For those who don’t know me, I’m a florescent shade of white, freckles and green eyes and everything. I also grew up in a very traditional Metis community, I speak my Cree language, and I live my culture. I am indigenous.
Who I am and who I appear to be are two different things, and this is brought home to me very starkly at times.
When I was in my early 20s and just starting out in my first career as a teacher, I made a point of dressing professionally. I tossed out my jeans and black shirts and bought ‘teacher clothes’. I did this, because I was exceptionally young compared to my other colleagues, and I knew that I would be judged harshly if I exhibited ‘inappropriately youthful clothing’. It was also a barrier between me and my students, who were some of them only 5 years younger than I at the time.
When I went into law, there were many occasions where I had to wear a suit. The novelty had worn off by then and I no longer found it ‘cool’ to be ‘dressed up’. It’s uncomfortable, confining, and obnoxious.
I have now reached a point in my life, where I developed enough ‘cred’ professionally, that I don’t really have to worry any more about wearing suits so that people will take me seriously. Not everyone does, mind you. I’m still dismissed as a female, still dismissed because I seem much younger than I am. But not in general, by the people paying me.
So I revel in the fact that I can once again dress the way I want to, which in great part, is like a teenage boy. Jeans, simple black t-shirt, hoodie. That’s MY uniform and how I’m most comfortable. And I get to go to work like this…whether I’m teaching or working in a law office.
Except, the reason I get to do this is not just because I have professional cred. It’s because I don’t look native.
I can guarantee you that if I were more native looking, I would not feel comfortable dressing the way I do. I would be judged very harshly for appearing ‘unprofessional’. It would reflect upon me as a member of my people. I would represent some stereotype of a slovenly, unkempt appearance of my fellow natives. While right now I can be ‘admired’ for my ‘hip’ style, I would be reviled as ‘too casual’ and ‘inappropriate’ if I were more identifiably native. I can have weird hair with a blue streak, I can wear my hoodies and not buy into the whole “keep a distant, professional distance between you and your students” moniyaw bullshit and people just encountering me aren’t going to go, “What the fuck is this Indian doing, and how did she get this job?”
And that’s some real shit.
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- teddybruisevelt said: Do people give you, like a super intense LOOK when they find/figure out you’re native? Because people give me a really weird, nasty look when they find out I’m Jewish. Like they stepped in dog shit or something.
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