February 7, 2005

Red Like Ward = Black Like Me

America has long been the kingdom of the bunco artist. One of the great American archetypes is the "man behind the curtain" in the wizard of Oz. In many ways, the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the Golden Age of American Buncombe. Since then, we've been afflicted with only pale reflections of the greats. Still, this is a great country and it can, from time to time, deliver genius long after you have stopped expecting it.

Every so often an American phony rises above our common run of grifters, hucksters and hustlers to become a stunningly notable fraud. Notable because, no matter how big a buffoon or transparent a fake he, he never seems to fall from the graces of the credulous, but simply continue to rise no matter how often they are punctured by the truth. And in no other realm is this more readily seen than in the great contemporary American sport of Race-Hustling. This is the sport where an individual uses the real or imagined historic or present day oppressions of an American minority solely for personal enrichment and advancement.

The current Heavyweight Champion of American Race-Hustling has to be Al Sharpton, a huckster so shameless that he was actually able to run for President of the United States based solely on the color of his skin with no serious examination of the content of his character. So brilliant has Sharpton become that he was taken absolutely seriously by otherwise sane pundits as well as by the Democratic Party and its supporters to the tune of untold millions in donations, grafts and grants.

It was once a matter of holy writ that when it came to playing the race card in America nobody could out-Jesse Jesse. With last year's amble for the Whitehouse by Sharpton, it was clear there's a new contender for the tiara on the scene. For Sharpton, through the mud that covered Tawana Brawley, saw clearly, probably from the master Jackson himself, that a series of lies and buffoonish claims repeated often enough and loudly enough no longer have to have within them a germ of the truth (as did Jackson's early affiliation with Martin Luther King). Sharpton's innovation in Race-Hustling was to craft lies so bold that they did not need to become true. Sharpton's lies were so beyond the pale that they became a complete and utter substitute for the truth; a zone in which the truth could find no life support whatsoever; an environment favorable only to falsehood. With that, it was believed that Sharpton had pretty much locked down the Race-Hustling game for himself; that it was, like the Ponzi scheme, a fully mature con. No other variations or improvements on The Sharpton Shuck were thought possible.

But America is nothing if it is not the land of innovation and sure enough, just when you think you've got all the possible variations of Race-Hustling down pat, someone comes along and takes you places previously impossible to go.

Yes, there's a new player in the Race-Hustling game who is showing a lot of promise -- Ward ("Of course I'm an Cherokee") Churchill.

It seems only a short time ago (and it was), that Churchill languished in a hard-earned obscurity deep in an irrelevant Ethnic Studies Bunker at the University of Colorado. But due to the fact that no remark in America today, no matter vile, can dare be deemed treason -- and a DAMN good thing that is, oh yes -- "Cherokee Churchill" has emerged as a new challenger for the Race-Hustling Lifetime Achievement Award.

And he should, in my humble opinion, get it and retire Al Sharpton to a PETA thinktank. Churchill should receive this award because he has taken Race-Hustling to a level that would have been impossible to conceive of even two weeks ago. In a single bold and stunning innovation, Ward Churchill has opened up a lucrative field of buncombe and fraud previously denied to people of the white persuasion.

It was once the case that to become a race-hustler the absolute minimum requirement was that you actually be a member of an oppressed minority. Whites need not apply. It took the genius of Ward Churchill to overturn this with the simple, but brilliant, realization that, within certain limits, you could just claim to be a race you were not. With the fiendish insight that are the marks of Churchill's otherwise limited thought, he realized that the safest race to claim to be, if you were an average white guy from an average suburb with an average intellect but an outsized ego, was Native American -- and to go on insisting on it regardless of how many Native Americans said you were white. After all, what did they know? They lost their country to the blue-eyed devils. How smart could they be?

Besides, with all the mixed blood flowing about from centuries of cross-breeding, half-breeding, quarter-breeding, and so on until one-sixteenth Navaho was not uncommon, who could really say where the native left off and the American began? Of course, if you had a distinct Teutonic look claims of Sioux ancestry could be a bit hard for people to swallow without immense sheaves of the kind of documentation favored solely by, well, Teutonic types. But if you had long black hair, a little coconut oil, a charge account at a pawnshop in the Four Corners, and a brusque and stoic attitude you could probably pull it off. It helped if you hung around the American Indian Movement in the years before it got organized. It helped even more if you trained women and credulous undergraduates to see you this way.

Thus it was that by 1996 Ward "Cherokee" Churchill would open a book of his collected blatherings with:

"[During my time at Alfred University] I was something of a curiosity in that primarily Euroamerican staffed and attended institution, situated as it is within an area populated primarily by white folk, it followed naturally that I quickly became a magnet for local journalists seeking to inject a bit of color into their otherwise uniformly blanched columns and commentaries."
From a Native Son: Selected Essays in Indigenism, 1985-1995
This is a remarkable passage for its studied prose tone of utter whiteness coupled with Churchill's clever step-by-step method of moving himself away from being white and into being "a bit of color" without ever having to say he's an Indian. And why would he? He's got the editor of the book to do that for him on the jacket.

