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2017-08-10 / Voices

White Fragility Is Humorous When On Full Display

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
EDITOR • LAKOTA COUNTRY TIMES

Living in western South Dakota has forced me to learn to deal with the seemingly constant presence of covert and overt racist acts in this area. While it still bothers me that these things take place, my skin has thickened, and I have learned to address within myself, prior to lashing out.

Many people do not know what it is like to have their historical narratives challenged. Much of what every day Americans have come to believe about the settling of the United States is based in a Romanized recreation of historical truths. Both Native academics and progressive western educated social scientists have challenged the official narrative but it has not been accepted by the mainstream. This denial of what has occurred during this country’s short history, unfortunately, set up the local population for a bit of a shock when a billboard was erected challenging their very claims to the ground they walk on.

Last week, a billboard for the TV show called “Adam Ruins Everything” was erected on Highway 16 in Rapid City that reads, “Only 20 miles until Mount Rushmore, it was built on stolen Native American land.” Personally, I found the marketing strategy behind the promotion to be genius. What better way to promote your product than to have thousands of people sharing a picture of your billboard out of spite.

When speaking about the new show, creator Adam Conover, explained the concept behind the series.

“We’re doing one this year ‘Adam Ruins Science,’ that is gonna be towards the end of our season, and I knew I wanted to do one about science form the first year, about why science isn’t perfect. And how science sometimes make mistakes. I think that’s interesting. And in my head, that’s not a knock-on science. It’s just the facts and the things that we misunderstand about science,” said Conover.

“We have the history of Mount Rushmore, that’s got a really rich history. And we wanted to do this thing about how slot machines are addictive and are designed to be addictive. And then we wanted to do something about the history of Hawaii, because Hawaii has a weird and fucked up history that almost nobody knows. And we go, ‘Oh, Adam could be on vacation, from Mount Rushmore to Vegas to Hawaii.’ So that’s how we arrived at that one. Just sort of see what we can circle,” added Conover.

The comical side of the entire ordeal was that so many people in the area found the message (that is historically accurate) to be offensive.

For Native people in western South Dakota we have had to learn to endure so many offensive and insensitive propaganda from everyone including the mayor of Rapid City, state and local governments, as well as just common folk it is ironically humorous that, for once, those doing the offending --are finally upset.

I struggled to figure why people were so mad about the wording of this billboard. I eventually concluded that the lies that many in this area have used to justify the continued oppression of Native people on many levels by both individuals and governmental institutions. Is this the manifestation of “white guilt”? Does this billboard challenge the identity of non- Native residents?

While there is nothing to be done about the reality that many people were angered by the billboard. Let’s hope they also find the time to ask why they were offended.

Adam Ruins Everything continues with Season 2, which airs on truTV on Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET.

*Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation who received his education from Dartmouth College.

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