MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ivanka Trump and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visited a Minneapolis suburb on Monday to open an office dedicated to investigating cold cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous peoples.
The new office in Bloomington is part of the Operation Lady Justice Task Force created via executive order by President Donald Trump in November to address violence against Native Americans, particularly women and girls, which advocates say are often overlooked by law enforcement across the country. The task force, co-chaired by Bernhardt and U.S. Attorney General William Barr, aims to develop protocols for law enforcement to respond to missing and slain Native American persons cases and to improve data and information collection.
“Since his earliest days in office, President Trump has fought for the forgotten men and women of this country,'' Ivanka Trump said. “Today is another fulfillment of that promise as this new office will work to ensure that the challenges American Indians and Alaskan Natives face do not go unseen or unresolved.''
Of the more than 1,400 currently unresolved American Indian and Alaskan Native missing person cases nationwide, 136 are in Minnesota, according to the FBI's National Crime Information Center.
The office will be led by a special agent-in-charge from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, and will coordinate efforts by local, federal and tribal law enforcement personnel to solve cold cases. It's the first of seven that will be opened across the country in coming weeks, including in Phoenix, Nashville, Tennessee and Anchorage, Alaska.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside of the new office, waving an American Indian Movement flag and carrying signs that read “Trusting Trump (equals) Death'' and “No More Stolen Sisters.'' State Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein, who is of Standing Rock Lakota descent, joined protesters outside the new office.
“Our women are not photo opportunities,'' she told protesters. “Our women are not for show.''
Minnesota lawmakers established a state Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls task force last year of elected officials, law enforcement and tribal representatives to make recommendations for the Legislature. Minnesota Democrats said Monday the creation of the federal office is politically motivated and disingenuous, citing an attempt by the Trump administration to deny tribal nations COVID-19 relief funding.
Kunesh-Podein, a co-chair and author of the bill that established the state task force, said the Trump administration didn't reach out to the task force or other Native American state officials before the visit Monday, and that she only learned of the cold case office after it was announced. The new office evokes “historic trauma'' carried by Indigenous peoples of the federal government “setting things up and putting things in order for the good of the Indian people without taking into consideration their viewpoints, their wants and their needs,'' she said.
“It sort of has the feeling of a pop-up department from the federal government, and without knowing exactly what it is about, it just feels very inauthentic,'' she said.
Ivanka Trump did not take questions at the office opening. Bernhardt said state officials weren't invited due to the small size of the venue and the focus on federal efforts, though he said they are open to working with the state task force. He referred questions of lack of support by Native American communities to the Trump campaign.
Earlier this month, Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington state sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging two pieces of legislation to address the violence against Indigenous women be considered by the House before its August recess. The two bills — Savanna's Act and the Not Invisible Act — passed unanimously in the House judiciary committee in March.
NEW YORK (AP) — After repeatedly being denied service by high-end salons because her hair was perceived as “too difficult'' to style, Kanessa Alexander took an unusual step. She opened a shop of her own in a predominantly white Boston neighborhood with four Black stylists serving all hair textures.
“I wanted to be someplace where we existed but were not represented,'' the African American cosmetologist said of her decision five years ago to set up Perfect 10 in West Roxbury, near where she grew up. “So many salons were just seeing a Black person.''
As a racial reckoning unfolds around the globe, Alexander and more than a dozen other people of color in the beauty industry trace such bias and discrimination in mostly white salons to the sidelining of formal education on tightly curled, coiled or kinky hair.
The lack of experience, or interest, is particularly acute when it comes to hair worn naturally, a growing trend among African American women who want to celebrate both personal identity and Black culture.
“They didn't learn Black hair. They've been taught Black hair is difficult,'' Alexander said. “Nobody will come in here and hear that their hair is too difficult.''
About 25 miles from Alexander's salon, in mostly white Westborough, Massachusetts, Damalyn Matthews knows the struggle firsthand. Matthews, who is white and Native American, has three children with her African American husband. She recently sent her two oldest, ages 7 and 5, to her regular salon, a Supercuts, with her 21-year-old niece, who is white.
A white stylist grumbled that the children's race should have been disclosed when the appointments were made because: “We don't cut Black people's hair here,'' Matthews said. While service wasn't denied, the remark and others like it made by the stylist led to her termination and an apology from the salon.
Such stories are not uncommon, from outright refusals to botched treatments and cuts by stylists who don't know what they're doing but are reluctant to say so, fearing legal retribution or out of embarrassment or guilt.
Some cosmetology schools include educators with experience on a range of textured hair, but students said highly textured hair is often barely mentioned during training. Mannequins of color are not routine.
Kayla Naclerio, 23, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is enrolled in beauty school near her home. She plans to graduate in September.
“They don't really tend to teach ethnic hair,'' said Naclerio, who is white. “I would like to learn how to do Black hair. I don't really see why there seems to be such a big lack of education on Black hair.”’
Naclerio found her own mannequin of color to supplement her education.
Serving Black people in the beauty business has become increasingly lucrative. In 2018, the Black hair care industry raked in an estimated $2.51 billion as Black consumers have progressively made the switch from general products to those that cater specifically to them. Black women spend nine times more on ethnic-targeted beauty and grooming products than the average for all consumers in the hair sector, according to Nielsen.
Kari Williams in Los Angeles has a seat on the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which administers exams and licenses in the state. She said most beauty schools focus on salon safety and sanitation, and the use of heat styling tools and chemicals for straightening, coloring, perming and relaxing.
“When you have a stylist going through 1,100 hours of training, when it comes to Black hair, they're learning how to destroy Black hair,'' Williams said.
In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 30-year-old Britany Bain graduated in 2014 from Aveda Institute South Florida, one of more than 60 independently owned and run Aveda schools in the U.S. considered among the top in the industry.
“The education for textured hair was just completely zero,'' said Bain, who is Black. “Whenever we touched on textured hair as a topic, it was just like how to straighten it. I had come from the natural hair world. It got to the point where I was saying, ‘No, we need to use this, or can I bring this in?'''
Kevin Molin, vice president of Aveda Global Education for Aveda Corp., said the company released educational curricula that focused on the care and styling of curly and coily hair in 2012, and will be expanding that effort next month “to create an Aveda experience that is fully inclusive.''
Students at Paul Mitchell Schools, another top name in cosmetology education, have made similar complaints. The schools, most also independently owned, recently announced initiatives aimed at including “all hair types as standard learning, not specialized.''
Paul Mitchell brand ambassador John Mosley, a Black barber in Dallas, said the company “is definitely making rapid changes to be able to instruct on more'' kinds of hair.