Thursday, April 28, 2011

Four Short Passages from The Absolutely True Story of A Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie that stand out for me

I love this book!

  1. Page 195-196.

 “And then I realized something.

I realized that my team, the Reardon Indians, was Goliath….-

I was suddenly ashamed of my anger, my rage, and my pain.”

This passage really hit home to me.  When, as a support worker, or as a teacher, I have had to deal with some very annoying interactions with my Rez students, I found myself stepping back and letting the Principal deal with the student as they saw fit.  On those occasions, when I was surrendering, I would realize that I wasn’t just surrendering out of frustration but abandoning them and their real powerlessness to the disciplinarians.  At those times, I knew that I was on the side of the powerful and felt like I was betraying my kids but had given in to the fact that I, as powerless as my students but unable to lash out in the anger and aggression that they used to show their frustration, had had to give up because I had other students to worry about.  We are on different reserves, but I knew what they were going home to and I knew that the administration didn’t really understand that.  I also know that, despite my own poverty, I am better off then a lot of kids on my reserve and the nearby ones.  I also am reminded that, in becoming a teacher, I have sided with the oppressor, even when I know that my intentions are to change the system from within.  The kids don't always see that.

  1. Page 155.
“Indians can be just as judgmental and hateful as any white person.”

What more needs to be said.  What really hurts is how we are able to turn that hate so effectively on each other and on any perceived difference.  When you are placed in a position of powerlessness, the desire to lash out at the oppressor is strong, but lacking the resources to take on the oppressor, the oppressed will seek out weaker targets for their rage and those weaker targets are often from within the ranks of the powerless, only more vulnerable.  The most hurtful interactions I have had in the world of education and education advocacy have been with other Indigenous people.

  1. Page 189.
“’You can do it.’

‘I can do it.’

Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult?  Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody?  It’s one of the simplest sentences in the world, just four words, but they’re the four hugest words in the world when they’re put together.”

I don’t remember my father ever saying them specifically, but I do remember him saying “Well done.” when I did something he was trying to encourage me on.  That “well done” was the whole world to me.  I remember in army cadets one time, we were on exercise and the troop was given the task of building shelters.  We were handed rope and tarp and other little essentials that we would need to carry out the project.  My Dad, one of our instructors, then came up to me and took everything away.  When I complained, he said "What are the odds you will have everything you will need to survive?" (Now that I think of it, he may have said those four magical words).  No one explicitly said this is how to build a shelter, but as I stood there, my Dad nudged a broken branch with his foot and always sort of stood near the next piece of the puzzle, making me figure it out on my own, although I realize now that I wasn't really on my own.  By the end of it, I had a full audience of cadets and instructors who applauded the completed (but far from perfect) shelter.  The only response that mattered was the soft "Well done" from my Dad.

  1. Page 63.
“Well, let’s get something straight.  All of those pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty white girls ignored me.  But that's okay.  Indian girls ignored me, too, so I was used to it.”

Story of my life.

1 comment:

  1. 1. We live such a paradox, don't we. I know the feeling. I have that moment a million times a day. Mine occur more frequently when the system forces my hand to reward students for coming into the system from a position of privilege and I realize what a key role this position is in maintaining the current system of social and economic stratification in society.