On May 2, 2005 Ward Churchill was welcomed by a crowd of around five hundred at California State University, Monterey Bay with applause and a standing ovation, concluding to even more thunderous clapping and another, grander ovation. His rant, “Perpetual War: U.S. State-Sponsored Terrorism and the Limits of Academic Dissent,” was part of MEChA’s (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán [Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán]) event, Semana de la Raza [Week of the Race]. This year’s Semana de la Raza, a weeklong series of events, was titled, “Revolutionizing the Globe: Cultra [sic], education y paz [and peace].” The lecture was cosponsored by the Associated Students Events Workshop of CSUMB. The Monterey Herald reported that Churchill was paid $4,000 for his speech. Whole departmental faculties attended and cheered Churchill while their students were either required or given extra credit to attend.
Rudy Rosales was asked by MEChA to introduce Churchill as a representative of the local American Indian people. Rosales is the former chairman of the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation (OCEN), a federally unacknowledged group with over five hundred enrolled members whose aboriginal territory includes the lands where CSUMB now stands. From my perspective, this was an obvious ploy to lend legitimacy to Churchill and to MEChA’s agenda.
Controversy erupted on campus when a flyer decrying Churchill was posted and emailed dishonestly purporting to be produced by the CSUMB College Republicans. Many on campus were outraged by statements on the flyer including: “Go back to your tee pee [sic],” “Chief Full of Bull,” and “Send this Indian back to the reservation.” Without delay, the College Republicans sent out a memo stating that their logo had been used without their authorization and that the club had nothing whatsoever to do with the flyer’s production and that they found the language offensive as well. Irrespective of this action, the wording in the flyer was immediately condemned as “racist,” and faculty and students made calls to officially sanction the Republican Club and even ban them from campus. Individuals also took issue with the line, “If you’re with Churchill, then you’re with the terrorists.” Club members suggested that the flyer was an underhanded attempt to discredit them.
Despite this public statement by the College Republicans, faculty members such as George Baldwin, interim Chair of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, either actively ignored or failed to even bother to read the College Republicans’ statement and continued to apply responsibility to the Republican Club in an email entitled, “Racism and Republican Advertisements on Campus”:
In the past, such racist slurs (as found on the documents Carolyn has shared with us) were deleted from our community computer network as a violation of our founding principles. Regardless of one's opinion concerning Professor Churchhill's [sic] statements -- or how they have been construed to reflect on American Indians and Professor Churchills [sic] native ancestry-- the Republican Party documents attached to this string of posts should be offensive to our entire community. For those of us sharing indigenous heritage we find that once again, even on our campus, we become the pawns of powers greater than us [sic]. I am offended by these racist Republican documents and formally request that this "advertisement" be removed from our network as a violation of our ethical use principles. As a member of the Osage and Kaw Tribes of Oklahoma, I am personally insulted that the Republican Party and their representatives on our campus would use such racist slurs in an attempt to silence the critical discussion we, as a nation must engage in on these issues. Please join with me in my formal request to have all such advertisements which use such racist slogans targeting our native brothers and sisters banned and immediately removed from our network and from campus.
I have no doubt that if such slurs had been directed at other minorities on our campus, those more vocal and in greater numbers, action would have been taken automatically. Indeed, it has been! Further, I recommend that if faculty, staff or students are distributing such racist literature our leadership consider the appropriateness of their continued association with CSUMB.
Some maintained that despite the club’s formal statement, its members were indeed responsible and should be held accountable and have their ties to the university severed. Baldwin and other individuals condemned the College Republicans for racism stating that the email should have been deleted from the computer network before circulation and that the appropriateness of the club’s association with CSUMB should be reconsidered. Herbert Martin of Liberal Studies, who claims to be Cherokee and tells his students as part of his lectures that he turns into a wolf and prowls the campus late at night (Dances with Peeping Toms?), chimed in with the following post:
I concur whole-heartedly with Dr. Baldwin's eloquent denouncement of the document containing racist slogans that disturbed my work this morning. I look for the leadership of this campus, which professes to stand behind its Vision Statement, to step forward and take responsible action against the racist faction of our campus which hides behind Republican Party politics to wear their pointy hats and Grand Dragon costumes. Certainly, one can disagree with Dr. [sic] Churchchill [sic] without the need of raising the ugly spectre [sic] of our racist past. I fear that, more and more, the climate on this campus has become a breeding ground among students, faculty, administrators alike to produce such offensive ideas. I, too, would like to see a powerful denouncement from this administration of any and all activities like this offensive email that came us this morning [sic].
