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.
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?