beyond the green: collective of middlebury voices

a student-run publication that seeks to provide space for voices that are not being heard on our campus. we are grounded by politics that are radical, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-homophobic, anti-ableist, and anti-transphobic (against all forms of oppression) and that reject the structural neo-liberal paradigm that characterizes middlebury college and its official publications

invisible identities

“zuni”

I am an upper-middle class white girl and when people ask me where I’m from I usually say “Western Massachusetts.” I have an enormous amount of privilege and comfort in my life. Even so, I feel isolated at Middlebury because I carry within me an identity that is hard to explain. I was born on the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico and I lived there until I was 9. My parents worked for Indian Health Service as doctors in the hospital and I attended A:Shiwi Elementary School with predominately Zuni kids.

Zuni was my Heaven on Earth. In my position of privilege, I was able to ignore or be shielded from much of the pain surrounding me. I was blind to the poverty, alcoholism, and the effect my presence on this land had on the community. I was aware of angry speech directed at me and I had learned about a painful history, but I was entirely oblivious to the connection between the two. I had no conception of the lasting, constant obstacles and violence facing an occupied people, and I never was made to learn to understand.

This past winter, my old babysitter, B, died of alcoholism, leaving her 8 year old son living with a Navajo family outside of Gallup. Sherman Alexie once wrote “When a reservation-raised Native American dies of alcoholism it should be considered death by natural causes” (Blasphemy 2012). When I first read that quote, I was upset by the bitterness and hyperbole; I thought he was shading in a hurtful stereotype. But after B’s death, I realized how blind I had been and how much I had hidden from myself: how true his words were. And I hated myself for never seeing it before.

My older brother went back for B’s funeral and told me stories that reminded me of the ways Zuni is stitched into the foundation of my identity and painfully opened my eyes to the trauma underlying this community, a trauma I had never understood before. This semester at Middlebury has been the hardest so far. I grow furious and teary at Random Bro #1 wearing a Reds**ns sweatshirt, I avidly read NativeAppropriations.com and I grow nauseated every time I see a photo of Johnny Depp. And then the anger slowly burns down and I’m exhausted and overcome with helplessness. A piece of my soul is embedded in Zuni but Zuni is not mine, and I do not belong there, as much as I wish I did.

This article has to be the last time I tell a story about a white protagonist viewing injustice. I hope Beyond the Green becomes a forum for survivors/victims of imperialism, white supremacy, structural violence, and patriarchy and not for those privileged by these things. But I think it’s important to take a moment to recognize what we each carry with us as we seek to make the small and big changes to a system that hurts us all. I’m trying to learn how to be an activist, how to ensure my desire to help doesn’t silence voices that must be heard. I’m trying to learn how to stretch my understandings without leaning on those already under pressure to teach the world. I’m keeping an eye on my entitlement and on my emotional health. I’m still looking for answers, and I’m still trying to change the story. 

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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