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American Indian And Urban Youth Share Cultural Oppression

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

Emdin (2016), draws parallels between indigenous populations and urban youth, especially those who identify as the Hip-Hop generation. Despite the explicit connection that indigenous populations have specific territories and natural surroundings, there are connections that can be made between indigenous populations and urban youth. More obvious connections revolve around how urban youth, similar to indigenous populations, are traditionally known to construct knowledge differently (Moje et. al., 2004), they follow and identify as part of a different culture (Hip-Hop) than the dominant groups, they communicate with one another differently than dominant groups. and they follow a different set of beliefs than the dominant group. Most importantly, in recognizing urban youth who identify as the Hip-Hop generation as neo-indigenous, we must consider how urban youth have suffered from oppression and been marginalized as a result of decisions made by the dominant group.


Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) text Decolonizing Methodologies, she suggests that research and scholars have traditionally favored imperialistic ways of knowing developed primarily by Westerners. In other words, those in power, those who have colonized and marginalized other groups of people, have privileged their ways of knowing and constructing knowledge. Privileging the dominant group's ways of knowing promotes a lack of consideration as it relates to marginalized groups’ ways of knowing and constructing knowledge, which is argued may be different, especially if the dominant group and marginalized group do not follow the same culture or belief system.


Smith (1999) posits that proving the validity of indigenous knowledge, including “that indigenous peoples have ways of viewing the world which is unique,” is not the only challenge indigenous populations face, but also proving the authenticity and control over those forms of knowledge (p. 104). In Decolonizing Methodologies, Smith (1999) discusses the notion of ‘Trading the Other,’ as it relates to indigenous populations and Western Civilization. She explains that when ‘Trading the Other’ the dominant group trades nothing with the less dominant group (marginalized) in exchange for their knowledge, culture, materials, and spiritual perspectives to fuel their commercial enterprises. Smith recognizes the fact that trade normally occurs between two parties who exchange things of value, but when ‘Trading the Other’ only the dominant party of the two benefits, leaving the non-dominant group further oppressed with without control over sacred cultural practices. Smith (1990) writes, “‘Trading the Other’ is a vast industry based on the positional superiority and advantages gained under imperialism” (p. 89).


The Hip-Hop generation also falls victim to ‘Trading the Other,’ similar to indigenous populations. Record labels and media outlets commodify and profit off of the realities of urban communities by encouraging Hip-Hop artists to create music that promotes violence and misogyny. The media hyper-exposes the negative realities of urban communities as “television news programs and newspapers over-represents racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims” (Blow, 2014). Hip-Hop, a culture that began as a social justice movement and a tool to bring individuals from urban communities together to celebrate commonalities, is now a ten-billion-dollar industry (Watson, 2016). Of the 45 million consumers of Hip-Hop, 80 percent are White and the total group has over one trillion dollars in spending power (Watson, 2016). Through this ‘Trading of the Other,’ the dominant group continues to oppress the Hip-Hop generation inadvertently and maintains their powerlessness in relation to their image and how they are perceived by society.


IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your students and staff members gain an understanding of one’s sense of self and what they deeply value. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Adults can also be trained in anti-bullying strategies and techniques to build an inclusive climate. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment.


To learn how you can create a safe and dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at www.iinii.org, or contact us at iinii@iinii.orgor 1800-507-2502.


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