Today in class we read The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a long name for a short story. It reminds me of things I don't want to think about. We then followed it up with watching him accept an award in 2007. He talked about a poem he read that made him realize he had to be a writer. It was by a Native American author, and it was about fried bologna (or, as said, baloney). His mom used to make it, you see. You have to cut it when you fry it or it poofs up in the middle. I know this too; my dad used to make it, and my grandmother before him.
I find that every time I listen to him or read his work, I know what he's talking about when the other people around me have no frame of reference for it. I didn't live on a reservation--we didn't have them in Oklahoma, and there's no tribe that would officially claim me anyway, not that that stopped my school from getting federal money for me for years. And yet, this man who grew up on a reservation outside Spokane can tell me my life.
We should have nothing in common, but I know the things he talks about. Yet technically I'm "white," right? I grew up as a white girl in a place with a lot of NA people. I wasn't blonde, but I was pretty damn Caucasian (although I wonder whether my classification might be shifted for some people if they saw my father and my brother). At least I always thought I was, until I moved to Seattle and lived in what feels like the whitest city on Earth.
In reading Alexie, I wonder how "white" my upbringing really was, and how poverty and racial culture intersect and influence one another. I would not have claimed poverty, but comparatively speaking, it probably was next to some people's upbringing in other places.
Can you be white and not white? Can you be part of the majority and yet not? Is blood or heritage what we are more than what we believe ourselves to be?
I don't know. But it's damned uncomfortable to consider, and it's almost the textbook definition of "unpleasant shock to the system." I'm not sure I needed one more heavy thing to struggle with right now.
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