Suddenly, the issue of racism toward Indians—and not Warren's Native claims—is at the center of the debate.

Senator Scott Brown's Racist and Anti-Indian Campaign Rallies: Why Progressive People Should Give Money to Elizabeth Warren's Campaign in Order to Get this Bigot Out of Office

Gyasi Ross

Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts. Hold that thought, please—indulge me for a few minutes while we talk about discrimination, outrage and offensive behavior. See, subjective tests for racial/gender outrage are ineffective—everybody feels offended at something that other people simply will not feel. It is impossible, or at the very least it is sloppy, to pull an outraged person’s heart from their chest and place it in the chest cavity of someone who doesn't feel the outrage. It’s just not their cause, their battle, their issue. Fair enough. Still, there is an objective test for when people of conscience should morally link arms and say, "We will not let this pass": that test is the "What if it Were Me" test. Put simply, the test says that when a person (or a group of people) would feel outraged if they were the subject of the alleged offensive behavior, then they likewise have a moral obligation to say/do something about it.* That means, yes, straight Mexican men should get involved in the uproar over opposition to granting basic civil rights to gays and lesbians; indeed, Arizona’s disgusting and racist SB1070 possesses exactly the same spirit as mean-spirited efforts to defeat same sex marriage bills across the Nation. That also means that, yes, poor white men, women, boys and girls should be up-in-arms over the stop-and-frisk laws that have disproportionately put poor blacks and Hispanics behind bars; poverty is a civil rights issue and prevents all colors from having the same opportunities—employment, education, and otherwise—as our more economically secure counterparts. We should all be angry when we see these egregious violations. If it were us being detained in Arizona, we would scream to the high heavens. If it were us being prevented from marrying, we would be throwing rocks at state capitol buildings. If it were us who were ignored by civil rights organizations, as poor white people are, we’d rightfully feel like they weren’t doing their jobs. We have a very obvious situation in front of us that, if it were you, African-Americans would be having press conferences, Jewish-Americans would be protesting, Hispanic-Americans would be boycotting. Good. But let’s see if we can apply that outrage to other peoples’ struggle as well. Senator Scott Brown’s campaign, unfortunately, recently gave people of conscience in the United States an opportunity to utilize the What If It Were Me Test. See, Brown has made a habit of questioning Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry. Good—she is a white lady who may or may not have benefited from pretending to be Native; she has not reciprocated anything to Native people and has serious questions to answer about her relationship with Indian country. But, the Scott Brown campaign decided to go a bit further than simply “questioning” her authenticity as a Native American. No, that wasn’t enough; instead, at a recent campaign rally, the campaign worked the crowd into a frenzy to the point where they were mocking and ridiculing the stereotypical Native “war cries” and “tomahawk chops.” Now, Brown said that he doesn’t “condone” the behavior, but in the same breath said that ”The real offense is that [Warren] said she was white and then checked the box saying she is Native American…” No, the real offense is Brown excusing racism and attempting to deflect from the hate speech being conducted at his rally. The behavior there was bigoted, and his attempts to excuse it are likewise bigoted. Disgusting. Don’t believe me?

Now obviously, this isn’t real Native American behavior—it’s the evil fantasy of what a bunch of racist white men think Native American behavior looks like. That doesn’t make it any better—imagine if they were slanting their eyes and acting like they were doing karate in mocking gestures of stereotypical Asian gestures. What would the reaction be then? Or alternatively, if they were in blackface and shuffling their feet in mocking gestures of unpleasant and racist African-American imagery? There would be hell to pay. There should be hell to pay now. Objectively. We need to hold Warren’s feet to the fire and figure out relationship with Indian country; I am hopeful that she will be an ally. It's safe to say that she owes us some answers. Still, I would much rather roll the dice with Ms. Warren than with a man who excuses racist behavior within his campaign—he’s obviously not a friend to Native people, and you can probably safely assume that is not much of a friend to any vulnerable people. Remember: if it were you or your group, you would take action. Take action now—please give to Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign and let’s get this bigot out of office. * DISCLAIMER: By the way, you straight, gainfully employed white men simply do not get a say in the “What If It Were Me” test (unless, of course, it is sympathetic to the person who is the subject of the discrimination). Your opinion does not count when it comes to what is objectively offensive—it just doesn’t. See, there seems to be a strange retributive bug going on in many straight and economically capable white men that prevents you from possessing any capability to step into the shoes of a person that has felt meaningful discrimination, e.g. when that discrimination affected the discriminated person’s health, wealth, opportunities or pursuit of happiness. Instead, many of you now feel strangely threatened that the instances of offensive behavior are being examined and questioned instead of simply accepted, as has been the case for literally hundreds of years. Many of your offense-o-meters are just awry.

