Reblogged from Andrea Smith’s blog.
My Statement on the Current Media Controversy
July 9, 2015
by Andrea Smith
To the academic and social justice organizing communities which I have been part of for many years, and to whom I am indebted:
I have always been, and will always be Cherokee. I have consistently identified myself based on what I knew to be true. My enrollment status does not impact my Cherokee identity or my continued commitment to organizing for justice for Native communities.
There have been innumerable false statements made about me in the media. But ultimately what is most concerning is that these social media attacks send a chilling message to all Native peoples who are not enrolled, or who are otherwise marginalized, that they should not publicly work for justice for Native peoples out of fear that they too may one day be attacked. It is my hope that more Indigenous peoples will answer the call to work for social justice without fear of being subjected to violent identity-policing. I also hope the field of Native studies might attend to disagreement and difference in a manner that respects the dignity of all persons rather than through abusive social media campaigns.
Out of respect for the dignity and privacy of my family, and out of concern for the damage that these attacks have had on my students, colleagues, and organizing communities, I will direct my energies back to the work of social justice.
We stand against disposability, which is the political practice of disposing an individual of their personhood under the assumptive logic that the rest of humanity will be better off. To be clear, it is a political practice that authorizes one person or a select group of people to choose who is disposable and who is not. We do not support any practice of disposability — regardless of the political goal or what side of a debate we are on. Disposability is not a form of sovereignty, it is a reproduction of the violence of the settler state. We push back against any conflation of accountability with public shaming, especially when the shaming is en masse. Such conflations appropriate the language of accountability and erases the community organizers and activists who have spent decades of their lives developing and fostering transformative justice and community accountability practices for themselves, their communities, and their movements. We are angered by those who took a conversation amongst native feminists to an online platform and rallied people to participate in making indigeneity a spectacle. To be clear, our position on people of color solidarity asks that you not erase all of the native feminists who are critical of the public shaming of Andrea Smith and recognize that native feminists and other feminists of color did not choose to enter this debate on indigeneity but were brought into it by those who used online platforms to enact racial policing. The genesis of the “Andrea Smith is Not a Cherokee” tumblr and the meme of Smith’s face next to Rachel Dolezal used anti-black violence as the basis of comparison. Now, so many of us have had to exhaust our time and emotions because our own narratives (as organizers, students, colleagues, and friends) were forced into this larger act of public shaming. We did not choose this, we do not accept this, and we support anyone who has had to carry a burden that others are responsible for forcing onto them. We ask that those waging attacks, and the broader public that is following them, refrain from damning an individual for not putting out an immediate response. We should not assume any knowledge nor should we participate in such a public and violent discourse. These stories were not meant for public consumption, yet natives are always expected to willingly give whatever is asked of them. This call needs to be refused.
by Andrew Jolivétte
Let me begin by stating that the recent comparisons between Rachel Dolezal and Andrea Smith are deeply problematic and troubling for a number of reasons.
1. Smith unlike Dolezal grew up being told she was Cherokee, she did not invent this identification as a child.
2. The politics of tribal enrollment and citizenship, especially within the Cherokee Nation are deeply politicized, racist, and in my view Eurocentric to say the least (see Sturm, Blood Politics).
3. Smith has not held official appointments in Native American Studies, unlike Dolezal who held positions in African American organizations. While Smith has held positions in Native organizations, this was not her source of employment.
4. Passing functions differently in Native and Black contexts and while both benefit from supposedly passing the issue of who is and who is not Indian is much more tied to state and federal laws both historic and contemporary that seek to limit the number of Indians while increasing the number of Blacks. In other words kill the Indian through a paper genocide so no one can be an Indian unless the U.S. Government approves and anyone with Black blood is black according to the U.S. Government so that they can be thoroughly disenfranchised.
5. When the Cherokee were removed in the 1830s not all Cherokee left many remained, unrecognized in their original homelands but we both native and non-native academics tend to favor the enrolled to the detriment of the unrecognized (I.e., California Indians especially in Northern California who are also “Not Indian” like Smith for the very same reasons). I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Smith like the Ohlone are Not recognized because of a government system that seeks to erase Indian people, especially mixed-race Indians. This happens throughout the United States and Latin America where blackness is in fact used to erase Indian blood, while whiteness in Indian country is rarely questioned.
In regards to the controversy surrounding Andrea Smith, I feel I have two choices: either I trust things forwarded to me over social media that are full of claims I have no way of substantiating or I can read her work. I choose the latter and not the former. While relying on her work instead of forwarded posts may be fraught with its own set of problems, it is what I choose. I find her work to be an impressive combination of deep scholarship and a substantial activist commitment, empowered by a unique turn of mind that is often demonstrated by an investigation of areas other people won’t touch. To my way of thinking the work is vital and indispensable.
Off social media most of the day and now back to a witch hunt against fierce feminist author and friend, Andy Smith. While I’m not privy to all that’s been published, so far I’ve read tequilasovereign’s (aka Joanne Barker) tumblr and a couple others. tequilasovereign’s statements eerily evoke cointel-pro badjacketing rather than Indigenous feminism. Reading it I couldn’t help ask myself, what interests are served via this pillory?
When Ward Churchill’s identity was called into question it clearly served a conservative agenda. My position then was that his identity is between him and the creator and an issue for his family and Nation to address internally through their own cultural process. After all, the primary issues regard accountability, colonialism, and white supremacy. I still maintain that his political contributions shouldn’t be uncritically thrown out when challenged with the colonial institution of “blood-quantum.”
Accountability on Indigenous terms figures quite different than putting someone on a social media blast. Certainly ethnic fraud should be critically addressed regarding Indigenous (mis)representation but is this the proper way and venue to address matters that have such serious implications? Perhaps we should also consider the standard set by Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma’s shit politics regarding anti-black dis-enrollments? It’s further concerning how the logic of this applies to non-Federally recognized Indigenous Peoples too, what are the standards for Indigenous academic purity there?
David Shorter states in his 7/1/15 editorial slam piece against Andrea Smith, “Four Words for Andrea Smith: I’m Not an Indian”,
“But the value of the conversation will only emerge if we must start first with honesty. That’s the power of saying what we know to be true.”
I have met Andrea on one occasion when she was speaking at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. She was a co-editor on a recent anthology from the University of Arizona Press which I had an essay in. The title of this essay was Blood Policing. How very timely indeed. Clearly, I don’t know Andrea Smith in the way that these sometimes anonymous and sometimes not bloggers purportedly do.
But what I do know “if we must start first with honesty” as the venerable Professor Shorter states, is that what is missing from these conversations is just that. So let us start with Professor Shorter who says he is Mexican, but not Indian. A ton of my Mexican friends will want to kick the guy in his teeth as soon as they read that strange line of reasoning as they absolutely identify as Indian. Okay, so that one is settled. On to the next…and please note that everything I am writing here today are words I have been writing about for years and have spoken of directly to the insulting parties.