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September 13, 2003

Native American Racism

THE NY TIMES has an article about racism within the Native American nations of Oklahoma. The focus of the piece is on "black" Indians. I have read about this group before, and the blood quantum controversies (along with inclusion in the "Blood Roll") also occur with self-identifying members of the tribes who are mostly white by ancestry, but I never hear of the term "white" Indians. But perhaps I'm just out of the loop on this. (see the issues involving Native Hawaiians to see this isn't just an anomaly but a manifestation of a new trend in our society)

This case also illustrates why I'm wary of the government recognizing race as a legally significant trait-I think that "race" is a valid way to classify human beings if you want to extract information about the condition of the species, but it doesn't have the neat & easily defined boundaries that make it easy to grapple with in the liberal order[1]. If the United States governed its people with acturial tables it might be a rational way to proceed, but in general the American way is to take each individual as a stand-alone entity rather than as one embedded within a corporate entity. The final extension of this concept of course is full genomic sequencing that will be an essential part of your "identity" that will have legal ramifications.

fn1. Because America was at its founding populated by Native Americans, northern Europeans and black Americans, the "fuzzy" boundaries of racial groups were less clear in this country. In South Africa, individuals would sometimes shift racial categories, from white to colored (mixed race, black, khoisan, white, south & southeast Asian), colored to white, Asian to colored, black to colored, etc. because of the obvious overlap in phenotypes. With the migration of multiracial Latin Americans, non-white Caucasoids and light-skinned East Asians the older conception of race is in need of revision in the United States as a social concept. But with the minority activist class reappropriating hypodescent there has been a freeze of 1900 attitudes in some contexts where they are perceived to be advantageous to group interests.

Posted by razib at 05:39 PM

This example has an interesting parallell. The Japanese dealt with cases of Black US Soldiers and Japanese women Post-WWII completely differently than White US Soldiers and Japanese women. The Black-Japanese couples (with their children) got discreetly shipped back to America.

Posted by: Peter Phillips at September 14, 2003 01:45 AM