Donald Trump is fond of giving people insulting monikers that, presumably, have gotten more than a few people to crack a smile: “Crooked Hillary.” “Sloppy Steve.” But the name he calls Elizabeth Warren has never been funny.
The Massachusetts Senator is a political lightning rod known for “persisting” in even the most heated situations. On Feb. 14, she did it again — pushing back against the “Pocahontas” slur given to her by Trump and conservative critics.
“Our country’s disrespect of Native people didn’t start with President Trump, ” Warren said. “But now we have a president who can’t make it through a rite honoring Native American war heroes without reducing Native history, Native culture, Native people to the butt of a joke.”
I’ve “ve noticed that” when my name comes up, @realDonaldTrump likes to talk about Pocahontas. So I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas. Not the narrative that’s been distorted for centuries- but the real Pocahontas, and her story of valour. And gallantry. And ache. @NCAI1944 #ECWS2018
— Elizabeth Warren (@ elizabethforma) February 14, 2018
She did it in front of the National Congress of American Indians.
Warren could have easily built the statements all about her. Instead, she had the heroism to address the legacy of discrimination against Native Americans head-on during a surprise appearance at the National Congress of American Indians’ Executive Council Winter Session and Tribal Nations Policy Summit.
After going through a list of crimes against Native peoples — everything from racial slurs to tax policy — Warren made it clear the verbal assaults against her are just a funnel into addressing bigger issues.
“Washington owes you respect. But this government owes you much more than that. This government owes you a fighting chance to build stronger communities and a brighter future — starting with a more prosperous economic future on tribal lands.”
That didn’t stop a number of critics from going after Warren using the same insulting, offensive language and phrasing that she was criticizing.
Elizabeth Warren sending some serious smoke signals today.
— Ben Shapiro (@ benshapiro) February 14, 2018
Elizabeth Warren’s connection to Native Americans is as strong as Trump’s connection to Russians.
— Stephen Miller (@ StephenMilIer) February 14, 2018
Elizabeth Warren been smoking that tube today. Looks like she’s about to do war dance
— Wayne Dupree (@ WayneDupreeShow) February 14, 2018
Still, Warren didn’t let herself off the hook.
Warren’s nickname has its roots in accusations that Warren lied about her heritage to farther her career. She decided to address this claim immediately in front of the group of people arguably most qualified to repudiate her authenticity.
“You won’t find my family members on any rolls, and I’m not enrolled in a tribe, ” she said. “And I want to attain something clear. I respect that distinction. I understand that tribal membership is determined by tribes — and merely by tribes. I never employed my family tree to get a break or get ahead. I never used it to advance my career.”
It’s OK to blame Warren and anyone else in politics — and even to have a little fun along the way. But it’s never acceptable to use racist tactics.
If Warren’s critics were actually concerned about cultural appropriation or the lives of Native American communities, they’d do something about it. Instead, they’re employing the opportunity to troll her for political gain.
For everybody else, it’s an opportunity to turn a painful situation into a more hopeful one. As Warren told the members of the NCIA, “I’m here today to make a promise: Every day someone brings up my family’s narrative, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”
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