Thursday, September 01, 2011

Progressive Worldview Holed Below Waterline

It's the little things that you keep sweeping under the rug/stuffing in to Fibber McGee's closet that eventually rear up and bite you.  Case in point, the recent decision by the Cherokee Nation's court to exclude the Freedmen from the tribal rolls (and the free healthcare and education and so on).  In and of itself, it's really only of direct interest to the ~3K Freedmen themselves -- not that I mean to trivialize the effect on them.  The Earth-Shattering Kaboomâ„¢ is the new public awareness of who the Freedmen are and how they got there.  All progressively-educated children are aware of the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee removal by force from Tennessee to Oklahoma.  Oppression by evil white people against pure, innocent brown people!  Easy to tell who the good guys are here.  Except that the Cherokee were quite capable of oppressing others even while they themselves were being oppressed.  Some of them owned slaves, and they took those slaves with them on the Trail of Tears.  The descendants of those slaves became the Freedmen, and were initially voted in to the tribe after the Civil War--a generous and fair decision.

Now, I knew about this because my Cherokee great-grandmother was one of those slave owners.  This history is personal.  I've never felt that I get to hide the shameful things my ancestors did while touting the interesting bits.  In my opinion, it would be better for everyone to drag the skeletons out of the closet and have a grand accounting, if only so that future generations don't have to hide the truth any more.  And, it makes everyone more human.  It makes the calculus of racial guilt so burdensome it can be finally discarded.  It no longer is enough to say "who oppressed you?" when handing out Absolute Moral Authority cards.  Regardless of the color of your skin, you are human--and all humans should be held to the same standards.  If it was wrong for white people to have slaves, it was wrong for the Cherokee to have slaves.


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