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The Only Racism on Display Has Been From the Elizabeth Warren Camp

Cole R. DeLaune
9/30/12

The squall of outrage that has erupted in the 72 hours since footage of Massachusetts GOP Senate campaign staffers pantomiming the "tomahawk chop" and issuing war whoops initially emerged confounds logic and strains credulity. In the stampede to condemn Scott Brown for behavior in which he himself never engaged and for arguments that he never promoted, indigenous journalists; liberal commentators; Chairman Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma; and, most disappointingly, the National Congress of American Indians upbraided the Senator for facilitating the advancement of an offensive and stereotypical mischaracterization of Native Americans. By and large, they have failed to register the true bigotry in the Bay State political contest: that of Elizabeth Warren, and her consistently racist conduct over the course of the summer. Various critics of Brown first enjoyed the opportunity to wax moralistic when the Senator broached the subject of his opponent's decades-long history of ethnic self-identification during the first debate of the campaign season on September 20. Condensing the extensive and unwieldy topic into time-limited opening remarks, Brown correctly noted that the Cambridge professor had advertised herself as an American Indian in a professional context, "and, as you can see, clearly she's not." The Senator since clarified that he was invoking a common idiom to emphasize the substantial evidence that suggests Warren is neither culturally or genealogically Native: as documented realities show, her dishonesty is easily discernible. Of course, sanctimonious fury arose, and the backlash mischaracterized Brown as deploying a myopically superficial definition of race as skin deep. The chorus disseminating this perspective would do well to refer to the comments made by Warren in early May, when she defended the claims to Cherokee and Delaware heritage that remain unsubstantiated to this day by declaring that she has, "high cheekbones...like all the Indians do." Evidently, policing semantic constructs and political correctness is an inherently selective pastime, since Warren herself has invoked reductive stereotypes and external signifiers of ethnicity when she felt they bolstered her fabricated narrative. Enter the recording of Republican aides mimicking a gesture once popularized for commercial incentive by progressive stalwarts Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. The seconds of inanity captured on the tape in question offend only basic standards of taste: the hyperbole of the scene clearly operates as a satire of the ridiculousness of Warren’s increasingly outlandish improvisations rather than as an expression of anti-Indian animus. But, of course, few authorities wasted any time in taking Brown to task . . . for the conduct of third, fourth, and fifth parties. The rush to ascribe moral responsibility to the Senator for the foolishness of others presents a stark and chilling contrast to the absolution Professor Warren has enjoyed for the appalling prejudice she herself has displayed. During an interview in Springfield in early summer, the academic proclaimed that she would be "the first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background." However, since Harvard Law's penchant for highlighting her as a "woman of color" who added a uniquely multicultural perspective first came to light in late April, Warren has refused to speak to Native newspapers and websites, including Indian Country Today, the largest indigenous media outlet in the nation. She rebuffed overtures by Native delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte to establish lines of communication. And, most memorably, she initially agreed to receive four liberally inclined Cherokee women who traveled across the nation to request an audience, and then, once they arrived, accused them of advancing a right-wing conspiracy. Nothing suggests that she interacted in a meaningful capacity with the indigenous population in Cambridge at any point during her tenure, and she has displayed no understanding of or familiarity with the rituals, customs, traditions, woes, and concerns that texture the contemporary Indian landscape. When an individual so deliberately and consistently refuses to engage with a specific minority group, such aversions are generally regarded in and of themselves as commensurate with one pillar of personal bigotry. Imagine if any other candidate so repeatedly declined to acknowledge African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, LGBT men and women, Catholics, Mormons, Christians, or the members of another cultural community. Such demographics should consider how effectively Professor Warren will champion their interests in the Senate when she projects such transparent antagonism and explicit contempt toward the people with whom she insists she is so "proud" to share a heritage that has "always been a part" of her identity. Racism is on full display in Massachusetts, and it has been so repeatedly since late spring. Senator Brown has comported himself with honor and integrity throughout the course of the election, and assigning culpability to his name for an incident that he has already publicly reprimanded is injudicious in the extreme. Ignoring Professor Warren's disdain for Native Americans essentially validates it, and conjecture that she will position herself as an ally to indigenous peoples defies her persistent and reprehensible intolerance for them on the stump. Elizabeth Warren is no friend of the Indian unless you consider scorn and derision the hallmarks of camaraderie. Educated at Darmouth College and Columbia University, Cole DeLaune is a native of Oklahoma and Tennessee. He currently resides in Atlanta, and has contributed editorial content to Vogue and Elle, among other publications. He is a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.

