Friday, April 13, 2007

May submit this next week.


Nobody wants to ever talk about racism, because it is so ugly. It is easier swept under rug. In fact, I would rather sweep it out the door, but after seeing all the hoopla about Don imus, I feel I need to talk about it now.
I grew up on a reservation. When I was a kid things were more "in your face." What I mean is, when I went into a drugstore, or gift shop in a border town I was followed, watched....the sales clerk even being a few steps behind me. I remember making sure my hands didn't touch any part of my body and I had the 20 dollar bill my dad gave me to spend out in the open in one hand, just so the clerk knew I had money to buy the bubbles, and coloring books I wanted.

I remember my grandma arguing with some of the workers...declaring "We have money! We don't steal! Even though our land was stolen, we are not thiefs."
When I was a kid I thought all white people were bad. I thought they all looked down on us. It got to be so bad that I felt inferior when we moved to a nearby city. I was made fun of by only one kid in first grade for being Indian, but at the time it felt like the whole class looked down on me and hated me. I withdrew into myself. I could have made friends. I could have been "normal." But I was so scared because of one little idiot's opinion of me, and to be real, you know he learned it from his parents. All the racist things he said. What first grader just thinks that stuff up.

I cried to move back home and I was sent back to my grandma's for the rest of first grade. I was still shy but a happy shy...well, until I peed my pants on the bus.
Anyway, moving on.
When I moved away from home and to the city at age 18 I applied for every job i could get. does anyone remember how hard it is to get your first job? I mean you are so scared and you dress nice for the interviews. You have no idea how to give good interview, no idea how to lie a little to make yourself look like the best option. I must have went to a dozen interviews and didn't get one job. I, of course chalked it up as racism. I know now it wasn't, I was just a naive, inexperienced, 18 year old who was starting to get an attitude. It was easier to claim racism than blame my lack of experience.
Anyway I had a friend who worked at Burger King on the closing shift, which is basically cleaning all the grease off of everything. She got me a job there working two nights every two weeks. I know that is so pathetic, but I took it. It was nasty. I hate Burger King.
In the mean time, since I was only getting 16 hours every two weeks I also got a part time job at an arts and crafts gallery called Sioux Trading Post. On my third night of work at Burger King I was screamed at for not going fast enough on something I had no idea what it was. I was never the cook. It was my first night without my friend and the other manager. I walked out. Chalked it up to racism. It was easy to call things racism, even though that manager was 8 months pregnant and a bitch anyway.
I worked at Sioux Trading Post full time after that and I was able to sell my beadwork. I was able to "shine" in my pride of my heritage. I learned more about my people and who I was working there, then I did in my whole 18 years on the reservation.
I learned a thing or two about a thing or two since then. I learned to recognize it when I see it and not just assume everything ansd everyone is racist. Over the years and all the moves I made many different friends from many different cultures. I lived on a border town for a while in the last two years and I saw racism and I didn't. Some of the people there know that they can't survive as a town without our tribe. Some of them still don't like us...but that's their loss. Some of them grew up among us and everyone knows everyone. Alot of them work for our tribe, so they need us. For our hospital, for our schools, for our Dept. of Social Services.
I don't see it like I used to.
There are racist people who are up front about it. They are hated for their attitudes and for being up front. Then there are racist people who keep it inside, but you know they are. They can say deragatory remarks and it's ok, because they claim they are not racist. Or they are not a minority so they are insensitive to what hurts and what doesn't. They even lie to themselves about who they are. Either way, racism is hurtful.
My kids went to many diverse schools. They don't see people as black, or Indian or white or Filipino, because they are all 4 cultures anyway. They never picked their friends based on color. Like my mom said, adults in towns spend money on studying what can make their community more diverse. They bring in study groups to try and make the small town community a better place to live with the different cultures involved. But somehow, it is easier for the next generation to get past color and see people for what they are...human. The children have figured it out on their own. Let's hope this only gets easier as we go along.

4 comments:

Josie said...

At the white little town where I grew up, bordering a reservation, there was just one Dakota student in my class, in all the elementary school in fact. She and I were friends, but I remember all too well how she was treated by the other kids. It was my first experience with racism, and it left a burning reminder in my heart to never be that way. I have my father to thank for showing me that all people should be treated with respect. Children learn what they live at home. What I have learned along the way is that we are all far more alike than we are different. I hope you do publish this for your next column, it needs to be said again and again until the day comes when we no longer need to know the word.

Alissa said...

As a kid I never really saw race. There wasn't much diversity in our schools either, I wonder if that had something to do with it... Anyway, I've never seen color, I've never found racist jokes funny, and I'm raising my kids to be colorblind. The best comment I've ever heard from Megan regarding race or skin color, was that she was jealous because they tan better than she does. The innocents of the young amazes me, and if I do my job right, she'll never see it any other way. Any racist comments coming from children, come from their parents, and what kind of parent is teaching hate? The worst lesson a parent can teach a child is to bare the burden of hate, that they don't understand why, or where it comes from...

JohnB said...

Good post Dana...you know, I grew up in Los Angeles, where at a very young age things moved so fast and I was exposed to every culture that one could possibly think of...in a way, I think I was lucky to be "thrown in" like that, and pretty much was able to learn for myself about people.

Then I moved to Florida at age 13, and what an eye opener it was...I'm sure you know what I mean.

Dana Dane said...

oh i been to florida...yes i ahve lol