A massive, $3B pipeline is set to be built and run through a mass of citizen land and contaminate a primary water source in North Dakota. Citizens banded together in a peaceful protest that resulted in over 20 arrests and the temporary halt of pipeline construction.
To some of you, perhaps, but I would not be surprised if a larger number of readers are scratching their heads and wondering why you’re unfamiliar. The answer is simple: Oppression.
Oppression in its simplest definition is prolonged subjection to unjust treatment or control. When we talk about intersectional feminism, oppression essentially boils down to how a marginalized group is treated in society that caters to a more privileged group. In our society, straight, white cis-men are the most privileged group and other groups experience varying levels of privilege and oppression from there. Since this is a societal issue, that oppression usually plays out right in front of our eyes and the lack of coverage on Sioux protests are an example.
A simple Google search unveils the lack of mainstream media coverage this issue is getting. Within the first two pages of news results, there is a spread of Tribal publications, area news outlets and liberal-based websites. The only widely recognized results are an opinion piece from CNN, an NPR article and an article from The New York Times.
Imagine for a moment, if this were happening in a suburban neighborhood populated with predominantly white families. If they were in a lengthy legal battle, and had a temporarily successful, peaceful protest don’t you think that would warrant some big news coverage? The answer is probably yes, and the reason for that discrepancy is the institutional oppression of non-white, particularly Native people.
There’s a long history of Native American injustice and oppression that you can learn about on your own, but in today’s society they’ve almost been forgotten and the existing tribes are not represented or included in mainstream media.
When you watch the news or scroll through your Twitter feed, oppression and privilege often aid to what shows up on your screen, creating a whitewashed version of current events. Why isn’t something like this newsworthy? To put it simply, the institutional oppression against people of color and Native Americans in our modern culture has made it so. Colonialism has too, but we will have to get into that another time.