By Charlie Amáyá Scott
In November 2017, I wrote a blog post, “Anti-Blackness in Native Communities“. it was my first real public attempt wrestling with how I, as a non-Black Diné (Navajo), benefited from anti-Blackness in, what is now known as, the US. The blog post was also me sharing what I learned years ago about Native Americans’ enslavement of Africans; a moment in history I never knew about until recently.
Slavery was legal within what is commonly referred to as the ‘The Five Civilized Tribes”: the Choctaw, the Seminole, the Cherokee, the Creek, and the Chickasaw. For these communities, slavery was seen as a sign of civility, and sovereignty as a Nation was extended to them because of enslavement.
Unfortunately, the reality of tribal sovereignty is entangled with anti-Blackness, especially because of blood quantum, which was/is a tool of quantifying indigeneity. For example, the one-drop rule was used against anyone with Black ancestry to showcase “impurity,” whereas for non-Black Indigenous Peoples blood quantum was used to showcase “purity.” Blackness was and is considered expensive, yet indigeneity was and is not.
Anti-Blackness continues to exist in our communities today in nuanced ways, whether in the appropriation of #BlackLivesMatter or the continued bigotry that Black-Natives face on social media or within their own community. I know my community, the Navajo Nation, has its own work to do. The Navajo Nation President refused to acknowledge #BlackLivesMatter, despite over 600 Navajo Nation tribal members signing this letter of solidarity. In addition, back in 1998, there was a letter published in the Navajo Times from Orlando Tom, who called mixed tribal members a threat to the future of the Navajo Nation.
Anti-Blackness has no place in our community. It was never there before the brutal force of colonialism and it continues to enact violence on those who are Black and who are Native.
For those interested in reading more, here are some additional articles:
Charlie A. Scott (Diné) is a non-binary Indigenous femme who is a doctoral student at the University of Denver studying higher education.