The term “piling on” comes from football, and it means that once a player is down, he’s down! Anyone who jumps on the pile after he’s been ruled down is hit with a 15-yard penalty.
There are an awful lot of people running around today who need to be assessed a penalty for piling on — and all of it when it comes to Elizabeth Warren.
Before we get into it, let me just acknowledge that I find it difficult to join the chorus of those who condemn her for claiming that she had some American Indian ancestry. We’ve all been told things in our lives that have turned out to be not quite true. We’ve all labored under the false impression that something we grew up thinking was the case ended up not being the case.
I’ve heard things about my heritage, and I have no idea whether they’re true. Some of the things I’ve been told — even as recently as two years ago — make a lot of sense because they fill in a lot of blanks. Still, it doesn’t mean they are accurate.
However, visiting ancestry.com, or some other genealogical expert, to verify all I’ve been told hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure I will someday, but I just haven’t gotten around to it, I guess.
This seems to be Warren’s predicament. She probably took it at face value that her grandmother’s claims of American Indian heritage were true and never delved deeper.
Assuming Harvard University is telling the truth that she did not claim her ancestry, true or otherwise, to move to the front of the line, I’m at a loss to see what all the anger is about. I certainly take exception to claims she’s a liar. Being wrong about something you’ve believed your whole life — if that is indeed the case — is not the same as lying about it.
Apparently, Warren also claimed to be American Indian on a document submitted to the Texas bar. Again, though, where is the intent to deceive if she genuinely believed this to be true?
But these are points on which we can differ — and obviously we do. But there can be no ambiguity about the racism that has, unfortunately, become a part of this issue.
We can start with the use of the name “Pocahontas,” which is used by everyone from President Donald Trump on down.
Where and when did people come up with the idea that Warren’s alleged transgressions — whatever they are — give them a pass to use a historical American Indian name as a derisive smear? Can someone explain that?
For those who can’t seem to understand the concern, ask yourself whether you’d dare insult a Hispanic, a Jew or an African-American by tossing around an equally historically significant name in such a manner. If you claim you would, then you are a liar. And to those who claim, as some have, that people should just lighten up, and that they’re just too sensitive, save it. If you’ve never suffered systematic repression and discrimination at the hands of others, you do not get the privilege of deciding what is or is not offensive. You see the world out of different glasses, and there is no way you could ever appreciate the ways, large and small, that racism and bigotry worm their way into people’s lives.
Aside from calling Warren “Pocahontas,” Trump also made it a big point to tweet over the weekend that he’d see her on the TRAIL. All caps.
Either he’s woefully uneducated — willfully or otherwise — on the history of American Indians in this country and what they’ve endured, he doesn’t care, or he doesn’t deem them worthy of his concern. How could he not know of the “Trail of Tears”? And how can he be so obtuse to think people wouldn’t make the connection when he goes out of his way to accentuate the word?
Last week, in a local metropolitan daily, a noted columnist unleashed a screed on Warren in which he used every racist and bigoted American Indian stereotypical dialect he could dredge up. Who thought that was acceptable?
This isn’t about whether you think she lied about being an American Indian. It is about whether you think that permits you to declare open season on using derogatory and racist language while you’re piling on … and whether you really believe the false equivalency that her claiming American Indian heritage, most likely out of total innocence, is racist, so it’s perfectly OK for you to be more racist in response.