Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Immigrants and Native Americans"

I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we’re a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen -- man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino, Asian, immigrant, Native American, gay, straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability. Everybody matters.

President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 20, 2015
I used that quote yesterday when I talked about President Obama's message that "Everybody Matters." But there's something else I'd like to mention today.

A few years ago I began to notice how often Native Americans are included when people list the racial/ethnic groups in this country. Let me simply report that it is a rare phenomenon. I can't even imagine what it's like to have to deal with the genocide/oppression Native Americans have suffered over the last few centuries. But to watch as - over and over again - your very existence goes unacknowledged is truly beyond the pale.

President Obama not only acknowledged the existence of Native Americans, he is the first one I've seen who took it to a whole new level. Let's break down the pairings he introduced.
  • man and woman
  • young and old
  • black and white, Latino, Asian
  • immigrant, Native American
  • gay, straight
  • Americans with mental illness or physical disability
Rather that listing black and white, Latino, Asian and Native American - which is what most people do when they are being inclusive - he introduced the pairing of immigrant and Native American. In other words, we're all either an immigrant (by choice or slavery) to this country or Native American.

Some might simply write this off as political correctness. But I think it represents the deep respect President Obama has demonstrated for both the gifts and challenges of this land's First Nations People.


  1. One of the things I love about the Internet is that that picture can't be undone. It's an indelible part of history now. Forever and always we will know that THIS President gets it.

  2. Remember too that he spent much of his youth in Hawaii, where there is a significant native population that has been -- as it has here on the mainland -- deeply oppressed and nearly destroyed. And he surely knows and understands the Hawaiian Renaissance that has been underway for at least a generation, and that bears strong parallels to the resurgence of Native American culture and pride.