copyright Bettina Network 2012 – by Marceline Donaldson
There has been a lot of reporting because Senator Brown accused Elizabeth Warren of taking ‘advantage’ of her American Indian (Cherokee) background.
What the reporters have missed is the fact that being American Indian – even a small part American Indian has never been an advantage in this country. Most folks would spend time and resources covering their minority heritage! Elizabeth Warren has not done that – so she won’t have to be ‘surprised’ when a genealogist turns up her minority heritage.
The time-frame about which Senator Brown speaks was a time during which it was especially hard to claim to be any percent of any minority if you wanted a decent job, or a place to live at a reasonable price, or to be treated fairly. If you were a minority and female you could just forget it.
How long did Derek Bell fight and how much did he sacrifice just to get Harvard to look at the possibility of hiring an African American woman to the faculty of the Harvard Law School? Is that the time during which Senator Brown is claiming that to be part or full American Indian would give one an advantage at Harvard Law? It was called Beirut on the Charles because of the fighting going on in that time frame to try to open the faculty to qualified minority women. It didn’t happen. One was let in – an African American woman – and then the door slammed shut.
We live in a racist, sexist society where women and minorities are discriminated against and have to fight just to maintain second and third class citizenship. Equal opportunities don’t even come into the picture.
This country had Affirmative Action laws because there was no equal opportunity. To claim that someone who is American Indian, African American, Hispanic American, Female has an advantage over Whites Males in this society is simply untrue. It is a racist and sexist statement and I am appalled that the media has not labeled it as such, but covers it as though it is a legitimate statement to which Elizabeth Warren should respond.
To extend Senator Brown’s statement to its logical conclusion, he is claiming that minorities and females make less than their White Male counterparts because they aren’t as qualified, as intelligent, as aggressive, as etc. to be equal – they must be given these unearned ‘advantages’ which Ms. Warren was trying to take from them and claim as her own. Its further extension says that minorities and women are in lesser positions because they deserve them and are – what – genetically unable to be equal to White Males, thus the need to be vigilant about who uses these “advantages”?
To make the further claim that a Minority Female would experience such a large ‘advantage’ over White females that a White Female would have to claim to be a Minority Female to gain these ‘advantages’ she couldn’t achieve on her own as a White Female because clearly White Females don’t have these ‘advantages’ which accrue to Indian American females in this society is a statement so profoundly irresponsible and racist and sexist that I am appalled not only at the statement, but at the way it has been handled by the press. Is it because this is one of your own that you will not go after him with the truth, but must cushion what he says and does because his wife is one of you?
This is a United States Senator making such a claim, not simply John Q. Public who might not know better and Senator Brown clearly knows better.
What is apparent to me is the fact that he is changing the dialogue to make sure minorities and women are kept where they ‘belong’ and are kept disadvantaged because he is going on the attack with claims that to be a minority/minority female/female is to have what Senator Brown calls an ‘advantage’ over White Males such that one must be exposed for making what he calls ‘false claims’ to gain these superior ‘advantages’.
Does the following sound familiar?
1) These were the claims made by the KKK when Affirmative Action was passed.
2) The White Citizens Councils in the South made this argument. It is the argument against Affirmative Action. Their claim was – we don’t need Affirmative Action because it brings in Reverse Discrimination.
This is now slipped into the Senatorial race as an argument against doing the work of bringing about Equaity because we already have Reverse Discrimination. Senator Brown is claiming that when a Minority Female or someone who is just part Minority Female has more ‘advantages’ in this society than White Males and White Females – so many, according to Senator Brown, that a White Female with a small percentage of American Indian ancestry would loudly claim that ancestry at a time when it would definitely go against her in education, jobs, housing and more. What were those ‘advantages’ Senator Brown?
How unbelievably racist and sexist is this? Where are the other voices against this? Are you so accepting that you would allow such an important conversation be changed by a man who has been a centerfold, put his daughter on the block with his acceptance speech and now is turning the tables and trampling on all of the Civil Rights heroes who had to sacrifice – in some cases their lives – for the rest of us to gain just one more rung up the ladder – the bottom third of the ladder? He is telling all of us that to be a minority – even part minority – is to have an ‘advantage’ in this society which we exploit and allow others to exploit against White Males. How insulting is that when racism and sexism is a part of your daily life and you encounter it every time you walk out your front door.
During the years, about which Senator Brown is speaking, we tried to buy a house in Massachusetts. A White Couple went out to present themselves as the buyers – we were told that without that happening we would not be able to buy the house. When I decided that wasn’t necessary because after all we were living in different times and we appeared – the African American couple really the potential buyers of the house – the house was taken off the market. Is that the ‘advantage’ about which Senator Brown speaks? We now have the ‘advantage’ of not living on the North Shore – it would probably have been too much for an African American couple so we were ‘advantaged’ by being denied? Or was it my American Indian background which accrued that ‘advantage’ to us? If they knew about my English great-great-grandfather we probably would have been denied the ‘advantage’ of not living on the North Shore and we would have been ‘disadvantaged’ by being allowed to buy the house! This is what Senator Brown is telling us that Elizabeth Warren was trying to do – become that kind of ‘advantaged’ person to further her career and her life in this ‘advantaged’ direction!