* * *

Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation and his family also belongs to the Suquamish Nation. He wrote a book called Don’t Know Much About Indians (but i wrote a book about us anyways) which you can get at He is also co-authoring a new book with Robert Chanate coming out in 2012 appropriately called The Thing About Skins, and the website and publishing company for that handy-dandy book is (coming soon). He also semi-does the twitter thing at

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coledelaune's picture
Submitted by coledelaune on
Um, Elizabeth Warren has deliberately and repeatedly refused to speak to Native Americans during her campaign, including Indian Country Today and Native delegates at the DNC. Generally speaking, when a person consciously and consistently refuses to engage with the members of a specific minority group, that behavior in and of itself is regarded and commensurate with racism and prejudice (i. e. substitute "Warren" with "white man" and "Native Americans" with "blacks": The white man deliberately and repeatedly refused to speak to or acknowledge blacks). It is outrageous that you're suggesting after her stonewalling of indigenous peoples, including the site for which you write, that she will turn out to be an "ally." Her conduct is totally anathema to the premise of her platform, that she will be an advocate for the marginalized in the Senate. She'll be their champion, but she just won't afford the most historically disenfranchised minority in the nation the proverbial time of day? And how exactly is maximizing her relationship to a group of people that she is ignoring ('i'll be the first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background') reflective of anything but disingenuousness and dishonesty? You're functionally exonerating actions that she herself undertook, but ascribing moral responsibility to Senator Brown for the misguidedness of his staff. Were the war whoops and tomahawk chops inane? Of course, just as they were when they were popularized by Jane Fonda and Ted Turner. However, they clearly are intended to satirize the ridiculousness of Warren herself: they're parodical, not indicative of inherent anti-Indian animus. And Senator Brown already clarified the remarks he made during the debate. He said he meant, it's clear that you can see from the evidence that she's not Indian, and that is indeed true.

rebekahegan's picture
Submitted by rebekahegan on
Sadly, while they are mocking her are mocking Native people in the same token.

thechief's picture
Submitted by thechief on
I liked this writer better when he just wrote stuff about skins and stayed out of politics. It was kind of funny and was authentic. Its pretty obvious that he's a liberal that views the world by race and looks for reasons to be a victim. If you want to live your life as a victim good for you. I am sure you can be upset at everybody in this world when they say things like sitting "indian style," lets have a "powwow" etc..Things that give victims fuel to feel sorry for themselves and blame their defeats on "economically capable white men." As for this Elizabeth Warren I would feel a little more sorry for her if she met with the native democrat delegates. If she can't even meet with them she is worse than Scott Browns crowd of goons.

sparrowtooth's picture
Submitted by sparrowtooth on
I heartily agree with coledelaune. Ms. Warren is a fraud. If the author encourages donating to her campaign it should be because she supports that Party. I have followed her story from the beginning. Her recipes? Fake. She could easily do a DNA test and settle the matter. She's a wannabe. As I understand it a direct ancestor of hers herded Cherokees out to Oklahoma. She signed herself up; checked the box due to her high cheekbones, laughable. Conflating Walker's people that are ridiculing her for her unsupportable "claim" while that's not admirable; it spotlights her weak reiterations of her "story" which were inconsistent and which kept changing, this is insulting and egregious. Where's the school records to verify that she did NOT benefit from being the first person of color at Harvard? She uses Indian people and our heritage, and then reverts later to being "white". She exploited us when it was convenient and it enhanced her being a "minority". She stated in July or August that she had not been contacted or asked to meet with Cherokee people recently...that was a bald-face lie.

