Thursday, January 2, 2014

An inversion of the two Civil Wars – a Klansman “goes native”




In response to my post on the renaming of a Jacksonville High School – previously named for the butcher Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave-owner, author of the Fort Pillow Massacre by the Confederacy of captured black soldiers, and founder of the Klan – see here – Tink Tinker offers a startling insight. Tink had previously written to me of how the invading US army regarded Iraq as “Indian country” – see here. Here, he notes that Forrest’s name was adopted by a segregationist, Klansman, speechwriter for George Wallace and "Cherokee" novelist, Asa Earl Carter. Under the pseudonym Forrest Carter, he wrote phony Native American novels like The Education of Little Tree which are still sometimes taught as “authentic” in diversity courses (faux or pseudo-diversity in this case).

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Tink raises the striking question: why did the losers of a Civil War against genocide – those who perpetrated bondage, whipping, lynching, the sale of children away from their families...- sometimes choose to identify, in name only, as a perverse shadow for their own dreams, with others who actually suffered the ethnic cleansing – being attacked in winter, primarily women, children and the elderly, and the survivors cordoned off in concentration camps - in the second Civil War in the West? See here.

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There is a startling mauvaise foi - bad faith, as Sartre names it - in this identification.

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Here is Tink’s note:

"And of course, Nathan Forrest was one of the very early founders and organizers of the KKK. It should not go without noticing, by the way, that Forrest Carter (nee Asa Earl Carter) adopted the pseudonym as a fiction writer very intentionally as an honorific to Nathan Forrest. Carter was an avowed White supremacist, a KKK member, a segregationist speech writer for George Wallace, and the author of fake American Indian literature that still gets read across the country in high schools as diversity literature. His most famous fake Indian book is “The Education of Little Tree,” a subtle White supremacist text fronting assimilationism as an ideal for Natives. Folk should read Shari Huhndorf’s critique of Carter, including her critique of another Carter novel that was made into a Clint Eastwood movie: “Outlaw Josie Wales.”

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Shari Huhndorf’s fine “Going ‘Native’ – see here - spells out this thought. Both the Confederacy and indigenous people lost,in the two Civil Wars, to the Union. The genocidal slave-owners/segregationists, in their “Gone with the Wind” mode, sought to absorb/appropriate the experience of now defeated indigenous people; the continuing perpetrators of genocide annexed the story of the victims/fighters against genocide... Quite a perverse, hard to take in irony!

In fact, Southern whites like Presidents Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor murdered native Americans and drove them out of Georgia along the Trail of Tears. See here. Southern Patriotism, in the Asa Carter vein, is just a blood-soaked, genocidal toward indigenous people as well as blacks lie.

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Carter's identification is a little like Stormtroopers, feeling the victimization of Germany at the end of World War I by the punitive Treaty of Versailles, identifying with Jews or, to make the analogy precise, Roma or gays...

This is no satire like Mel Brooks'"The Producers" but the affectation of a violent bigot, still propagated, inter alia, by the New York Times, racist teachers of indigenous studies from grade school to college - those who will not look at the truth - and Paramount Pictures.

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It is a common enemy, common defeat (though segregationists won the Civil War in the long, elite retelling in cinema and academia), and the genocide against – “disappearance of” – the Cherokee in the South which makes “Forrest” Carter’s imagination work…

The Education of Little Tree was published in 1976 It reached the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 1991, 15 years later and 12 years after Carter died, and had sold half a million copies. It is still widely taught as "authentic Native American literature."

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The story behind the book, originally revealed in 1991, Huhndorf tells us, by "Forrest"'s distant cousin Dan Carter who knew of Asa's Klan activities and speech writing for Governor Wallace - "Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!" - is startling. (Huhndorf, 129-30)

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A review of Going Native by Michael Elliott in American Literature here names the connection, though he misidentifies slave-owners and fanatic racists with all white Southerners. For poor whites in Tennessee and Kentucky fought on the side of the Union (see V..O. Key, Southern Politics, p. 6):

“Equally significant, Huhndorf's shrewd analysis goes beyond simply identifying and then castigating those European Americans who have disregarded the repercussions of their cultural appropriation. The result is that Going Native persuasively demonstrates how such acts can be much more revealing of their historical moment than they at first might seem. The most impressive payoff of this kind comes in her treatment of Asa "Forrest" Carter, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who fabricated a Cherokee past in order to produce a popular memoir, The Education of Little Tree, in 1976. In order to understand why a white segregationist might "go native" in this way, Huhndorf turns to Carter's previous novel, Gone to Texas, a popular western about the "outlaw" Josey Wales later made famous by Clint Eastwood. Here Huhndorf finds a recurring identification between displaced Southern whites and American Indians through a sense of shared victimization at the hands of the Northern government following the Civil War. Gone to Texas, therefore, makes legible the manner in which Little Tree positions Southern whites as the sympathetic heirs to disappearing Indians. In both works, this imagined link naturalizes white claims to territorial possession and strengthens the resistance of Southern whites to federal intervention.”

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I received two other striking responses to this comment on the renaming of "Forrest" High School, one from Robin Hensel who used to live in Jacksonville (abating the odiousness of the South is an least seventy year – after the Civil Rights movement – process), the other, on the naming of weapons of aggression for “exterminated” leaders and tribes, from Wil van Natta. Van Natta’s point about today’s naming of Apache helicopters in Iraq - they are also the only helicopters used by Israel in the Occupied Territories - uncannily parallels the story of Asa Earl “Forrest” Carter identifying falsely as a Cherokee. For the US army, the executor of genocide against indigenous people in the 18th and 19th century, identifies with “Apaches” and “Tomahawks” to slaughter nonwhite people, often civilians, to this moment...

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“Yes..now is that time [for renaming the school]. I used to live in jacksonville from 1973-1975....the south from the northern border south to the ocean is an ishy place to live for anyone who values justice and EQUALITY. never again should we allow HATERS to rule over us. With hope and peace...robin hensel little falls mn. Thank u again alan for a well written piece”

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‪”Oppression, genocide, theft et al is our heritage....and remains so!‬‬‬

Will the JPC [the Jacksonville School Committee?] demand that Apache Helicopter's name be changed? I hope so!! What would the Jacksonville HS ROTC program think of that? Talk about intimidation! Ask any Iraqi who has heard the whirring of its deadly rotors.

We need to honor the future of the children abroad who remain victims of manifest destiny today. We should not oppress using weapons of war named after the oppressed ....will the JPC demand that Chelsea Manning be released (and honored) for exposing the crimes committed by the Apache Helicopter and its crew....all of us in the US?

Sorry for the rant. Keep up the good work.

Wil Van Natta

PS Are you familiar with the work of Isa Hamm Bryant (deceased)...author of We "R" Florida? (a brief history of the Black Seminoles).

He was a friend of mine.”

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Isa Hamm Bryant worked centrally on civil rights and Native American issues in Florida. See here and here.


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