Here is a story from the New York Post that set off a few of my pet peeves.
The co-owner of a queer Indigenous artists’ collective in Wisconsin is facing accusations of being white after claiming to hold Native American heritage, according to a report.
Kay LeClaire, who identifies as non-binary, allegedly faked their indigenous heritage and used the front to make money, according to a local outlet.
LeClaire was accused in an online forum of actually being white after claiming since 2017 they were of Metis, Oneida, Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Cuban and Jewish heritage, Madison 365 reported on Tuesday.
LeClaire, also a founding member of the collective and emerging leader in the Madison Indigenous arts community, earned artist stipends, a paid residency at the University of Wisconsin, speaking gigs, and art exhibitions with the help of their Native American claim.
But LeClaire, who went by the Native American name nibiiwakamigkwe, was allegedly exposed after a hobbyist genealogist posted evidence of LeClair’s real genealogy on an online forum, Madison 365 reported. The online forum user, AdvancedSmite, told Madison 365 that questions about LeClaire’s claims led to some digging.
The user, who did not want to reveal their actual identity to the outlet, used online records and resources to connect LeClaire’s lineage to German, Swedish and French Canadian ancestors and posted the findings on a forum.
LeClaire didn’t answers questions when contacted by Madison 365, but instead sent a long statement. LeClaire reportedly said any culturally related items they had are being given back to the community and vowed not to seek new grants while taking themselves off current grants.
“I am sorry,” they reportedly wrote. “A lot of information has come to my attention since late December. I am still processing it all and do not yet know how to respond adequately. What I can do now is offer change.
“Moving forward, my efforts will be towards reducing harm by following the directions provided by Native community members and community-specified proxies. Currently, this means that I am not using the Ojibwe name given to me and am removing myself from all community spaces, positions, projects, and grants and will not seek new ones.”
I admit I am something of a grammar Nazi (Are we still allowed to say that?), so using the pronoun ‘they’ to refer to a single person really irritates me. In English, there are three singular third-person pronouns and one plural third-person pronoun. When the subject or object is masculine, we use he/him. When it is feminine, we use she/her. When it has no gender, we use it. It is almost always used for inanimate objects. The plural third-person pronoun is they/them. They can be used for a single person if the person’s gender is indeterminate, as a shorthand for he or she. They should not be used for a single individual whose gender is known unless that individual is a conjoined twin or suffers from multiple personality disorder. Judging by the picture, Ms. LeClaire is a woman. The article ought to use the pronouns she and her.
This brings me to my next peeve. There is no such thing as being of nonbinary gender. On Earth, the most complex organisms, certainly every vertebrate animal, are divided into two genders, male and female. Every human being is either male or female, except a very few persons who due to some birth defect or medical condition are intersexed. Unless you are one of the very few intersexed, you are not nonbinary. You are either male or female, and your supposed nonbinary condition is a product of your imagination. It is a free country, and you can imagine yourself to be whatever you want, but you cannot expect the rest of us to validate your delusions.
If you truly are non-binary then you are most likely an extraterrestrial. If so, welcome to Earth. You will find that there is no intelligent life here, and we are not eligible to join your Galactic Federation.
The final point I want to make is not a peeve but an observation. There is a lot of talk from the left about White privilege. Whenever I hear someone talking about White privilege, I wonder if they think Eddie Murphy’s “White Like Me” sketch is real.
Perhaps being White in America has its advantages, but that is far less true in 2023 than in 1923. In fact, in 1923, not all Whites were privileged. If you happened to be of southern or eastern European ancestry, then you were not quite the right sort of White. Considering all of the government affirmative action legislation and the diversity initiatives sponsored by every major corporation, one might argue that being White is a disadvantage in twenty-first-century America. In any case, the question of privilege is more complicated than many seem to think. There are many privileged Whites but also many Whites who aren’t especially privileged at all. There are many Blacks who are not privileged, but many who are privileged. This is not simply a black-and-white issue.
But, if Whites are so privileged in today’s America, then why are people like Kay LeClair pretending to be non-white. No one goes out of their way to fake being a member of an oppressed group. No one pretended to be Black when Jim Crow was in force. No one claimed Native American ancestry when the U. S. Calvery was herding the Indians into reservations. Why did Rachel Dolezal claim to be Black if Whites are so privileged? Why did Senator Elizabeth Warren pretend to have Native American ancestry? It seems that it is not so clear which precisely the privileged groups are?
What all this seems to have in common, besides irritating me, is pretense. Kay Leclair and many others are pretending to be something they are not. They pretend we still live in a country where George Wallace is standing at the school door proclaiming, “Segregation forever!!“. They invent imaginary genders with strange new pronouns. They pretend to be tolerant while acting like intolerant bullies. They pretend to be victims of oppression by reimagining themselves to be members of an allegedly marginalized group in what is undoubtedly the least oppressive country and most tolerant society in history.
The pretense cannot go on forever. At some point, pretense collides with reality. There are only two genders. There are no truly oppressed groups in twenty-first-century America. The sooner we return to reality, the better.