Senator Brown’s accusations against Ms. Warren says more about Senator Brown’s racism and sexism than it says about anything Elizabeth Warren has done or been accused of doing. Add that to the blatant sexism he has shown and the “good old boy” attitude he exudes from every pore and this is my Senator? Senator Strom Thurmond would probably pat him on the back for what he has done for the cause (of the continued superiority of the White Male).
Back in the day – and not that far back – if you had ‘one drop’ of minority ‘blood’ in these United States you were that minority. If you claimed anything else you were accused of ‘passing’. I’ve never heard of a White person “passing” for a minority because of the ‘advantages’ that would accrue to them. The ‘advantages’ are so enticing, – of being turned down for housing; turned down for a job; and watching someone less qualified get that same job that you were denied in spite of Affirmative Action laws! For women it is the ‘advantage’ to be ridiculed; to be demeaned; to see the attempt to destroy their reputation using sex as a weapon; to be characterized as not serious and very frivolous; to be told you were born to be good secretaries but have no genes to allow you to be scientists, etc. – sounds like the ‘advantages’ Senator Brown claims Ms. Warren was seeking by owning up to her minority female ancestors.
To come up front and admit to your American Indian heritage or even to claim publicly whatever percentage of that American Indian heritage you have is a huge step forward for all of us. As someone who is part Choctaw and Black Foot American Indian to someone who is part Cherokee American Indian – welcome to the tribes Ms. Warren and thank you for not being ashamed of and of not hiding your minority heritage – no matter how small and no matter the negative repercussions on your life and your future.
Thank you Senator Brown for bringing that forward so we can thank Ms. Warren for her courage at a time when being one part any kind of minority female was something you hid and kept from others not something you admitted to publicly, especially if you didn’t look the part and it was easy to deny.
Even with Affirmative Action – which no longer exists and didn’t work very well anyway – you didn’t gain any ‘advantage’. Companies, Universities, other institutions or groups simply used the Affirmative Action laws to limit the number of minorities they had to hire instead of increasing that number by hiring the most qualified person for the job regardless of their race, sex, etc. I know about those so called ‘advantages, Senator Brown. I worked in Affirmative Action when it was active. I applied for a job in international marketing. I was hired for the job and then immediately moved to Affirmative Action because I was uniquely qualified. I didn’t even know what Affirmative Action was – so what were my qualifications? I was a minority female, who was ignorant about Affirmative Action. That was one way I was “advantaged”. Who was hired for the job in International Marketing? An Englishman with a high school education who had been in the English Army and played the clarinet in its band. I was so “advantaged” because I had only been to Harvard Graduate School of Business.
What are some of the other ‘advantages’ that minorities experienced? 10% Jews in some Universities – and any more were turned down as being not qualified. 2% African Americans - and even that was considered too much for most places. Let’s not even let in one American Indian – and that was acceptable to all. During the time of which Senator Brown speaks there was no advantage to being or admitting to being American Indian.
Who claimed there were ‘advantages”? – racists and sexists who were fighting Affirmative Action because the tomatoes were taken off their plate leaving only steak, vegies, potatoes and dessert for them to eat – and who were angry that those tomatoes were put on the plates of minority Americans whose plates were totally empty. They were angry that they were being ‘deprived so others might live in a less oppressive and freer environment. Those ‘advantages’ were especially strong against an American Indian – especially a female American Indian.
We aren’t that far from the Trail of Tears Senator Brown and who was that about – let’s see now – wasn’t that the Cherokee Nation herded west from the eastern South? If even a small percentage of your genes come from that Cherokee Nation you hold within yourself the pain of that event. To hold the pain of that event along with the anger in your genes from those who caused that pain – and to still be able to come forward to hold out that you are a part of that pain and a part of those who caused the pain accepting all of your ancestors is a substantial act.
Now, is this conversation that Senator Brown started really about some claimed ‘advantage’ or is he holding up a light for all to see that Ms. Warren is part American Indian in the hopes that the racists amongst us will not vote for her, but will vote for him instead?
Talk about a red herring with a racist agenda – that is what this looks like to many, many, many minorities who have had to struggle and still struggle and in spite of that are turned down for jobs, housing, other opportunities. To hear someone, especially a United States Senator claim that to be an American Indian or even part American Indian gains one some kind of advantage in this system is not only nonsense; it is not only extremely painful for minorities to hear because it once again raises the denial which has and continues to prolong the practice of racism and sexism in this society, but it changes the dialogue and gives the racists and sexists a place to hang their hats as they march forward to make sure Affirmative Action – Equal Opportunity – never again gains a foothold in this society and that minorities continue to be discriminated against .
Congratulations Senator Brown! You have earned a higher place within your political group. All of the ‘hail fellow well met’ folks are crowing about your ‘guts’ and jumping on your band wagon in their delight that one of their own is pushing back the unwashed minorities and women trying to be free and equal. The rest of us are wearing sack cloth and ashes because you are our Senator.
To claim that to be a Minority is to have more advantage than Whites have in this society and to claim that to be part minority opens one up to take advantage of non-existent advantages is to be irresponsible to the point of evil. To have set yourself up as the one who “outs” such claims is evil to the core.
Senator Brown has shown clearly in these past few days that he is not only racist and sexist, but believes he has a right to be and is very loud and wrong in his claims, but he doesn’t seem to realize how arrogant and ugly he now looks because his inner beliefs are on parade for all to see.
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