The Silent Minority

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Every time I would visit my grandmother as a child, she would tell me stories about my Choctaw lineage. My great uncle would also take my cousins and I to the Red River to collect shark teeth, arrowheads and flint rocks we would later use to create our own arrowheads. I remember holding the arrowheads in my hands, their edges still sharp after hundreds of years buried in the earth. I felt so powerful holding them — they were weapons after all. Only now do I understand the fear my ancestors must have felt holding these weapons, when they realized that they wouldn’t be enough to protect against the European invaders.  

 

European explorers destroyed the native tribes, almost to the point of extinction. With dwindling populations and broken spirits, my ancestors, fled to the outskirts of their territories, hoping to live as they had before. This ended in massacres by the U.S. government, such as those at Sand Creek and Bear River. These atrocities forced my ancestors, Choctaw chiefs, to assimilate into European culture. It was the only way for them to avoid life-threatening abuse and discrimination. My family wore European clothing, bought a plantation and were even gifted slaves by the government.

 

The Choctaw had to watch their children be taken away by the government to “boarding schools,” where they were indoctrinated into white culture. My ancestors thought that masquerading as white would protect them, but in the end, the government stripped them of everything and sent them on a 2,200 mile trek to Oklahoma in the dead of winter.

 

Now, as a registered member of the Choctaw Nation, I qualify for government money to help with medical expenses and college tuition. It took me years to realize this was blood money flowing through our tribe, the U.S. government’s effort to apologize or repay us for those past atrocities. In 2009, the government issued an apology for the “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” that they instigated hundreds of years ago.

 

Being native, while important, is only half of my identity. My mom is Choctaw and my dad is white. I didn’t grow up actively noticing the implications of skin color. At five, I never noticed the judgemental looks people would give my mom that they wouldn’t give my dad. When a woman asked my mom if she was “middle eastern,” I didn’t read into it very much, until I began to notice how my mom was treated at airport security. While I wish race would be a celebrated aspect of individuality and community, it historically has been used as an excuse to mistreat groups of people.  

 

My people were killed because they were here first, then black people were killed for being brought here against their wills, and now people are being attacked for seeking a better life here — exactly what the Europeans did.

 

The U.S. has a history of mistreating people who don’t look and act like the white majority, and this is what’s happening right now with immigrants. I have never encountered any hatred towards Scandinavian immigrants, I have only witnessed hatred towards non-white immigrants. It is time to stop disguising racism as concern for protecting America from “dangerous illegals.” After all, the most dangerous immigrants, who orchestrated a continental genocide and established a worldwide slave trading network, were white.

 

A family friend of ours informed me that the middle school he works at in New Braunfels had to hire grief counselors to console the children of immigrants, who are experiencing panic attacks about their parents being deported. Now, families are being tear-gassed, separated for months at a time and face harsh discrimination.  

 

I don’t want future generations looking back and wondering how we let history repeat itself. If we’ve learned anything from the natives, it should be that just because people aren’t like us, doesn’t mean that we have to be afraid of them. And being different doesn’t warrant someone to be treated as less than human. I hope that in the future, the government won’t have to release anymore apologies.

 

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