cxyomama-c's picture
Submitted by cxyomama-c on
Everything until the "please give to Elizabeth Warren’s Campaign"... Um, no.

harrydelorme's picture
Submitted by harrydelorme on
In this day and age racism is still alive and well in America. It's unbelievable how insensitive, ignorant, inconsiderate , intolerable and culturally insensitive people can be. Mob mentality reinforces the notion that " White Is Right" , over steps the notion and boundaries of Freedom of Speech and Expression.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
Unfortunate for 'native' people when Elizabeth Warren brought 'her' heritage into the mix. For Warren, she didn't have no regard for true native and their heritage when bringing politics into the mix. What a disgrace on the part of Warren's approach particularly in her turning away from volunteers aligned with American Indian interests. The roosters came home to roost and Warren has nothing to blame, and NEEDS TO STEP UP and take RESPONSIBLITY for her actions than systemmatically disposing of legtimate questions and calling, sadly, ....racism.......

gyasiross's picture
Submitted by gyasiross on
HA HA HA...fair enough, Cx Yo Mama--I just think that contributing money is the closest thing to direct action that we can take. I don't want an apology from this clown--he already showed how he felt when he minimized his people's racist apology from a racist for being racist is simply camouflaging the problem; instead, we should be thankful his true feelings came out. Now we try to get the bigot office in the best possible way. Thank you all for reading. :-)

swrussel's picture
Submitted by swrussel on
If it's "liberal" to understand public policy slanted to benefit less than 1% of the population at the expense of more than 99%, then it's hard to understand why all Indians are not "liberal," given the scarcity of Indian one percenters. Leaving aside this racial tempest, Warren is an expert on bankruptcy and securities regs who doesn't merely sympathize with the 99% (from which she came but she's now 1%), she actually knows the mechanics of the tilt in the playing field. What she says about her alleged Native blood is said by nine of ten white folks who grew up where she grew up and where I grew up. Oklahoma is a strange place where "part Indian" is oh so cool but "Indian" can get you dumped on. She has demonstrated her cluelessness about Indian identity, but I'm more interested that she has a clue about the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the naked short rule, the uptick rule, and the rest of the stuff that put the 99% in the ditch we're in. Compare her academic career to Ward Churchill's. If you cannot write a thousand words on the differences without breaking a sweat, it could be that you ought not opine on the alleged advantage in her alleged box-checking. (There is no box until after you are hired. NO, she should not have checked it because it makes Harvard look better than it deserves. Yes, she benefitted from affirmative a woman in a male-dominated field.) She would be insane to grant interviews on the racial beehive she kicked over. There is nothing to be gained and everything to lose because the lines are hardened and nobody is going to back down at this point. I'm hoping she wins and I'm hoping she learned that Oklahoma is not the USA and you don't get to brag about being "part Indian" in the real world because it has real consequences. And, yes, I send her a couple of bucks when I can.

rezzdog's picture
Submitted by rezzdog on
Indignation aside, no matter who one decides is less offensive, what we really have here is a clear choice between the lesser of two evils. The only reason to vote for Warren is that she is not a republican and the only reason to vote for Brown is that he is not a lying Democrat. These are not great choices, neither one is worth getting excited about, nor are either one worth speaking out for or in defense of.

