« The Great Leap | Gene Expression Front Page | Muslim, pregnant & unmarried »
July 15, 2003

Faux Indians, Native Americans

Bad Eagle has a funny post on six "Native American" contestants in the Miss Okhlahoma pageant. Two of them are blonde, only one of them really has a "look & feel" that seems authentic.

Posted by razib at 07:04 PM

This seems to accord with the fluidity of racial boundaries in the US.

With a minimal amount of African genetic ancestry (one drop) a person can choose to be an African American. In the same way, with next to no Native American ancestry, one can choose to be Aboriginal.

Posted by: IKram Saeed at July 16, 2003 09:22 AM

In the same way, with next to no Native American ancestry, one can choose to be Aboriginal.

especially true since there are more half-bloods than full-bloods i believe, and 1/4 native american heritage confers some gov. benefits, etc. and less can give you nice scholarships (as some of my friends can attest too-getting 3 or 4 native american scholarships and being 1/8 native american).

Posted by: razib at July 16, 2003 01:02 PM

Though note, the fluidity only goes one way. One drop of European ancestry does not make you white.

The American social practice of one-way racial mobility worked fine when when being African-American or aboriginal lowered your social status and your prospects in life. No white person would pretend to be non-white. And in general, non-whites could not become white (unless they 'passed' and severed themselves from their family).

So in practice -- no racial mobility.

Now that there are some statutory and de-facto benefits to being aboriginal, there's a reverse flow towards an aboriginal identity (and it really shows up in the census race self-identification question.)

There are also many white Americans with African ancestry (take a look at the Sally Hemings descendents reunion). But these whites are not clamouring to be called African American to gain the any governmental benefits.

You'll know that racial barriers have truly fallen when whites start claiming to be black to get the benefits. Since we don't see that flow right now, the downside to being black must be much greater than any upside.

To insert an heterodox idea to this blog: Perhaps affirmative action benefits need to be increased until we do start seeing that flow, and then decreased slightly. Then you'll have equalized the benefits of being black or being white in America. Assuming a race neutral socety is desirable -- which isn't a universally accepted proposition on this blog.

Posted by: Ikram Saeed at July 16, 2003 02:19 PM

the gov. benefits for blacks are far less tangible. native americans can get direct gov. cash. additionally, the scholarshp awards can be rather hefty, my 1/8 native american friend had 3 scholarships aimed at people of native ancestry, which meant he had a lot of disposable income (1 scholarship for tuition, one for room & board and expenses, and the third went to disposable income related activities). his mother (1/4) was a tribal member, though with auburn hair and pig-pink skin (he was quite overweight) he didn't fit the physical stereotype, and culturally, he was kind of a redneck....

Posted by: razib at July 16, 2003 02:25 PM

I am enrolled in Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee
and i have a roll number,why can`t i get money
from the Goverment?

Posted by: sarah jane jewell at August 17, 2003 07:40 PM