Reactions ranged from bemused, sarcastic to downright angry when CNN categorized a race of voters as “something else” during live coverage of the American election results.
White, Latino, Black, Asian – and “Something Else.”
Indigenous people on either side of the medicine line took the label to mean them.
The internet did the rest.
“And just like that,” went one post with a confused-looking Forrest Gump in it, “Natives were labelled ‘something else’ and they just ran with it.”
“It’s a good day to be something else,” said another, playing on a line from the popular 1998 film Smoke Signals.
(“It’s a good day to be Indigenous” is how the line actually goes.)
By Thursday morning, one collection of mocking memes had been shared over 20,000 times in just over 12 hours on Facebook.
But the reaction wasn’t all satirical.
Many took serious umbrage at the colonial implications of the “something else” label.
“I’ve been called ‘something else’ by my partner a time or two, but you, CNN? C’mon now,” tweeted Tara Houska, co-founder of the impactful Not Your Mascots movement. “We’re the original peoples of these lands and flipping critical states.”
I’ve been called “something else” by my partner a time or two, but you, CNN? C’mon now. We’re the original peoples of these lands and flipping critical states. #NativeVote2020 #StillHere #RepresentationMatters pic.twitter.com/DNUGQ44QFf
— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@zhaabowekwe) November 4, 2020
Not Your Mascots was part of a long push for the Washington NFL team to change their name.
The team finally gave in earlier this year. They announced they’d change a name that’s widely considered a racist slur.
But they didn’t say what the new name would be.
One online humourist offered a suggestion: the Washington Something Elses.
The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) also took issue with the coverage.
The organization pointed out that “something else” impliedly erases and minimizes Indigenous people’s impact on the political landscape of the United States.
On Thursday, NAJA called for an apology.
“This type of language continues the efforts to erase Indigenous and other voters who don’t neatly fall into the race categories listed in the graphic,” said NAJA in a release.
“Being Native American is a political classification – not merely a racial background. Native nations have had a government-to-government relationship with the United States since the country’s earliest days. To refer to Indigenous voters as ‘something else’ fails to recognize the sovereignty and political classification of Native voters.”
CNN told APTN News that the gaffe has been corrected.
“Our exit poll results included a poor choice of words and in no way did we intend to minimize the importance of indigenous communities and the Native American vote,” said an email from Alison Rudnick, a vice president of communications for the network. “We have corrected it for any of our coverage moving forward.”
While the hashtag SomethingElse offered a distraction for some, the contentious 2020 U.S. election remained undetermined.
Votes continue to be tabulated in a few remaining states as Americans – and the world – wait to see whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be the next president.