo Nation still experience extreme racism in these border towns. Grant made sure to note that without the Navajo Nation, these border towns would not exist; these towns rely on business from the Navajo Nation to support local businesses. Part of the reason there are so many businesses in these towns is because of the regulations in the Navajo Nation that make it difficult to establish a business. However, there are still many businesses within the Navajo Nation. Grant said that these border towns are oppressors to the resident of the Navajo Nation and use residents of the nation for personal financial gain. She said “the best museums in the world are pawn shops,” because the Navajo Nation’s residents have to pawn their items to afford the high prices in the border towns. She also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on local businesses in the Navajo Nation.

Grant also spoke of racism in general; she mentioned the systemic racism, and that to her it means that “it’s practiced.” For her, the definition of racism means “to be prejudged” by the majority of people. She also mentioned there is “overt” and “covert” racism that residents from the Navajo Nation experience in border towns. Grant listed a number of towns and cities where it is not really safe for Native Americans because of extreme racism.

To try to solve these problems, she said “[the Navajo Nation] need[s] to be involved” more in the political landscape. For allies of the community, she said they can “be involved” with groups and be aware of platforms, support and “have hope.” She also mentioned that it helps to remember we are all humans, and “we all bleed red.”

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