In response, Gerald Shenk, whose office sports large portraits of Karl Marx and Emiliano Zapata, posted the following to the discussion (the numerous misspellings are in Shenk’s transcription):
From Churchill's latest book, Perversions of Justice, 2004.
"The days of smugness in which Americans might anoint themselves with a god-given right to exemptino from the pain they as a country impose on others are over. Insofar as u.S. citizens are accepting of the proposition that the economy of another people represents a legitimate military target--as they have since John Sullivan's troops laid waiste the Seneca orchards and cornfields in 1779--the infrstructural entities like the World Trade Center are unquestionably fair game. To the degree that Americans are comfortable with the idea that the employment of tactics and technologies resulting inevitably in the slaughter of enemy civilians is acceptable under the rubric of 'collateral damage'--as they've been since at least as early as Anthony Wayne's 1794 campaign against the Shawnees--they've no logically or morally defensible basis to complain when the same devaluation is applied to them. In the sense that Americans have been perfectly willing to condone policies targeting entire populations of Others for eradication--as they have since Indian scalp bounties were promulgated during the first moemnts of their republic--they can have no complaint when they themselves are explicitly taken as a target and subjected to the same treatment. What goes around does in fact ultimately come around, and only the most shortsighted--and arrogant--of peoples might ever have believed they could permanently forestall actualization of that simple truth." p369-370.
Members of the College Republicans report that in the weeks following the Churchill event they have been screamed and cursed at and have been made the targets of threats.
Now, the “slogans” of the controversial poster certainly are distasteful and offensive, but they are not “racist” following the definition of the word because they do not assert a proposition of the inferiority of a racial group. Local media, without discussing the content of the flyer, simply took up this mischaracterization. Perhaps I’m parsing words here, but I wish to critique this usage of the term “racist” as applied to this otherwise insulting material because of the flagrant misuse of the term by the Left in general as a political tool to demonize and silence political opponents including those that point out the racism of groups such as MEChA.
The abject hypocrisy on the part of faculty and students who have called for the official condemnation of the College Republicans is twofold. First, they fail to recognize and condemn the truly racist rhetoric of MEChA or for that matter the ostensibly hateful rhetoric of Ward Churchill who actively mused about Madeline Albright’s toes dangling above the gallows floor and implied that hanging or firing squads might have been a more just way to deal with the “Little Eichmans” of the Twin Towers. Second, these same individuals support Ward Churchill’s assertion that his academic freedom and freedom of speech have been violated—he actually called himself the “poster boy for academic freedom”—while simultaneously attempting to silence conservative points of view, quash all criticism of their radical, leftist, even racist politics as well as censor a flyer based on the dubious claim that it amounted to atrocious racism and ban the College Republicans from campus. The “Republicans Eat Shit” and “No War Except Class War” signs at the event didn’t seem to bother any of these hypocrites.
What is truly offensive is Churchill, a man whose shoddy scholarly career, not to mention his plagiarized artwork and other outrageous, even perfidious behavior, is founded on his false claim of Indian identity. Churchill was once again introduced as a member of the Keetoowah Band of Cherokees (and the most cited author in his field) and began as usual with, “I bring you greetings from the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, my people.” During the question and answer time, a young man who introduced himself as Annishinabe/Pomo and a nephew of Dennis Banks asked Churchill about the controversy concerning his claimed Indian identity and whether he had any actual evidence to verify his claim such as an enrollment number. In response, Churchill began literally barking like a rabid dog and declared, “You ask a dog for a pedigree!” He mumbled, “Yeah, I do,” apparently to the question of evidence. He went on to say, after insinuating that the issue was driven by Dennis Banks and Bill O’Reilly though it has been an issue in Indian Country for years, that it was, “really disgusting to see you descend to that level.” Churchill continued, “I’m not going to dignify your question with a response;” which was met by a round of hearty applause. He went on to berate the young man for “a virulent display of a deeply colonized mentality.” “You treat yourself like livestock and then demand that others do the same as if it was a badge of honor. You want a roll card or do you want a G-ddamn number on my arm?” going on to link enrollments to an “Eichman standard.” I was left simply wondering, exactly how many more press releases the Keetoowah Band will be required to issue stating that Churchill is not an enrolled member of the tribe and does not represent the Keetoowah before Churchill will cop to his lie?
