“I don’t see color.”
What do you think of when you hear “I don’t see color” in regards to Culture diversity? Do you think of the color of someone skin? The color of what they look like? Do you associate the color of their skin to how they will act? Think about your daily life, the office you work in, the place you see. Do you automatically think about the someone color or race when you meet them? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about this? Do you have questions that you want to ask, but are too afraid to offend someone?
My parents raised me to Not see color, they told me that everyone was a person big or small. Black, brown, white or blue. We have no right to judge someone based on their skin color. Well, that sounds easier than it really is. I am half Lakota and half caucasian, Meaning my birth mom was Lakota and my dad is caucasian. Everyone assumed I was Mexican and Brazilian just by the color of my skin. I would have people come up to me and speak Spanish, I told them I did not speak the language. They automatically gave me looks of hate, I would get the whispers and the stares for not knowing Spanish. This is called association by color. Meaning, someone looks a certain race, but does not mean they are.
I look a whole different race. I had to tell people that I was half Native American and half Caucasian, but that was even hard to say. I would still get the stares and whispers. My teachers made it worse at school. I was divided by the color of my skin, not by my academics. I was told that since I was certain color, I would not make it in school. I was told since I was certain color, that I would end up a certain way. I was told many things just by the color of my skin. All these things were not good things. The teachers would speak to me differently and in some cases, I would be ignored.
Did I let this stop me? No. I struggled for years by all these associations. I did not know which way to turn. If I talked to Caucasians about it, I would get judged and the same with Native Americans. I was told that I was NOT a “real” Lakota or real a “Caucasian ” if I did not stand up for the hate that is being spread. I was stick in the middle. I was stuck between two cultures that judged me for speak out the truth. I was judged for having working hard for life and getting the things I needed to succeed by the Lakota’s. I was judged for speaking about the Lakota heritage by the Caucasians. I was told that my past, I would struggle to be a good parent or resort to giving my responsibilities to someone else. Did my Native Mother abuse me, yes. I was told that since I was abused, I would end up the same way and abusing my own children and be judged on what choices I made. I was told how I should live my life, based on my culture.
I did not know where to turn. So, I made my own destiny. I began speaking for both sides, understanding why both sides stand up for their cultures and beliefs. Do I still get judged? Yes. But, I am learning to understand how to make change on both sides. I am learning to properly educate both sides on what it is like for each culture. For example, I am expecting and I was told that I would have problems as a mother, because of how my mother treated me. I would not show my children my heritage, I was told this by Lakotas and Caucasians. It was like I could not win on either side.
Being stuck in the middle has its disadvantages and advantages. Meaning, I can speak up for one side and switch to other side to help people understand why certain things are a certain way. I cannot tell either side that they do not understand if I do not have teach them. But, first I must teach myself to understand the real way. The Lakota way was lost long ago, now hatred is spread among my people. They use that hatred against each other and against other cultures, they use that hatred to spread to other cultures. This only leads to misunderstandings and stereotypes. How can we change how people think about different cultures, if we cannot stop fighting among our own?
Having a foot on each side, helps me understand why each side speaks up for themselves. Why they are ashamed about certain things or why they feel proud. I see people standing for themselves and their cultures, but it hurts inside when they hurt their own people. I hear people say “You will never understand…” “You will never get it…” how can we say these statements, if we cannot understand how to treat our own people?
America is a diverse country, that sometimes it is hard for one culture to express what is going. Sometimes we get lost in our own. Sometimes we forget to educate others about different cultures and different traditions. We forget that America is full of diversity, this affects businesses, homes, people and cultures. This affects how we view others. We are so used to having it one way, that we get lost in our country. When BLM came out, all businesses changed their missions statements and beliefs, which should have changed a long time ago, we forgot that America is all about cultural Diversity. Businesses start to give trainings on discriminations and cultural differences in their work place. They start to open doors that were closed for too long. Everything is changing, but are the people also changing? Are the people also making these changes in their everyday thoughts and lives? I used to find myself thinking that a certain culture only lived in poverty, but I took the time to educate myself on what this culture was all about. They did not live in poverty, they lived that for a certain reason. I was labeling a culture on what other people wanted me to see, not what that culture wanted me to see. When I interviewed for jobs, I would tell people that I am Native American and it is disrespectful for me to look to people in the eye. So, if you talk to me and I am not looking you in the eye, that is sign that I am showing respect towards you. That is apart of my culture. I find myself having conversations with people, while looking somewhere else. I find myself wondering if this means I lost the job or they see it as rude?
So do you see color? or do you see people? If you see someone different than you, what types of questions do you ask? or are you comfortable asking those questions? Like my situation, no one asked me what culture I was. People are sometimes too uncomfortable to ask those types of questions. Me, being Native American, I notice that I do not get questions asked about my culture or beliefs. I get TOLD what my cultures and beliefs are. Like natives will drink and fail at education. Natives will not finish school and leave their children with their grandparents while they go out and party. Natives will do drugs, rape their woman and live off the government. I got TOLD how I should act in my culture. This did not feel right to me, but I quickly realized that, people are not educated in the proper ways of Native Americans. They did not know any other way, besides what other people have told them. I found myself falling into this pattern also, I quickly judged another culture based on what people have told me or what I see. I do not see the whole picture. I do not see the real cultures. I only saw what people wanted me to see. Not what the world wants me to see. Sometimes, you have to wait for someone to bring up their cultural differences in order for you to feel comfortable and this is something at we will fight with for the rest of our lives. I found myself having to tell people who I was, what I believed. I did not fall into that “stereotype” that the rest of the world believed.
Lastly, Let me talk about Caucasians, why do I use this term instead of “white people?” because that is the proper name. If I want to be called “Native American verses Brown people” I have to show the same respect to other cultures. I have to respect other cultures if I expect the same. This is why I am stuck in the middle, I want to learn about other cultures, because forcing or demanding respect only makes it look like that is who we are. I have to teach and learn from them, while they learn from me. I will be stuck in the middle for the rest of life, I know that I will be judged based on the things I say. But, I also know that I am doing what I need to understand all cultures, in order to get that respect. In order to give that respect.