When I was a kid, I remember that going downtown was an event. I didn't necessarily have to dress up for the occasion, but my Mom told me to get out of my play clothes and dress in something nicer (and clean). She usually had several places to go...AD Martin Lumber, Bi-Rite, Safeway, the bank, the post office, etc. My favorite place was Woolworth's, mainly because of the fish and turtle aquariums, but also because of the myriad of knick-knacks and toys to wish for. If I was good, she'd get me a 7-Up at the soda fountain...I'd climb up on the stool and wait for that sugary drink which was, back then, a special treat. Nowadays, a "pop" isn't so much a treat, but back then (at least in our family), 7-Up or root beer was something that we were only allowed to have when we went on picnics or out to the lake on water-skiing weekends, or on special occasions. Same with potato chips...
Yes, I was one of the geeky kids who brought my lunch to school. Cheese and alfalfa sprout sandwiches on homemade wheat bread with soy mayonnaise...an apple, or vegetables from the garden (snap peas, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks) as a snack...and she'd send me with milk money. I usually had a big hearty breakfast, anyway (eggs, some sort of grain cereal, sausage/bacon, toast...and a horrible, homemade health drink called "Pep Up" that made me gag...oh, and a tablespoon of cod liver oil). Sometimes I was so embarrassed by my lunch, compared to the baloney sandwiches and Cheetos that other kids' moms packed for them...but in hindsight, I'm glad I grew up in a household where natural foods were the rule, rather than the exception. You know how your parents say: "You'll thank me later?" Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Okay, back to shopping...
Walmart is pretty much the only place in Riverton where you can get everything you need in one trip. Within the past year, they implemented a policy and procedure where beauty products (mainly makeup) has a separate check-out counter, and they had reconstructed the entire department for that very purpose. Why? Because shoplifting had become a problem...and (like Costco) Walmart has also started randomly checking receipts near the exits, brandishing scanners that "beep" the receipts. I had no problem with that, until...I found out that Walmart employees were whispering that it was because the "Indians" were the main offenders of the shoplifting problem.
|Photo by Rich Hoffman|
I didn't get a lot of items, just a few small ones. I went through Walmart's self-check, almost got to the exit and was stopped by the "Receipt Patrol". I saw others (white folks, I might add) go right on through, no problem. But I was stopped, was looked up and down with scrutinizing eyes, items in the cart and the receipt checked through, no smile, no "Have a nice day..."...then I was allowed through.
On another day...I went after work, in my work attire. Company shirt, black pants, phone holster. Impeccable hair and makeup. Bought about a half-cartload of items. Went through full checkout this time (with a cashier, who chatted with me like I was one of her best friends)...got to the exit. Was not stopped for any receipt or cart check...one brief look, up and down, and it was "Have a nice day, thanks for shopping at Walmart..."
Experiment concluded. What did it tell me? Nothing, really. Nothing has really changed. Discrimination is alive and well. That it has always been about Whites versus Indians. That we're decades behind the rest of the USA, where what Martin Luther King, Jr. spent his entire (shortened) life fighting for, falls on deaf ears.
Here's what I have learned about my own tribe (Northern Arapaho), granted, in the short time I've been back home:
- Not everyone agrees with what the Tribal Council says and does...nor does everyone agree with what our predominately white City and County government says and does.
- There are many on both sides...Native and White...who wish that those in authoritative positions, Tribal and US Government...would just listen, but they don't.
- There are many who are too afraid to step up and voice their opinions on change for the Tribe and on City/County government issues. So they remain silent, while the corruption abounds.
- Not all Indians are drunk and on drugs, but many bad apples ruin the whole barrel...like with any community...red, yellow, black or white.
- Money and control/power is and has always been at the root of the problem and the diversion of possible, good solutions.
It seems that no one really wants to take open responsibility/ownership for their bigotry...or they're in complete denial of it. Especially those in positions of power. In secret, sure...it's easy to be a hypocrite. I know plenty of church-going "Christians" proclaiming the love of Jesus...yet in the same breath, curse the Indians and call them ignorant, filthy drunks who should be eradicated from the map, and the Reservations plowed down to the ground. People might even say, "What are you talking about? I have a lot of Indian friends!"..."I have Native blood in my genealogy "..."You don't know me; I'm not racist" (but then privately share racially-motivated memes or comments on social media). Or talk about how gays are destroying the "family unit"...not taking into account their own abuse and neglect of their family unit. That's not a Black versus White versus Indian thing. That's a hypocrite thing.
So why deny it, if you're one of them? Why will law enforcement sit down at City Park and scrutinize the "Park Rangers", or an Indian woman who isn't doing anything but walking by...and not those who come out the cowboy bars on Main Street, drunk off their asses, keys to their trucks in hand? Because if you're an Indian walking down Main, you have to be stopped, because you must be drunk and/or high...or have a criminal record...or not "know someone who knows someone" who can get you (quietly) out of jail, because of the family name/reputation.
At the same time, I also see what alcohol, drugs and violence has done to the Native tribes of America. There are many Indians who are extremely anti-White, and claim that white folks just don't know the "Indian ways". But if alcohol, drugs, abuse, violence and murder of Native women...being drunk and disorderly...is being shown and known as the "Indian Way", who is really to blame for the prejudice, and what is really destroying the Native culture and families? It goes both ways.
I was told recently that a few of our [local] leaders actually want the division. They want the Whites and Indians to be separate...and they'll use every means and resource to keep it that way. Why? To what end? What possible thing could make something like this right, in a world society that would make Wyoming look so very bad on the planetary map?
Hate is alive and well in the place called Riverton, Wyoming...and plenty of other places on this planet called Earth...and it will be to all of humanity's destruction if it continues. Those who remain silent while all of this hate and bigotry abounds in ALL of our communities are no better than those who let the Holocaust happen in WWII. Because that is exactly what's going to happen if we don't eradicate hate in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, communities, towns, cities, states, tribes. What a slap in our WWII Veterans' faces.
There are good and bad things that happened in my childhood, as a Native raised in a white, Mormon household. There are good and bad things that have happened in my Second Life, too. But I will be damned if I'll let these sort of things just fly by in my Third Life. One of those things is to let hate and division abide.
And no, I'm not some weed-smoking, bleeding heart "Liberal" that joins marches and protests, because those have proven ineffective, too. No...I'm a human being with mutt blood running through my veins...like most Americans seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do believe in our Constitution...that our Founding Fathers left it up to us to make things better. There's a time for a massive Tea Party, a time to fight for what is right instead of what might be profitable for greedy politicians. There were Americans back then who knew slavery was wrong, and were silent...who knew what the KKK was doing, and were silent...and it has taken many, many generations of death and violence to get to a point where society is finally realizing that hate and bigotry is the ugly, horrible, intolerable thing that needs to be eradicated.
It's like my Mom always said: "Do it better than the generations before. Make it better than we did."
Anyone care to join me (people)...downtown (places)...for a nice cup of coffee...or a refreshing 7-Up (things)?
MATTHEW 23: 23-26
Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees