Openness and saving lives

Wren Brown- Wrenbe Section-41 Journey log# 2 The Ranger

This past week we discussed a reading called “Superman and Me”, which talked largely about how Native Americans on reservations viewed education and their lives in general. I’ve read this piece many times in school, but my analyses have always been fairly shallow even though I have always agreed that it is a good piece. This time I realized number of things about what this piece meant. One thing I discovered this year is another meaning to the phrase “I am trying to save our lives,” I always assumed this was a somewhat metaphorical metaphor about the quality of life in the reservations, but this time I realized that it also meant literally. I had no idea that on these reservations that there is a higher level of suicide, though I suppose based on the hopelessness that Alexi described it should have been a logical assumption. I decided to gather some more information on this, and I didn’t like what I found…mostly in the form of striking statistics. An article in the Huffington Post about the rate of suicide for Native American youth cites that depending on the tribe the suicide rate can vary from three to ten times the national average of youth suicides (Almendrala). 2009 census data cited by the Center for Native American Youth says that the suicide rates are were more than double than the general public, and that Native teens experience the highest rate of suicide of any other ethnic group in the United States (The Aspen Institute). Another thing that hurts about these statistics is that they only account for the successful suicides, not the attempts. Native American teens double the national drop-out average, only 49.3 percent of Natives graduate high school. The deaths in general or native adolescents are two to five times the rate of white Americans (The Aspen Institute). So when Alexi talks about trying hard to break down the closed doors in the minds of these children, he really is trying to save their lives and trying to open their minds to the possibility that their lives are worth living, and that their minds are worth using.

The stereotype that Native Americans are unintelligent and not worth thinking about is fostered throughout America, especially within the reservations. Life in a reservation could seem hopeless to someone who has never left and is constantly told that no one outside cares about them, hopeless in a place where non-natives are not held accountable (unless they can get an outside reservations case started which is unlikely) for the things they do on the reservations including domestic violence, the abuse of children (children which are twice as likely to face abuse), bullying, as well as sexual abuse (Almendrala). Though I personally have never thought worse of someone because of the color of the skin or where they live, I could count the times that I have actually stopped to think about the Native American community on one hand. Not thinking about these people is something I’m guilty of and I am certainly not the only one who is. This lack of thought is just as condemning to the youth in the reservations as negative stereotyping is. Alexi is not just breaking down the doors in the mind of the youth to get them to think, he is breaking down the doors of the people reading his piece and reminding them that they need to remain open to the hardships of others, and especially to remember the hardships pushed on others by the people around them.

Research has been done on the role of openness to prejudice and stereotyping. Openness is found to be inversely related to prejudice and stereotyping tendencies, as in the more open you are to new experiences the less likely you are to engage in prejudice behaviors (Flynn; Palmer). Openness is one of the habits of mind and is defined as ‘the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world’ in class, this lack of openness in the minds of Native Americans seems to cause them to stereotype their peers and themselves, restricting them from their potential. It is hard to open the minds of people whose minds are trained to stay closed, this is proved all throughout America by the striking and persistent racism that we face from each other. Today is an important time, a time where openness is essential to moving forward, for the sakes of the young people in Native American Reservations and for the sake of all of the young people today who are still learning what is right and wrong. Openness is essential to saving the lives and minds of the generations after ours. If we can teach the children in native American reservations to open their minds, maybe we could save all of our lives. Openness to others and new experiences will save the minds of the children of all races and ethnicity, negative stereotyping effects more than just the Native Americans, and it is important to remember that no one is their ethnic stereotype.

Monsters can be anything, even something as simple as the impact created by a closed mind.

Citations

Almendrala, Anna. “Native American Youth Suicide Rates Are At Crisis Levels” The Huffington Post 19 Dec 2016.

Aspen Institute, The. “Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country”

Flynn, Francis J. “Having an Open Mind: The Impact of Openness to Experience on Interracial Attitudes and Impression Formation.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 88(5), May 2005, 816-826. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.88.5.816

Palmer, Carl L. “The Prejudiced Personality? Using the Big Five to Predict Susceptibility to Stereotyping Behavior” Illinois State University - Department of Politics and Government. (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2455759

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Mary Brown
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