“How much Indian are you?”
As a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation with brown skin, numerous white people have often asked this question when finding out about my Native American roots.
I’m sure no one means harm when asking the question, but history offers evidence suggesting the nature of the question itself is highly problematic.
Blood quantum is the idea and practice that human beings, mostly Native Americans, are filled with “blood” percentages.
For example, I was issued a Certificate of Indian Blood as a citizen of the Muscogee Creek Nation. My card reads 15/64 percentage, just shy of one-quarter Muscogee Creek.
In reality, I am “one-quarter” Muscogee Creek, but my great-great-grandfather did something a little sneaky. It actually reveals the true reason behind the practice of blood quantum.
When registering for the Dawes Rolls in the late 19th century, he decided to register with a smidge of “white” blood.
Family lore suggested he perpetuated this lie for a number of reasons: (1) better chance for employment, (2) the local barber would cut your hair if you could prove “whiteness,” and/or (3) he wanted to shoot pool at the local watering hole (no full-bloods allowed, you see).
Regardless of the real reason, my great-great-grandfather revealed the true meaning behind blood quantum. It was never about how much Native blood flowed through one’s veins (because, seriously, how can you determine that fact scientifically?).
The real reason behind the practice of blood quantum was to maintain white supremacy and subjugate non-pure whites to lower positions and rank.
In the United States, the federal government used blood quantum to limit Indigenous peoples’ possibility for U.S. citizenship.
Because Native tribes became a conquered people under the authority of the U.S. government (exclusively white males), Natives quickly assimilated the practice of blood quantum into their own tribal governance.
Just because they adopted this concept and practice does not mean they ever bought into this highly offensive undertaking.
In fact, in order for them to receive promised benefits from the federal government, they had to prove “Native” blood. They were in a catch-22 – assimilate or starve.
The practice of blood quantum is just another version of white supremacy, demanding proof of existence from darker-skinned people.
How many times have you heard the question asked of a white person, “Hey, how much white are you?” Probably never. However, non-white-skinned people have heard these questions for centuries.
When humans and communities are defined by race, it immediately sets the tone for dehumanization and devaluation of diversity.
The Raceless Gospel is not a colorless gospel, however. The Raceless Gospel rejects the notion that we are defined by the skin tones we use to divide ourselves and ascribe values based on these distinctions.
The Raceless Gospel, by contrast, begins with the simple notion of love for our fellow humans. Love for others accepts the equitable value of each person while celebrating the diversity of cultures and peoples.
The Raceless Gospel reverberates Paul’s declaration to the Galatian church, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Humanity cannot afford to divide itself based upon race. We should no longer assign greater value to white skin and lower value to dark skin.
We should stop asking for blood quantum and papers (think voter registration laws) to maintain white dominance. We need a Raceless Gospel.
Good Faith Media is planning to launch the Raceless Gospel Initiative with Rev. Thomas leading the effort. Rev. Thomas will utilize a variety of media platforms and consulting experiences to educate and advocate for a Raceless Gospel.
After the verdict was announced against former police officer Derek Chauvin this week, Rev. Thomas and I sat down to discuss its significance and what we can do to advance the Raceless Gospel.
Her keen compassion for all of God’s creatures captures the essence of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus welcomed all into his presence while advocating for justice among the marginalized and oppressed.
If you want to learn more about the Raceless Gospel Initiative, please read Rev. Thomas’ writings at GoodFaithMedia.org and visit her website at the RacelessGospel.com. And listen to Rev. Thomas – and experience her creativity – in our newly released podcast, “The Raceless Gospel.”
If you want to financially support the launch of the Raceless Gospel Initiative, please consider making a donation at GoodFaithMedia.org/donate. You can earmark your donation for the Raceless Gospel by letting us know in the notes section.
Let’s imagine a world devoid of race, as we celebrate our commonalities and diversities while seeking equality and justice for all people.
CEO of Good Faith Media.