Living a Life of Diversity and Duality
By Olivia Thom, 2nd year Double Major in Indigenous Studies & Environment and Health
Photo Credits: Olivia Thom
I struggle constantly with the idea of being pressured to conform to one nationality, one ethnicity, one culture. Because that’s not who we are as people — that’s not who I am as a person. The world sees us based on our skin color and nothing else. How does a person “look” Indigenous, or “look” Christian, or even “look” ethnic? How does someone's spiritual and/or religious beliefs determine what their appearance should look like in the eyes of society?
I am here writing this on an overcast Wednesday afternoon, the weather too cold to usually be seen in late May, while I sit calmly at my summer job (an ice cream store). The time is going by inch by inch, while I am consumed with feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. The death of George Floyd has flooded the media. With tears in my eyes as I read post after post of the atrocities that Black people have been faced with, I began thinking “what can I do?” but I come to a rapid halt as the voice in my head says “nothing, you’re just an 18 y/o girl that has no platform to speak. Nobody will listen to you, cause why should they?” Nothing I say will help anything because I am only one person. Rage fuels throughout my body at the idea that I have let the pressures of society teach my own mind to turn against me. I subconsciously let those words into my very own head. The words are on repeat inside of my brain, pounding and scratching at the inside of my mind in efforts to consume my body, my decisions, my life. Well… none of that is true, I’ve come to learn that I am my hardest competitor; all I need to do is believe in myself and my capabilities. All I need to do is to just believe in myself and my peers, believe that the truths I speak will make a difference to someone, anyone, even a single person is good enough for me.
I have been taught by my Mother to have faith in myself, not for my own sake, but rather, for the future generations, because it is important that I be the one to layout the stepping stones for the future generations to come seven years from now. That’s what the elders seven years before did for me. I realize now that I am not just doing this for myself, but in fact I am doing this for those that are to come.
Returning back to duality within the world that we live in today, I understand that it is hard at times, but in these instances we need to remind ourselves why are we here, why are we doing this, and what it is that we are fighting for. As a woman who was primarily raised by her Mother, I was constantly taught independence and resilience. I realize now that there is nothing wrong with having only one culture and that there’s also nothing wrong with appreciating or identifying with many. We live in a world where people of different cultures are friends, where we celebrate one another’s uniqueness and differences. Duality runs within our blood, we value our friend’s differences. We take the time to learn about their beliefs, traditions, and holidays because they do the same for us. This is where a person begins to grow, instead of fearing the unknown and by taking the time to learn about the many diverse cultures that we have within our society, this is where one reaches their full potential. The only way to change the actions you are making is by making these changes now. The time is now. Culture should be celebrated; our cultures should be the thing that joins us all together, not the things that separate and divide us.
I realize now that I am writing here today in a time of confusion and sadness. I had hoped that by laying out all the words cooped up in my mind for everyone to see, that I would maybe find some answers, or that someone would relate to what I’m writing. I realize I am no saint, I do not speak as someone all mighty and knowledgeable. I am just sharing my truths and with that, I hope that you are able to take something away from these words that I've shared.
Yawko, thank you.