coledelaune's picture
Submitted by coledelaune on
Steve Russell, you're essentially condoning what has been an arguably racist refusal to engage with Native Americans on Warren's part. You don't find it problematic that she is maximizing her functionally non-existent relationship to the Native community in interviews with sympathetic outlets (contending, "I will be the first Senator from Massachusetts with a Native background"), and simultaneously ignoring actual American Indian media (not to mention indigenous individuals)? You're effectively endorsing a primary element of practical bigotry. Imagine if a political candidate repeatedly and deliberately declined to speak to African-Americans, or Hispanics. When one consciously and consistently avoids engaging with a specific minority, society generally regards that behavior as commensurate with prejudice. Ward Churchill's writings certainly appear self-serving in the context of his extended charade (and are, of course, intellectually illegitimate due to the plagiarism), but you know what? He's participated as a member of the Colorado chapter of AIM for over two decades, and has demonstrably acquired a serviceable understanding of the issues that have characterized the history and influence the contemporary landscape of Indian country. Unlike a certain Cambridge professor, who has demonstrated absolutely no desire to interact with Native Americans, or familiarize herself with related issues. Arguing that being part Indian is "oh so cool" in certain regions of Oklahoma is essentially condoning the romanticization and fetishization of American Indian identity as a novelty. The fact that the practice is pervasive doesn't validate it, nor does it really explain or clarify her evasion of Native Americans in the present day. Additionally, you're assertion that she would be insane to grant interviews on the "racial beehive she kicked over" is really facile and illogical. . . She shouldn't hold herself accountable for a controversy she herself ignited because it would be deleterious to her pplay for power even though she's demanding accountability from others. I guess aspirants to elected office shouldn't be expected to respond to public questions about sentiments and ideas they themselves introduced into the collective discourse? That seems to undermine the entire purpose of elected officials as representatives of their consitutencies and the public at large.

thechief's picture
Submitted by thechief on
Could you please define 1%? Is it networth based or annual income based? I always hear about one percenters running this country and conspiracies but have never heard an actual definition.

candyo's picture
Submitted by candyo on
The "moral" of this story is don't pull the "race" card, unless, you can drum up some "ancestors" to back it up. Or, if you can find a tribe that will adopt you as one of their own?

navapache's picture
Submitted by navapache on
Your right about OK being a strange place. I traveled there for a wedding one summer and was the only "brown" person in a party of about 50 friends and family of the groom. We were out in the sticks in a large home on the banks of a lake where the wedding was going to take place. One day, apparently not knowing I was Native, one of the girls made the insuation that all Natives are thiefs, I politely defended my Native people and she was very apologetic. The last day I was there, I was accused of stereotyping by a guy who was Native (Osage) but I couldn't tell and he didn't tell me the whole time. I guess I was suppose to know somehow. I often wonder why he never mentioned it nor did anyone else for the three days we all lived in this house.

niijii's picture
Submitted by niijii on
Greetings, As a resident of the state of Massachusetts I can only speak to my actual experience in regards to "war whoops and tomahawk chops'. I was chosen to take the lead by an Elder tribal member in regards to a local high school who referred to themselves as the "Redskins". At public meetings in the school auditorium we were called bigots and yelled at for wanting the school to change their name. Afterward young men in a pickup truck slowly drove by yelling whoo whoo whoo with their hands on their mouths and giving us the middle finger and yelling Redskin!!!. All this in front of a news reporter an african american women who laughed away the incident and never reported it though she was covering the event. Racism does lurk beneath this so called silly behavior that is expressed by these people.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
This ‘ploy’ is much like a pig with lipstick. The lipstick is for looks and attractiveness, but it is still a pig nonetheless, rolling in the mud (my apologies to all pigs in describing a politician). If Elizabeth Warren would have proudly stood up and took responsibility for her calling on her ‘heritage’, then there wouldn’t be questions in her creditability. NOW, I would be interested in knowing more than just her words as she apparently speaks with a tongue like a fork in the road. The questions on her ‘heritage claims’ are no different than if a politician publicly claimed to have ‘black’, or ‘chinese’, or ‘spanish’, etc. blood while running for public office. Al Sharpton would want to know. Asian groups would want to know. Latino or La Raza groups would want answers. Heck even special interests groups as the gay lifestylers would want answers to their questions! For Warren supporters to state to ignore her claims and statements or put attention on her record is simply giving an excuse or rationale. If Elizabeth Warren is using her ‘heritage’ to justify winning an election based on the populace feeling sorry for American Indians – then this only further insinuates stereotypes based on racial segregation that supposedly the Democratic Party doctrines are against. As it is stands, Elizabeth Warren has NO CREDIBILITYissue to her public policies. Which only begs the question WHO IS Elizabeth Warren?

