What are you?

That’s the question for a lot of black, latino and asian-Americans.  Are they blacks, or latinos, or Asians?  Or are they Americans?

A few years ago there was a big push to rename the Washington Redskins.  It was an election year, and the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, Ed Gillespie, ran an ad on Sunday Night Football right before the election.  The Redskins were playing, and most of the black guys in northern Virginia were watching the game.  Gillespie came out strong against messing with the Redskins.

Two days later, on election night, I remember watching a TV analyst puzzling over the numbers coming in for the Virginia Governor’s race.  Gillespie was massively overperforming in the predominantly black districts of northern Virginia.  It almost won him the election.

Today a poll says a third of blacks oppose renaming the Washington Redskins.  These are potential Republicans.  They get it.  They like the name Redskins.  When they were kids they used to wish they were Redskins themselves.  And a lot of American blacks have substantial Indian blood, and they’re proud of it.

Real Americans love and admire the great American Indian.  I wanted to be an Plains Indian when I was a kid. They never worked, they just went hunting and raising hell.  And they were bad asses.  Chief Red Cloud and the Lakota Sioux defeated the United States Army in what is known to history as Red Cloud’s War.

My father claimed he was part Oglala Sioux.  He had a big portrait made of himself, all decked out like an Indian, and hung it over his fireplace.  His wife, my Aunt Helen Mary, was, in fact, a quarter Sioux.

When I told him I was going to be applying for law school, he almost talked me into claiming to be part Indian myself.  But I had my doubts.  This guy loved making up stories.  I found out later it was all a bunch of hooey.

But he did  teach me a lot about all the Native people of Alaska, including the Aleuts, and the Yupik, Inuit and Inupiat Eskimos.  One of the few things he left me was a sled made of baleen, hand crafted by the Inupiats.  He said he lived with them for a while.  I’ve got it hanging on the wall of my office, right above the ammunition parachute from Arnhem.

These people survived for thousands of years, isolated in the most extreme environment on earth.  What kind of a person doesn’t admire that?

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