Here’s How Trump’s Racist Pocahontas Comments Hurt Us All
President Donald Trump puts his foot in his mouth more often than his well-done hamburgers. This time though, he really did it. According to CNN, Trump threw “Pocahontas” racial slurs around during an event honoring Native American veterans. It also took place in front of “trail of tears” Andrew Jackson, because this country loves irony. Trump’s comments insult not only Native American people, but all Americans, for a very important reason.
1. He called a Senator what?
“I just want to thank you because you are very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here,” Trump said to the veterans. “Although, we have a representative in Congress who has been here a long time … longer than you — they call her Pocahontas!”
Um, no. They don’t.
He then turned to one of the code talkers behind him, put his left hand on the man’s shoulder and said: “But you know what, I like you. You are special people.”
Next: Warren said she “really couldn’t believe” Trump’s comment.
2. Trump has called Warren worse than that
“There he was, at a ceremony to honor Native Americans, men who have really put it all on the line to save American lives … during World War II,” Warren told Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360. “And President Trump couldn’t even make it through a ceremony to honor these men without throwing in a racial slur.”
In June 2016, Trump told NBC News that Warren “made up her heritage, which I think is racist. I think she’s a racist, actually, because what she did was very racist.” He used the “Pocahontas” nickname throughout his campaign, against the better advice of his aides. Native American leaders told USA Today that yes, using that name smacks of racism.
“The reference is using a historic American Indian figure as a derogatory insult and that’s insulting to all American Indians,” said John Norwood, general secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes. He added that Trump should “stop using our historical people of significance as a racial slur against one of his opponents.”
Next: Would any time make a good time for this?
3. Navajo president suggests another time for slurs
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye called the aside “uncalled for,” particularly in that setting.
“This was a day to honor them, and to insert something like that … that belongs on the campaign trail,” Begaye said, according to Politico. “That doesn’t belong in the room when our war heroes are being honored.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the offensiveness of the name “ridiculous” but the Navajo president disagreed. “Pocahontas is a real person. It’s not a caricature. It’s not something that’s just made up,” he explained. “This is a person, a young lady and Native American woman, that played a critical role in the life of this nation. And to use that person in that way is unnecessary and being culturally insensitive.”
Next: Trump has done this before.
4. Trump’s knowledge of Native American history is shaky at best
As The Atlantic explains, the U.S. president has insulted Native Americans many times before. These remarks follow his long history of offensive comments about Native Americans. His Oct. 31 statement about Native American Heritage Month made little historical sense. “Beginning with the Pilgrims’ arrival at Plymouth Colony and continuing until the present day, Native American’s [sic] contributions are woven deeply into our nation’s rich tapestry,” Trump wrote. Native Americans interacted with English colonists 13 years before the Pilgrims. They also lived on now-U.S. soil long before that.
“They helped early European settlers survive and thrive in a new land,” he continued. That reduces Native people to a Tonto-style supporting role in our collective history. Additionally, it totally ignores the violence committed against them by the same European settlers. He also endorses the use of other slurs, calling the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins “a positive.” He considers attempts to change it “unnecessary political correctness.”
Next: The Pocahontas name goes beyond racial insensitivity.
5. Pocahontas embodies a long and problematic history
Native American historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz told Newsweek the story perpetuates a blot on American history. “The myth of Pocahontas helps to perpetuate white Eurocentric values because she leaves her tribe and becomes a Christian … This insinuates that Christianity is better than traditional Indigenous religion,” she explained in her book, All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans. “Thus, the myth of Pocahontas becomes a method of promoting Eurocentric values and norms and is a tool of colonialism.”
The California State professor emeritus also noted that the European image of Pocahontas borders on pedophilia. Historically, Pocahontas met John Smith as a child, before he whisked her away.
Next: Another recent move proves action speak just as loudly as words.
6. Anyone remember Standing Rock?
“Pocahontas is used a racial slur in the United States all the time,” Andrew Curley, a postdoctoral fellow in geography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a citizen of the Navajo Nation, told Newsweek. “If Trump really cared about Native Americans, he would’ve listened to the people at Standing Rock.”
Trump approved construction for the Dakota Access Pipeline in January, The Atlantic reported at the time. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied approval to the project late last year. Both local Standing Rock Sioux tribe members and environmentalists nationwide strongly opposed it. The pipeline crosses beneath a lake that provides drinking water to Native Americans and destroys sacred land. Tribal members and protesters camped out for months in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in opposition to the pipeline.
Next: Native or not, we all suffer effects of his words.
7. Trump’s racism hurts all Americans
Back in November 2016, Vox called Trump “bigotry personified,” for his villainization of Latinos, his slurs against African Americans, his Muslim ban, and his support of “stop and frisk.” Now, almost a year after his inauguration, the list only grows. The commander in chief tacitly — or explicitly — approves discriminating against minority groups. When he goes after one, more follow.
The Week summed up the problem of our bigot in chief. As the article points out, “What’s most important about Trump is the way he encouraged a white racial backlash, promoted it, and ultimately rode it to the White House.” Let’s not forget, his entire political career started on the back of the Barack Obama “birther” movement. As the author points out, “How many racist comments does one man have to make before we say, ‘Yep, that dude’s racist’? Whatever the number is, Donald Trump passed it a long time ago.”
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