The African Americans In Custer Died For Your Sins

In Chapter 8 of Custer Died For Your Sins, Deloria sets the foundation of how African Americans and Natives were treated by the white man and effectively highlights the differences between both minority groups. The Civil Rights movement was a “huge” accomplishment for African Americans since this well-known movement focused mainly on helping African Americans receive equality. However, Natives wanted to be part of a bigger solution. They wanted nothing to do with white culture. The treatment of both African Americans and Natives can be traced back to their history and what they had to offer to society.

The white population had a different way of dealing with each group. The white man excluded African Americans from all legal agreements. They were not taken into consideration for any programs, policies, or social events. Also, the white man could not allow African Americans to hold any sort of power because it would mean that the man, in fact, descended from the ape and it would contradict all of their Christian beliefs. While African Americans were excluded, Natives suffered another form of oppression. When dealing with Natives, the white man simply reversed the process. Since they were forced to deal and interact with Natives their only option was to force the Natives into becoming the white man. Native communities were forced to assimilate with the intent of becoming like the white man from language to customs. In conclusion, as Deloria explains it, “The white man forbade the black to enter his own social and economic system and at the same time force-fed the Indian what he was denying the black” (Deloria, 173).

Both African Americans and Natives have a different history which today explains the treatment of each group. African Americans who were once considered draft animals were first slaves which clearly or at least in the eyes of the white man, diminished their value as an individual. Deloria includes that the only way for African Americans to be respected was to become non-black. Non-whites have always been labeled with relation to their function within American society. On the other hand, Natives were considered wild-animals who were constantly a danger to the civilizing ways of the whites. The main reason why Natives were treated differently from African Americans had to do with land ownership. Natives have always been landowners. When the settlers arrived, they realized the land was already being occupied. Throughout history, whites have always tried to acquire land, especially from Natives. All Natives have today is their reservations and today the white man simply communicates and deals with Natives in hopes of completely taking over their land and resources someday.

Since African Americans were always excluded, they used the Civil Rights Movement especially to fight their way into society. Their main goal was to be included in the white man’s society. The Civil Rights Movement’s biggest accomplishment was integrating the thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen amendments into the Constitution which was intended to give African American rights through means of citizenship. African Americans as Deloria explains, have constantly tried to be like the white man although, the white man has never viewed African Americans as equal. Since Natives have been forced to become like the white man, they wanted completely the opposite from African Americans. They wanted and want to speak their native tongues, dress in their traditional clothing, and continue practicing their traditions. Deloria believed the only way to be powerful is to be true to their identity and fight for such identity. In 1954 the National Congress of American Indians worked hard to force a change within the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Deloria does an excellent job comparing and contrasting the needs of both African Americans and Natives. Since each group suffered different forms of oppression, they cannot be generalized into one single group. What may seem like a good solution for one group might not affect the other group in any way. The only similarity between all minority groups is their enemy. The white man will always oppress minority groups due to his fear of the unknown.  

29 April 2022
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