If you have Indian in your family, why do you know so little about them?
Why your show-and-tell moments don’t help when it comes to multiculturalism
Watching the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” reunion yesterday was exhausting, specifically the part about Kenya Moore wearing a Native American costume in Season 13. In the most overused phrase among black folks, she claimed to have Indian in her family. My eyes rolled from here to the front door. Here we go with this again.
And it’s not just black folks who do it. While I neither care for nor respect the 45th president’s “Pocahontas” jokes regarding Senator Elizabeth Warren, she was another person I was suspicious of when it came to heritage.
Here’s the thing: I’ve also been the person who wore the Native American headdress for Halloween. And even a casual glance at family reunion photos on my mother’s side can prove the Creole ancestry. Some of my older relatives weren’t just saying it; they were actually going back and forth to Louisiana to confirm the connection. I was not.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this probably isn’t a group I should be walking around claiming (for entertainment value on an annual holiday) if I’m not going to make the effort to learn the culture — or even pay attention to the issues that are important to them. My first and second lesson in that was a trip to Canada and then attending a university in the Upper Peninsula, where I temporarily became a “Yooper.”
Right before I headed to college, my mother and my old Girl Scout troop wanted to take a black history trip from Chicago to Detroit, then lead up to Ontario and Canada. The pattern was specific to the Underground Railroad. I wanted to go less for the history lesson and more to see something outside of the United States. What I did not expect to learn on this black history tour was all the information I got about Native American culture from a native Girl Scout troop we met along the way.