New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being called on by a number of Native American groups and others to apologize for a racially-insensitive remark he made on John Gambling's radio show on August 13. The Mayor, in urging Governor David Paterson to take a stronger stand against allowing Native tribes to sell cigarettes tax-free on reservations, told Gambling,
"I've said this to David Paterson, I said, you know, 'Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there's ever a great video, it's you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, 'Read my lips -- the law of the land is this, and we're going to enforce the law.'"Evoking the image of John Wayne and a "my way or the highway" attitude towards Native peoples cuts a little too close to the horrendous history of forced domination and removal that Native tribes have suffered since the earliest days of colonization. Whatever the Mayor's arguments may be about taxation, and the right for tribes to retain sovereignty over what happens on Native lands, there's no excuse for relying on such violent imagery simply to make a point. Our Native American sisters and brothers have suffered enough; they don't require a rhetorical stick in the eye for argument's sake -- much less an actual shotgun wielding governor on the march.
Moreover, language like this simply perpetuates violence in a culture that has no need of help on that front. Politicians like Bloomberg should know better than to encourage behavior than devalues our culture as whole, and glorifies the kind of macho, gun-toting violence that literally puts lives at risk. (The Mayor has previously taken a strong stand against handguns, in New York City and elsewhere, which makes this recent outburst all the more shocking.)
If you're as outraged as we are by Bloomberg's choice of words, let your voice be heard: email the Mayor's Office directly to demand an apology for his incautious -- and deeply offensive -- use of language.