No, this post isn’t about bears. It isn’t even about the melting ice caps. Although I would like it to be, but not this time.
The other day someone wrote about the “political correctness” of how various ethnic groups would like to be or preferred to be addressed. You can read Jay Menard’s post titled Finding the right steps in the White guy linguistic jig for yourselves.
Then, it had me thinking, “well how do ‘white’ people preferred to be addressed?”
I never really feel right calling someone ‘white.’ It just doesn’t seem…well, right. I mean, there are not a lot of things in life that you never really call “white” in the first place. There’s white rice, white bears, white flour, white fur… All those things “white” are just 5-minute rice, polar bears, bleached flour, and albino. So then, why do some people call “white” people, well…”white?”
I remember one day in high school I was giving a presentation in a class and there was a substitute teacher filling in that day. She was er..um..white, and I used that same term when describing the majority aka other white people. She corrected me that day, “Naomi, you use Caucasian.” What?! I never even heard that word before. I guess I wouldn’t have heard it before having gone to an ironically Catholic elementary school with mostly all native students and then a high school, hanging around with even more natives and all this after having growing up on a Reserve my whole life. I think that’s the only time I used that term because I thought it sounded worse off than “white.” In my opinion, that word is like the n-word for whites. However, little did this substitute teacher know was that the teacher she was filling in for liked to call me “Pocahontas.” Yeah, I didn’t prefer to be called out in class by such a name but hey at least it was better than “wagon burner” or “pie face.” All of which, in my opinion, are equally racist.
And even in public, I had a relative tell me when I was in elementary school to refer to “white” people as “zhagonosh” or “gitchi-mookman.” It’s just the polite thing to do.
Then as I grew older, I never really felt
white right calling white people… white. I still don’t. I worry I might offend someone or at least make someone feel uncomfortable because white isn’t really a color. And wait, the bigger issue here is why are we still referring to people as the color of their skin?! Wasn’t it Martin Luther King, Jr. that said the following almost 50 years ago,
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
In essays, I refer to “whites” as “non-Aboriginals” or “non-Natives” or “the majority” but then those terms are pretty much open to anyone else other than Aboriginal or Native or the majority and sometimes I totally miss the point I am trying to make. I guess that’s part of being “academic” and “proper” and “educated.” And even so, no matter how much I try to write about corporations or globalization or colonization, and no matter how hard I try to define them, we all know that it’s just about another white-man-patriarchy I am referring to…I just can’t say it. Or so I was told.
So what do I call those that are different than “me”?
But then again, we should really ask all of ourselves, what is all this fuss about? Proper terms. I mean, the real issue here is why are “we” both you and me, minority, majority, black, white, brown…all so concerned with classifying everything. All this classification and proper/improper terms, to me, just creates the inferior and superior or the uppers and the lowers we have in this world. It creates the colonization of you and me…not just Indigenous peoples.
I guess for some people it is about reclaiming their identity but why do we have to plaster our own identity onto the rest of those like us? I have no problem being referred to as “Indian” or “Native” or “First Nations,” but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is left to go out and refer to everyone else with my background as such. Ask them what they prefer to be referred to as. It won’t hurt anyone. This is really an iffy-subject because some of those may agree and some of those may not, but for me, it’s not about me being a representation of an entire group or nation of people. It is about me being me.
To read another post relating to this subject check out Indians vs Natives vs
Aboriginals vs First Nations.