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patrickfreeland's picture
Whoa... a little wordy there, fella. It's like trying to swallow a pine cone. At least put some peanut butter on it!
patrickfreeland
1nightwalker's picture
Meanwhile the very basic of Indian people (very easily identified as such) who still live in the Indian communities in the out of the way places still suffer and do without. All this high profile (such as this blog) bickering is going on and supposedly on their behalf. Many, many people are so far out of touch with the realities of the goings on in the very real Indian communities. If any thing people....ask Creator to help US ALL.....
1nightwalker
bobklahn's picture
""Various critics of Brown first enjoyed the opportunity to wax moralistic when the Senator broached the subject of his opponent’s decades-long history of ethnic self-identification during the first debate of the campaign season on September 20. Condensing the extensive and unwieldy topic into time-limited opening remarks, Brown correctly noted that the Cambridge professor had advertised herself as an American Indian in a professional context, “and, as you can see, clearly she’s not.” The Senator since clarified that he was invoking a common idiom to emphasize the substantial evidence that suggests Warren is neither culturally or genealogically Native: as documented realities show, her dishonesty is easily discernible." Your nasty little smear campaign is clearly in support of Scott Brown, unless you have some other way to profit from it. Scott Brown was talking about appearance. Only someone who had access to genealogical records could possibly know from such records, and that certainly is not the audience he was speaking to. He meant physical appearance. Yet you give his excuse as if he was so holy his word could not be doubted. "comments made by Warren in early May, when she defended the claims to Cherokee and Delaware heritage that remain unsubstantiated to this day by declaring that she has, “high cheekbones…like all the Indians do." When did she claim that as proof of anything? She said that was something one of her relatives pointed out, and that led her to believe it, but that's not claiming it as proof. She could have been Asian or even Hungarian and had high cheekbones, but her Aunt never mentioned that. As to the overtures from Indian's at the convention, you have not shown any evidence that any such have occurred of that she received them. When I look in Indian Country Today Media Network what I find is nasty commentaries like yours, with very little truly balanced and fair material showing up on google. With that history, I don't see why she would bother with you.
bobklahn
tejas's picture
Indian Country Today lowers its standards by publishing Cole R. DeLaune. He has no idea of the racist impact of Tomahawk Chop Brown, of the nasty male supremacy of the Brown Campaign. That he sees no racism in the "cherokee's sucks" chants is troubling. Let us hear from the grown ups, not GOP operatives.
tejas
tejas's picture
Let us look at policies. Brown represents the very corporations that are raping Indian country. Warren is opposed because she is working for corporate regulation. They man hires operatives to do smear campaigns. Warren should take some courage pills and deal with those Native rights activists who are scolding her even if she thinks it is unfair. Wishing they would go aways is not smart. But Brown is bad news.
tejas
duwaynesmith's picture
Hey, I like your metaphor. Hadn't heard it before.
duwaynesmith
calliope's picture
I understand just fine that, colloquially speaking, satire does indeed involve hyperbole in the effort to mock and ridicule. Warren has situated herself as a cariacture; she's even referred to that cartoonish "high cheekbones . . . like all the Indians do" idea to support her self-identification. So . . . those protesters are co-opting the behavior of Indians literally seen in animated television (like Looney Tunes) to parody how over the top Warren's own portrayal of Indians has been.
calliope
calliope's picture
It's actually pretty racist of you, bobklahn, to argue without any evidence that someone is prioritizing financial motives over earnest beliefs and isn't actually offended by certain conduct. Genealogical research has been done by both the Warren camp and independent Cherokee researchers, and nothing has turned up to indicate that Mrs. Warren has any Native ancestry. Apparently you don't avail yourself of very broad reading materials. The incident at the DNC was covered by both the Boston Herald and the NYTimes . . . but I bet the latter publication is part of a right-wing conspiracy, too? And, hey, maybe those delegates are covert Republicans also? Warren alluded to the "cheekbones" anecdote as evidentiary support of her heritage. She's condoning the sentiments expressed by her Aunt Bea,so, yeah, she's describing that as a major pillar of her Indian identity. You're actually offering insight into your own bigotry. Indian Country Today publishes a variety of perspectives and opinions from Native Americans. It might be hard for you to believe, but not all Indians are the same, and the diversity in the Op-Ed section attests to that. But yet you think it's just peachy that someone running for elected office can't even be bothered to supply a comment for a news story or even acknowledge Natives in her own party at Charlotte. Talk about racist.
calliope
gizmodo's picture
Probably because most people seem to agree that the cheer was, "Yankees suck!" If you're going to employ dramatic metaphors, at least address the fact that Warren only became opposed to corporations when it was beneficial to do so. She had no problem working for them prior to her Senate run and advising LTV Steel, Dow Chemical, and Travelers Insurance on how to minimize their financial losses against claims from absestos victims and women who believed they were endangered by silicone breast implants. How is it not a violation and therefore a rape to portray oneself as a member of a community while refusing to acknowledge that community? Just because Scott Brown has his own questionable practices does not mean that Warren's are any less troubling.
gizmodo
rezzdog's picture
tejas, Sorry friend, but we are neither Dem or Repub. Don't waste your time focusing on Cole, share with us what you think is the redeeming factor of the Majority rule system that is america's democracy. Or, why the equation of either Dem or Repub? What does it matter to us? Why does it matter?
rezzdog

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