Todd Palin no poster boy for Yup’ik Eskimos or other Native Alaskans

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 9/9/2008, 7:28 a.m.

The criminal justice system disparities are a double-edged sword for Native Alaskans. While they are far more likely to be incarcerated than whites, they are also far more likely than whites to suffer rape, domestic violence and homicide. Native Alaskans bitterly complain of laxity by the police and courts in finding and punishing those who victimize Native Alaskans. Many homicides of Native Alaskans have remained unsolved.

The violence rate against Native Alaskans is so high that some violence prevention experts say certain offenses against Native Alaskans could be tagged as hate crimes. Alaska state legislators for a brief time toyed with the idea of enacting a hate crimes law with greater sentencing enhancements. That went nowhere. Even if the legislature had acted, Gov. Palin gave a strong hint as to its likely fate if it landed on her desk: During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, she told the Eagle Forum that she opposed expanded hate crime legislation, branding all heinous crimes as hate crimes.

State Equal Rights Commission officials have complained that the legislature gutted the commission’s budget and cut staff. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Despite the well-documented, widespread discrimination against and disparities affecting Native Alaskans, there is no public record that Sarah Palin has gone to bat for increased funding for the commission.

In its report on the plight of Native Alaskans, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission called for massive increases in spending on job and skills training, as well as programs to boost employment, improve education and public services, for the affected group. The commission also called for sweeping reforms in the criminal justice and health care systems. The recommendations were made four years before Palin took office. Other than a brief mention of diversity in her gubernatorial campaign speech in 2006, there is no evidence that Palin has said or done anything about the commission’s recommendations.

If she had, it would have put a beam on the faces of thousands of Yup’ik Eskimos who aren’t named Todd Palin.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a syndicated columnist, author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is “How the GOP Can Keep the White House, How the Democrats Can Take it Back.”