I happened to stumble across this really horrifying story last week:
Last week the Web site UsedWinnipeg.com ran an advertisement headlined “Native Extraction Service” with a photograph of three young Native boys. The service offered to round up and remove First Nations youth like wild animals, and “relocate them to their habitat.”
The text of the ad read: “Have you ever had the experience of getting home to find those pesky little buggers hanging outside your home, in the back alley or on the corner??? Well fear no more, with my service I will simply do a harmless relocation. With one phone call I will arrive and net the pest, load them in the containment unit (pickup truck) and then relocate them to their habit.”
Beyond the obvious hateful racism, there is something else going on, and it’s a pattern: Talking about people of color as pests or insects.
“Nits make Lice.” Remember that one? When Col. John Chivington ordered the use of howitzer artillery guns to fire upon unarmed Cheyenne women, children, and elders in 1864?
And if you treat them as pests, well.
You know what you do with pests, right?
You EXTERMINATE them.
What do pests and native/other people have in common in this world view? They don’t respect boundaries. They go where they are not wanted. Bugs and mice come in your house. First people come….into your neighborhood.
Let’s just ignore the fact that the boundaries are completely artificial, and it was their habitat in the first place before they were colonized.
I’ve linked here to an image of racist US propaganda from WWII. Same thing, different context. This is why white supremacists talk about “mud people.” Non-whites aren’t humans. So killing them is easier. And killing them is a duty, not a sin.
Goebbels used this metaphor to rationalize death camps:
“Since the flea is not a pleasant animal we are not obliged to keep it, protect it and let is prosper so that it may prick and torture us, but our duty is rather to exterminate it. Likewise with the Jew.”
William Porter, Chief of the US Chemical Warfare Service in 1944, said “The fundamental biological principles of poisoning Japanese, insects, rats, bacteria and cancer are essentially the same.”
This metaphor between humans, insects, and war is pernicious and common. It dehumanizes its target. It makes them less than human.
Please. Don’t let it go unchallenged.
- Nits Make Lice: Drogheda, Sand Creek, and the Poetics of Colonial Extermination. Katie Kane. Cultural Critique, No. 42 (Spring, 1999), pp. 81-103.
- “Speaking of Annihilation”: Mobilizing for War Against Human and Insect Enemies, 1914-1945. Edmund P. Russell. The Journal of American History, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Mar., 1996), pp. 1505-1529.
- The trailer for March Point, the movie about 3 young Swinomish men (the ones that had their images stolen and used in this hateful ad.) The movie is available for purchase on iTunes, BTW.