Elizabeth Warren’s claim to Cherokee ancestry is a form of violence?

Elizabeth Warren’s claim to Cherokee ancestry is a form of violence — High Country News

Ummm, Nope!

No, it’s not.

If she was claiming Cherokee heritage or identity it would be though.

The issue is this. Other people should not define what it is to be [insert ethnicity, etc. here], only people of that background are able to define their experience.

Another big looming issue is that white people have dominated the narrative for far to long and should not be the arbitrators of what is and what isn’t defined or discussed. That is a wrong that should be righted but if we are to right it as a society we have to be consistent. If for no other reason than being inconsistent is what got us here in the first place….

For example, the people of the Cherokee nation are the only ones who can define what it is to be Cherokee, just like only Jewish people can define what it is to be Jewish.

A member of my father’s ancestry was Jewish. Does that make me Jewish? Hell, no. For one thing it travels down the matrilinear side. For another, I was raised as a mostly-Christian person in a largely Christian community. My experience with Judaism is as an outsider and and an observer.

It does make me someone whose ancestors were Jewish though. Their experiences escaping persecution in Europe and living in the United States are part of how my family (and I!) came to be. Along with the experiences of all my ancestors, they are part of me and who I am. To pretend I had no Jewish ancestry would be to deny those members of my family tree their story and that’s not something I think I should do.

It would be very different if Senator Warren was claiming to BE Cherokee, but she is not. Instead she is just affirming that she has a Cherokee ancestor, an ancestor that she is as proud of (if not more) than she is any of the rest of her forebearers.

And isn’t that the goal here? For people of all background to be able to define themselves as members of their own communities?

Whitewashing and eradication of native cultures in the United State is a horrid injustice. One that deserves to be confronted, stopped, and turned right around. I just don’t think blurring the line between those who claim ancestry and those who claim membership does us any good.

 

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