The Passed Note Issue 1 June 2016 - Page 30

remember on Halloween, when a Native effigy can be purchased from an aisle that also houses costumes for creatures of myth: fairies and Disney princesses.

Like most children, I have been told to toughen up, to grow a thicker skin. Like most Native children, I have been told to get over the word “redskin.” I have been told it’s a word of honor, that it is a word that should not carry offense. Most Americans do not equate this word with its true severity.

I remember being Brown and 21 on vacation at the beach with someone I loved and his family. I was nervous to meet them. It was the summer that the NFL team, the Redskins, faced contention over their name. It was on the news on the TV we were all watching. A particularly vocal relative scoffed at the desire to change the name, waving off the prospect of “Native sensitivity” and our inability to understand the American history of that word.

I remember staring at him as he was nudged by another family member who shushed him and pointed out my bloodline. I became the center of attention in a sea of faces that looked nothing like mine, asking me to speak for the entirety of a marginalized race.

I remember being Brown and horrified that I had to defend a word used to slander my humanity. I remember my inability to vocalize on my position, defense caught somewhere in my throat. I remember being stuck in a wasteland between White and Other.

I remember being Brown and confronting a society driven by labels. I remember the turmoil of my childhood, staring at a standardized test and being asked to check a box. White. African American. Hispanic. Pacific Islander. Native American. Other.

I didn’t know what to choose. I left the box blank. I remember riding the bus home, feeling defeated, dried tears resting on my cheeks. Unaware of what box I was.

My teacher had kept me after class, had said I needed to fill out the box, to check White. It was here that I remember learning that