On American Indians and Celebrity Obsession


September 27, 2012 by Erik Ritland

The Arrogance of the Cult of the Politically Correct
CNN’s website posted an article this week about a Massachusetts Senator whose opponent accused her of taking advantage of her “minority status” as a “Native American.” I look past the pointless mud-slinging to get to the real problem: that people still use the self-righteous term “Native Americans” when the people of the tribes that originally inhabited America prefer “American Indian.”

A blog on cnn.com this week posed this question: “Elizabeth Warren: Is she or isn’t she Native American?” Warren, who is running for Senate in Massachusetts, is accused by her opponent, Republican Scott Brown, of taking advantage of her “minority status.” As far as the story itself goes, it’s obvious that Brown’s accusations are typical, sad, grab-at-straws mud throwing meant to sway voters who are too stupid to see through it.

What stuck out to me, though, is the writers use of the term “Native American.” It has been well-known for years that the indigenous people of America prefer to be called American Indians, not Native Americans. Any person born in America is technically a “Native American.” The decision to change from “Indian” to “Native American” was not the idea or choice of any Native American group. Instead a group of pasty white Americans, no doubt feeling a little white liberal guilt, took it upon themselves to re-christen the “Indian” people a name that they divinely chose: “Native American.”

The people of America’s original tribes understandably took offense to this. First Columbus gets it wrong and calls them Indians, and then hundreds of years later a different group of obnoxious white people decides for them that they should now be called something different. Many American Indians are so used to being called “Native American” that they just shrug it off but, ironically, it is more offensive to call them that than it is to call them Indians.

But that doesn’t stop press outlets like CNN, among many other places in our culture (most notably the public school system), from still using the term. It’s not like anybody’s worldview other than theirs matters, right? What a life. Can’t we just leave our American Indian brothers and sisters alone? Haven’t we done enough to them already?

Celebrity obsession
The Fox News website had an article this week that listed several celebrities and discussed their political leanings. Whew, thank God I know now! I may have, God forbid, seen a movie that stars a celebrity who is audacious enough to believe different things than I do, or buy a song written by some bigot who dares to question the divine conclusions I’ve come to. Now if only the CEOs and owners of every restaurant came out and did the same thing, à la Chick-Fi-La (pronounced “chick-fill-ah”), then I could know where to eat and where not to.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.


5 thoughts on “On American Indians and Celebrity Obsession

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  3. Caleb says:

    Long Take: I don’t understand why the natives of the Americas would want a label that’s inaccurate. Wasn’t it because of Christopher Columbus mistakenly thought those people were from the Indian subcontinent that they originally got that name (or so, as the story goes)? Interestingly enough, I had just been thinking on this topic to some extent. I compared calling the natives of the Americas “Indians” to calling me Japanese… I’m mixed European with a bit of Jewish. But I’m not trying to get soft, here. I desire to understand these things further.

    • Erik Ritland says:

      I see what you’re saying – you aren’t “getting soft,” as this is a legitimate point.

      I think the argument of American Indians – the article I link to in my post is helpful – is that they have already gone through the indignity of a group of christening them with a name without having any say in what that name is. While “American Indian” is obviously not perfect it is what they were called for thousands of years and they got used to it. For better or for worse it is what they referred to themselves as with pride.

      It would have been one thing had a group of American Indians come around and said, “we’re sick of this degrading, incorrect name and would like to be called a more accurate one.” But they did not. Those in the almighty academia took it upon themselves to re-name an entire group of people that they weren’t. While being called a name that they actually weren’t wasn’t ideal it was preferred to another name assumed upon them by yet another group of obnoxious white people.

    • Erik Ritland says:

      Thanks for the comment, brother. I really appreciate it.

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