Both have to do with identity:
1. The complicated reality of Native peoples reclaiming their identity that our government has tried to systematically erase for economic reasons throughout our nation’s history.
2. The dominant cultural/racial identity of whiteness in our country has become the generic norm.
This podcast is one of my favorites. Code Switch focuses on stories about race and identity. The journalists are all people of color. I always learn something every time I listen.
This episode is about how some Native American tribes use “blood quantum” rules to decide who can be a recognized citizen of a specific tribe. In other words, how much “Indian Blood” someone has and so can lay claim to being a part of one of the more that 500 tribes.
This is a complicated rule that was first used by the United States government. Our government noticed that as less and less “Indian blood” was present, Natives could be treated as a racial group instead of members of a sovereign nation. Get the difference? Economics. Power. Land rights. Those are the things that were (and are) at stake.
For the people of these tribes another important issue is answering the very personal questions of “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” The podcast shares a few different stories of people wrestling with those questions.
As I listened it brought back an experience in my church from just a few weeks ago. At a congregational meeting each person was given a survey with the typical church survey questions. (What gifts do you have and how can they be shared in this church community?) There was one more surprising question: What is your race?
I’m sure this has to do with the national church body wanting to know who is sitting in our pews. The answers were very telling. Most everyone there is of northern European descent. Some people filled in the names of countries of their descendants from a few generations back like Sweden, Germany, and England. Some people wrote “white” as their race. Many more people left it blank.
It makes me wonder how white people also wrestle with the questions of “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” Are we connected to our ancestors’ home countries? Do we pass down traditions and stories that help form our family identity?
Do we not wrestle with those questions at all because whiteness is the norm? Do we assume that whiteness is the standard against which all other races are compared? Do we leave the answer blank because the WASP identity is so prevalent, we automatically belong?
Listen to the 22-minute podcast and let me know what hits you.