How come natives never go native? Maybe they can’t. I’ll have to ferret out the logic on this one. Or maybe they’re too smart to do it. But there seems to be no shortage of gringos who wish to be something other than what they are.
Consider: Jeb Bush wants to be Hispanic, going so far as to identify himself as Hispanic on his Miami voter registration form. He later claimed this was just a mistake, changing the form and admitting that he is in fact the white-bread, privileged, preppy, gringo, silver-spoon-in-his-mouth, summers-in-Kennebunkport, just-a-splash-of-water-please, old-money WASP that he was born. (OK, not totally a WASP now. He converted to Catholicism in 1995. A recovering WASP?)
You can sort of see how Jeb could have made the mistake, though. He majored in Latin American studies in college, speaks Spanish fluently (not with the cracker accent W burdens listeners with when he tries to habla), and has worked south of the border. His wife is Mexican-American and it is said that Jeb and Columba Bush speak Spanish when they’re at home. Jeb chose to live in Miami because of its Spanish culture, and has described himself as “bi-cultural.”
Fine and dandy. But this approach leads Jeb to whoop up policies that aren’t that popular. He has declared that people crossing America’s southern border illegally and staying here illegally are engaging in “an act of love,” and that’s there’s no need to make the southern border more secure (i.e. less porous). He doesn’t think anyone here illegally should be obliged to go home. Also, on the un-campaign, campaign trail he has said it’s time for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state. No mention of the folks in the existing 50 states having a say in this.
Quite a story. It could be made into a major motion picture like that other great going native movie I’m thinking of. We could call it “Jeb of Mexico.” Too bad the late, great Peter O’Toole isn’t available to play the leading role. Or perhaps the late Anthony Quinn, a real Mexican.
Then there’s Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, white as rice to the naked eye, but don’t be fooled. Our Liz informs us that she’s an American Indian, or at least part Indian. Cherokee to be precise. We’ll believe this one right after it’s confirmed that Al Gore invented the Internet. But that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. (Or at least she plays rope-a-dope with the question when she’s challenged.) She bases her claim on “family lore” and the fact that she doesn’t break twigs when she walks outside.
It’s not surprising that Warren, the leftist’s leftist, would want to demonstrate solidarity with one of the left’s certified victim groups. But her Native American hustle is not just ideological. Her reasons for ethnic pleading aren’t as unsullied as those of Bush, who seems to be sincere in his enthusiasm for all things Spanish. As is usually the case with lefties, there’s a financial incentive in Warren’s wee fraud.
Warren registered herself in something called the Minority Law Teacher List, where law schools visit to find enough minority professors to fill various affirmative discrimination requirements. This may be how she landed her plumb job teaching at Harvard Law. Harvard was happy enough to play along with the gag, listing Warren as Native American in a report in the Harvard Crimson in the late nineties.
Several news publications have attempted to verify Warren’s claimed Cherokee background but have been unable to do so. It seems likely that Professor Warren, at least when chronicling her family tree, speaks with forked tongue.
(Full disclosure: Coming up I was told that my grandmother’s grandmother on my father’s side was a Cherokee. At the time this woman would have lived, our lot was spread around Alabama and the Carolinas. As were many Cherokees. But claiming a little Indian blood was sort of a romantic but harmless thing to do in those pre-affirmative action days. Many families did it. So I paid it little mind. Then when my mother was moving from the house she had lived in for a half century to an old-timers’ high-rise, we stumbled across an old photo album that included a photo of my grandmother — who I remembered only as a gray-haired senior — when she was 19 or 20. After looking at this young woman’s raven black hair and high cheekbones, I decided, hmm, well, maybe… But even if this connection makes me more Cherokee than Elizabeth Warren, I’d never consider using it to advantage. When obliged to fill out a form that calls for my race I always write in “American.” Or, if I’m feeling scratchy, “Anglo-Redneck.”)
We’ll skip over the fact that while Bill Clinton may not have started it, he never tried very hard to discourage the notion that he was the nation’s first black president. Let’s close with the episode of the white NAACP president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP who insists that she’s black. This story is either tragic or comic, depending on your view of life.
If it’s comic, my view, two people who don’t get the joke are Rachel Dolezal’s parents, who are as ethnically European as old Chris Columbus. They can’t understand why their light-skinned daughter with green eyes is insisting that she’s black, or why she’s spinning fantastical stories about how the family lived in a teepee in Montana when she was a child and how the parents hunted their own food with bows and arrows. She claims that after Montana the family lived in South Africa. None of this is true, the parents say.
Alert TAS readers will not be surprised to learn that Dolezal is a college teacher. She’s an adjunct professor of — wait for it — African-American Studies at Eastern Washington University. She has taught courses with such titles as African and African-American Art History, The Black Woman’s Struggle, and Introduction to Africana Studies.
Dolezal fancies herself an artist as well as an academic and has claimed that it’s the creative process that makes us human. She is nothing if not creative herself. In addition to her faux blackness, Dolezal has claimed to have been abused by her parents and her ex-husband, that she was date-raped, and that she has been the victim of anti-black and anti-woman hate. She’s hardly missed a single leftist hobbyhorse, and there’s about as much evidence for each of these as there is for her blackness. She even claims her blonde hair is a result of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. This is creativity with a capital C. (C as in crock, the preponderance of the evidence suggests.)
Silly stuff, for sure. But as long as we have a political culture and public policies that provide perks and privileges for membership in various racial, sexual, and ethnic categories, all certified victims, we will get more of this. How long can it be before we have the spectacle of the first straight elected official who claims to be gay for some real or perceived political, cultural, or personal advantage? This could lead to some interesting put-up or shut-up moments.