Published October 9, 2016
On October 7, 2016, after a campaign of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, white privilege, and an utter disdain for people of color, Donald Trump “trumped” himself. A conversation between him and Billy Bush (a cousin of George W. Bush) recorded in 2005, was released to the public through The Washington Post. As a Native American woman and as a retired clinical psychologist who worked with raped and sexually assaulted people for forty years, I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing as the 2 minute and 45 second tape rolled across my television screen.
In this so-called “lewd” tape, Trump lays out his views on how he can approach women because he is a “star.” Kissing women without consent, groping women’s genitals, “moving” in on them even if they are married. And, lest we forget, he’s made incredibly inappropriate and sexual comments about his own daughter as well as being accused of rape by his first wife, Ivana.
I have never been a Trump fan, never watched any of his “reality” shows, have never been one of the agog public who are swayed by his supposed riches. I have always found him sleazy, dishonest, immoral, and racist. Let’s not forget that in the 1970s, he was sued for housing discrimination against African Americans. In 1993, he testified in front of Congress regarding casinos on Native reservations. His remarks are below:
REP. GEORGE MILLER (D-CALIF): Is this you, discussing Indian blood: “We’re going to judge people by whether they have Indian blood whether they’re qualified to run a casino or not?”
TRUMP: That probably is me, absolutely. Because I’ll tell you what. If you look, if you look at some of the reservations that you’ve approved, that you, sir, in your great wisdom have approved, I will tell you right now — they don’t look like Indians to me. And they don’t look like the Indians … Now, maybe we say politically correct or not politically correct, they don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians.
And a lot of people are laughing at it. And you’re telling me how tough it is and how rough it is to get approved. Well, you go up to Connecticut and you look. Now, they don’t look like Indians to me, sir.
During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” Apparently, he is so ill informed, as are the vast majority of Americans, that he did not know that the myth of Pocahontas is just that, a myth. Pocahontas was not a grown woman who threw herself on a rock to protect the “noble” John Smith. In fact, she was a twelve-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped, forced into marriage and Christianity, who died well before the age of twenty.
That Trump uses the name “Pocahontas” as a racist slur against Elizabeth Warren is despicable and, as Hillary Clinton said, “deplorable.” Yet, Trump supporters scream and yell and cheer as every racist and sexist word comes from his lips.
In June 2015, as he opened his presidential campaign, in a very successful attempt to appeal to the alt-right, white male demographic, and the religious right, he continued his string of racist and bigoted comments with the following:
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
-16 June 2015, speech launching his campaign
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” a campaign press release said.
-8 December 2015
The impact of these words is so visceral and upsetting because they have long been locked in semi-silence but with the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the astonishing rise of Donald Trump in the past two years, all pretense of “political correctness,” or respect for women and people of color and non-Christian religions is gone. The juxtaposition of racism and sexism is not news to Native people. From the horrid mascots such as those of the Washington, DC football team to Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians baseball team to schools using Native images as mascots to “sexy squaw” Halloween costumes, Native people, particularly Native women, have been reduced to cardboard sexualized caricatures.
A horrible statistic is that, by the CDC’s report, 39% of Native women surveyed have been victims of abuse by their partners. This rate is far greater than any other ethnic group. Another horrifying statistic is that 34% of all Native women, including Alaska Native women, will experience rape in their lives. This is compared to 20% of other ethnic groups. 17% of Native woman, including Alaska Native women, have been stalked in their lives. If a Native woman is raped, there is a 96% chance that she has experienced other violence. Native woman and children are far more likely to be hurt severely and to need medical attention than other women. In addition, a very large percentage of Native women are attacked by men not of their racial group.
When the Republican nominee for the office of the president espouses views that denigrate and diminish women and when he feels very comfortable using the name of a child rape victim to insult a sitting woman senator, it is not a far stretch to recognize the very real threat Trump poses to our Native communities. It was astonishing to me and yet fully expected, that Trump dismissed his terrible comments about sexually assaulting women as “locker room banter.” It is equally horrific that a white man, Billy Bush, laughed along and encouraged Trump in his ugly statements and thoughts.
As a Native woman, enrolled with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe of Washington, I have been told I was a “squaw,” a “dirty Indian,” and “thin skinned” when I spoke up against racism and sexism. It’s a formula response to accuse people of color of being “too sensitive” or “too PC” when we speak up for ourselves. However, as the racists and bigots who bay at the moon for Trump become more vocal, there are more and more women, particularly those of color, who find themselves being triggered and experiencing greater levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder simply on the basis of Trump’s terrible words and the rabid support from the “Trumpette’s.”
As I watched the video and listened to the callous and vicious words of Trump and his sidekick, Billy Bush, I flashed back thirty-one years to a situation I had to deal with as one of the only Native psychologists working on reservations in the State of Washington. I had come in on a Monday morning to find a mother and her twelve children crowded into my tiny office. Over the course of the weekend, her alcoholic non-Native common-law husband boarded up the doors and windows of the home with the family inside and set fire to the house. It was only through the quick thinking of the two oldest sons that the family was able to escape through a basement window.
As I watched the video and listened to the laughs of Trump and Billy Bush, I recalled two young women who had come to me to report being sexually abused by a cousin. I recalled the looks on the faces of those brave young women when the white Auburn Police Officer refused to file the case, stating he believed my two brave clients were “sleep walking” and were not to be believed.
