Until just recently, I maintained 2 separate profiles on Facebook. One was for clients, the other was the place I could be myself without worrying about repercussions towards my business.
I’m a Secular Humanist. I am an Atheist. I am an Agnostic. I am a Scientist. I am Native.
And I am all of those things in a small town in Western Oklahoma.
With the election over with and Trump in office, I began seeing things that made my skin crawl. I don’t have a lot of love for my even smaller hometown (pop. 135 on a good year). That’s primarily due to the people who live there. Bear in mind, they weren’t all bad people. However, the majority living in and around the county were blatantly racist.
I watched much of the hatred and name-calling subside over the years as I grew older and it became less socially acceptable to utilize the words… I can’t even type them out without feeling disgusting. So, I will happily refrain, but I’m sure you know a few of those words.
For years, I thought the world was changing. We were becoming better, more caring, more reasonable humans.
It’s been disheartening to watch the world I once loathed crawling back out of that vile hole it’s laid in, waiting. I’ve watched people I knew as a child suggest that former President Obama should be “strung up with a rope from the White House gates”. All those “n*gger lovers should be strung up beside him”. Because after all, THOSE were the “good old days”, right?
No. Just no.
Those were the days where I was beaten by my own classmates for being Native and not ‘looking the part’. I’m light-skinned. So, I was worse than the Natives that looked Native. Somehow, my genetic makeup was intentionally deceiving those good white folk into believing I was white. I was a liar by birth.
It is due to the fact that most white people thought I was white that subjected me to bigoted hell on earth. I wasn’t on the receiving end of it until I was old enough to understand why. These people often spoke openly about their hatred of anyone non-white, but only in the presence of other white people. My mother, grandmother, both light-skinned Natives were more accepted within the community. My father, who looked Native, was not. Dad was that dirty, drunken “injun” who took a white woman for a wife. My father rarely drank and never without strict moderation. But, so goes the stereotype.
As I grew a bit older, more and more people realized that my mother was just as Native as my father. And if THEY were both Native, then so was I. And my world abruptly changed. Instead of hearing white people talk horrible things about non-whites, I became the subject of hatred. How dare I LOOK like them.
I had never been afraid of these people. When I was near the age of 8, that changed, too. I was in town and had been spending some time with my great grandmother. I decided to go for a walk. One of my grandfather’s favorite places in town was the little gas station. If you’ve ever lived in a small town, you’ll understand that this was the place that some fierce domino games happened. I used to frequent those games with him during the summers. I hadn’t stepped foot in the place in a few years (I didn’t realize why he stopped taking me until MUCH later), but I found myself wandering in that day.
The talking stopped when I entered the building. I walked up to the counter and asked for something to drink. It was hot that day. I had money.
“Sorry kid, we don’t serve your kind”. My kind.. Until a few years ago, I was their kind. Human.
I started to tell him I had money, thinking he must have thought I just wanted it and wasn’t going to pay for it. He came around the counter and grabbed my arm. I was pulled to the back of the store and unceremoniously tossed on the ground. Several boys I knew from town were out back playing. They started laughing as I hit the ground. The little dress I was wearing, made by my grandmother, was now covered in dirt and oil. The man who had tossed me to the ground told the boys the trash needed to be taken out and taught a lesson about not going where it wasn’t wanted.
Fear set in as a few of the boys grabbed me; one by my hair. They drug me to the little creek bed behind the station.. It was a place I used to play and laugh. Those good, happy, memories were stolen from me that day.
I walked back to my great gran’s house that afternoon. Two broken ribs, a broken wrist and nose. I was bleeding from my nose, lip and one eye. I was missing spots of hair.
My little dress was torn and tattered. People drove by me. No one stopped.
I lived in that fear for years to come. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere alone until I was nearly 16. My fear became my family’s fear. When a child left the house, it was ‘what if…’; not ‘be safe and come home on time’.
In recent months I have watched those same people become emboldened by this new President. With a few nonsensical words, he has put bigotry and racism out front and proud.
The fear that was instilled in me many years ago has begun to creep back in and I often find myself worrying horribly about my own children.
I ask myself daily..
Have I done enough to make this world a better place for them?
The little voice in my head answers back.. Will it ever be enough?
I don’t know. I just don’t know.