Stereotyping a class of people is a time-honored tradition, a tradition that can stigmatize an entire community in a manner
they do not deserve.
Because of casinos on reservations, Native Americans are often viewed as gamblers.
Indians as gamblers was not the intent of Congress when they authorized tribal governments to establish casinos on their reservations.
The media labeled reservation gambling as the "New Buffalo" that would help uplift them from poverty by providing
employment for their members.
When the media discusses gambling, they almost always include reservation gambling,
which implies that Indians are gamblers.
According to Mark Trahant, "gambling is not an Indian trend but an
American one." Trahant was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Conference conducted on January 13, at the Heiner
The event was sponsored by the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trahant quoted the Economist Magazine by saying, "America's love of gambling exceeds that of all who watch baseball,
football, hockey, basketball and play golf combined. In 1995, for example, 177 million people took part in the sports mentioned
above, while 154 million walked thru the doors of casinos. That number does not include casual gambling or lotteries, just
Trahant also noted in his speech that reservation gaming represents only six percent of American gambling.
Trahant focused on the impact of stereotyping. He pointed out how stereotyping can harm a community when they are
depicted in a degrading manner, such as being gamblers.
It may color a person's view of someone, who is different,
before they have met. Many people who repeat ethnic jokes do not realize that they are harming the members of those groups
by reinforcing stereotypes.
In his speech, entitled "Diversity: a Context for Journalism," Trahant talked
about the demographic changes that America is undergoing. The populations of nearly all other cultures are growing faster
than the white culture. He said, in the coming decades no one culture will be in the majority.
We are all different
from each other, he said, each culture is different from all other cultures. Respecting cultural differences will become a
necessary tool for success as we become a more diverse nation. Stereotyping of other cultures must end if we are to succeed
in forming a multicultural democracy.
Sheila L Richardson