The Cult of Melinda

The gAyTM is closed! No gay rights, no gay $$$!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Going "Off the Reservation"

I've been noticing people using the phrase in this post's title quite a bit in TV these days. It grates on me every time. Why? Because "off the reservation" refers to a time when, if a Native American stepped off the reservation, he or she could legally be killed on sight. I know, I haven't been so PC lately about my heritage. See the post below. But life in Virginia has brought back some bad memories.

When I was a kid, my background wasn't much of a secret. When I was really little, I just thought it was cool, even if my siblings did convince me that I was a "redneck Indian" since I was born in Mississippi while they were all born in New Orleans. But how does a little kid know about racial politics?

Well, I'd learn soon enough.

In fifth grade, the teacher told us to ask our parents what our ethnic background was and we'd all report on it the next day. The kids in my class were from all kinds of interesting backgrounds. No one made a big deal about anyone's but mine. The teacher embarassed me by saying I was the only "real American" in the room. This was at a time when I rarely spoke to anyone, so the attention was definitely unwanted. For months afterward, the other kids would make "Indian noises" at me in the hall or make stupid comments like "Indian with a feather or Indian with a dot?" I can't tell you how that affected me. For the first time, I knew that there was something "different" about being what I was and that people didn't see that as good or even neutral.

Not long after, some idiot in my neighborhood saw me out playing, asked about my family's Native background and called me something I thought was just a joke. So, I went around telling people that this was what I was. When my mother and grandmother heard me call myself that, I got yelled at for like an hour. Because only dogs are mongrels and mutts.

In eighth grade, my Louisiana History teacher started covering the chapter on early Louisiana history, the precolonial period. She explained to a classroom full of kids that the "Indians" were filthy backward savages who were too gullible for their own good and that's why the Europeans were able to so easily steal their land. I let out an infuriated "Excuse me!?" and the kid next to me, good old Jason Milosevich, asked, "Melinda, aren't you like half Indian are something?" I growled out "something like that" and stared into her face. I was tired of taking crap. When I decided to take revenge by writing my history report on my tribe, she wrote no comments but "messy, D" even though she said that bad handwriting would only cost you half a grade. It was the only D I'd ever gotten in my life and I'd worked really hard on that paper. I guess she won.

Over the years, incident after incident forced me to recognize that to too many people, I'd never be anything but halfbreed scum. My Native American grandmother and aunt made sure I knew that that was their problem not mine, but that I would always be recognized as Native American by the people who counted. I would never be white no matter how pale I was. To say that I was would be an insult to my grandmother and our ancestors. I eventually picked biracial because I could never pass as fully Native and I didn't want to insult my white grandmother either.

Over the years, I've gotten the occasional stupid comment, but I've generally been able to hold my head high, laugh and walk away from the ignorant people who would say such things. Until now.

I've taken a lot of crap about my race since I moved to Virginia, especially at my workplace. (Of course, I've also had to take a lot of crap about my religion and sexual orientation too so I guess they're equal opportunity offenders.) It's really starting to get to me. It's only a matter of time before I go off. I think I'm actually looking forward to it, while I look for another job. I wonder which will come first, the resignation or the explosion. Only time will tell.

14 Comments:

Blogger sinister_n_evil said...

apparently people are in this mindset that blacks are the only minority that deserve protection ...

you are not alone... people are just stupid, ignorant, and just don't know how to confront diversity.. it scares the crap out of them... just know that you scare them... that is what comforts me... look them in the eye and go 'boo'... and watch them jump... it is funny to watch them jump... it makes me laugh every time...

5:39 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

hehe... Boo! That'd be hilarious.

But I'm starting to think maybe they aren't used to Native Americans because they killed all of theirs and made sure the few stragglers wouldn't be accepted by the federal government. (There are only 4,000 non-recognized, Natives left in Virginia, including mixed bloods.)

We should bring some real Natives up here to show them what's what!

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