There is currently a kerfuffle going on between the Cherokee Nation and the US government, and for a change I think the Cherokee Nation is in the wrong. The Cherokee Nation has decided to strip the descendants of its former slaves, also known as the Freedmen, of their traditional rights within the tribe. This not only includes voting rights, but also medical care, food stipends, and other kinds of aid to the poorest in the community. This disenfranchisement of the Freedmen is illegal, since an 1866 treaty gave the Freedmen and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.” The Cherokee Nation, which is made up of people who should be more sensitive to the ignoring treaties and denying people rights, are being total asshats and leaving the Freedmen swinging in the metaphorical breeze. Why, after all the shit that rained down on the Cherokee, not the least of which was the Trail of Tears, are they acting so callously toward the Freedman?
Come to think of it, why in the hell did they own slaves in the first place?
Short answer: Mammon Worship.
There had been a traditional form of slavery among the Cherokee, but it was temporary. However, in the late 18th and early 19th century the idea of plantations and enslavement of Africans and their descendants had taken hold. Slavery was lucrative, and gave the Cherokee and mixed-heritage Cherokee status among the white slave owners. Therefore, the Cherokee adopted the Europeanized version of slavery, and enacted laws to keep their black slaves in their ‘proper place’. Apparently the Cherokee slave owners didn’t see any irony in institutionalizing second class citizens based on ethnicity. Many of the Cherokee nation clearly identified themselves with the white elite. However, the white elite were busy planning to take away the Cherokee land and drive them out, because they were non-whites. Happily for white bigots, that stupid wankstain, Andrew Jackson, was elected president and was glad for any opportunity to oppress people of color. Jack was such a raging anus that when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Cherokee rights, he ignored the 3rd branch of government. But as bad as Jack was, Martin Van Buren was worse, since it was under Van Buren’s tenure that the Trail of Tears began.
Like others before them, the Cherokee had made a patriarchal bargain and colluded with the oppression of others for privileges within the patriarchy. Like others before them they discovered that the patriarchal bargain could be broken at any time when the patriarchy saw more profit in negating their unspoken terms. The patriarchy is a jerk like that.
The Cherokee were not alone in using slave-owning to raise their status and ally themselves with the white “Us” and dissociate themselves from the non-white “Them”. In fact, some former slaves would then become slave owners when they were freed.
Apparently it’s human nature to try to identify with those in power. My Dad has a little of this going on. He grew up in abject poverty, but you have never heard anyone pontificate more about the evils of the “welfare state”. He can’t seem to get that just because he got out of hell, doesn’t mean there aren’t still structures in play that are keeping millions of Americans impoverished. He doesn’t understand that the fact he was a white guy with blonde hair and blue eyes helped him. He doesn’t understand that his IQ, which is 180, isn’t available to 99.9% of the rest of humanity. He doesn’t get that people who have average an IQ and/or brown skin need opportunities to enjoy middle-class prosperity, and that structural classism and racism make those opportunities really hard to get. He also doesn’t seem to connect the student loans that allowed him to go to college and med school with “government social programs”. Yet as much as he gripes about “welfare”, he is one of the most generous individuals I know.
Why is human nature so complex, weird, and intrinsically hypocritical? How do humans simultaneously rise above all their bullshit and do heroic things, while also stooping to act in manifestly abominable ways?
Pardon me while I go ponder for a while.