Before I start I want to remind the viewer that these posts (originating on Steemit) are not meant to be extremely well edited or refined. Rather, I am trying to take some of the millions of thoughts from my brain and put them down on paper in hopes that they will be of value to me at a later date, or simply interesting/entertaining to voyeurs. With that in mind, please enjoy these thoughts. They will be collected and written into a full essay at some point soon.
Identity politics have never been that interesting to me.
I understand how the various forms of categories we apply to ourselves (or others apply to us) can have a profound impact on how we are treated in public, and how we view ourselves. I understand that there are those who still exhibit primitive thinking in regards to differences of color, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, etc and intelligence, skill, and a predisposition for violence or crime. I get that. I also understand that identifying with a race, nationality, ethnicity, or nation can carry certain cultural values and lessons which are unique to that specific subgroup.
However, I have never felt like I fit in with one nation, race, color, ethnicity, religion, or any other single label. That is because I – like millions of people born in the United States – am a mutt. A mixed breed, an amalgam of several peoples and cultures rolled into one human being. I have always loved this about myself and my family. I felt joy when I first realized that my family on my paternal grandfather’s side is Czech – specifically, we have records going back to the 1600’s in Moravia and Bohemia. This is where the Broze name comes from. On my paternal grandmother’s side I have native “American” from my great-grandmother (Seminole, I am told). And finally, on my mother’s side of the family we have been native to Texas since before it had the name (erroneously explained to me as “Mexican” as a child).
Each of these pieces of my family history are extremely interesting and increasingly important to me as I move into my early thirties. I love reading about my relatives from Moravia and Bohemia and fantasizing about going to meet those who remain in the Czech Republic and seeing where my family came from. I imagine learning the history, the food, sharing stories of family relatives, and generally, getting to connect with another aspect of my self and my family history. It fills my heart with joy to imagine manifesting such an adventure.
However, when I think about reconnecting with my Seminole side or my mother’s native family history, I am met with a bit more difficulty and sometimes a dead-end. This is not only because of the lack of records kept by and for natives, but also a history of forced cultural assimilation. For those who are unaware, our native families were not allowed to sing our songs, speak our languages, say our prayers, grow our hair long, or simply be indigenous due to the colonization of native peoples and a policy of erasing our traditions. We didn’t gain these “rights” back until the 1960’s with the emergence of the “Red Power” movements and natives beginning to openly resist the destruction of our lifestyles. Because of this history, attempts at learning more about my family tend to bear little fruit.
My family also a history of drug/alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and prison which has created a situation where not many in my family seemed interested in learning about our heritage or thinking about the past. Not only that, but I didn’t grow up on the Rez (reservation) and I don’t know my people’s language. I have been learning some Choctaw and Lakota ways the past few years, but ultimately, if I am indeed Seminole, I want to learn our ways. In addition, I don’t even know Spanish because although my mother’s family all speak spanish my mother never taught us to speak. She was also abused and ran away from home at age 15 so we were never introduced to our family, let alone taught spanish or introduced to the customs.
Still, even if I did know how to speak Spanish fluently I don’t think it would provide that connection I seek. You see, as I have gotten older I realize that Spanish is the language of the conquistador, of the people who conquered my indigenous ancestors, erased our language, and taught us Spanish. I’m not so sure Spanish is what I am looking for (outside of practical knowledge and use).
Another interesting experience I have had as a mutt is judgement from ALL SIDES. I have been told by Latin/Mexican/Hispanic associated that I am not Mexican or Latin because I don’t speak Spanish (again, the language of our colonizers). I have been treated as less-than by native associates because I don’t speak the language or because I didn’t grow up on the Rez. I have been told by both Latin and Native folks that I was “white” and not of Latin origin because I am not dark enough. I have also been in the exact opposite situation where individuals of a lighter complexion treat me differently because I am darker than they prefer or something equally arbitrary.
My whole life I have been judged by the people whose blood, culture, and history run through my veins. I have never quite understood why we break each other down, categorize, and then separate. As I stated from the beginning, I understand that growing up directly in a culture, ethnicity, nation, religion, or race shapes the experience and path one takes. I don’t wish to take from your experience or the love you have for your ancestry. I guess my goal is simply to get to know where I come from and see where I best fit in. I think it’s unfortunate that we judge and attack each other based on such minor differences. A part of me constantly weeps for the world and our sad state of affairs.
I hope every free human out there is able to find their roots, to find their indigenous history (no matter their skin color or place of birth), to find something that connects us to the roads our ancestors walked, and allows us to find peace and solace in the paths we are currently walking.