The issue of Churchill’s identity was particularly disturbing to Rudy Rosales. At times people have felt offended by having to prove their genealogical claims. However, American Indians with whom I am familiar enjoy speaking about their families. Mr. Rosales takes great pride now in being able to present his extensive genealogy illustrating not only his ancestry but also his relationship to many of the key linguistic and cultural consultants of anthropologists and other scholars working in the Monterey/Carmel area, especially to counter doubts about his identity or to confront the various imposters that seem to flourish in areas where there are no federally acknowledged tribes.
I bring this issues up in the context of this article, specifically in relation to Churchill’s spurious claim to Indian identity, in order to anticipate and preemptively answer potential criticisms, or accusations of double standards, concerning my last article where I criticize the simplistic, radical identity politics of MEChA while noting that the topic of my doctoral research is American Indian Federal Acknowledgment in the Monterey Bay Area. I wish to suggest here that though many readers may be wary of the claims of unacknowledged tribes, and rightfully so, especially given the lure of casino riches, the issue is a complicated one and worthy of a sustained national dialogue and critical evaluation. I also wish to contrast the spurious land and sovereignty claims of MEChA to the extensive historical, genealogical and ethnographic research that has been mounted in order to provide evidence for the Ohlone/Costanoan-Esselen Nation’s federal acknowledgment case.
In a meeting prior to the event, Rosales took the opportunity to clarify and thank MEChA members for recognizing his people’s aboriginal relationship to lands in the Monterey/Carmel area as opposed to the claims made in MEChA propaganda. But Rosales, who was previously unfamiliar with Churchill and the controversy surrounding him, declined to introduce Churchill after consulting with many members of OCEN as well as its attorney and consultants (including myself), and members of the larger Monterey/Carmel area community. Advertisements and press releases continued to publicize Rosales as introducing Churchill. Rosales attended the lecture and, predictably enough, found much of Churchill’s rhetoric disagreeable.
Rudy Rosales is a patriot. As he put it, “You can’t be more American than I am.” In a conversation we had after the Churchill event, he noted the profound relationship of Indians to this land as the root of American Indian patriotism. At the age of 59, he says that he would be more than happy to fight in Iraq if allowed. And he wasn’t joking. He was rejected three times when he attempted to enlist to serve in Vietnam because he had spinal meningitis in his youth. A number of proud combat veterans are honored members of OCEN.
Churchill’s talk, the length of which approached the famously protracted tirades of Castro, would have impressed Fidel as much for the content as for Churchill’s ability to hold forth. Actually, in reviewing my audio recording, Churchill’s speech lasted about two hours; it just seemed like an eternity. Churchill claimed that he isn’t a Marxist. He actually stated, among other incoherent claims, that he’s a Libertarian and more conservative than the member of the CSUMB Republican Club holding a vigil outside and reading the names of 9/11 victims because his positions are based on the law. But Ward would have made Fidel proud precisely because he spouted nothing but a crude racialized form of Marxist, anti-American, revolutionary ideology. When a self-declared Brown Beret from Watsonville asked Churchill what three books he would recommend for a “literate, politically aware, high school drop-out,” he suggested anything by Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill and Rudy Acuña’s Occupied America. I suppose he differs from some Marxists in that he claimed that “technology is the problem.” Perhaps he’s a neo-Luddite, faux-Indian, Marxist.
