My dad was Scottish Irish and my mom was full blooded German. I am an American Indian. We were all of us very different people.
Now my mom couldn't have children, and my dad wanted children, and I came from a family that probably wasn't ready for children. I'm not sure what the story is there, all I know is that I was given up for adoption at a very early age along with my sister. I guess they didn't want to split up the set.
I was two years old when I was adopted and my sister was four. At home, there was another little Indian. We all became a family. We were three little Indians.
Now I always think of the movie 'Tobacco Road' when I think of this story, even though I have no memory of it happening.
It was told in a deep resonating voice by my mom with a thick German accent, accompanied by the sound of laughter.
My mom: "When we brought you children home, all we wanted to do was feed you. You were all so skinny. We would ask you what you wanted and all you said was beans and rice. And for while there that's all you'd eat."
That memory was hers, but soon it became mine and I will keep it forever.
The other memory I have -- the one I remember -- it is more unpleasant. It reminds me of the kind of person I am from time to time. And please understand that I am not writing this out of self pity, but more to make a point. It is more about the color of the heart.
It involves a child on the playground being pelted by rocks and a Voice from the past asking me, "Why are you black?"
"I'm not black." I said.
"You're Dark," said the Voice, "You're a Mexican."
Later I would ask my mom what a Mexican was. Because I really had no idea. And my naivete would allow me to live this life for quite some time before I fully understood. Once I was hit in the back of the head and tackled from behind. It was an emptied lunch sack filled with sand that exploded everywhere. On the ground I was given Indian burns. It was the first time I think I learned how to hate. It was fueled by anger.
I never did understand why it happened. Years later when I thought about it, I realized that it couldn't have had anything to do with race as I had once suspected. They had to be bullies, because... 6-year olds couldn't possibly understand such a concept. For something like that to happen you'd have to be taught. One would think.
Many years later, I'm 16 years old and I'm living in Boise. As I'm walking down the street in Garden City on Fairview Avenue, a water balloon comes flying out of a car window and drenches me. The Voices yell out of the rolled-down windows screaming, "Go back to Mexico, you flippin' Mexican."
"I'm not a flippin' Mexican!" I scream. And in an inaudible voice I say to myself: I'm white. (Fueled with anger)
But. I. Am. Not. White. Either.
... I was just raised by white people.
I'm an Indian and I just became a racist.
I wonder how many people recognize the person they've become in hindsight? Moments after it happens?
I think now more than ever before -- history has a chance to turn on its heels.
The color of skin might just change the color of heart.
My mom and dad and I -- we always had different skin. And we always had our difference of opinion, but it was never over the color of our skin.