It Shouldn't Matter, But...
...it has my entire life, and probably always will.
- •I'm not "white."I don't think it should matter. But, a lot of people referenced it in regards to a recent discussion. Whether as a means to discredit my opinions, or, just as an excuse to make other statements about me. They made incorrect and unfair assumptions, just because they disagreed with what I had to say. I don't think my ethnicity should confirm or disprove my opinions. I'd much rather be judged on things I can control, like my actions.
- •I don't think there is anything wrong with being white (or any ethnicity for that matter).I understand and acknowledge that white privilege exists. There have been times in my life when I have benefitted from it, and from people making incorrect assumptions about me. There have also been plenty of times that my ethnicity, and/or the ambiguous nature of it, has brought about negatives in my life. I understand my experience is different from other people. Most minorities don't ever get to benefit from white privilege. I am not blind to that. I am not suggesting it's fair.
- •WHAT we are shouldn't determine WHO we are.Nobody in this life gets to choose their ethnicity or sexual preference (that's my opinion, if you want to debate that, we can do that another time). But we all get to decide WHO we want to be. We have the power to decide the type of person we want to be and how we treat others. I choose to be someone that doesn't judge people based on their appearance, gender, sexual preference or other factors beyond their control. I try my best to treat people how I want to be treated.
- •I've spent my entire life explaining to people "what" I am. It's the first question EVERYONE asks me, as soon as they feel comfortable enough to ask it."Do you mind if I ask what you are?" "Where do you come from?" "Are your parents mixed? You don't look like anything." "What's your background?" "What nationality are you?" "Can you explain your ethnicity to me, I can't figure it out by your appearance." "You're not white, are you?" All of these are very common questions I get from teachers, coaches, employers, girlfriends, friends, roommates, etc. just so they can validate their preconceived notions of WHAT somebody should be.
- •People might not realize...The emotional and psychological damage that's inflicted by asking somebody "what" they are. I'm just a person like you, trying to figure life out. But now, you're forcing me wonder if I am just like everyone else. Am I normal? Is there something wrong with me? How come nobody asks my black friends or white friends or Latino or Asian friends "what" they are? Why does it matter? Why should I have to go home and ask my mom "what" I am, just so other people can make or confirm judgements about me?
- •Growing up I had self-confidence issues. I didn't feel like I fit in or belonged to any specific group. Other people have written tremendous lists on the struggles of having mixed heritage, I don't feel the need to repeat all of that here.People that meet me now, are often surprised at how confident I am; in all aspects of life, my opinions, actions, appearance, abilities, etc. I have plenty of self-confidence. But, it's because I was forced to reconcile that at an early age. People want to determine what you are and they want that to fit into a neat little box that confirms their ideas, whether they are true or not. I had to decide who I was going to be, so that what I was no longer mattered. But, of course, it always will.
- •For the record...My father is of mixed ancestry, he happens to have both Caucasian and Native American heritage. My mother is 100% Rappahannock. You probably haven't heard of us because the US Govt refuses to federally recognize our tribe. They fear that we'll build casinos too close to Atlantic City and hurt the profit margins of already super rich people. And, that by cutting into those profits we may be able to dig ourselves out of poverty, as a group, and succeed in the face of our oppressors.
- •My mother was born in 1949, which I know is ancient history to some of you. She dealt with harassment and oppression her entire life, both for being female and "Indian."Her family had livestock that they raised and used as food or sold to get other items. My grandmother made most of the clothes for my mom and her siblings. My mom, who recently retired from a career working in a woman's hospital, was told as a child that she wasn't smart enough to attend school because she was "Indian." She was picked on so much that she taped magazines and newspaper to her legs, under her pants, because the other kids would kick her under their desks.
- •After people learn that I'm Native American, there is another series of questions that people ALWAYS ask (either genuinely or jokingly). The answer I always give, whether true or not, is no. Because I have no interest in confirming your preconceived notions of what I should be."Do you live on a reservation?" "Did you grow up on one?" "Can you do a rain dance?" "You get casino money,right?" "You got money for college, right?" "Do you go to Pow Wow's?" "What's your Indian name?" "Do you have a spirit animal?" And, if you think some misguided questions are the only form of harassment or oppression I've faced in my life, you can guess again. But, everyone has struggles in life, whether because of their ethnicity or other factors. So, I choose to treat everyone equally.
- •Most Native Americans in this country don't get casino money.Most native tribes still live in poverty because of factors beyond their control, due to the systemically oppressive nature of governmental policies. The unemployment rate for Native Americans is higher than that of any other ethnic group in this country. Even when everything is equal; age, gender, education, marital status, state of residence, etc, Native Americans odds of being employed are 31% lower than Caucasians, the largest gap of any ethnic group.
- •So, if you think I won't take full advantage of the times I am afforded white privilege, you would be wrong.But that doesn't mean I don't understand harassment, racism, prejudice and other forms of oppression. And, I don't think being "white" precludes anyone from understanding or relating to those either. It's called empathy, look it up. Assuming someone can't understand or relate to racism or oppression based solely on their ethnicity seems hypocritical to me. I will choose to be the type of person that focuses on someone's actions instead of making assumptions about them.
- •Some people are going to be mad at me, again, I'm sure. But, that's ok. I've found that when you agree with people, they tend to like you, and when you don't, they don't. I'm ok with that. I'm not trying to get people to agree with me, or like me. I just want to explain, and hopefully help people understand, my perspective.This doesn't mean that my apology wasn't sincere. I didn't intend to make people feel a certain way, but I did, and I'm sorry. I'm still learning and growing as a person. When I make mistakes, I try to own up to them and rectify them as best I can. This list is my attempt to explain something that bothered me. I tried not to acknowledge it, I didn't want the discussion to be about my ethnicity. But, it's been a few days and it's still on my mind, so here we are.