Deb Haaland is causing excitement among Democrats. She is President Joe Biden’s pick for Interior Department Secretary, and her appointment will make her the first Native American woman elected to the position. The media is excited about her pick as a person of color (POC), but some in particular want to put a muzzle on this excitement. In walks Tucker Carlson, a Fox News host.
In his comments recently regarding Haaland, Tucker Carlson noted the following about Haaland: her late father’s Norwegian ancestry. “It’s very exciting that Deb Haaland is a Native American…although they don’t explain why it’s exciting. But why is it exciting? None of us choose how we were born. It’s not something that we did or earned, so it seems a little weird to be ‘excited’ about an accident of birth. How excited would CNN be if Haaland were unusually tall, had red hair, or were left-handed?…the most important thing about Deb Haaland is her ethnicity…but since we’re playing identity politics here…it’s fair to ask a few more questions. Deb Haaland identifies as a Native American. On the other hand, “Haaland” sounds very much like a Scandinavian name…Deb Haaland is every bit as much Scandinavian as she is American Indian. Her father was Norwegian. That means that, in addition to everything else, Deb Haaland is America’s first Norwegian-American Interior Secretary since Thomas Kleppe served in the Ford administration almost 50 years ago.”
Carlson said as much on a recent Fox News broadcast. Carlson’s statement attacks CNN, which isn’t surprising for Fox News. CNN is rather excited over Biden’s win against Trump for the US Presidency, and CNN was rather frustrated (that’s putting it mildly) with Trump as President over the past four years. CNN is breathing a sigh of relief over Biden’s presidency and his work in selecting his cabinet picks. And there’s good reason for that excitement. But Carlson, on the other hand, sees little excitement in anything; rather, he thinks that the excitement is all for nought.
I disagree with Carlson, for a few reasons.
Accidents of birth: celebrated throughout american history
First, it should be noted that “accidents of birth,” as Carlson calls Deb Haaland’s Native American descent, have been celebrated all throughout history. Throughout slavery, African slaves and thus, those with an African parent, were considered to be slaves. Though Thomas Jefferson’s mistress, Sally Hemings, was three-fourths European, she was born into slavery because she had one-fourth (25%) African ancestry. So simply being European or white was good enough to guarantee someone’s freedom; being black or of African ancestry was enough to guarantee someone’s “chains.” In addition to guaranteed freedom, Europeans or Caucasians, due to the accident of being born white, were also guaranteed land, voting rights, jobs, and education — none of which blacks received because again, the accident of birth worked against them.
Then there are voting rights, which worked against women because men decided that women didn’t deserve to have voting rights. The US Constitution has what we know as the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted women the right to vote (1920). Simply being male (an “accident of birth,” as Carlson says) brought with it the right to vote — well, being a Caucasian male at first, anyway. And even after the end of the Civil War, when the slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), all women, including Caucasian women and African-American women, still couldn’t vote.
As can be seen from these examples, accidents of birth (race and gender) have been used to celebrate and elevate some above others quite often. Women and African-Americans have been the ones on the neglected end, being mistreated simply on the basis of gender (women) and skin color (African-Americans). Even with Native Americans, colonials were able to manipulate and exploit Native Americans, removing them from their lands. Some say today that “History” is known as “His Story,” referring to Caucasians and their spin on historical events. Though Natives discovered America, Christopher Columbus is credited in the history books. “Columbus Day” exists in a number of US states, as a result of the historical record. Some have removed Columbus Day, renaming it “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” to honor Native Americans and indigenous peoples, but not all have followed suit.
Accidents of birth are all around us, whether we have them or others do. What they teach us is that there are many that are born in fortunate positions (though not all). Though there are those of us who aren’t wealthy, we still have the blessing of being born on American soil. To be sure, the enslavement of Africans wasn’t right and is still morally wrong and ungodly. And yet, I feel blessed to have been born an American. I was born on American soil, and there’s nothing I did to be born here. My American birth isn’t an achievement, neither is it yours — and yet, as American citizens, many of us have rights that immigrants here on work visas do not have. I know of a personal friend who married an American citizen in order to gain her American citizenship because her work visa expired and she faced deportation. If you’re American-born, you’ve never had to worry about deportation. You’ve never had to marry someone you don’t love to be free in the land of the free.
By Tucker Carlson’s logic, if accidents of birth (such as being born on American soil) are not worth celebrating, then neither are birthdays because, well, we didn’t achieve anything to be born, either. So by this mindset, birthdays aren’t worth celebrating either. And if being born an American citizen isn’t worth celebrating, then neither is Independence Day. The reason? Our Founding Fathers achieved independence and served in the Revolutionary War, not modern-day Americans.
If we can celebrate these “accidents of birth,” such as American citizenship, and if Caucasians in America have celebrated the right to vote, have had guaranteed freedom, access to education, jobs, and the right to own property based on being born Caucasian and male in the early days of American history, then Deb Haaland and other Native Americans have the right to celebrate their “accident of birth” — that is, being born Native American.
Deb haaland’s appointment is historic, for obvious reasons
Tucker Carlson doesn’t get it, apparently, but Deb Haaland’s appointment as Interior Department Secretary is historic for obvious reasons. First, she’s female. Last but never least, she’s a Native American female. She’s a Native American who will have control over Native American lands. As a Native American, she will look out for the Native American interest and help the Federal Government and federally-recognized Native tribes work together for the good of all involved. With all the historic tension between Native Americans and the Federal Government, it’s nice to see that a cabinet appointment could help heal some of the historic wounds (though not all).
The Trump administration over the past 4 years has done nothing but mock women and people of color. Elizabeth Warren was called “Pocahontas” when she announced her Native American ancestry. The same President (Donald Trump) went on to retweet those who deny the existence of white privilege. In the span of one election, we’ve gone from having a President who encourages white supremacy and denies white privilege and racial discrimination to a President who not only understands it but has selected a Vice President who is a woman of color — and has surrounded his cabinet with women of color.
After four years of seeing racism rear its ugly head proudly, it’s nice to see people of color (POC) that are celebrated and appreciated. And thankfully, Deb Haaland is among them.
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