Saturday, August 15, 2009

Native man wants to forgive attackers in hate crime against him

Reporters interviewed Eddie Barr, the victim of the hate crime captured on video and posted on YouTube. What is amazing about this guy is his total willingness to forgive, despite the fear he has now, and the fact that even during the attack, he was only trying to be a nice guy, and then trying to ask them to stop.

From the KTUU interview:

"I smile a lot you know," Barr said. "People I see, even people I don't know. I smile you know, but when they started throwing things at me for no reason that gets scary. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen to me."

..."You know I pray for them, though," Barr said. "I'm hoping they'll change their attitudes. I'm hoping when they get older you know they'll forgive me. Maybe I'll forgive them. I already forgive them already."


The Anchorage Daily News has more of a specific play-by-play of what happened. I don't mind telling you that just reading it, I was struggling between disgust, sorrow, and fear.

According to charging documents, Gum and Powers, both white, spewed venom at their victim as they pelted him with bottles and eggs, mocking a Native accent and saying "I want my Monarch (vodka)," while the target of their fury meekly tried to walk away, according to charges filed in court Friday...

The victim stood there, extended a handshake and said, "Please don't bother me."

Gum replied, "If you touch my sister, I will cut you," the charges say. Powers pushed the man again, and, at Gum's direction, kicked the man in the behind. After Gum threatened to kick him in the head, the man protested that he wasn't dumb.

"You are dumb," Powers said, according to the charges. "You're a f-----g Native."


I was eating dinner with a couple of friends last night, and neither had heard about this incident yet. One was Native, one non-Native, and the reactions were interesting when I was telling them about it. The non-Native friend was shocked, and disgusted. The Native friend made a face, gave a sigh, and ate her food in silence.

Not that this is indicative of everyone, but I don't think there's any Native person I've talked to yet that's been shocked. Most seem to think it's disgusting, but inevitable. Although the stories report the "past incidents" of this as being in 2001 and before, I know these are only the "incidents" that have been caught. What the reports don't mention is that most of those attacks, this one included, were only caught because the idiots committing the crime videotaped the attacks. I gaurantee that for every incident on tape, there are hundreds of incidents committed with the victims remaining silent.

I've had racially charged hate spewed at me in this city, without provocation, more than once (I think this is the only incident I've talked about on the blog), and downtown is probably the most unsafe place to be Native in Anchorage, at least in regards to outspoken, public racism. And no - not in a single case was I drunk, homeless or even speaking my mind, three states in which, many times, people seem to think that a Native person must have been "asking for it," and the crime, while regrettable, is understandable.

Anecdotally, I know this kind of thing happens much, much more than is reported. I am not speaking of racially charged crimes in which there is provocation - groups revenging on groups, or people abusing each other. I'm speaking of people who are literally walking down the street, shopping at a mall, sitting down to eat that are attacked, both verbally and physically because of their race. Although I'm sure this happens to many races, the dozens of examples I have are from Native friends and acquaintances in this city, and my own experiences. The things these people were yelling at Barr are disgusting - but I can't tell you a single one I haven't heard myself.

I went on a walk today, and I've got to tell you this was on my mind. This is the first long walk I've gone on alone in quite a while, and I hated the fact that when a car slowed down near me, I turned my face, so maybe they wouldn't see I was Native. I am normally pretty proud of my heritage, and family might be able to tell you I can adventure in strange cities alone with great (probably reckless) abandon, and not think about my own safety (yes, I am VERY unwise this way). So why is it when I walk down a street alone in Anchorage, I don't want people to see my heritage because I don't want a paintball shot at me?

I feel discouraged today, because this seems to be the same old thing, and so many don't even see it as a widespread problem.

Video of interview with the victim, Eddie Barr:


15 comments:

Mae said...

Afternoon sister!

Oh, I so hear ya on the long walk, alone. I too made the venture extra long today.

I chose a trail least traveled. Didn't want to be brothered. Didn't want to be approached. Didn't really want to hear about those two f&)/ed up, messed up, screwed up haters of my brothers and sisters. Mr Barr is gonna be okay. I know he has a strong uncle and post rehab, will make the trek to see him, up north.

