Suzan Harjo: Race card comes out in Massachusetts campaign

"The senatorial race in Massachusetts is too close to call—between incumbent Senator Scott Brown, Republican, and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, Democrat—and could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. But you can set your watch by this: no matter who wins on November 6, Native Peoples will get blamed for the loss by the loser and vanquished as a distraction by the victor.

Here’s another prediction: many of those who are harrumphing about the Brown staffers caught on video “tomahawk chopping” at Warren boosters will go back to rooting for or tolerating teams with racist stereotypes and ignoring or laughing at people who try to stop the race-based symbols and behaviors in sports.

If the Democrats lose the Senate, some will blame Native Peoples for not keeping quiet as Warren reenacted in excruciatingly slow motion how she did not check a “Native American” box (and how no one who hired her paid attention to boxes, checked or unchecked), but that she was entitled to check the box because she believes she is Native American, albeit if only by family rumor. If the Republicans can’t take the Senate, some will blame it on “Indians,” and some bad law could result from suspicions that “wannabes” could take advantages intended for “real Indians.”

Let’s stipulate that Brown and Warren believe what they say and are offended by what they see as untruths or racism by the other. I commend them for taking these matters seriously and for doing a very hard thing: learning out loud and in public that Native American issues and identity are nuanced, and for calibrating their language along the non-offensive scale."

Get the Story:
Suzan Shown Harjo: Massachusetts Senatorial Race: Identity Standards, Not Identity Politics (Indian Country Today 9/16)

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Suzan Harjo: Tribal identification cards must be accepted at polls (9/6)
Suzan Harjo: Privileged language permeates American politics (8/27)

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