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African-Native American Research Forum Archive

Re: Why Must We Be Wannabees?


I get a big chuckle, when I talk to a colleague or a neighbor and they tell me that they have American Indian ancestry. When I ask what tribe, the answer is usually Cherokee, but their ancestors had never been west of Philadelphia. I understand: It's Cherokee, Cherokee, Cherokee. Implausible, Implausible, Implausible. It's not as if I'm ignorant of this phenomenon. I know that it exists.

It is a rare thing for an African American whose lineage goes back to the antebellum South to have a document that "proves" that his ancestor was from the African continent or that he had an ancestor that was a slave for that matter. They could possibly be descended from one of the groups of "free colored." I'm the only black person I know who actually has a document saying that his ancestor was a slave. However, my identity and life as an African American is tied to the community into which I was born, an oral tradition, and my appearance, not to that document. There are African Americans who have only appearance to go on, given that they were raised by a white mother without ever being told who their father was. Society still treats them as African Americans. And no, we don't need a government card. I don't have a card that says that I'm African American. Am I less "authentically" of African ancestry than the "Indian" man who has a CDIB card, knows that he is essentially ignorant of his tribe's culture, has no Amerind ancestry, and only has citizenship because his ancestor bought himself into the tribe a few generations earlier?

If in fact you were lumping me in with the oppressor because I chided you for harping on the oppression story, I believe that's a mistake. I speak to the oppression of black people in this country all the time. And to address your other point, no I don't think we should forget about the past and melt into being simply Americans, that's a bogus position. However, I don't use our tragedy as the defining dimension of the African American community. If it comes to that, we're done as a people. If it comes to that, the Cherokee are done as a people.

David wrote

"He claimed to be Cherokee...and caused many to turn against Cherokees. You don't feel or even see any of this because you don't care."

How do you know that I don't care? Or maybe your question was rhetorical and addressed to the general readership?

I will admit to a chauvinistic attitude towards what is science and what is not. However, I feel that even using your definition

["Any hypothesis (plausibility argument) converted to theory through sound research and documentation that can be traced again and again by those who come after is science."]

genealogical research, generally, falls short. What they are tracing over and over again are other investigators' plausibility arguments. But that's not just true for genealogy, it's true for a lot of other subjects: economics, sociology, descriptive linguistics, to name a few. I grant you that my PhD is in mathematics, however I have studied the three fields I mentioned explicitly and I defy anyone to say that you can reliably repeat experiments in them. In general, you have a hard time even designing an experiment in them and there is little about these fields that can be described as deterministic/predictive.

By the way I didn't know that you were a biologist. Is your PhD in that field? (You wrote: "My training is in biological research and I currently work for a university in that field.")

Since most people have no interest in "proving" their lineage and others can't, possibly, because there was never any documentation, they've lost the paper trail due to a name change, etc., they take what they've been told. You're not going to change them. Haven't you done enough experiments to see that?

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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