Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish – or Cherokee

If there’s one thing we Jamaicans know about, it’s being “mixed race.” And we can tell you that you never know how we’re going to turn out. One of my Jamaican colleagues at Amadeus in Miami had eleven siblings, and he said they all had different skin shades. Of course, the vast majority of Jamaicans are black but many who look black have European or Mideastern ancestors.  And many who look white have African roots.

And this is true in other parts of the world, too.  My sister-in-law, who is from Nova Scotia,  had a German grandmother and a Scottish father, and she doesn’t look black . But her mother was descended from a black man from Jamaica who married an escaped American slave. And she is proud of her black heritage.

Why am I going on about mixed-race people? After all, it’s not something that concerns Jamaicans all that much. In Jamaica, we marry whomever we love, and we treasure our children whatever race they might resemble.

It’s the strange behavior of an American senator that made me think of the subject.

If you follow American politics, you know I’m talking about Scott Brown of Massachusetts. The Republican senator is running for re-election and he complains that his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren (above, right), claims to be part Cherokee. He says that if you look at her, “clearly she is not.”

I don’t know why this man believes he can determine someone’s race by looking at them. I look at him (above, left) and I can’ t tell what race or races he might be. He looks rather nondescript and has a very common name.

Ms. Warren says her mother was part Cherokee and part Delaware, two Native American nations. I’m not sure why Scott Brown disputes her claim. He talks about her checking some box or other, so I suppose he is trying to suggest she benefited from Affirmative Action at some point in her career. Of course, nothing of the sort happened, and Ms. Warren put that notion to rest some time ago.

But there might be more to it than that. Some of Brown’s staff members recently mocked Ms. Warren with “tomahawk chops,” and by chanting and whooping like “Indians” in an old-time Western movie. I imagine they think there’s some shame in being Native American.

Whatever Brown and his aides are thinking, it is extremely offensive.

Don’t tell me that Americans haven’t evolved beyond the days when Jews were sometimes told, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”

This kind of remark is unworthy of a civilized society. And I always thought of Massachusetts as one of America’s more civilized states.

I can’t believe Brown will win many votes by acting like a backwoods bumpkin. Not in Massachusetts. Not in 2012.

If I lived in Massachusetts, I know I wouldn’t want someone like Scott Brown representing me.