Being Métis I have experienced both privileges of my white side and faced racism due to my indigenous side, which is kind of a unique place to be. I prefer to see myself and all mixed raced people as the result of a love that highlights how interconnected we truly are.
Racism doesn’t always come from strangers. Sometimes people who love us and that we love back can be racist. My own paternal grandmother (white) would walk out of the room or away whenever my grandfather, her husband, (native) would teach me about our culture, history or any skills or knowledge regarding our indigenous roots.
I’ve been cast as the native girl who gets shot by a cowboy in more than one theatre shows (at school or working at a summer camp). When I point out that it would be nice for natives to win once in a while, I am told that it’s just the way it is and to accept it. White people always win and I will always be the one to die. Nice message.
I remember being hit over the head by an old ladies in a hospital emergency room as I was waiting in a wheelchair to see the doctor because I had hurt my ankle. She called me a filthy no good red skin and wanted me to leave the hospital for people who actually deserved health care and this is in Canada. In her mind, whatever was wrong with me, was my own fault, because I’m just a savage girl. She didn’t see a kid, she was something disgusting that needed to be removed from sight. Luckily my dad was nearby and his booming voice made the old lady retreat to the opposite corner of the emergency room.
On a high school ski trip near a native reserve (that I don’t belong to), the teacher kept telling other students to stay near me as the natives wouldn’t shoot us with arrows if they showed they were with me. She was terrified and always checking the tree line.
- The ideas of savages running the forest shooting white people with arrows are very racist.
- I’m not part of their tribe, nor have I ever met any of the members, so sticking near me isn’t going to “keep you safe”. Not all first nation people know each other. That’s racist.
- Thirdly, we’re minors. Why would anyone hunt us down like human cattle? Once again, can we say racist?
On my first day of college, as we were waiting in the hallway for the teacher to arrive, I was told by a white boy with a strong British accent that I should be sent back to my country. He either knows nothing about North America History or he mistook me for some other minority. So I smiled and decided to educate him…
- What entitles you, a Britsh citizen to tell anyone in Canada that they should be deported? This isn’t your country. You are an immigrant yourself.
- I’m Métis, one of the 3 First Nation cultures. So if anyone is home, that’s me. Seriously, there is no higher irony than being First Nation and being told to go home!
For my first job as a college student, I was hired because I am an invisible minority and I am female in a computer support company that hired only white males under the belief that they are better with computers and technology. The only reason they offered me the job is that they had been required to hire a female and a person of colour by the government or they would lose their government funding. They thought they could hit two birds with one stone by hiring me. The employer was quite surprised when I turned out to be the best employee they ever had. It wasn’t long after that that they started to hire women and people of colour letting go of their previous racism. At least, they learned from their mistake and adjusted accordingly.
As my first job after graduating university, I was hired not because of my education, but because I looked Italian. The pharmaceutical company was run by an Italian family and I was the first person hired outside the family. I later learned that they didn’t even read my CV and had no idea I had a university education and was actually qualified to do the job I was hired for. Once they learned that I wasn’t Italian, they seemed disappointed and told me that if it wasn’t for the fact that I had proven myself as a valuable employee, they wouldn’t have kept me. They were suddenly happy that I wasn’t Italian after someone made a formal complaint about racist hiring practising against the company and representatives from the government came to investigate. Unfortunately, invisible minorities are often used without their knowledge to hide racism.
At another job, I was told that all my “kind” (French Canadians) should be deported by an Orthodox Jewish man at work. It was a good thing that the management overhead and stepped in quickly. I was halfway over my desk when he was pushed into a closed office and I regained control over my anger. He lost his job for that comment. This new employment place was quite diverse and didn’t accept racism of any kind.
I’ve had a manager joke around at an office summer event that I should know my alcohol since everyone knows that indigenous people are all drunks. The human resources department manager had a heart attack when she overheard the incident.
I’ve had my indigenous culture questioned because I’m mixed race. I’ve been asked why wouldn’t I identify only as white since it’s easier that way.
- I wouldn’t deny part of my identity because it’s just easier that way.
- If you take one look at my darker skin, my facial features and you can see that I don’t look white.
I’ve been asked to prove my indigenous culture by showing a government document that attests to my cultural background. Do any other culture need the government to approve their family history before they are considered truly “white”, “black”, etc.?
I’ve been asked “What are you?” so many times, I’ve lost count. I’ve also had people use me as a fun guessing game. “Can you figure out what she is? You have 3 guesses.” Hint: Nobody ever guesses correctly.
I’ve had so many people tell me I’m lucky because I don’t have to pay taxes. For the record, Métis people pay taxes like everyone else. I also don’t live in a Teepee, but I have slept in one.
I’ve had people assume that I didn’t need a driving license because of my native roots, which is completely false.
I’ve been asked if I have my cards to prove my cultural identity. I asked the same thing right back to the person I am talking too. It’s funny how awkward that conversation becomes.
My ex and I, both Métis, had a child who physically looks Irish with blond hair and freckles. We do have Irish ancestors in the bloodline. The fact that we gave birth to a kid that doesn’t look Métis or what people assume Métis should look like has brought on an all new wave of racism. We’ve had to meet with a teacher who told my daughter she was mistaken about her identity and was white and catholic. Wasn’t she surprised when she saw me and my ex who look who has the “right” look, which in itself is
We’ve even had to meet with a teacher who told my daughter she was mistaken about her cultural and religious identity. The teacher told our child that she was white and Catholic and refused to hear otherwise. She even threatened to punish my daughter if she kept insisting otherwise. Wasn’t she surprised when she saw me who happens to have the “right” look…
My kid has had classmates tell her she isn’t indigenous because she speaks French and English and doesn’t live in a tent. She had to explain that as with white people, first nations people have also evolved and changed with time. Unfortunately, most history books in schools are still stuck to how it was 150 years ago.
Racism is having to continuously remind people that their rhetoric is flawed and having to continuously dismiss them until their words are based on things like facts, empathy, gratitude and community.
I realise that many have it so much worse than I do, which is why I speak up. I hope that my voice will help those whose voice is completely ignored. Everyone has the right to give testimony and their narrative to the world, and nobody has the right to negate their pain and experiences with racism.
Even this morning, I heard on the radio someone argue that it should be okay to use the racist, sexist and homophobic expression if we are just poking fun or swearing. It doesn’t mean anything, according to this guy. I strongly disagree. Racism, sexism and homophobia are so ingrained into the cultural norm that we don’t even realise that our words have consequences.
I strongly recommended seeing the “Shame and Prejudice” art exhibit looks at ‘150 years of Indigenous experience‘ in Canada.