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Learning To Not Be Passive Anymore

So let me tell you a story about learning about myself post fundamentalism.   This story involves a former coworker I will call Kathy.  Let me say that Kathy was a competent worker and generally, I did not have a problem working with Kathy.  However… there were a few, shall we say, incidents involving Kathy that helped me learn about myself.  I’m going to talk about one of them here. 

We were in the office talking about our ethnicities. Kathy was half Jewish, and if I remember half Italian. So I described my ethnicity as being British, French, and Native American.  Kathy sighed and rolled her eyes. “You’re part Native American?” she asked with a doubtful sounding tone.

Due to my upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness, I didn’t handle controversy or disagreements well.  I immediately recanted.  I said ‘well I don’t really know what I am.  Who knows really’  I didn’t realize that being part native American was controversial at the time.  I wasn’t expecting such a negative reaction.

I’ve relived this conversation over and over again.  Months after the event it would still occasionally pop into my mind.  I would become very stressed and agitated when I thought about it.  However, eventually, I stopped and examined the situation.  I asked myself, ‘Why is this making me so upset?’

I thought about it for a while and then I realized.  On the surface, it seemed to be about Kathy.  But it wasn’t how Kathy responded that was getting me upset. It was because I didn’t stand up for myself.  I didn’t have a backbone. Reliving the experience of being a pushover was what was making me so upset.

Understanding this seemed to bring me a bit of relief.  I knew my families traditions about where we came from.  Why would I back down and pretend like I didn’t really know?

At the time I had not done the DNA test showing that I had some Native ancestry.  But why should it matter?  Kathy, a white girl, identifies as being the descendant of a 2000-year-old tribe in the middle east.  My family still lives in the same general region of the native Americans we’re mixed with came from.  And the mixing only happened a few generations ago.  Why is being light skinned and being part Native American so unbelievable but being related to the tribe of Juda is credible?

She didn’t have a DNA test she only had her own family traditions to tell her who she was. Why is Kathy’s ancestry more valid than mine?  It isn’t.


Published by Ryan David Tuttle

PhD Graduate student studying Behavioral Neuroscience, Addiction, Stress, Behavioral Economics, and Individual Differences. Former member Ministerial Servant and Pioneer in a Spanish speaking congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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