Gawker uses "Mail of Tears" for a cheap pun

In Andrew Jackson sucks, Gawker, Trail of Tears by Adrienne K.Leave a Comment

This, my friends, is a post about how the internet is a slow learner. A few days ago Gawker writer Leah Beckmann posted a round-up of crappy reader mail, and in a clear lapse of judgment and lack of awareness of American history, or a blog in her own network’s history, entitled it “Mail of Tears”–complete with a picture of Iron Eyes Cody (the Italian actor who played the “crying Indian” in that famous PSA).

Longtime readers of the blog might think this sounds eerily familiar…and that’s because in 2010, Jezebel (Gawker’s “sister site”) wrote about Meghan McCain crying  and gave it the hashtag #trailoftears. I was, clearly and similarly, enraged. So why recreate the wheel? I’ll just quote directly from that post here:

Yes, that says Trail of Tears. Trail of Tears. The forced relocation of my ancestors, where they were unlawfully and forcibly removed from their homelands in the Southeast and marched over 1000 miles, in the dead of winter, to what is now modern day Oklahoma. Over 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokees who began the journey died along the way from exposure, hunger, and disease. 

The Trail of Tears was also unlawful in the truest sense of the word. Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation took the case to court, fighting for the right for his people to remain in their homelands, where they had been for thousands of years. The Cherokees argued that as a sovereign nation, the state of Georgia had no right to enforce a removal within Cherokee territory. The case worked it’s way up through the court system, ended up in the supreme court. In a series of decisions, Justice John Marshall and his court sided with the Cherokees, stating that only the national government had the right to intervene in Indian Affairs. To which President Andrew Jackson reportedly stated: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”
With the signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, Jackson took matters into his own hands, authorizing the removal of thousands of Native people from throughout North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama. 
To put this in perspective, this is the mid 1800’s. The Cherokee Nation was a successful and prosperous community, with large plantations, farms, schools, printing presses that produced books and a newspaper in the written Cherokee language, a literacy rate exponentially higher than the local white community, and a system of colleges that educated members of the “Five Civilized Tribes” (I hate that term) in a way that incorporated both mainstream and tribal education traditions.
The federal government sent in troops to enforce the removal, and without warning, they swooped into these communities, burning homes, killing livestock, and removing families without even time for them to gather belongings. They were then rounded up into concentration camps where conditions were squalid and supplies limited, and then forced to begin their journey.
My great-great-great grandparents came over on that journey, a time that is called Nunna daul Isunyi in the Cherokee Language–The Trail Where They Cried.
  And I’ll just change up the ending a bit to make it work…
So, Jezebel Gawker, calling Megan McCain crying over her dad picking Sarah Palin as his running mate a #trailoftears a post that begins with the words “Choke on Shit and Die” a “Mail of Tears”? You are dismissing the pain and legacy of my community’s genocide–and that’s not something I take lightly.  
I know it’s embarrassing to get called out when you eff up, but, I’m sorry Jezebel Gawker, ignoring the issue isn’t gonna fix it. This may seem small and inconsequential to you, but these are my ancestors and my community, and the way this was handled does nothing to restore my faith in how people of color are treated on your site.   
Bottom line, I know you think Native people are a big ol’ joke, Leah Beckmann, but don’t dismiss Native people telling you that this is hurtful, wrong, and in incredibly poor taste. It’s an easy fix. Fix it. Now.
Post on Gawker:
Choke On Shit and Die Asshole’ and Other Things You Said to Us This Week

My post about Meghan McCain (Jezebel did end up changing the tag, eventually):
Jezebel uses #trailoftears to describe Meghan McCain

Leah Beckmann’s twitter is here, and you can email her at leah@gawker.com if you’d like to tell her what you think.

(Thanks Allison!)