I watched the news for two nights, and again this morning, I remain concerned. I find myself thinking back to Donald Trump’s rise and the impact I saw on my family, community, and the world. I was shocked by the blatant racism of my siblings. I left more than five years ago from a family gathering for the final walk away from the ideology that infected my childhood. I am not a racist, and I refuse to support any effort to whitewash or blur the reality. The most stunning and sad reality is that our family’s blatant racism was directed at us. Brown people were convinced we are White. We are the vehicles of our own oppression.
During that fateful meal, I was attempting to discuss my work with Alaska Native communities and how much I had learned about the indigenous people’s trauma. The conversation was the spark that lit the fuse that blew up the denial that my family built. I am completely willing to be responsible for our situation and to do my part to heal the wrongs of the past, and I said as much. I did not realize that my acceptance of responsibility put my family at a crossroads with me. They had to determine, through their words and actions, where they stood. They became angry and literally shifted the responsibility of the genocide of millions onto the idea “they (Native Americans) were all dying people anyway. We had nothing to do with that.”
Sadly, the catch to this story is that during this transition into denial, the “facts” became clear. The increased popularity of DNA analysis clarified even further that refusing to participate in my oppression was a very reasonable stance for me to take. I am thirty-five percent North and Central American Indigenous. I am mostly of Mexican Native descent. We are who we oppress.
So, I watch the insanity of the conversations as many in our country feel compelled to take a stance. Yet, with the veil of denial still hanging in front of our faces, we are not ready to marry responsibility. We have not yet committed to doing the hard work. In fact, I have experienced increased pushback and a true failure of the most well-meaning people. Currently couched in the phrase “color-blind,” we are at a crossroads. Do we accept responsibility (not fault)? If we do, how do we have to be different?
It is critical and fundamentally the most challenging work we will ever do. I have been asking everyone I know, “How can we expect people to dismantle a system that is working in their favor.” In other words, how do you give away your power, privilege and step aside for others to lead? It is the hardest thing we will ever do.