And Justice for All: Not in Rapid City


Excellence in EducationCommentary

We waited in anticipation for three and half weeks to find out what would happen to the perpetrator(s) who sprayed beer down on a group of 57 well-behaved students from the American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

We waited because we were told by law enforcement to wait.

It seems American Indians are always told to wait.

The wait is now over and we have heard that one man, Trace O’Connell, 41, will be charged with disorderly conduct. O’Connell is from Philip, South Dakota. You can call him if you want to play softball in Philip. A phone number is listed for O’Connell on the Philip, South Dakota’s website in the Recreational Activities section.

As an American Indian, I would not want to play softball with him or any non-Native from Philips — or Rapid City for that matter. They may think it fair-game to spew out words of hatred to me once they discovered I am an American Indian. They may tell me to “go back to the reservation” – even though I don’t live on a reservation.

Or just for the fun of it, they may think is okay to throw a cold one on me. I don’t beer and don’t even like the smell of it. Nor do the 57 students who went home smelling of beer.

Now that the wait is over, we know there is no “and justice for all” in Rapid City.

Someone, who is half-Lakota and half-Navajo, told me last week she has traveled to many places across America, but has never experienced racism anywhere as she does in Rapid City. Upon hearing her words, I believed her and did not even ask her to elaborate because I hear the same thing over and over again.

I hear also Rapid City likes the money American Indians bring into its businesses, but Rapid City citizens don’t like Indians. I hear that over and over…and I live in Michigan.

Wednesday’s charge against O’Connell is nothing short of a slap on the wrist for what he did to innocent American Indian students – who were at the game as a reward for academic achievements. The disorderly charge is nothing short of an insult to the students, their parents and, furthermore, to American Indians everywhere.

One can only imagine what would have happened if the circumstances were reversed. If there was a group of American Indians up in a corporate suite drinking and getting drunk. Then, one, two or three American Indians started spraying beer on some Caucasian students. Reality tells me the American Indians would have left the sports arena in handcuffs and ended up in jail.

Three and half weeks later, a warrant was issued for Trace O’Connell.

A court official told me Wednesday afternoon she did not know when he would be arrested and arraigned on the misdemeanor. He is free to spew more hate and spray more beer on others as he pleases.

Then again, he is not an American Indian.

Then again, it happened in Rapid City where there is no justice for all.



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