Back in January, Donald Trump tweeted about a video that Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted soon after she announced her candidacy for President of the United States. The fact that Trump attacked Warren and called her “Pocahontas” in his tweet was nothing new. But what stood out was the callous way in which Trump invoked one of the darkest moments in U.S. history for a political punchline.
Trump tweeted: “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!” The Wounded Knee Massacre was one of the deadliest attacks on Native Americans by the U.S. military, claiming the lives of hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children. Because it took place not too long ago, in 1890, it weighs heavily on Native American culture today.
No one knows how much Trump thought about exactly what he was doing, but he crossed an ugly line when he went beyond simply attacking a political foe to trashing a constituent population in a particularly hurtful and shamefully racist way. In a single tweet, Trump gleefully dishonored the legacy of Native Americans while making sure we all know how little he understands the history of the country he is supposed to govern.
Recent events have suggested that Trump’s tweet may have a silver lining. By shining a bright spotlight on Wounded Knee, Trump inspired two House Democrats and one Republican to introduce legislation known as the Remove the Stain Act in June. This Act would rescind the Congressional Medals of Honor that were awarded to 20 of the soldiers who committed atrocities at Wounded Knee, a step to end an injustice that followed the massacre and continues to this day.
On Tuesday, Warren announced that she will introduce a Senate version of the Act within months. “These acts of violence were not heroic; they were tragic and profoundly shameful,” Warren told Indianz.com. “This bill respects and honors those who lost their lives, advances justice, and takes a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.”
If this legislation passes in Congress, it will go to Trump for his signature, which means he will have to decide just how racist and insensitive he wants to be on this issue. Trump has long been obsessed with knowing how much Native American ancestry Warren has. What’s more important is the fact that empathy, a trait that helps make people human, appears to be wholly absent from Trump’s DNA.