Eye on KELOLAND: Breaking stereotypes


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Right now on social media, many Black people are sharing stories of the discrimination they’ve faced throughout their lives. Many people have been rallying behind them as allies to the Black Lives Matter Movement. South Dakota is a predominately white state, so people of color are often seen as different from a young age.

Stereotypes can be painful and insulting.

“I’m not a drug dealer,” Soleil Bashale from Sioux Falls said.

“I am not savage,” Tristan Chasing Hawk who lives in Sioux Falls said.

“I don’t think being a Native American is a burden at all,” Shondey Nguyen from Sioux Falls said.

“I don’t hate white people,” Bashale said.

The United States Census Bureau estimates that as of July 1, 2019, 2.3-percent of South Dakota’s population identified as Black or African American.

“My grandmother was white, my mother is a light-skinned woman. My dad is African. My grandfather on my mom’s side is also Black. So it’s like, I had a very integrated family. So, I’ve just seen people,” Bashale said.

9-percent of South Dakota’s population is estimated to identify as American Indian and Alaska Native.

“I remember specifically about probably the 4th grade, I want to say, was about the first time that I shared with my classmates my Native American culture. It was just something simple. It was my Native American name, I suppose, which people kind of joke about, but it was really special to me. So I wrote it on the board when everybody went to lunch. Then I remember when they came back it kind of became a joke almost. I learned really quickly really just to not share that kind of information anymore,” Chasing Hawk said.

2.5-percent of the state’s population is estimated to identify as two or more races.

“My father is Vietnamese. He came from Vietnam when he was around 18 years old. My mother actually grew up on the other side of the state on a reservation. So I’m half Vietnamese and half Native American,” Nguyen said.

Soleil Bashale has felt what it’s like to be racially profiled.

“I was arrested with my friend when I was 18. They brought us in, same charges and everything, two different sentences. My friend, who is a Caucasian male, I hung out with him earlier this week, I love this guy. He got a diversion program, a fine, like a slap on the wrist. I was offered five years in prison for the same thing. I also was denied my Miranda Rights. So when I tried to bring it up to the judge, he didn’t even look at me in the face, he just kept talking over me,” Bashale said.

Tristan Chasing Hawk says he has seen the biases placed on Native Americans because of movies and television shows.

“Even though in South Dakota, where we live close to Native Americans because of reservations, because of high populations and things like that, I don’t know if that necessarily is a benefit for people if they’re not willing to interact with those communities. So, instead, what’s happening is they’re getting bias perceptions and then applying these bias perceptions without really updating them, if that makes sense,” Chasing Hawk said.

Shondey Nyugen has heard the differing opinions of her ethnicities.

“It’s interesting because Asians are looked at as like the model minority, quote on quote, and Native Americans are not. Along with a lot of other races in America. There have been some times where I’ve experienced people saying that my Native side is kind of a burden to me just because I’m half Asian,” Nguyen said.

Despite the stereotypes, Bashale, Chasing Hawk and Nyugen have learned to accept themselves and be proud of who they are.

“I make music, I DJ weddings. I love DJing weddings, even if I’m the only Black guy in the room. I’ve grown an appreciation for country music. Not all the way, you know what I’m saying. I love Sioux Falls community, I ride my bike everywhere. I love talking to people,” Bashale said.

“Regardless of if I’m on a reservation or in an urban setting or in a school setting, I exist in the modern world and I am here. I am idol no more,” Chasing Hawk said.

“I am proudly Vietnamese and Native American. I take pride in both those cultures and educate myself about both those cultures,” Nguyen said.

Bashale, Chasing Hawk and Nguyen also shared their views on the Black Lives Matter movement and the importance of intersectionality in the world right now.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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