MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry weekend program on December 1 featured
a panel that discussed "the foundational myths perpetuated about
America and the realities of inequality," according to MSNBC.com.
The two-hour program featured Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation
representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of
Indian Country Today Media Network, as one of the guest panelists.
Joining Halbritter as panelists were Chloe Angyal, editor at
Feministing.com; Raul Reyes, NBC Latino contributor and New York
Times columnist; and Jonathan Scott Holloway, professor of African
American Studies, History and American Studies at Yale University
and author of Jim Crow Wisdom: Memory and Identity in Black America
Harris-Perry led the panelists through discussions on American
traditions like Thanksgiving and how they relate to American values;
along with the possible contradictions that exist between these
traditions and our country's public policies, as they relate to
issues like hunger, immigration, and the economy.
Following the program's introduction, Harris-Perry opened the
discussion with the first question for Halbritter on how the country's
founding myths continue to impact the country today.
"The Thanksgiving mythology, to some extent, papers over the
often painful and tragic history of American Indians and the way
they've been treated," Halbritter said. "Even though it was the
shared celebration and tradition of Indian people to have this ceremonial
of Thanksgiving and they gave to the first immigration group and
shared with them in a way that allowed for their survival but it's
a celebration that should be of mutual inclusion and respect and
often that's not the case for American Indians in this country."
Keeping on the Thanksgiving leftovers, Harris-Perry engaged
Halbritter to elaborate on the Oneida Nation float making its appearance
for the fifth year in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New
York City. Where Halbritter mentioned that one of the reasons for
the float is to show that American Indians are real people and not
relics or mascots.
The discussion shifted from a topic usually synonymous with
abundance of food like Thanksgiving to one that has become bare
bones in the SNAP program cuts, followed by poverty levels throughout
the country. Holloway mentioned how it's currently easy for politicians
to make scapegoats of those without power.
Harris-Perry elaborated on the scapegoat issue by mentioning
an empathy deficit a topic that President Barack Obama has
talked about and wrote about. She discussed how the empathy deficit
basically recognizes the country's "ability to potentially have
sympathy for people" while it still has an "inability to see one
another across differences."
Halbritter responded saying, "That's some of the challenges
for American Indians because they are often not viewed except as
relics or mascots and as a result the real issues they suffer from
the lowest standard of living, the highest mortality rates in the
country, highest unemployment. And 7 of the 10 poorest counties
in the United States are Indian reservations.
"So they really struggle to have their real issues dealt with
in a way that's real especially this time of the year. Especially
because in some ways all this is connected, their self-image, their
self-esteem and how they relate to themselves and the rest of society,"
View videos of the program here.