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History is

October 14, 2009

Whites have “studied” minorities to death.  What whites probably don’t realize is that minorities study whites just as much, if not more so; they have to, or they wouldn’t be able to get a leg up into the dominant culture and economy.


A couple of days ago in class, one of my colleagues came into my math class to ask a question.  After we chatted briefly and exchanged a chuckle about a topic that now escapes me, one of my students commented that he likes watching us white teachers interact because it gives him a glimpse into our world.  He’s not about to write a doctoral dissertation on the subject, but he’s paying close attention to cultural differences of which whites probably only scrape the surface in their formal research. 


Being a minority on the reservation, I have the opportunity to experience a taste of what it’s like for minorities in the United States.  I’m constantly considering what I say and how I say it, and I’m always searching for clues as to what constitutes appropriate behavior in public and private situations.  I’m acutely aware of my skin color when I’m at events such as football games and powwows, where I’m not necessarily surrounded by people I already know at the college.  I always wonder what those who don’t know me think when they see me around the reservation, if they wonder what I’m doing here, if they wish I weren’t here, if they couldn’t care either way.  I’ve lived here for over a year, but for as many friends as I’ve made, I still feel very much like an outsider when I stop at the post office or the Lame Deer Trading Post, as if this isn’t my community and never will be.  It’s just an unexplainable sense of difference that goes far beyond skin color but that, due to history, is very much connected to skin color. 


I read a quote in a book I was reading last night about history not being a was but an is.  I’ve lived my lifetime between the years of 1981 and 2009, but I am nonetheless a product of all that has happened in North America since 1492.


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