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Someone explain the humor in brutalizing Native women

  • Author: Julie Kitka
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published April 19, 2008

On April 9, one of the radio personalities on the "Woody and Wilcox" show on KBFX 100.5-FM, made brutally offensive racial remarks on the morning show. The two were bantering about what it means to be a real Alaskan. One asked the question "Have you ever made love to the Yukon River or peed in a Native woman?"

How often have you heard a sentence that is simultaneously that racist and that sexist? This was hate speech, amusing and encouraging to bigots. Some listeners were shocked; but many Natives, while sickened, thought it was all too typical of Alaska's race relations. Thankfully, we live in a country that does not put people in jail for what they say; but it is also true that we do not have to tolerate vulgar race-baiting over the public airways, which belong to all of us.

KBFX has apologized publicly, and that is to the station's credit. But have we heard any apology from the individual(s) who said it? The station said that it suspended the two shock jocks indefinitely; but "indefinitely" could mean three days. Soon enough, Woody and Wilcox will be back on the air. In a case like this, sensitivity training is what you do when you don't know what to do -- but have to appear to be doing something.

Alaska Federation of Natives' complaint is not one more wearisome example of "political correctness." Sexual violence against indigenous women in the United States is as widespread as it is vicious. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped/sexually assaulted than are other American women.

Amnesty International has noted "sexual violence against indigenous women is the result of a number of factors, including a history of widespread and egregious human rights violations against indigenous peoples in the United States. ... Indigenous women were raped by settlers and soldiers in many infamous episodes ... Such attacks were not random or individual; they were tools of conquest and colonization."

Alaska ranks No. 3 among all 50 states in terms of racial and sexual violence against Native American women; and now we can understand one part of why the numbers are so bad here. It's because many Alaskans actually like this kind of "humor" because it mirrors their own private feelings about an entire racial group -- and about women in general. The Klan has its n-word; neo-Nazi groups tell Auschwitz jokes; and here in Alaska, Woody and Wilcox think that brutalizing Native women is funny.

One can only imagine the look on the face of a young Native girl who hears that remark, when she says: "Mommy, what does that mean?" What it means, young lady, is that this man feels that you are less human than he is.

What Woody and/or Wilcox said on the radio is at least as bad as what Don Imus said about the Rutgers women's basketball team. He was fired for it.

As Alaskans, we can all do better than this.

Julie Kitka is president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.