Is Scott Brown Really An Android?

Acrylic on canvas by Mateo Romero @ the Peabody Essex Museum

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is a desperate bully.  He is.  Did you hear his opening statement in his first debate with senate challenger Elizabeth Warren?  Get this:  he accused her of lying about her racial background – said she had checked the box on job applications indicating she is Native American to gain a hiring advantage.  Then he looked at her and said in a sneering tone, “you can see that she’s not a Native American”.  Senator Brown all but admitted that he is an expert racial profiler.  He no doubt has some Hollywood stereotype in mind for what Native Americans are supposed to look like. His campaign staff doubled down on the insults recently by mocking Warren at a campaign rally with tomahawk chops and chants which were deeply offensive to the Cherokee Nation.  My question is this – what right does Scott Brown have to question her background like this anyway? He has no basis for doing so, except desperation, much like the radical birthers from the lunatic fringe. Next thing you know, Scott Brown will be demanding her birth certificate and DNA samples.

But here’s the thing, as Melissa Harris-Perry has pointed out and as many other scholars have as well, race is a social construction, not a a biological one.  All people look the same under a microscope.  We all bleed red and cry salty tears.   So what does race have to do with anything?  Is it bad to be a Native American, or to be granted some preferential treatment to redress past atrocities committed against Native Americans or to ensure that one who is qualified is granted an opportunity and not discriminated against?  In Warren’s case, whether or not she benefited is not the point.  The point is that she knows her family history better than anyone else, and certainly better than Scott Brown.  I believe she is of Native American heritage.  She did grow up in Oklahoma, home to one of the largest populations of Native Americans in the country.

And let’s flip this.  Who is Scott Brown?  What is his heritage, and how do I know that what he says about himself is true?  Are we just to take his word?  What box did he check in school?  He may or may not be of Anglo Saxon descent.  How can I be certain that he is even human – he could be an android for all I know!  I mean it is somewhat suspect for a man of means to drive an old pickup truck that costs $70 to fill up.

As Rachel Maddow mentioned, it is astonishing and disturbing that an issue would be made of race in a U.S. senatorial race, in the year 2012.  It’s 2012, not 1956, the year before Native Americans were finally able to vote in all states.

Here’s the last thing, Elizabeth Warren is brilliant.  Scott Brown knows that and he really didn’t want to debate her.   He even tried to skip out on the debate but was called back after Harry Reid cancelled a senate session that Brown was going to attend.  In addition to his affirmative action bashing and his personal attack on Warren’s family history, he resorted to that anti-intellectual appeal that GOP supporters and the dull among us find so attractive, calling her professor, as if the title were something to be ashamed of.  In my humble opinion, the title professor actually scares him, he fears it – professors intimidate him.   Here’s what I wish Warren had done:  responded to him in Cherokee.  That would have silenced Mr. Brown, oh and it would have been so sweet.  Instead, Warren took the high road and not the bait and won the debate decisively.

Near, not at Ground Zero

I was watching the CBS Early show this morning.  One of the stories they led with was President Obama’s comments on the mosque controversy at Ground Zero and top democrat Harry Reid’s break with the President on the issue.  Bay Buchanan was one of the guests and argued that Ground Zero is hallowed ground and that most Americans don’t want a mall or a casino built there.   She really said that.

What’s being lost in the discussion  is that this planned Islamic cultural center is actually not at Ground Zero, but near it.  It couldn’t be at Ground Zero anyway because the 911 Memorial and Museum is currently under construction there.

The last I checked, the first amendment to the U.S. constitution guarantees Americans freedom of religion.  But the controversy is not really about religion, it is about fear, and misplaced blame and at its extreme, discrimination and racism.  And it is being politicized on both sides – Harry Reid on the left and the Republicans who have weighed in and will try to make it a divisive cultural issue.  And the birthers will use Obama’s support of the proposal as proof that he is a Muslim.

911 was a tragic event.  The national psyche was damaged and has not yet healed and may never.  And while I am not blaming anyone, I am surprised that it has taken so long to build a proper 911 memorial at Ground Zero.  I think had one been built already, there wouldn’t be much of a controversy over a development project such as the Islamic cultural center.