As I watched the video and listened to the disgusting words of Trump and Billy Bush, I thought of Misty Upham lying dead at the bottom of a ravine in Auburn, Washington near the Muckleshoot Reservation. She wasn’t important enough for the Auburn Police to search for her under an endangered adult order. She wasn’t important enough for the Auburn Police to mount a search. Family friends and members found her after missing eleven days. The Auburn Police vigorously denied these allegations but the reality speaks for itself.
As I watched the video and listened to the mocking words of Trump and Billy Bush, I thought of the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and Alaska, women not worth being found judging by the lack of reactions and efforts of the authorities. I thought of a young First Nations woman who was abducted from her jail cell and taken to the home of an RCMP officer, where she was raped.
As I felt my stomach churn at the sight of the smug faces of Trump and Billy Bush, I remembered the thousands of women and children and a number of men who were forced to kiss their abusers and who suffered their perpetrators “grabbing” their genitals. And yet, even as I sat in pain and triggered PTSD of my own, I saw the excuses and justifications roll out on Facebook and on my television screen. Here are a few of my favorite:
Susan Hutchinson, Republican Party of Washington State: “He was a Democrat when he made those statements.”
Scotie Nell Hughes: Trump’s vulgarity “Proves to me that Trump has not always planned to run for office.”
Kellyann Conway: “I am proud to work for someone that has views on women like Trump!”
A sad commentary on my own cynical view of the world is that I expect such comments from men but I expect better from women. In fact, I should equally expect that human beings should not either espouse or practice sexual abuse, sexual assault, and assault of any kind. I had to monitor my own disdain and distaste and the resultant anxiety and upset I felt in watching and listening to the ridiculous and disgusting tape of Trump and Billy Bush. Deeply embedded in my reactions were the grief of my own personal history and those of the Native women and children I listened to for four decades.
In the juxtaposition of sexism, racism, misogyny, and brutality is the history of women in Indian Country and First Nations. Many tribes, prior to the forced imposition of Christianity, particularly through the boarding schools, were matrilineal. In many tribes, women held the economic power, and sat on tribal councils. Women were respected and held in high esteem.
And, in this country, in the day of Donald Trump, in the world of entitled and self-important punks like Billy Bush, women, people of color, and Native women are simply reduced to mascots, fantasies of rape, sexualized and mocked by non-Natives wearing headdresses or going to bars on Halloween night dressed as “Pocahotties.” Under the vigorously supported Trump “leadership,” this racism is more rampant and has now become the “norm.”
However, for Native women, this is not news. When thousands of Native people from hundreds of tribes protest the Dakota Access Pipeline in solitude with the people of Standing Rock are completely ignored by the so-called mainstream media, it will take a very concerted effort to have our voices heard through the yelling and violence of Trump supporters. Yet, if we do not speak up, if we do not demand respect, if we do not say “no,” we are as guilty as the Republican nominee for President of the United States and as Billy Bush, a cowardly sidekick who found it amusing to hear another man speak of kissing women without permission, trying to have sex with a married woman, and grabbing the genitals of women.
Hear us, clearly, Trump and all of his Billy Bushes, such actions are not acceptable. Such actions are not Christian. Such actions are not humorous.
Such actions are not to be tolerated. Lest we forget, it was the Republican party who blocked the Violence against Women Act, a piece of legislation that finally gave tribal entities authority over perpetrators on Indian land. Lest we forget, it was Eric Cantor in the same vein as Trump, who claimed that a “white man could not get justice from Indians.” And, lest we forget, it was Trump who claimed he could not get justice and fairness from a Mexican judge who was born in Indiana.
When men like Trump and Billy Bush are allowed to express such sexual violence and diminishing of women, it simply feeds to dialogue that people of color, women and children, have no value. It is incumbent on everyone, men and women, white and color, to speak up and say “No”. Through social media and determination, Native people are speaking up and saying “No”. Hopefully, as this tawdry tale of sexual abuse and assault, as perpetrated by Trump and the Billy Bushes of world, are called out and condemned, all women, children, and men will not have to suffer having their genitals grabbed, be rated on a number scale, and be told they “don’t look” like what Trump thinks they should look like.
The best outcome of Trump’s ugly comments and Billy Bush’s “yuck, yuck, yuck” response would be a national dialogue on the value of people of color, women, and children. The worst outcome would be to reduce this terrible situation to one of “locker room banter” and to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s responsibility. Such actions as those demonstrated by Trump for at least the past more than forty years need to be condemned and dismissed and, certainly, not rewarded with the highest office in this land.
For all Native women, girls, boys, and men who have been violated, abused, denigrated, and dismissed as less than human, there must be ten of us who stand up and say “No.” One thing that is true for Native people, indeed, of all people of color, in spite of the Trumps and Billy Bushes of the world, is that WE ARE STILL HERE and we vote.
Robin Ladue is a retired clinical psychologist. She is an enrolled member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe of Washington. She lectured world wide on historical trauma and recovery in Indian Country and other indigenous communities. She is the author of the award winning series “Journey Through the Healing Circle” and “Totems of September.”
Special thank you to Alan Willoughby, JD, for his editing
Special thank you to Bruce Ritchie for his editing
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