Lose the gratuitous racism

  Dear HCN,

In Dustin Solberg's story about alternative forest products on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation - where one-third of the people live below the poverty line - I was angered by the author's comment, "whether (earnings from the sale of coneflowers are) spent on school clothes or 12-packs, everyone seems to like the new cash" (HCN, 2/15/99). I didn't expect High Country News to contribute to the stereotype of the drunken Indian squandering his family's meager cash on alcohol. This kind of gratuitous racism is ubiquitous, but it certainly doesn't belong in the paper.

I don't doubt that some of the money from the sale of coneflowers is spent on alcohol, and I appreciate your dilemma as a writer: Should a writer self-censor and leave out part of the truth, in order to avoid offending someone? In this case, I don't think the comment was germane to what you were writing about, and because racism is so insidious and pernicious, I think it's worth being extra careful to avoid contributing to it. Much of the environmental movement has been insensitive to the concerns of minorities, and that is something I would like to see change.

Bertie J. Weddell

Pullman, Washington

High Country News Classifieds