Hate by Denial of Protection

Kevin A. Thompson
November 16, 2022

(Lakota Portraits, from public domain sources on Wikimedia Commons)

To exclude people from protection of the law is to leave them vulnerable to attack. 

Thomas Jefferson advised that if a free White woman should co-habit with her own Black male slave as a married couple, government officials should demand she leave the state of Virginia within a specific time.  If she failed to depart, then the “protection of the law” would be withdrawn from her, meaning she could be killed by anyone without fear of prosecution.  

To exclude people from protection of the law is to leave them vulnerable to attack.

In the 1970s movie “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” an accused murderer is brought before the judge for killing a Chinese couple. The accused claims that there were laws against killing “his fellow man,” but not against killing the “heathen Chinese.”  Judge Beans hangs him anyway.

But that’s the opposite of what really happened. The real Judge Roy Bean, an ex-Confederate soldier,  FREED the accused White man for the same reason the movie version murderer claimed his innocence, that laws against killing your fellow man had not mentioned anything about the “heathen Chinese.”

To exclude people from protection of the law is to leave them vulnerable to attack. 

There is actually a movement to remove the specific legal protections for American Indians.  One of the most prominent at the moment is the Citizens for Equal Rights Alliance, CERA (citizensalliance.org). Its website lists all their grievances against federally-recognized Indian tribes, from their alleged internal mismanagement to the abuse they allegedly dole out to their non-Indian neighbors.

CERA’s website is full of legal “friend of the court” briefs asking courts to undermine Indian sovereignty in one way or another.  CERA’s over-arching claim is that Indian people should not have any separate legal protections because it violates the US Constitution.  Any special vulnerabilities of Indian people are not considered.

CERA attacks the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the Indian Health Service, without asking what will replace them to serve the families covered by Indian treaties with the US government.

CERA’s attacks on Indian Country’s land base is even more direct. CERA simply claims that so many Indians are mixed-blood, that they aren’t even Indians anymore. The reservations should be broken up and given to non-Indians, freeing the captive mixed-bloods to pursue their futures as “equal Americans.”

Oddly enough, CERA is not included on the list of hate groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) In fact there is no category for anti-Indian hate groups on SPLC's website. CERA’s attempts to remove the legal and institutional protections that Indian people need for community survival, is apparently not enough to get them listed as a hate group.

CERA denies any racial animus as its motivation. Its homepage quotes US President Woodrow Wilson: “you cannot become Americans if you think of yourselves in groups” (Woodrow Wilson, May 10, 1915). Wilson, by the way, allowed the pro-KKK film “Birth of a Nation” to be screened in the White House.  The movie was based on a novel “The Clansman,” written by Wilson’s college buddy Thomas Dixon.

Wilson would also segregate  all federal workplaces by race, and stop the French from portraying the US Black soldiers on its World War One memorial. CERA makes a strange choice of Woodrow Wilson as a champion of racial equality. He also ruled during the peak period of anti-Black lynchings, and one that saw the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, inspired by “Birth of a Nation,” a movie he publicly endorsed. 

Speaking of nations, CERA denies that Indian tribes should even be considered Nations, even though they are listed as such by the US government when it signed treaties with them, in line with the Constitution.

Treaties lie at the heart of the United States government. The Treaty of Paris recognized the United States as a separate nation apart from England, also giving the US jurisdiction over the lands and Indian people east of the Mississippi River, even before the current Constitution was adopted. By the way, Constitution forbids individual states from signing any treaties of violating them, no matter what citizens may feel about the Indian nations that live near them. Numerous treaties detail what responsibilities the federal government will have toward the Indian Nations, including health, education and policing. Treaties with Indian Nations were motivated by the US and Indian goal of maintaining peace between them.

Those are all forms of legal protection, put in place to prevent future attacks on the persons, families, economies and religions of Indian Country.

References: “Why Don’t Anti-Indian Groups Count as Hate Groups?”, Anna V. Smith from High Country News, October 8, 2018.

“Drumming up Resentment: anti-Indian Movement in Montana” : by Montana Human Rights Network, 2000.

“Expose Hate Groups Like CERA” by David Lundgren in  Indian Country Today, September 12, 2018. 

Citizens for Equal Rights Alliance, citizensalliance.org