Friday, May 18, 2018

Why I'm a native American

I don’t know if I have any particular kind of ancestry, but I often claim to be “native American.”

Why? I do so when some institution is “surveying” so-called-race, which is a bogus concept to begin with. See 

Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, by Ashley Montagu.

People say I should choose “White,” but I’m definitely not white. My skin is pinkish yellow, or yellowish pink, and it grows red and brown when I’m out in the sun. I can’t imagine why its color would be important to anyone, except maybe a fashion consultant.

So, when surveyed, I choose “native American (small n)” because I was definitely born in America, so I’m a native. It’s a protest. I would be proud to be a Native American (capital N), but as far as I know, I have no such ancestry.

An interesting sidelight. Years ago when the university insisted I make a “race” choice, they assured me that the information was completely confidential. A year later, when I returned from a trip out of town, I found a note on my desk from Russell Means, a prominent Native American who had visited the university.

I wondered why he would write a personal note to me, until I found out that the administration had sent him to see me, their token “Native American Professor.”

So much for confidentiality. So much for the trustworthiness of bureaucrats.

In such a world, I shall remain “native American,” and I hope Elizabeth Warren and other smart people follow my example. 


quincy said...

I just check “ other “ . I also started checking “ DR. “ when a form insists I provide a title since every other one identifies what sex you are and if your a female whether you’re married or not or at least have been married etc. far too much information and NOTB .

Hardware Junkie said...

When asked to state my race, I had decided "American" is good enough. I think that's what I put on the last two census forms I did. Adding "native" is a nice touch.

Jim Kyle said...

I tend to select the "Other" category, then enter "Human" as the specific race. However I definitely agree with your philosophy.

Peter said...

When I first moved to the US, I was astonished to see the "what is your race?" question on the employment form. I understand the need to collect statistics about a discriminated-against group of people; but at the same time, the question reifies the notion that "race" is a thing. I don't know how to reconcile the need for statistics with abolishing the concept of "race" being meaningful. (I was even more astonished to see the "at will" clause, but that's a different discussion — or is it?)

Gerald M. Weinberg said...

Peter, thanks. I wonder why people think that putting people in meaningless categories is useful. Maybe they should ask "How many freckles do you have on your nose?" I guess they have a hard time hating people with lots of freckles, whereas they easily hate certain skin colors.