On September 7, South Dakota Representative Lynne DiSanto, the Republican whip in the state legislature, re-tweeted a meme promoting running down protestors with cars. Mainstream media quickly drew parallels to the murder of a white activist in Charlottesville by the same means. Liberals demanded an apology. Her job fired her (she sold real estate in the Black Hills!). And fellow Republicans minimized it. Let me maximize it by providing a little context.
Running down Native Americans with cars is a thing. Here’s a summary from just the last year:
- October 2016, Reno, Nevada. A 59-year-old woman was severely injured during a Columbus Day protest when a young white male, shouting race-based expletives, drove over her.
- December, 2016, Standing Rock, North Dakota. There were several incidences, some reported by Digital Smoke Signals on Facebook Live, of young white males using trucks and snow mobiles to drive journalists and others off the road at night in sub-zero conditions.
- January 2017, North Dakota. Republicans in the state legislature introduced a bill, inspired by the Standing Rock conflict, that would legally protect drivers who “unintentionally” injure or kill protestors. The bill failed 51-40.
- May 2017, Grays Harbor County, Washington. A 20-year-old Quinault father was killed when a young white male, shouting race-based expletives, ran over him.
In Thunder Bay, Canada, a 34-year-old mother recently died after being struck by a trailer hitch thrown at her from a passing car. First Nations people in the area report that beer bottles and other objects are commonly thrown at them from vehicles, usually accompanied by racial slurs.
Living in South Dakota, DiSanto would have been familiar with some of these incidences. This region is sometimes called the “Deep North”, a parallel to the Deep South, but with its racial animosity targeting Natives. As a legislator, she no doubt followed the North Dakota proposal that would provide legal cover for drivers. Taken together, her meme was nothing more than a call to race-based murder. It represents an alarming contribution, by an elected official, to the increase in the use of violence, both by masked white supremacists and official red state authorities, to put down Natives and other people of color who raise their voices. She will face no charges for inciting violence.