tuschkahouma's picture
Submitted by tuschkahouma on
wow....divide and conquer has worked well with posters like tmsyr11 and Cole Delaune. While some people go after the whole identity issue with Elizabeth any of the attack dogs know anything about the Wampanoag, Mashpee, or Nipmuc people in Massachusetts? Two bands of Wampanoag or Mashpee people have been federally recognized since the 1970's. The Nipmuc people had prelimnary federal acknowledgement under President Clinton and Kevin Gover of the BIA as did the Chinook people of the murdered Libyan ambassador Mr. Stevens. President Bush and Glen McCaleb reversed the federal recognition of these tribes in a political manner that most of these johnny come lately attack dogs for Mr. Brown have amnesia about. Why doesn't Senator Brown do more for tribes in Massachusetts like stopping the wind farm on Wampanoag sacred sites? Pay attention to real issues with lasting impact instead of this racist political gain identity nonsense....ever heard of Willy Horton and Lee Atwater? Cole DeLaune,,,I hope your fifteen minutes of fame bashing Mrs. Warren works well for the GOP you're doing the dirty work for really cares about you anyway.....It's telling when US Congressman and Chickasaw Indian Tom Cole congradulates President Obama for Native American initiatives as a Republican.....

gyasiross's picture
Submitted by gyasiross on
Yeah, outrage about identity stuff is a sign of privilege-there's real guns and butter concerns in this race for the two federally recognized Indian tribes in Mass. I let other people worry about the identity stuff and try to figure out who will, in fact, help our people. Can't say that they're wrong, but hopefully they understand why we don't choose the more academic concerns over real, tangible needs for Native people. Would you mind looking me up and sending me an email? I'm curious about your perspective.

chico2dc's picture
Submitted by chico2dc on
seriously, who would claim to be Indian? and continue to claim it, if they were not??!!!... we have young republican contributors who claim indian cause maybe they can show us a card. I question that. So your ass cheek is hurt cause someone wont talk to u, I wouldnt talk with you either. Still no reason to point fingers and say your not indian. Native History is filled with natives who assimulated into white society and had babies, 3 generation later we have indians who look white with no card to prove blood degree, or whose name doesnt show up on any roles. In the end, your just Indians bringing Indian down. I hope Warren wins, and brown loses. I know brown isnt Indian forsure, and thats enough for me.

running's picture
Submitted by running on
mashpee is an old indian town supposedly by indian time maybe 10 thousand years old according to local lore.perhaps close to 400 years old by those of european descent. your article on scott brown interested me since i support elizabeth warren and i spent part of my day with about 7 middle aged woman holding elizabeth warren signs.we received many smiles and waves between 7 and 8 am. i was mildly surprised and struck by the goodness of america. however between 4 and 5 pm quite a few of the people were quite hostile.their were tomohawk chops and whoops a lot of one fingered salutes and invectives.a few mashpee wampanoags brought up the issue of racism with the scott brown campaign and i agree with that perspective. the native perspective garnered two editorials in the mashpee enterprise newspaper.. a non native editorial addressinga racist element in the scott brown campaign was given editorial space in the falmouth enterprise.this story of racist overtones has generated news interest in massachussets. as far as elizabeth warren the task of running a campaign must be harrowing to ones nerves whether she is native american or not does not interest me so much. she has not made any racist statements.scott brown has made a lot of negative comments about elizabeth warren and it will probaly increase as the election draws nearer.scott brown if nothing else is a lunkhead. i expect more war whoops and tomohawk chops when i will stand on the mashpee rotary on old cape cod.the highlight of the day was helping an elderly couple holding signs get in the traffic circle on the roadway and more unpleasant words as a motorist was forced to slow down, a real masshole as they say in massachusshits.

tejas's picture
Submitted by tejas on
Brown is outrageous in his unfounded attacks on Cherokees. Brown has created a controversy on Warren heritage. She didn't claim anything else. By his gang certianly left a bad taste in peoples mouths.