Recently, having had my full of the chest beating about “Native Americans” I let fly:
Some Europeans arrived before some “Native Americans” both as a matter of migration and simple birth, while the concept that a group of murdering primitives migrating over a period of 20000 years as “original inhabitants” is less useful than noting that most Native Americans are more closely related to Altaisians than to each other.
This resulted in some minor outrage and some bright person shot back, “For me, [the] statement makes no difference because all migration started from Africa. [There] would be no Europeans without that migration.” And that was, in fact, largely my point.
We seem to be infected with some romantic notion of “First Peoples”. The fact is that Homo sapiens is a murderous little beastie who regularly acts out behavior his cousins (thre Great Apes) manage to suppress, probably because his innerchimp is at war with a yet to mature forebrain. As a result, the denizens of the Altai migrated, killing everything in their path, East and then South, eventually rising to the notion of empire (as Homo sapiens has a penchant to do) where he ritually murdered innocents by ripping their hearts out – charming folk – while on the vast expanses of other portions of the Americas he engaged in tribal atrocities with predatory bands wiping out agrarian settlements, much as he does everywhere.
The fact is that trying to argue an artifact (a “people”) from 20,000 years of migration East from the foothills of the Altai makes as little sense as suggesting that the “Palestinians” are a “people” (oooooo – did I hit another liberal reflex – see, Doumani, Beshara B. “Rediscovering Ottoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History.” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 2 (January 1, 1992): 5–28. Accessed March 15, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2537216.)
To go a step further, my children, by way of example, must use a small “n” because they do evidence the Altaissian DNA, while others, some who have never set foot in Alaska, are Cap N Natives because they do have that DNA. This reminds me of the confusion suffered by “white people from Africa on naturalization in the US, having to be told that they can no longer be Afro-Americans…. In sum, while we scream to the heavens that we detest racism, we continue to invest in racist devices. Initially I thought that prescriptions such as those of Cornell West could be solutions, but whether for lack of trying, cultural hunger, or other reason, we are stuck, and I for one do not see things getting better.
Yes, my family left Belarus because of ethnic cleansing, and the half of the family that did not leave was wiped out 4 decades later because of their genes. While I don’t make anything of that, some muckraker might try to argue I have a chip on my shoulder; argue away. In part, the neoliberalism of the left was founded on the notion that, heartstrings aside, change would have to be based on hard economic changes. Unfortunately, the neolibs went in the wrong direction, simply asking different magnates to play nicer than the industrialists of the past. You know how that played out. But the impetus for that response is still there, and we continue to address it (at least some of us) through inane prestidigitation intended apparently more to make us feel good about ourselves, than resolve the underlying problems.
In a recent staff wide meeting for ASD teacher, teachers were advised that they need to be more Native in approaching Native students, one example being the use of shaming as a disciplinary tool… Yes, you heard me correctly. While the biggest problem facing Native Alaskans in education is a non-verbal culture in which critical language development is all but absent, teachers are being asked to shame students who don’t perform, because this is how elders do it in the village. Enough!
If you read this as a racist rant, that is your prerogative, but you have missed the point entirely. The message here, as Mr. Brown so elegantly puts it, is to get up offa that thing, but for those of you who can’t manage that….