Peace inside sister. Turning your head just means you didn't want to be brothered. Because of all of the above. My auntie looks to the sky for birds. I just look away and let my thoughts heal themselves. Peace sister peace...

Anonymous said...

This type of behavior is disgusting. If it is happening with the frequency that it appears to be (from reading this blog) it should be exposed nationally. How sad. I live in Georgia. I am African American. I can tell you all about racism. But here, no one would dare do those things downtown or in public, probably in rural areas. Either way, it shows ignorance and insecurity on the side of those who would commit such acts. After all, the native Alaskans were there first before any white man ever step foot in Alaska. Again, how sad. Please stay strong and keep blogging and getting the news out there. The more it is exposed, they will have to stop. Surprised that the Alaskan media doesn't publish news about this, but then, it is owned by white people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this interview and view into the wonderful soul of Eddie Barr. This story both turns my stomach and breaks my heart. I can't understand all the hate and how it is allowed. I found you from Gryphen's site.

The fact that he is willing to forgive his attackers who don't have a compassionate bone in their body is heartening. I hope those boys are remorseful and will leårn a lesson from this.

My heart goes out to this man and anyone else who has been a victim of hate. It just should not be tolerated and the parents of these boys should be ashamed and bear the blame.

Aleut Granddaughter said...

Raven, ditto on all the above. I noticed right away that you had a post on this after I learned what happened (not the details, just headlines). I turned my face away from reading your post, because it felt like it would be too hard to read about it from your perspective.

But I came back, and read, and enjoyed being here very much even though it is still painful. The beauty of generosity and higher purpose brightly shines through both you and Eddie Barr.

Out of the ashes...

Aleut Granddaughter said...

Mae - would it be appropriate for you to give Raven Mr. Barr's mailing address, not publicly but via email, so that I may write him a card? I want to thank him for being such an inspiration to me, and for being such a fine human being. If not, that's OK but I know my heart would lighten by telling him how I feel.

Anonymous said...

It's sad that in this day and age there is any racism. As a native american, Ojibwe, my personal experiences have been few and far between, and that may just be that I am bi-racial and and that though I carry many of my mothers features my coloring is much lighter like my scandinavian father. I found though when I moved south 3 years ago it has been worse. While there is racism everywhere, I look forward to a move back north when my son is out of the service. We had picked up and moved our lives and business when my son was "backdoor drafted" and my DIL had a preemie and needed help and we are still here while she is in college. My hope for the future is that it will fade with each generation, but it is so disheartening to read that this man was attacked by such young people, and sadder that they were raised to hate someone for no reason. Will it ever really end...I don't know and I don't think anyone has that answer.

Anonymous said...

This story saddens me so much. Who are these young people who think they are entitled to treat others this way. Here on the east coast it happens to the homeless most often. For this gentleman to pray for the forgiveness of his attackers made be cry. Bless him.

Curiouser said...

Eddie Barr's actions, words and heart are inspirational. I am grieved that racism still exists and, apparently, is promoted in some places. Thank you for writing this story.

Bill Hess said...

Sad that you feel you must turn your head when you walk in certain parts of Anchorage. Even if there are bigots around, I really hope that you will always walk with your head held high - and yet, if you fear the possibility of physical violence, who can blame you?

And that makes what these cowards have done all the more despicable. They have terrorized not only the man whom they attacked, but so many others.

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Elizabeth said...

I love Mr. Barr.

CAPPAVELLIE said...

kill every damn racist white man, meaning any white man who hates Indians or others that don't look like him or want to be him. if a white man who is not racist, then we can get along but with racists there is only death in their future

CAPPAVELLIE said...

the bible also says that we can ask the Lord to avenge us against those who have wronged us. reward them O Lord according to their works against us. that should be every NDN's prayer against racist rednecks

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Elizabeth said...

As a life-long Alaskan, this story does not surprise me. For some reason, racism towards Native Alaskans seems to be tolerated even when racism towards other groups is not.

Bless you, Mr. Barr, and I wish you well on your journey to recovery. You have shown us the best of humanity, even when you were faced with the worst.

Peace.

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