How Words and Phrases Can Hide Racism

There are many non-Indians who have decided that they know the real Indians [1]. Therefore, they have decided to let everyone know who the "impostors" are by a few well-chosen names:

  1. of Indian blood (meaning, I guess, that the more "Indian blood" one has, the more one is a "real" Indian).
  2. part-Indian (related to number one).
  3. of Indian descent.
  4. of Indian heritage.
  5. is getting in touch with her/his "Indian roots".
  6. claims to be Indian.

I could go on. The point is that there are probably at least a dozen of these little phrases. No matter what the intention of the person using them, these expressions minimize our Indian identity. In some cases, they deny it.

You are Indian or you are not. People who use these expressions, whether or not they realize, are subtly telling you that you're not.

Are you a non-Indian? Then when is the last time you've had to produce a card to "prove" it? How many of you are claiming to be "one-quarter white?" Where is the "Bureau of Italian Affairs?" How would you feel if someone said, "You're not really American, because you don't have a real American name, like Smith or Jones"? Have you told someone recently that "real Irish" have red hair and blue eyes?

If you are a non-Indian, I am asking you to realize this. You are taught from early childhood about what "real Indians" are like, in most cases by people who have never even met a "real" Indian! We Natives can battle overt cases of prejudice, but the hidden prejudice is the hardest to fight. That's because no one believes it's really there, and no one believes that they could be prejudiced.


1. I used to think that the phrase "non-Indian" was some sort of politically-correct thing. Then I realized why some people use it. I have found that all people, regardless of culture, have the same ingrained stereotypes about Indians.
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