We get it that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer was trying to discuss the importance of children learning both American and Native American history, but come on, governor, that was really no way to represent Montana!
Speaking at the Ohio Democratic Convention recently, Schweitzer put it this way: “All over Montana, you can walk into a bar, a cafe, or even a school or a courthouse and just listen for a while as people talk to each other, and you will hear somebody, before very long, say something outrageously racist about the people who have lived in Montana for 10,000 years.”
While a person certainly can have an experience like that in Montana, he or she also could spend all day and night in a bar or cafe and hear no such things.
There is no denying there are racists in Montana, as there are in every other state. But Schweitzer misrepresented the state as a place that is swarming with rednecks that are spewing outrageously racist remarks everywhere.
That’s just not the case.
Schweitzer was using his remarks about Montana racism to make a point about his support for the laudable Indian Education For All law. He suggested that law would make younger Montanans more open to diversity education and less inclined to develop the bias Schweitzer described in their elders.
He could have done that, however, without tarring a majority of good Montanans. It was a play to an Ohio audience that now probably perceives Montanans in a bad light.
Even worse, perpetuating the everybody’s-a-bigot stereotype sends a message to wingnuts everywhere that Montana is a place where they are welcome, when actually they are not.
It’s part of the governor’s job to promote Montana and its people in a positive light. In this case, Schweitzer didn’t do us right.