In his four-plus years in office, Barack Obama has committed a number of gaffes (aka, Bushisms), but on Wednesday The White House twitter account immortalized one of his rare twofers. The tweet is derived from Obama’s tireless (and tiresome) pitch to the public on the rightness of granting amnesty to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, in which he has said:
Unless you are one of the first Americans, unless you are a Native American, you came from someplace else. That’s why we’ve always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants. And we’ve always been better off for it. [Emphasis added]
There is so much about that statement that can be taken issue with, that a complete rebuttal would require more than one column. So let’s focus on the two logical errors in the highlighted portion (which is the part that appears in the tweet).
First, there is the use of the term Native American. If you were born in this country, then you are a native American. That is beyond dispute. It is the dictionary denotation of native.
Obviously, Obama is using the descriptor in its PC sense — to mean “American Indian” — and even provides a context in the larger quote, which refers to “first Americans.” Note that this usage is not recognized by one of Obama’s own cabinet departments, the Department of the Interior, which still refers to its own sub-apparatus for dealing with “Native American” issues as the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
But there’s a much bigger problem with the statement and that’s the affirmative implication that if you are a Native American, then you are not from someplace else. That is clearly false. This group, also erroneously referred to as “indigenous peoples,” came to this continent via a now-defunct land bridge that connected Siberia and Alaska. Their migrations, which occurred over many millennia, began around 8000 B.C. (Obviously, their ancestors migrated to Siberia from Sumer in the present-day Middle East, where all human life is assumed to have originated.) In other words, everyone who is currently here came from someplace else.
As to the term Native Americans, does this group (the plural “groups” is actually more accurate) uniquely deserve that classification to the exclusion of all others — including, say, descendants of the pilgrims? And if so, is it by dint of having been here the longest? And if the answer the president or White House would give to both questions is “yes,” one might ask by whose fiat they are able to make that claim.
By the way, as an aside, this writer’s parents were also native Americans. His grandparents were immigrants, who journeyed here — much like the first settlers — from Russia, though they came through Ellis Island. In other words, they came here through legal channels.
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