We find the term "white pride" offensive, as it implies white people are different than [sic] others and should celebrate their unique heritage.
But if that's true, why does the Chamberlain School District allow T-shirts that say "Native Pride" on them? We believe that statement also implies racial differences and causes unnecessary tension.
...Oelrichs graduates are expected to wear caps and gowns with school colors at the ceremony. If Aloysius Dreaming Bear wins the lawsuit, he will wear clothing that will emphasize a racial difference and clearly stand out from his classmates.
Dreaming Bear says he wants to honor his culture and his people. While those may be his intentions, the reality is that it unnecessarily divides his class into different groups [Jon Hunter, "Two incidents show that 'pride' and 'honor' harm race relations," Madison Daily Leader, 2010.05.04].
If there's anything that motivates publisher and advertiser Hunter, it's avoiding unnecessary tension and division... for the white folks (and advertisers) in charge.
I'll admit I have a harder time arguing against Hunter on the Chamberlain incident. High school students are often obsessed with fairness, and they often perceive fairness as Hunter does, as absolute equality. Had I been a Chamberlain student, I might well have joined the "white pride" shirt wearers as a "fairness" and free-speech provocateur: if one group can publicly declare pride in their identity, why can't every group?
My worldview has grown a bit since high school. I recognize that fairness is not complete equality. I recognize that Native Pride, Black Pride, and White Pride are not equivalent statements. Lakota people declaring Native Pride are making a countercultural statement, an active defense of a minority cultural identity imperiled by the pressure of the majority. People of European ancestry declaring White Pride are defending a dominant culture and powers-that-be that don't need defending. I don't need to shout White Pride to feel secure in my cultural identity when the culture around me screams "White! White! White!" at almost every turn. If Lakota people want to be Lakota, they have to work a little harder to keep a grip on who they are and where they've come from.
I understand that both Native Pride and White Pride may be interpreted as a verbal flipping of the bird at folks of other colors. But Hunter's assimilationism misses a crucial point: in cultural and historical context, Native Pride is more often than not defensive; White Pride is more often than not offensive (both meanings).
The Oelrichs graduation lawsuit is an easier call. Hunter is just wrong. Hunter baselessly rejects the honest intentions of a student as unnecessary division. To suggest that Aloysius Dreaming Bear is dividing his class into two groups is nonsense. The class is already divided into two groups, whites and Indians, by its own superintendent Lawrence Jaske, who clearly views Indian students as a drag on his budget who don't bring tax dollars from Pine Ridge or Red Cloud when they open-enroll. The class is already divided by the dominant culture into kids who will be looked at suspiciously when they walk into the gas station and kids who won't.
Jaske insists kids should have to wear the traditional graduation robes because "We're not a Native American school." Yet this year's graduating class at Oelrichs consists of nine Indian kids and one white kid. If we're really worried about creating unnecessary division, maybe it would be easier to just ask that one white kid to wear an Indian robe.
It's easy for Jaske and Hunter to say everyone should conform to a single standard, regardless of race... when that standard is still defined by the dominant culture of which they (and I) are comfortable members.
I seem to recall Governor Rounds saying something about a "Year of Unity" to take up Governor Mickelson's unfinished work on reconciliation between white and red. I would suggest the incidents at Oelrichs and Chamberlain demonstrate the need to recognize Unity as something more complicated than assimilation.