Saturday, September 29, 2012

Me and Liz Warren: From the Washington POST blog

Hershel Parker
7:22 AM PDT

I am a blue-eyed Okie, looking more Scots and German than Indian, but I have Choctaw and Cherokee ancestors. For a long time, going by the Scott Brown test, I thought I was at least an eighth Indian because my father's mother looked like an Indian, far more Indian than the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation now looks. I thought I was more because her husband looked Indian, and may have been part Indian. The stories I heard about how her people were kept off the Choctaw rolls sound like current Republican determination to suppress voting. Stories about how her people were kept off the Cherokee rolls are recorded in voluminous testimony in the long-running Glenn-Tucker case, where cousins of mine in the 1880s testified before the Dawes Commission about racial makeup of ancestors in the 1830s. I identified with these unseen ancestors, as I did later when the Turnbo Papers were put online and I could read about Uncle Joe Coker being chased by Cherokees for having one too many Cherokee wives. You can identify with shadowy ancestors, as Elizabeth Warren does, without being dishonest. You can, for many reasons, want to acknowledge particular parts of your ancestry. Now, no one is talking about something very ugly that might have pushed Cousin Liz into persistently identifying herself as she did. In the mid 1990s the National Endowment for the Humanities demanded that panelists identify themselves as being of ONE race. You could not check two boxes.When did that racist policy start? I came close to checking Indian or would have, perhaps, if the box had not said the Politically Correct and nonsensical "Native American." As it was, I resigned as a panelist in a letter in which I explained that the NEH policy was racist. Since then, thank goodness, many people, including many celebrities, have talked openly about their dual (or greater) racial heritage. The President has referred to himself as "a mutt"--referred endearingly, I thought. I wish I knew how to post a picture of my grandmother here: even Scott Brown, the infallible discerner of race, might agree that she was Indian. Maybe he could tell me if she was more Choctaw than Cherokee. His comments in the debate were not racial, they were racist. Cousin Liz, go girl!

Grandma Parker.

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