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Something about Brown's response about checking the box made me wonder:
What advantage comes with identifying as an American Indian?
Then I thought about the scripture where St. Paul asks in Romans:
What advantage then hath the Jew? I borrowed from the scripture and asked:
What advantage then hath the American Indian?
The advantage Brown thinks Warren received for checking American Indian is absurd on his part. It is clear he does not understand there are no advantages for checking the American Indian box at major universities. As a matter of fact, there are disadvantages.
Yesterday I called Gordon Henry, Ojibwe, director of the Native American Institute at Michigan State University and asked him if there are advantages when you check the American Indian box if you are employed by a major university. He laughed.
“It probably means you have to work doubly or even triply harder. When you let people know you are American Indian, you have to become an expert all of the sudden. You have to know everything about being American Indian. It is expected. You have to provide tours for tribal groups and non-Native people around campus. It happens to us all the time. Professors, who are German, are not expected to know everything about Germans. They are not expected to be experts,”
Gordon said, mixed with some laughter.
Sadly, a couple of generations ago, American Indians actually encouraged their offspring to downplay their Indian heritage, because it clearly was a disadvantage. For generations, being American Indian became the deciding factor to be excluded from employment.
Given there have been less than ten American Indians who have served in the United States Congress since the first Congress strongly suggests checking the American Indian box is an exclusionary factor - especially in Congress.
As for Elizabeth Warren's Indianness, the fact remains we need individuals in the US senate who will work hard to get American Indians out of poverty, into homes and provide hope for better lives.
So, if it is Senator Brown who gets reelected or Professor Warren, I can only hope the winner realizes American Indians actually need someone who can champion certain advantages for being American Indian. So far, there really have not been many within the confines of non-Indian systems.
posted September 29, 2012 8:50 am edt