March 22, 2010

Kids can't resist brainwashing

Shame is a learned attribute

By Rainey Nasugraq HigbeeWhen I moved to Northern California for college I brought no mementos of my culture: no pictures, no handmade clothing. I took care to avoid mentioning where I was from. When people assumed I was Asian I was happy to let them think it, because Asians were smart and clean. My dorm room was bare of my cultural past; the village was scrubbed from my skin. For months I got away with it.

Eventually I did have a lichen-flavored epiphany, and through a different kind of birth I emerged to love 90 percent of my being. There were a lot of tears and a lot of pain and for a while I was ashamed not of my heritage but of my denial of my heritage. I will live the rest of my life in finding the fragile forgiveness of my ancestors.

But after a while I began examining where this burning self-hate came from. I looked into my past and the influences that made me who I was. I looked at each and every thought and prayer and hope I held next to my heart. The examination took years.
And:I grew up hearing from people that I spent time with everyday tell me that my beloved home and my brown skin were less. That the things I could not change about myself were things to be ashamed of. I don't think they did it on purpose. Instead, I think they thought they were imparting us with great guidance and wisdom, hoping that these revelations would dispel laziness and uncaring: a twisted motivator.

I write this not to be vindictive. I write to make someone, at least one person I hope, aware. I am angry about my experiences; that anger is surrounded by tears and pain. I still work to untangle the tangled, unmapped threads.

And yes, I am talking about teachers. The teachers that work in the villages. I do want to point out that not all teachers are bad or are doing badly. But there were a few in my life that did damage to others and myself. They wove cruel words into our daily diet. With statements like, "If you do well in this class you can get a good grade, go to college and get out of this place." Or comments about animal smells, dirty environments, or how they REALLY can't wait to leave this dreadful/lonely/isolated/cold/desolate place and go to a REAL place with theaters and bowling alleys and things to do. I grew up hearing these offhand comments.
Comment:  This seems kind of obvious to me, but it bears repeating. Children in any disadvantaged environment grow up hearing they're inferior. From their family and friends, authority figures such as teachers and priests, and the media. It's a form of brainwashing. Since people aren't even aware it's happening, they have little or no power to resist it. This is especially true of children who have no capacity to distinguish fact from fiction.

It's ridiculous when outsiders who haven't a clue what disadvantaged people lived through presume to judge them. Presume to say things like "Just get over it" or "That wouldn't have bothered me." It's especially ridiculous when adults presume to judge they would've reacted as children. Saying that physical or mental abuse wouldn't have harmed you is like saying bullets wouldn't have harmed you.

It's much like judging a prisoner-of-war or torture victim without having gone through the same experience. You wouldn't have broken, gone crazy, given secrets to the enemy? Prove it, you silly twit. Your opinion that you could resist societal brainwashing is about as valid as your opinion that you could fly.

For more on the subject, see Teacher's Aide Chopped Native Boy's Hair and Intergenerational Trauma = PTSD.

1 comment:

Juliet said...

Words hurt. Don't quote me that rubbish about sticks, stones, and words. The wounds left by sticks and stones heal, and can be seen to heal (even if they leave marks). The wounds left by the words cannot be seen.

That the teachers might have said the same thing had they been in some small town full of whites is beside the point. These people reinforced the message sent by government officials and popular culture. Be ashamed of the things you can't change. (Oh, and if you should get out, don't dare to act the least bit 'Indian', or you'll lose all credibility. Except that: Indians should never modernize, but remain pony-riding, buckskin-wearing, tipi-dwelling primitives.)

No wonder the childrena are screwed up.