Yá’át’ééh. I am half Native (Navajo and Colville) and half African American. I grew up on the Colville rez and during that time I faced racism from my tribe for being part black. I am visiting the Navajo rez this spring and I’m nervous about facing it aga


Thank you for this question, it is a challenging question to answer. It saddens me to hear that you have experienced anti-Black racism, or lateral oppression, by your Native American communities. Racism in this country is challenging to address, and anti-Black racism can be even more challenging to address because of the long history of the Native American and African experience of colonialism.

The Native American and African experience in this country is intimately tied together. At the point of contact on Turtle Island (All of North and Central Americas) colonization had a significant impact on both Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and African peoples brought here during the transatlantic slave trade. These events created parallel and lasting experiences for these two groups of people that continue to this day. This experience continues to have consequences to the lives of both Native American people and African people, the way in which these populations are treated in this country, and the relationship that is created between these populations. One of the consequences of this is lateral racism, or anti-Black racism.

Many people who are mixed-race face the dual experience of racism and lateral oppression in their everyday lives. I cannot speak to what your experience may or may not be when visiting the Navajo Nation, what I can say is that how we respond to racism and lateral oppression is important.

Some tips to dealing with racism can include:

  • Get Support: Talking to or spending time with supportive friends, family, professors, or mentors can be an effective way of releasing stress and reducing isolation. You are not alone!
  • Get Empowered: If you are experiencing racism or discrimination, finding a way to push back is empowering and healthy. It can reduce feelings of depression or helplessness, and give frustration and anger a positive outlet. This will look different for different people in different situations. Whatever your style, it’s important to have a way to make your voice heard.
  • Practice Good Self-Care: In dealing with the pressures of being exposed to racism and discrimination, it can be easy to lose track of the things we need to do to take care of ourselves. It may sometimes be hard to resist using unhealthy ways to cope, such using drugs and alcohol excessively, or isolating oneself from the broader community. Taking good care of your physical, mental, and spiritual health will leave you better equipped to cope with the stress of bias, and make empowered choices for yourself.

I hope that you are able to find your voice and support and have a positive experience while visiting another Nation.

Good luck,

Auntie Manda

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