On Election Night, CNN broadcast a table showing the results of an exit poll that broke the national electorate down into racial demographics. It read: White — 65 percent, Latino — 13 percent, Black — 12 percent, Something else — 6 percent, Asian — 3 percent. Almost immediately, that second-to-last category, “Something Else,” provoked an online uproar among the digital denizens of Indian Country.
We were outraged that CNN had, rather clumsily, grouped the First Peoples of this land in with — well, literally everyone else. “In an election largely driven by race, the media still fails to accurately cover voters of color,” Cherokee activist Rebecca Nagle tweeted alongside a photo of the segment. “For Native Americans, we’re not even named.”
Nearly every post on the Indigenous internet was, for a hot minute, contributing to the “Something Else” discourse. “Last night I went to bed Indigenous,” said @kevin_flyingsky on TikTok. “And this morning I woke up something else!” Someone on Facebook posted a screenshot of the CNN table with “Something Else” crossed out and “Cousins” written in, instead. I even joined in, changing my name on Twitter to, you guessed it, Something Else.
As with most internet phenomena, the posts circled an important truth. Native people are often erased in the media and elections. Every two years, the national parties devote enormous resources to mobilizing their bases and persuading swing voters. Campaigns microtarget voters by geography, race, gender, age, religion, educational background, class and much more, all of which the media covers like it’s the Super Bowl. But in this grand scramble for votes in elections that are increasingly decided by razor-thin margins, Native people are almost always overlooked or forgotten.
This isn’t because Native people don’t care about elections. In Rapid City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the nonprofit group IllumiNatives put up billboards that read: “Democracy is Indigenous.” On Election Day, citizens of the Navajo Nation paraded their horses to the polls. On the White Mountain Apache reservation, crown dancers led voters to the ballot box. And although data quality varies by state, Native voter turnout across the country increased significantly. Among the Navajo Nation, where more data is available, many precincts saw 40 percent to 60 percent increases in participation, according to an analysis by Arizona Democratic Party operative Keith Brekhus. [Continue reading…]