Should you happen upon a Boston Globe op-ed entitled “Why it’s time for President Trump to stop calling Elizabeth Warren ‘Pocahontas’,” published on Tuesday, and click on it expecting the article’s main point to be, “because it’s racist,” don’t hold your breath.
The op-ed is a work of smart, incisive political analysis, to be sure, but it was more than a little jarring to discover that its author is calling on President Donald Trump to stop calling Warren “Pocahontas” not because it’s the decent, respectful thing to do, but as a matter of strategy.
“There’s no proof it ever resonated with voters, who may have missed the reference altogether,” James Pindell writes. “Words like ‘lying’ or ‘crooked’ are easily interpreted as bad, even with context. But Pocahontas is a more obscure cultural reference, one that voters may have trouble connecting with Warren.”
The closest he comes to acknowledging the racial insensitivity of the taunting name is this line: “Besides, he’s using it as a slur of sorts, defaming the name of a celebrated Native American woman in colonial Jamestown.”
Something that the op-ed was painfully, deafeningly lacking? Some statement making it clear that, even if calling Warren “Pocahontas” did resonate with his base, it would still be wrong.
Additionally, as a 70-year-old adult whose name-calling days should have ended some 65 years ago, as a president who has enthusiastically supported the construction of oil pipelines catastrophic to Native communities, who has yet to comment on Native Americans’ rights and America’s long history of infringing on these rights, and ultimately, who has, intentionally or not, fed fuel to the flames of white nationalism that have always been harmful to the Native people, Trump shouldn’t be mocking Warren and Native Americans.
At the very least, Pindell does a good job putting everything in context:
“It references a campaign controversy that began when it came out that Warren had listed herself as ‘Native American’ in faculty directories at the law schools of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania. Warren, who grew up in Oklahoma, said it was always her understanding that she was part Native American. She also said that she didn’t use the background to her advantage since she was actively recruited by both schools to be a professor.”
Still, the issue at hand is that Trump is trivializing the oppression and genocide of Native Americans, turning their tragic history into a punchline for an attempt — and a failed one, at that, according to Pindell — at being political again.
His campaign in itself was run on the premise that America was formerly great, when the reality is that from its inception, the United States of America and its history have always been painted with the blood of Native Americans. The most pitiful, shameful part? Jokes about Warren are the closest he’s ever come to talking about Native Americans and their history in the United States, let alone the injustice and hostility they continue to face with the Trump-backed Dakota Access Pipeline.
Trump most recently called Warren “Pocahontas” over the weekend; the op-ed was a direct response to this. Trump assigned this taunting nickname to her years ago, and the fact that he’s sticking with it, and likely will stick with it regardless of the fact that it doesn’t seem to be serving him, prove not only his disrespect for the culture and history of nonwhite people, but ultimately, his astounding immaturity.
[featured image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.