Very quickly: as I’m rereading/auditing (*insert Scientology joke here so that Andy doesn’t have to*) The Poets’ Anagnorises – among other endeavors – I find yet another example of a White American male attempting to capitalize on being a member of a population who have historically been marginalized and of which even now very few members do get that chance (to use their underrepresented experience to catapult them out of their social caste). With the most optimistic consideration possible, Josh wonders if this speaks to our society’s bend towards inclusion. While I will herald that day with the rest of you, we have to start in reality. This is just good ole fashion, bold-faced lying and worse: a slap in the face. The best part is that when I read about his winning of the James Jones fellowship and his subsequent success, I felt momentarily guilty for looking at his picture and wondering why he was being referred to as a Native. When I read the fact that he was the last surviving translator, that is. And, of course, that was before figuring out that the entire bio of his in the JJ newsletter was based solely on his word. Which we’ve just figured out is worthless.
Now, the reason for the guilt is being a part of the complex Black caste. Meaning, being a different race from my parents who were different races than their respective parents. My father is dark. My grandfather passed. And still could have right up to his death. But part of why the John Smelcers of this country really disturb me is that they did not live this complex experience. They weren’t ever in a position to die if found out. They’ve never felt the anxiety that accompanies putting one’s life on the line to escape the unacceptable status and treatment that your race bestows upon you. They just capitalize on the novelty that America has assigned by appropriating the identities. And, let’s remember: my grandfather passed because of what was really in his blood. He didn’t just tell a bold-faced lie to sell a brand. Having for the majority of his life benefited from the institutional privilege that no actual Native American could grasp without being in that complicated position of “passing”.
“The Great Death is a fictional piece with a factual background. It is the story based on the lives of Smelcer’s two full-blood Indian grandmothers” is anything but ambiguous. If you wanna play the “adopted” card, let’s follow that logic. So you identify as Native, although you’ve known you’re not your entire life. You’ve registered knowing it would be assumed based on your adopted father’s last name already being in the registry. This is much more inconsiderate than the inverse situation because of the effort taken to have statistical accuracy within a tribe, especially one that has already lost the last full-blooded member (of whom you are claiming to be a “descendant”)… This is not about an identity complex or crisis. It couldn’t be. You’re a White man living in America. Regardless of what you tell people with whom you actually converse, you have been and will continue to reap the benefits of your Whiteness immediately and by virtue of your phenotype! The limited number of actual Natives capitalizing by the sharing of their story makes it irritating to more than few, I’m sure, when someone else gets to.
Will there a come a day when caste and race are overwhelmingly historical? I should hope so. But we don’t get there by jumping over the present ramifications of the past. This should be obvious whether I’m making myself clear at 11:45 or not.
So, obviously, I don’t know the meaning of “very quickly”. Though I’d intended to talk about our Easter Weekend (with Ana, Thanos and Auntie Annie) and our visit to Wilder Ranch, I’ll just whet your appetites with this: