Wednesday, February 26, 2020

For the Record: Cherokee

A group of citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians issued an open letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren to which I posted the following response as s sympathetic interloper with a background in cultural anthropology:

“By publicly equating race and biology with Native identity, your DNA test promoted the exact same logic the Right is currently using to try and destroy Native rights.” Although a strong Warren supporter, I have to agree with this statement.
But the Cherokee Nation applied the same discredited race science in denying tribal membership to Black Freedmen for years up to 2017 with arguments like, “only those with Cherokee blood should be citizens and a legal ruling otherwise would be an affront to its sovereignty”
The Nation rightly accepted the district court’s ruling on this in the end, and seems to have had little problem forgiving itself for it. Can’t it try to show the same spirit of forgiveness to Senator Warren, who has worked to understand her error and to learn from it?

I'd add that rather than taking the moment as an opportunity to blame others for failings that I have been and may still be guilty of myself, I'd like to take it as a further opportunity for everybody to achieve a deeper understanding of what's wrong with a DNA-based definition of ethnic identity, of the differences between "race" and ethnic-cultural identity and their importance in people's lives. And to emphasize that anybody, no matter how virtuous, is capable of doing or saying a racist thing and anybody, no matter how benighted, is capable of learning to do better.

No comments:

Post a Comment