May 24th, 2010
Native Americans still waiting for an apology from Steele
By Pueng Vongs
On January 4, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said “honest Injun” in a Fox News Interview with Sean Hannity, and Native Americans are still waiting for an apology.
A transcript from Fox News shows Steele said, “Our platform is one of the best political documents that’s been written in the last 25 years. Honest Injun on that.” Steele later said it was not an intentional racial slur. Native American Journalist Association (NAJA) President Ronnie Washines called for an apology immediately after the event and has since noted in Indian Country Today what he terms Steele’s qualifying his own racism by using the term.
Native Americans called the remark “racist,” especially since Steele raised his hand as in an oath when he said the words. To Natives, this is one of the worst racial slurs someone can use when referring to their cultural/racial identity. In a January 8 NAJA press release Washines said:
“Those of us in journalism have tirelessly worked to ensure that political leaders, newsrooms and the public be respectful to all cultures when speaking [publicly]. Michael Steele’s scurrilous tongue does no service to his group and only undermines the positive work of those who sincerely seek to respect one another in all of our working relationships. I urge Michael Steele to carefully word a sincere apology to the Native American community, which could help stop such uneducated archaic racist remarks from being made in the future. We here at NAJA are available to assist him and his organization with obtaining an accurate understanding of Native America”
In the meantime, NAJA Executive Director Jeff Harjo said the organization and Native Americans are still waiting for an apology.
– Rebecca J. Tallent, Ed.D., member of diversity committee