But where are YOUR PEOPLE from?

Reed
Atlanta, GA

“Where is your family from? No, but where are YOUR PEOPLE from? I mean, what is your HERITAGE? Like, your ancestors. I mean … where do your features come from?” That was one of the more polite conversations that someone has initiated about by race. Although I was raised white and generally a considered white, I’ve always been asked these questions or received comments about my appearance. “Why is your face SO ROUND?” “Why are your eyes SO SQUINTY?” Why doesn’t our society seem to have a better way to ask this question? Even my mother used to exclaim, you’re so brownnnn!” When I came inside from playing in the sun.

On the topic of race, my mother always said, “we are human.” Then she would cover me up to try to keep my skin as pale as possible. I’m one of those white Cherokees that everyone loves to hate. I don’t like to talk about it because some people are upset by it or think it is fake. I could register as Cherokee, but I don’t because I wasn’t raised in the tribe and I don’t think people should have to be registered like dogs anyway. Blood quantum and Dawes rolls just feel like systems to keep people oppressed. I know that I have white privilege. I know that I’m probably lucky in many ways for not having to go through the struggles that come with reservation life. I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or pretend that I know about their experience. I don’t. At the same time, when I have children, I’d like them to be able to learn more about their roots. We will always be “Other,” but they should not have to feel like it is something they can’t talk about. They should be able to learn more about both aspects of their family’s history. They should not feel conflicted when they look in the mirror.

 

Tweets by Michele Norris