Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sticks and Stones and Scott Brown's Words

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

Haven’t we all heard that or said that as a child? Isn’t that what our moms or teachers or other adults told us when our feelings got hurt over something someone said about us? I am wondering if somewhere along the way, we Indians have forgotten it because I see a lot of mad Indians buying into the race baiting that Elizabeth Warren supporters and the mainstream media are promoting

These people are telling us we need to be offended because Scott Brown said:

One widely publicized debate comment has become a propaganda tool for Warren and her supporters. While they try to convince us that Scott Brown is a bad person for not understanding Indian identity, they refuse to admit Warren is a fake who wrongly used an Indian identity for her own personal gain.

As a Cherokee, I understand the issues surrounding Indian identity and how some people feel if they are perceived as non-Indian when they are a tribal member. I know it hits a nerve and people get terribly upset. But, that isn’t what happened here. Scott Brown did not mistake a tribal citizen for a non-Indian. He said a white woman was not a woman of color.  He did not say anything offensive to an Indian. But the mainstream media and the Warren supporters don’t tell us that.

Remember? Sticks and stones….

One time, when speaking at an Oklahoma Historical Society event, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith, was approached by a woman who said, “You don’t look like an Indian.” He asked, “What’s an Indian supposed to look like?” He didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t make a big deal out of it to the media. He didn’t call the woman a racist. He just let it roll off his back.

When I went to Boston with some other Cherokee women, the very first comment left on the Indian Country Today article inquired about our appearance. Apparently the man wanted to see if we looked “Indian” enough to be taken seriously. We didn’t throw a fit. We didn’t make a big deal out of it to the media. We didn’t call the man a racist. We just let it roll off our backs.

Tuesday night, an Indian tweeted there were no Native Americans represented in the audience of the Presidential debate. I asked her how she could tell. Of course, it fell back to appearance. Though tweeted to a group of Indians, no one threw a fit. And no one made a big deal out of it. And no one called the woman a racist. No one really cared or noticed.

Well, no one noticed but me. I wondered why. Why do we get offended when the media tells us that we should be offended by something, but then when it happens right in front of our faces or when we do it to each other, we just let it go. Why are we allowing the media and Warren’s people to tell us what should or should not offend us. Don’t we know when we are offended without being told?

Warren and her supporters have played the race card well, very well, considering she is not an Indian. They played this so well that now, we real Indians are willing to overlook her theft of the very thing we are getting mad about - Indian identity. Heaven forbid someone say something to hurt our feelings even if the comment was not directed at us! Heaven forbid a non-Indian say another non-Indian is clearly not a Native American!  Oh my goodness! We better get offended!

Remember? Sticks and stones….

Elizabeth Warren has no Native ancestry. Her genealogy has been done. There is not an Indian to be found anywhere in her direct ancestral lines. I know some people misunderstand Indian identity, but since Indians themselves say the same types of things Scott Brown said and make the same types of mistakes, I think it is wrong for us to get upset with him. After all, we should know better due to our upbringing. Brown does not have that insight. And he can learn from his mistakes.

Elizabeth Warren does not learn from her mistakes. She has had ample opportunity to take ownership of her misunderstanding of tribal citizenship and Indian identity but she refuses to do so. She also continues to marginalize Indians by refusing to speak to any. If she was intentionally ignoring and avoiding any other minority group, it would be an issue. For some reason though, people think it is okay if she does it to Indians. Yet her people want us to believe that Scott Brown is the racist in this situation.

Scott Brown did not make a mistake and say a tribal member was clearly not a woman of color. He called out a fake Cherokee/Indian. It doesn’t matter if we are Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. I think this should be viewed as a good thing by all of us. Finally, no matter the reason or motivation, someone in the US political arena is actually paying attention and acknowledging there are people who make false claims of Indian ancestry. They are also saying this is unacceptable. Whether we agree with Brown’s politics or not, the fact he has acknowledged that false claims are a bad thing is, well, a good thing.

I am not suggesting anyone should support either candidate. Very few of us are able to vote in Massachusetts anyway. But I am asking all of us registered tribal members, no matter the Indian nation, to step back and think about this for a minute. Before you allow yourself to be misled by propaganda intended to incite anger in us, think about the things each of these candidates have done. Which of the two do you think is actually behaving in a manner that could be viewed as in an Indian's best interest; the one that says false claims of Indian identity are not acceptable or the one who uses a false claim of Indian identity for personal gain? Think about it carefully, because your sovereignty could depend on it. 

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but a fake Indian in Congress could destroy us.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2012, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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