Events move fast in the internet age. The Rachel Dolezal “Black Like Me” story had people of every stripe, color, and political persuasion commenting, tweeting, and taking sides. Then we all find out that “transracial” is a real thing and these self-identified people seem to mostly be young adult adoptees (children of color adopted into white families) who are not happy to be tied into this spectacle but maybe are OK in being able to explain what “transracial” is and how you can lose hold of your own identity. (Check out: “Little White Lie” a 2014 movie by Lacey Schwartz, a young Black/Jewish woman who “passes as white”). There are various paths to get to Trans-racial but not the Rachel Dolezal way. Critics say she’s occupying and blocking space that a Black leader should be in (even though anyone can join the NAACP) and that it’s “white privilege” that someone in America can claim to be part of another “race” but not the other way around (the “one-drop rule”). Sherman Alexie call is it “utopian white liberal belief”.
Dolezal’s issue was a personal issue that got way out of hand, yet her black son is proud of her (is he mixed race? is he trans-racial?). The Homeschoolers Anonymous network came out criticize the Dolezal parents because their fundamentalist Christian teachings were similar to what many of them were subjected to, only to take the story down because they were attacked by critics. At least it validates Rachel’s separation from her white family, and so her new family is black, or mixed-race, or trans-racial? When she says she doesn’t identify with white, but with black, she’s also saying that type of Christian behavior is not Christian but hypocritical, vindictive, and probably racist.
We just re-booted then pulled the plug on the Jack Marks/Jamake Highwater affair after 30 years in the hopes of finally ending that multi-generational fraud yet no one in the national media ever seemed to care that what Marks/Highwater did was a much greater misrepresentation and a series of actual crimes that hurt and affected the Native American community. American Indians, Native Americans and Skins in general know all about people passing and posing as Indians, there’s a long history of the characters appropriating their way into our cultures, as long as there have been “Indians” there’s been “Fake Indians”. We may laugh and roll our eyes at the wannabes, the wishiwas’ and the hobbyists, but some can become entrenched and start to occupy, block, steal and teach…it becomes a fight to get them out.
Maybe the reason the Marks/Highwater affair and the Redskins/mascot issue, have gone generational is that we are perceived as “going along with it”, society doesn’t “feel” the effects it inflicts, they only see our protests, and what are those Indians angry about now? They don’t care about us, except for the old “Oh! I love your culture!” Yeah, the one your ancestors tried to wipe-out. See, they are busy with other stuff and it’s hard to get their attention. One moment it’s: ISIS is going to cross the border and kill us all! (Mexican coyotes! Mohawk smugglers!) Then it’s police violence. Then it’s gay marriage. Then it’s Caitlyn Jennings, look-up trans-sexual, then Rachel Dolezal, look-up trans-racial, then they joke about liberals and being black. Then Dylann Roof spouts the exact same propaganda that’s just background noise to them and they turn from fuzzy pink to ghost white sputtering that it was an attack on Christians and not Blacks.
It was just like a home-made propaganda bomb strapped to a young foot soldier sent into a mosque, temple or church to make a political (terror) point. But he’s still alive, he’s not the martyr, his victims are. Inside every Movement you hear the novice say that these old farts are just talk, no action. It was a Terrorist act, not by a deranged but re-arranged, not crazy but crazed by FOX/NRA/KKK indoctrination. I would add GOP to that list but we are going to need what’s left of the moderate GOP to condemn these racist terrorist acts just like we demand that moderate Muslims face down the violent extremists in Islam. It is jaw dropping to see Republican politicians and presidential candidates bite their tongues as they try not to call white FOX inspired racists actual Terrorists. They need their votes after all. That all important white racist vote.
Then President Obama said the N-word on radio, the media went nuts repeating “N-word” instead of everything else he said, some white folks said “that’s an ugly word, there’s NO MORE racism in this country”. Then the Confederate Flag may be coming down in Charleston as a South Carolina State Representative says, “It took the death of my friend (Rev. Pinckney) and 8 of his parishioners to get me to do this. I should be ashamed of myself.” And now they will vote on it in Mississippi too. Wow. The best comment was, “America gets serious about gun violence…by talking about flags.” The ones buying guns for a new racial Civil war, should now realize they will lose this one too. They may have more guns…but People have the Power and they want Peace.
Wow. Confederate symbols came crashing down fast, South Carolina, then Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and many cities are re-considering names to schools, streets and parks. Compassionate people say it’s about time and combined with Gay Marriage and Obamacare, some kind of Aquarian Age is upon us. Cynical people say Republicans are doing this ahead of the 2016 elections to sway voters and the racists will still vote for them because, well they have no other choice. Black folks say that was too easy, so what about changing things that really matter, like voting rights, expanding Medicare, keeping jobs in this country, the list becomes extensive because reality trumps symbology.
The second part of this essay will be a look at how racism is built into a culture, how it becomes the foundation for a nation-state, its society and culture. The slave-trade triangle ran from West Africa to the Caribbean to the southern American colonies. Right now the Dominican Republic is planning to deport some 200,000 Haitian migrant workers back to Haiti where many no longer have any ties and become stateless. It is ethnic cleansing and a human rights crime. Tragic enough but it then becomes absurd when you hear that Dominicans actually deny that they are of African heritage (meaning black) because of the basic racism inherent in the Colonial Americas. They call dark, black Dominicans “Indio”, which is absurd since the original Arawak/Tainos had been essentially wiped out 60 years after Columbus landed on the island he called Hispaniola. Next time I also get to talk about one of my heroes, the Rebel Enrique, who led the first successful Native revolt in the Americas on this very island, in Bahoruca.
Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet living in Santa Fe.