I found the following Twitter thread to be highly informative and ever-timely.
Nick Estes’ profile (@nickwestes) states: Oceti Sakowin. Kul Wicasa. Lakol Wicoun. The original Red Scare. Merciless Indian humor. @The_Red_Nation Podcast. Book: Our History is the Future.
“I can’t speak on whites pretending to be Black in the academy. But I see similarities with how whites have adopted a Native identity in the academy. Yes, there’s a question of resources. What’s not often spoke about is the politics of injury tied to these make-believe identities.
The cunning of trauma politics is that it turns actual people and struggles, whether racial or Indigenous citizenship and belonging, into matters of injury. It defines an entire people mostly on their trauma and not by their aspirations or sheer humanity.
Who’s the audience for the politics of injury? It certainly isn’t for those who are marginalized. Mostly it’s for white audiences or institutions of power. It’s non-threatening to be a traumatized person, especially when those dishing out the trauma become those who solve it.
Most Indigenous people I know became politicized through their collective historical experience from colonization. But being Indigenous isn’t solely a source of trauma. Thought of as nations with aspirations for freedom, the struggle itself through an identity can be liberatory.
We have seen the horizon of Indigenous struggle shift. Once it was beyond the settler state. Now it is seeking recognition and remuneration from the settler state for the injuries it has caused. @bloodizcurrency explains this in her book Therapeutic Nations. Read it!
Two examples: Elizabeth Warren’s narration of her fake Cherokee identity is based on a sense of perceived discrimination in her family. Andrea Smith creates an entire field based on locating and defining Indigenous trauma, which was based on her fake Cherokee identity.
I’m always cautious of trauma narratives. Indigeneity is more than just genocide. It’s a world-making politics for just relations. And the most dangerous elements — decolonization through land back and class struggle — tend to be neutralized within academic spaces.
The best way to combat this liberal tendency is by building and foregrounding actual politics that call for the material transformation of the world. No more crying on the shoulder of the man who stole your land or putting star blankets and headdresses on colonizers.
Identity plays a role, for sure. Class is about power. And Indigenous people often experience their class position through their Indigeneity and through the power dynamics of the colonial relation. But being Indigenous doesn’t automatically equal “good” politics.
What we are experiencing is less identity politics and more a politics of injury, or that an identity is based on injury. We can’t just be human beings, we have to have some kind of “plight,” as V. Deloria once put it. It’s not to reject identity but to reject dehumanization.