Human Nature Sucks

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.

About Betty Fokker

I'm a stay-at-home feminist mom.
This entry was posted in are you kidding me with this shit?, I've been thinking too much, shit I think y'all should know. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Human Nature Sucks

  1. Robin S. says:

    Holy crap, Pope Fokker, I never heard about this! Well, the Cherokee slavery bit. The asshat govt bit I did.

    I’m going to send my daughter to you. She has a trip to the Iroquois Nation coming up in a couple of weeks as part of her enviromental studies classes. She’ll find this facinating.

    Thanks once again for illumination!!

  2. Shit, never realised that Cherokee kept slaves.. Racism was alive and strong even back then, oh just to be liked the white man…

  3. Renee says:

    I’m not sure what stuns me the most, the callous way the powers that be in the Cherokee nation are throwing their people out into the wind or the immeasurable font of information that pours from you daily. I don’t know when I’ve found another person as fascinating as I do you. I look forward to a lunch date more and more with every post!!!

    I am 1/16th Cherokee, or is it 1/8th. I can’t remember. My great great grandmother was a Cherokee “princess”. When I see things like this it makes me wonder if there is a mis-management of money going on here and they are trying to find a way to pad their accounts. Unfortunately every ethic group – no matter how persecuted they may have been as a people – have a group of people within their ranks that they consider “undesirable” or a lesser being in some way. I’ve often wondered why one groups injustices don’t carry over to another’s. It’s selfishness at it’s best. An injustice is an injustice, no matter whom it’s being aimed towards. If everyone got this one point, the world would be a much better and more peaceful place.

    • londonmabel says:

      It’s kind of looking like it has more to do with politics, because they’ve had an election going on that went back and forth with very close results. It looks like they’re taking out part of the population in hopes that it will swing the vote in some direction. But it must have been something on people’s minds already, (apparently the Seminole also tried to do the same a few years ago) so I wouldn’t put it down to something as simple as corruption. And it was voted on by 70% of the population or something (the majority, of course.)

      Living in Quebec where identity politics is a huge issue, I can sympathize with the fears surrounding issues of culture, and not wanting to lose your traditions, language etc., and fear of that being “diluted.” What does it mean to be Cherokee? Mohawk? French-Canadian? In the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawake no one gets automatic status, you have to wait til you turn 20 and apply for it. It just sounds to me like the Cherokee Nation, as a nation, is trying to take back control over that. But the treaty is an added complication. Annnd let’s face it, every North American aboriginal has learned that treaties don’t mean sh*t.

      And because you’re an oppressed group certainly doesn’t naturally make you more likely to support other oppressed groups, as we saw with the African American community and gay marriage in California. I think it’s a bit of a romanticization to expect that. After all, the slave trade in Africa was run by other Africans. And the thing is, *they* are human beings, with flaws, like everyone else. Being oppressed hasn’t conferred sainthood upon them.

      Alll that being said, I’m inclined to agree that they should respect the treaty. Or at the very least have other standards by which nation status is conferred, rather than blood. Oh la. Complicated stuff indeed.

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