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A local vehicle displays a handwritten sign meant to disparage President Joe Biden by associating him with China. America has a history of systematically discriminating against Asian Americans and signs like these can have a negative affect on those in Shasta County who are of Chinese descent.

How Racism Embeds in Systems and Policies

We recently shared with our Instagram and Facebook audiences a newly released federal report on the ongoing harm caused by Native American boarding schools, which were operated by the American government for about 100 years, up into the 1960's. 

The philosophy of the boarding schools was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” by forcibly assimilating American Indian children into Western Christian society. It’s estimated that close to 80 percent of Indian children were sent to boarding school during the 1920s. At the boarding schools, Indian children were punished for speaking their language, banished from practicing their religion and largely trained to be low-wage laborers.

American Indian Boarding Schools represent a very overt case of targeted systemic racism. The government-sanctioned boarding schools were a part of President Grant’s 1869 “Peace Policy” and, at the time, were seen as a benevolent and cost-efficient alternative to the outright physical extermination of Native peoples. In the late 19th century, the Department of the Interior secretary estimated it cost $1 million to kill an Indian in warfare, but only $1200 to civilize one through education. The United Nations’ Convention on the Crime of Genocide defines the “forcibly transferring children of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group to another group” as genocide.

While some Native people remember having positive experiences at boarding schools, they could be brutal places. Teachers and other staff at the staff often physically, emotionally and sexually abused Native students, who were likely already traumatized from being separated from their families and homelands. Death rates were astoundingly high at many boarding schools. Due to poor funding, students received extremely poor medical care, suffered from malnutrition, and experienced very unsanitary conditions even amidst outbreaks of cholera, the Spanish flu and other diseases. Historians have documented that funding per student at Indian boarding schools was dramatically lower than at predominantly white public schools.

 Although the federal government’s approach to Indian education shifted in a more humane direction in the 1970s, many say some legacies of the boarding schools persist in contemporary education. For instance, for decades many Native students were punished for wearing eagle feathers and regalia with their graduation gown or received unexcused absences for attending ceremonies during school days. Fortunately, recent state laws have prohibited these forms of discrimination. But in many schools districts across the state, Native students are suspended at much higher rates than white students. Many scholars as well as Native people themselves see a historical relationship between the disproportionate suspension rates and the legacy of American Indian boarding schools.
 

According to a groundbreaking report “From Boarding Schools to Suspension Boards,” Native students represent just four percent of public school enrollment in Shasta County, but are nearly twice as likely to be labeled as “chronically absent” and twice as likely to be suspended. Some local districts discipline Native students at even higher rates; the Fall River Joint Unified District, for example, suspends 17.24 percent of its Native American male students.  The report finds that Native students aren’t suspended at high rates because they are more likely to misbehave. Rather, the problem is systemic within schools. Some teachers and principals may have personal biases or pre-existing attitudes. Native students may also be disciplined for attempting to resist problematic curricula that denigrates their cultures, such as a “Pilgrims and Indians” Thanksgiving activity or a history lesson celebrating Gold Rush pioneers who killed their ancestors.

When some people think of racism, they may think of slurs, hate crimes or people  mistreating or discriminating against community members based on their skin color. In other words, they may only think of really obvious, overt racist actions committed by a hateful individual. But there are less visible but still extremely harmful forms of racism that are interwoven into the design and operations of institutions as well as bureaucratic policies and legal doctrines. This is often called structural or systemic racism. Sometimes systemic racism can be very clearly intentional, such as redlining practices that ensured neighborhoods stayed white.  In other cases systemic racism is so historically rooted in an institution or law, it’s become normalized or hard to notice if you’re not experiencing it.

While Native children are no longer forcibly separated from their families and sent to a faraway boarding school, many Native families continue to have stressful and even traumatic experiences in public schools.  While they are not forced to take a new name or refute their religion, public schools often remain places of more subtle assimilation and where Native students face hostility to their identities.  However, longtime Native educators say they have seen improvements in recent years, and that Native students are far more likely to have supportive and empathetic teachers than in the past. An important objective of the Shasta County Office of Education’s American Indian Advisory is to develop teacher training, curricula and other supports to make local public schools a place where Native students can succeed and feel their identities are valued.

As we shared in a story published last year, harm caused by Native American boarding schools continues to reverberate in our local community. You can read that story here.

Marc Dadigan
Associate Editor, Indigenous Affairs and Environment Reporter
Shasta Scout

The News from Around Shasta County
 
 
💸 At their May 17 meeting the Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to consider using the majority of ARPA funds (federal COVID relief funding) for a detention and rehabilitation center for the county. Out of a total of $34.9 M in ARPA funding, the sups hope to use $25 M for the jail with rehab services.  That decision is not yet final. Sups hope to allocate the remaining funds to fire safety, water, housing and help for businesses. 

👍 County sups also voted to withdraw their previous opposition to a planned casino expansion by the Redding Rancheria and instead send a letter expressing their support for the project which would be built on land within the unincorporated county, providing significant tax benefit. Their action came on the same day as a court ruling against the City of Redding related to the casino expansion plans.

🧑🏻‍💻 In a presentation to the sups on May 17, Todd Jones from the county's Economic Development Center said Redding area jobs increased by 0.3% between December 2019 and December 2021. This increase is particularly significant Jones said, because Shasta County was the only county in California to add jobs during this time period. 
Recommended Reading
  • 🙈 Monkeypox in California? The first suspected case surfaced in Sacramento recently. It's extremely rare outside of West and Central Africa. Nonprofit state-wide news site, CalMatters, explains what you need to know about the disease here. Spoiler: it's not predicted to be the next COVID. Phew. But it serves as another example of the important of well-staffed and well-funded public health departments which can identify emerging disease threats. 
 
  • 📁 Have you heard of the suspense file?! Last week, CalMatters described what they call "one of California's most secretive processes," in which lawmakers engaged in an "opaque process called the suspense file, a twice-annual procedure in which they rattle through a list of hundreds of bills at breakneck speed, passing or killing them without a word of explanation — and, in the cases of some dead bills, without even mentioning them at all." The suspense file allows lawmakers to "silently euthanize (proposals) that are controversial, opposed by powerful interest groups, or politically inconvenient," CalMatters says. Here are the bills lawmakers killed.
 
  • 💰 Journalist and researcher Teddy Wilson calls America's anti-abortion movement a "dynamic and complex coalition of groups . . . with different policy priorities  . . . but united behind a singular goal: overturning Roe v. Wade." During 2019, he reports, tax records show anti-abortion organizations reported a total revenue of more than $135 million. The highest earners included the Human Coalition ($16.1 million), Students for Life ($12.2 million), and Susan B. Anthony List ($11 million).
 
Covid Update
  • 🚦 COVID is on the rise again in Shasta County with the county's 7-Day transmission case rate more than doubling in just two weeks. Masks are strongly recommended in indoor settings to help slow transmission. The county's 7-day Transmission Case Rate is now at 97.2 per 100,000 representing substantial community spread.
 
  • Overall, the county's "COVID community level" is still in the green, or low zone.  That disparity is because the community level risk assessment is driven not by case rates but by new infections, new hospitalizations, and how many hospital beds are being used, a representative from Health and Humans Services said Wednesday.
 
  • Want to see the current COVID data? It's updated weekly and easy to understand. See it here.
 
 
That's All for Today . . . Thanks!
Are you new here? We're Shasta County's emerging non-profit newsroom, providing you the in-depth local stories you’ve been missing, on the topics you care most about, for free. You can learn more about us here. And subscribe to our free weekly newsletter here!
 
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