Jan 10, 2015 - Do looks matter? by Justin Beaulieu
I used to be a clean cut niiji. Got a fresh hair cut every 2 weeks. People would usually ask me what I was. I would usually respond with a casual “human being”. Lol right. They would laugh with me and then seriously ask again “no I mean what ethnicity are you?” It seemed that I had created an identity crisis for them or something. How is it really important to have to know what ethnicity someone is? Some days I wouldn’t let it bother me then some days it would put me in a foul mood. I would get responses from some people that would say you aren’t like other Indians. I quizzically would ask how that is. Well you aren’t a drunk and you can speak eloquently. Hold on what! You really just said that to me. Do you know what a real Indian is? Do you know all the other 2 million + natives on a level that allows you to systemically categorize all of us into a group of ill English speaking and drunken sub group of humans?
I decided it was my job to alleviate the disruption I felt I had created in these identity issues being forced upon me. I started the process of growing out my hair and wearing more native themed clothing mostly air Jordan shoes with a white tee and a medallion. It seemed to me that is how I could fit into the dynamic view of what being a Niiji is all about. First of all I don’t see myself as being someone who has to fit in anywhere and usually blaze my own trail. For this particular experiment I am trying to help my tribe rewrite their constitution and fitting into the “norm” can only help me identify with my fellow Native bros.
Almost immediately I stated to see problems first hand. I was pulled over by the cops on the way to work 6 times in a 3 month period. Let me assure you I didn’t change my driving habits. I also was never pulled over after dark. I started to notice while shopping that I always had someone very close to me to help. I just thought that this Walmart was exclusively helpful in contrast to other ones. It was my son who helped me see that the workers were actually following us around. This was new to me because when I was “Mexican” looking in the same town I didn’t receive the same treatment. So apparently we as a people create fear in store owners by our thefts. We also normally don’t have car insurance I am led to believe every time the cops sarcastically ask to see my insurance papers.
I guess it isn’t easy being Native in hostile white communities. These same communities have no problem cashing in on our contributions to their local economy. I finally got the police to quit bothering me by addressing the issue with both the local sheriff and the lieutenant of the state patrol. I did end up having to go to court to fight a ticket I received for following the law to a T. My judge that day stated it was a sad day when Mr. Beaulieu can come into her court room and knows the law better than the county attorney and a state patrol officer. Let me assure you that was the highlight of my year! In retrospect I would never trade the experiences and hate I have been subjected to recently because it is nothing compared to the tragedies my ancestors faced and heck without their survival I wouldn’t even be here.