It is also a deft touch for Churchill to title his collection "From A Native Son." With this he receives the double benefit of having the title echo the great American classic "Native Son" by the brilliant Richard Wright and, at the same time, echo "Notes of A Native Son" by the great James Baldwin. Note that you do not have to be able to write, think, or be like Wright or Baldwin to benefit from the association, just as you do not have to actually be Native American to benefit from the association. If you are white and can pass for Indian, all you have to do is keep saying it over and over and the vast grant making, publishing, and tenure awarding establishments of American will keep you in high-cotton up to your kiester for as long as you live.

If actual Native Americans actually go on record, as numerous ones have, and proclaim you are a fake, a phony and a fraud, you simply point out to your credulous mentors that these people are just grinding dull old tomahawks that go back to those thrilling days at Wounded Knee. Your boosters will believe you. They have to. They've already invested heavily in your ethnicity by making you chairman of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado and by buying and publishing your rants and buncombe over the years. To deny you now would mean they would also have to deny themselves and their own pure infallibility and that is one thing they won't ever do.

Instead, this last, large groundswell of exposure for Ward "Cherokee" Churchill will only expand his rep as a tireless fighter for the poor, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised no matter what their ethnicity. Were I his agent and his last book went for four figures, as it probably did, I would be shopping his current proposal right now for mid-six-figures and above, as it most likely is.

Before all this, Churchill was just another Native-American scholar with the standard salad of complaints drenched in his own vitriolic dressing. Now he's a pure Native-American who is also pure white. Even better, he can now claim that "the Christian Fundamentalist anti-abortion lying Bush Right is clearly out to get me. They say I'm white. Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

Cherokee Churchill's the perfect candidate for race-hustling crossover. He's the Elvis of the Race-Baiting Industry. He's going Gold, and dodging the bullet. Move over Al Sharpton. You've got competition for 2008.
Update: The Rocky Mountain News takes a close look at Churchill's very pale geneology. [HT to reader "Lecaire" ]

Posted by Vanderleun at February 7, 2005 1:37 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Except unlike Hustler Sharpton, Cherokee Nation has been trying its best to dis-enroll Churchill. The fact that no academia bother to listen to them just show how much respect Cherokee actually gets.

Posted by: BigFire at February 7, 2005 6:42 PM

You got it exactly right. All you missed is the susceptibility of academia to such fraud. Ward Churchill is not alone. Other colleges and universities have such "Native Americans" to diversify their faculties. And ethnic studies is itself something of a fraud, to begin with.

Posted by: Iam at February 7, 2005 9:35 PM

Nicely written, but I think that you ment to write "beyond the pale," rather than "beyond the pall" in the fourth paragraph. The Expression "beyond the pale" is thought to be a reference to the colony that the British established on Ireland in the area that is now the city of Dublin. Outside this fortified colony, known as "The Pale," resided the uncivilized "wild" Irish. Something that was "beyond the pale" was somthing uncivilized or beyond the norms of civilized behavior.

Posted by: David at February 8, 2005 1:46 AM

Thank you. You are correct and I have corrected the text accordingly. I actually know the origin of the phrase which makes the use of pall especially appalling. I have taken the pall and covered myself with it...

But I shall stop before all this palls.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at February 8, 2005 7:13 AM

Beyone the Pale-Face.

Posted by: Stephen B at February 8, 2005 7:42 AM

Churchill is a toenail Indian. I first heard this term from a friend of mine in the service who held a BIA card, even though he was essentially white and didn't consider himself Native American. I currently work with a woman who also has a BIA card and feels the same way about it. I joke with her that I can tell people I have an Indian friend.

Posted by: Ken J at February 8, 2005 8:28 AM

You know what Churchill's verbal gymnastics are starting to remind me of? John F. Kerry and his war exploits. Granted, Kerry has more to stand on (although not near as much as he made out), but the defensive, constantly-shifting and belligerent tone of Kerry during the campaign on this issue mirrors Churchill's, in my view.

Charlatans both. Churchill needs to marry a rich Indian woman.

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at February 8, 2005 3:35 PM


Keen insight here. Makes you think. Press on.


Posted by: Subsunk at February 9, 2005 5:41 AM

Regarding the Pale, it was a wooden palisade erected around Dublin to protect the townsfolk from the 'barbarous' Irish. However, it wasn't the British, it was the Vikings. Dublin was a Viking trading/raiding settlement. The Vikings were finally defeated and expelled by Brian Boru (one of Reagan's ancestors) at Clontarf.

Posted by: nobody important at February 9, 2005 7:04 AM

I wish someone would continue to point out how the press will repeat lies until they start to become accepted as truth. Now, the Internet makes this slandering of fact even more prevalent. Just google "Willis McCall" and you will see volumes of lies generated by biased a biased press and self righteous authors condemning a southern lawman. Just the words, southern and lawman, generate mental image that the leftist have created of the bigoted good ol boy.

Posted by: DDMC at October 20, 2005 8:01 AM