Thick obfuscation, spurious, semantic argumentation, patent falsehoods and personal slander constituted the core of Churchill’s rhetoric. His claim to be the “Poster boy of Academic Freedom” is, for example, absurd on face value given the monopolization of the academy by the Left. Churchill began his lecture with one of my favorite illogical formulations of the evening, “‘Course I believe in free speech but with free speech come consequences. Well, hot news flash all you constitutional scholars out there. If there’s consequences those are costs and if there’s cost it ain’t free [applause].” Apparently, Churchill, like your average toddler, wants to be able to act without repercussion. His assertion of victimhood in regard to academic freedom was met with cheers of sympathy from the hypocrites who have run me off campus for pointing out the racial hostility and divisiveness of my former Mechista officemate’s “soldiers/warriors/founders of a New Brown Empire” poster.
Churchill, like John Kerry, invoked Orwell a number of times in the midst of his absurd claims and inverted representations of history. Typical of the obscurantism and deceit of the Left was Churchill’s slanderous remarks about David Horowitz and the Academic Freedom Movement which, he claims, has “targeted [him] for elimination” and is a “kick-off to a national campaign to roll-up [Churchill’s] kind of critical engagement”:
Man Jefferson must be rolling right around with Orwell about now [laughter]. Where we have come here in this country. And know I’m in it too. ‘Course I suppose If I said I wasn’t . . . If I were to stand here and renounce my citizenship tonight, see, I never asked for it in the first place it was something you imposed upon me, what would they do with me? Deport my ass to Oklahoma?
So that’s the go away side. That’s [inaudible] subtraction. That’s the purge agenda, for lack of a better term. And they’ve all iterated it.
Interestingly enough, David Horowitz, my favorite un-graduated academic expert who has never published a refereed piece of anything at any point in his life, but gonna explain exactly how higher education should be reorganized through his position of monumental competence to speak on it. He initially joined that chorus and then said, “No, no, no, no, wait a minute; I don’t want anyone losing their job here. I’m magnanimous. You know I can’t figure out what my ideology is from one moment to the next. I’m a Stalinist traitor in one decade and I’m somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun in the next and you should trust me because I zig and I zag all over the G-ddamn place. I announce my self-, self-concept of having been a traitor to the United States in the 1960s.” But rather than going to prison like a man of integrity would do if he actually believed in what he was saying rather than ingratiating himself to a new audience. He goes out and becomes a hero of the right on the basis of his treason? Really interesting county we have here. Well, David zigged and zagged on this and decided that what we really needed is more people like him in the academy to balance out people like me that are in the academy, neglecting to mention that I offered him a job when he ran that rap at the University of Colorado and he turned and ran. The last thing he wants is to actually be pinned down for more than fifteen minutes on a campus to where he might have to answer some questions and to be subject to the inconsistencies of his argument being addressed and have to respond in depth to questions about what it is of a factual nature that he’s basing his positions on. So, another little hoax.
While there is a great deal for me to say about the content of Churchill’s rant, much thoughtful criticism has been wielded against him elsewhere. Let it suffice to say that it’s difficult to fathom the psychological depravity of a man whose career, in part, has been built on virulent criticism of pretend Indians and academic “Indian experts” but who ultimately, to borrow a title of Churchill’s, is himself “The Biggest Hoax Since Piltdown Man.”
But to push the issue of hypocrisy further, the peaceful protest of the College Republicans who held a vigil reading the names of 9/11 victims was itself protested. Protesters of the vigil mercilessly shouted over the reading of names chanting such slogans as: “Bush is a warlord;” “Bush is a moron, don’t let him get his war on;” “Bush lied, people died;” and the old, hackneyed communist protest slogan, “The people united will never be divided.” Another chant was directed at the community members that attended the College Republicans’ vigil and perhaps to the College Republicans themselves, “Who invited you, this is our school.” One man responded that his tax dollars helped support CSUMB. An impromptu, sarcastic chant went, “The US stole this land fair and square, let’s go to Iraq and do it there!” This counter protest took a particularly uncivil and ugly turn when a local resident who lost his son in the 9/11 attacks spoke about his feelings and opinion of Churchill. A young woman with a bullhorn almost prevented this grieving father from speaking at all. Worse, before police pulled this same protestor back, she screamed through her bullhorn less than three feet from the face of a woman sitting and holding a picture of her parents who were both murdered on 9/11.
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