Culture, Heritage and Racism

Saturday, 5 March 2016

 I got to do something cool the other day: fill out a form.

Whoot Whoot!

It was the content of the form that was cool.

I got to self-disclose information re: Emma's ancestry and heritage.

For those of you that aren't familiar. I am status Inuit, of the Nunatsiavut Government, in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Emma is non-status Inuit. (She's mostly Caucasian and doesn't qualify for status under current rules.)

I think that the self-disclosure form was really cool.  It's making, being from another culture or background, socially acceptable and special, from a very young age. It's a celebration of being different and I think a school board's way of ensuring cultural and racial sensitivity, from a young age.

This was not the case in my small, Caucasian town in Newfoundland.

I self-disclosed, one day, in my fifth grade social studies class, that my mom was Inuit, when were talking about Innu and Inuit, from Labrador.

It wasn't a big deal on that day.

But it followed me.

Until one day, kids in my class saw it as a vulnerability...that I was also considered to be Inuit.

I find it absolutely abhorrent now...but I was so ashamed of my heritage at the time.

Kids were essentially racist from such a young age. Thus, making me ashamed of my background.

Thankfully, I had a core group of friends that didn't give a crap about race or where your family was from. I certainly wasn't unhappy as a teenager...I was lucky.

But I strongly remember the racism...and it's certainly given me a reason to never permanently return to a small, Caucasian town in Newfoundland.

It's interesting...many of the people that were specifically awful to me, grew up to be strong, contributing members of society. I do wonder if their ideas re: race and culture have changed.

I suspect they have.  I HOPE they have.

In the meantime, I will raise my Emma to be extremely proud of her heritage. Self-disclosure is the first step...

I really hope to bring her to Labrador. To show her where part of her family came from and expose her to some of the traditions that have been lost from my mom to my generation. (I always loved visiting my family in Labrador).

And way to go Tri-County School Board! Hopefully, similar steps are being taken in school boards (small and otherwise), across the country.

What's your experience with self-disclosure?


On the left: Kirkina Mukko. She had two of her legs amputated from a young age due to frostbite. She went on to be a midwife...and is my great great grandmother.

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