TO BRING SOME COLOR TO THE GREY ISSUE of “identity politics” issuing from the mouth of the American political system, its worth more than 17th century gold to conjure up an image of Pocahontas. This was brought to my attention through the controversy that won’t go away involving Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren claiming Native American ancestry–a narrative which she has been touting in the political sphere since at least 2012 (msnbc.com) and still earlier (“5 Fast Facts You Need to Know”)–which Republican President Trump Tweeted about in 2016, nick-naming her “Pocahontas” (washingtonpost.com) (and others, perhaps more aptly, “Fauxahontas“). Some people find these remarks racist (mirror.co.uk)–a sentiment which was bolstered in November 2017 during a White House ceremony allegedly honoring Navajo Veterans of WWII, during which President Trump mentioned “Pocahontas”…in front an Andrew Jackson portrait none-the-less (nytimes.com). Others–including the President (cnn.com)–express that it is Warren’s false claim to Native ancestry that is racist (usatoday.com). However sensational, the recurring “Pocahontas” jab is not the actual issue. Like a spinning arrow, it points the way towards what is.
The latest update on this issue which won’t go away involved Warren’s “DNA test” which “once again brought issues of genetics and identity to the forefront of political discourse” (forbes.com) in October this year. A foxnews.com Christmas article lists the debacle surrounding Senator Warren as one of seven of “the most memorable political gaffes of 2018“. Unfortunately, it looks like this political gaffe is not going away in 2019 or 2020, as Senator Warren may run for President in 2020. Some people (including her) conclude (or promote) that the results of the test don’t undermine her personal narrative of Native ancestry (politifact.com)–which has been used to claim “minority status” in academic (“first woman of color” at Harvard) and political spheres. Others don’t buy the narrative or think it matters (thefederalist.com). (Plus: Is it or is it not ironic that Warren’s ex-husband co-founded a DNA testing company?) Immediately following the release of the DNA test results, the Cherokee Nation issued a statement which concluded: “It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage” (cherokeephoenix.org). Could this undermining be reverberating out into the grander Nation of the grand old flag as well? Answers to this question may be found, along with a candid Presidential video response and some other anecdotes, in the article “Why the Cherokee Nation’s rebuke of Senator Warren matters“. However, at the end of the article it is still up to you to decide why exactly it matters–or if it matters at all.
The upset around “Pocahontas”–(un)verified through “Science” none-the-less!–is just one example of identity politics engendering racism and division rather than healing it. Just say no to fake identity politics. Instead, listen to the message of this tune from real Disney Princess Pocahontas (“the first woman of color to be the lead character in a Disney film” (wikipedia):
DNA or no DNA: Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?