Nov 13, 2013 - Mother Racism by: Sunny Red Bear
As I sit alone in this coffee shop, I say with all sincerity that I feel a sense of responsibility writing this article. I sent out a Facebook status to my fellow Natives today asking to share experiences of racism. Thinking this article would be easy, leaning on the fact that racism is fairly common and I’ve experience it every so often, I thought “How hard could this article be to write a few cleverly put together sentences and call it a day?” I was painfully mistaken. As I read through the stories and responses of my fellow brothers and sisters on daily racism I can’t help but breathe a little heavier at the thought of my people, my blood, being denied the right to acceptance. I realize that we are not completely free.
So I’m sitting here arms folded, a cup of cold dark coffee sitting in front of me, untouched and unwanted. My eyes are slightly watery; my heart is a drum pounding. “Take a deep breath.” Okay. So I thought to myself: “If racism was my mother, what would she teach me? Hmm… Maybe she would say something like this…”
My child, you will carry the weight of being Native on your red-skinned shoulders. Your body will ache and you spirit will bleed. Your feet will blister and your soul will cry. You will look like a brave warrior but you will feel like a savage inside. My son, you will try to cut your long hair and I will hand you the scissors. You will be verbally flogged daily for your lack of money or the abundance of it. Whether you live on or off the reservation you will never find a true “Home.” Your education will be lost down the streams of approval and insecurity. Your journey will be too hard and you will be forgotten. My son you will be angry and you will pass it down to your brown skinned sons and your squaw daughters. All the races surrounding you will be addicted to privilege and you will be their crack. You will be burned, abused, and your pureness will mean nothing. Your classmates will be one class above. Their white skin will glow like the sun and you will be the dancer suffering in their light. Your relentless passion will fade unlike the scars you carry on your shoulders. The scars you were entitled to on your spirit will show. These scars you carry will be visible in everything that you do, etched into your future. The government will feed your spirit out of a commodity can & you will shovel it in because you think it will take away your spiritual hunger….My child…you will suffer, you will hate others for something you can have but were told you couldn’t. My child…you will wear an American Uniform and stand silent and guilty. You will offer all you have and it won’t be enough. So stand aside my red-skinned son and let everyone else take their ticket to this train while you have to earn yours…
Ugly. That’s all I can think right now. Staring out of this coffee shop’s smudged windows, I finally snapped out of my racial trance. I’m pretty sure everyone around me is a little worried. As soon as I broke my long stare I looked around embarrassed to find a few people exhaling, like their bodies just said, “Oh she’s alive!”
Wow, Mother Racism you are something else…Putting my hand back down on my lap I had to remind myself there’s no “real” Mother Racism to backhand. The ugliest part about racism is that we often times believe it, we take what “Mother Racism” says and hold onto it like it’s the truth to our being. Well if that’s what Mother Racism would whisper in our ears, what would I, as a Native mother say to my child? Hmm… Maybe I’d say something like this:
My child, I won’t ask you to carry what this world says you have to carry. All I’m going to ask of you is to remember that no one can tell you who to be, how to act, who you are, who you aren’t, how to live, and how to feel. Hatred… set it aside, come back to your center. Walk with your grandfathers even though you cannot see them, you will feel them, and you will learn through their patience with you. My Son, these people that come to you with their insecurity will try to expose you to their sickness of fear; racism is their only medicine. People will hold you back, some of their hands will be red, not because of the innocent blood spilled but because they are your brothers and sisters. But my son, do not yield to the seductive pull of self-pity. It is a hollow, dark, empty house full of anger and resentment. It’s a house so far away from all the people dear to you that compassion for others is like a light that never reaches the door. My son, you have that choice to live in that house.
You come from a line of warriors. Warriors that have fought for more than just freedom, they fought for you. Your grandfathers knew that someday you would have a choice to live as our people did, bearing compassion and giving with hands ever-patient. Although you live in a day where historians will tell you we were victims of the government and enslaved to a life of dependency, I will bring to your attention that history can never tell us how “good” or “bad” we have it. No, it is our Choice. We Natives can act like victims, but acting as a victim only threatens our future. My son I will offer tobacco with you and we will pray for knowledge. You will never be alone my brilliant son. I will help you to unlearn fear even though it will be a lifelong process. I will be your backbone when your spirit wants to wilt. My son, you will be water to the dancers and sage to the heaviness of this world. Our identity will give you answers to all the questions people try to confuse you with. Your journey and pain will never be in vain. My dear child, creator celebrates you. You are brilliant. Your spirit is strong, protected and sincere. Racism will greet you at every door of your life. It will tell you that you do not deserve to live in peace but Son do not let racism bully you into being silent. You were not made to be the host that carries self-pity to our nation but you are a vessel in which our people can be strengthened through your decision to be not only strong, but a true Lakota man. None of us “deserves” life. Life is a gift & even though some do not know how to celebrate their own traditions and will try to exploit and destroy yours, as your mother I will teach you & show you how to live with integrity & protect our ways. When the government won’t protect you, when the government wants to bypass our questions and our concerns as Native people… I will teach you to shoot an arrow through “Mother Racism” and our people will call it a suicide as historians have called it a Massacre. A true mother does what she has to do and that is to speak the truth of Choice. We are victims to racism, but only if we choose to be.
I think that would sum it up. I still feel a sense of responsibility for this article I’m writing but more so for the actions I choose after it. And I hope after you read this article you take up your bow & do the same.
“Although I believe that this problem will never be completely eradicated, I do believe that there is nothing wrong with maintaining that hope by educating those who are willing to accept and understand that our People are more to this country than a mascot, a brand name, and most definitely a second class citizen”. -Murphy Zohnnie- Navajo
Written by: Sunny Red Bear “Wasu Hla Mani Win” Lakota