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FISSURE: A Life Between Cultures





An aspect of racial justice that is often difficult to think and talk about is reparation––difficult because the idea of making restitution can be overwhelming. It's easy to think that the injustice has been so great that no effort at reparation can come close to righting the wrongs. Then it's easy to give up. In my essay "The Obligation," published in DoveTales International Journal of the Arts, guest-edited by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, Liberian poet and professor, I wrote about a step-by-step response to injustice, the final step of which is restitution. But restitution doesn't have to be global in its scope; it can be undertaken in small increments by individuals like you and me. 


One of the ways I've found to make restitution for Indigenous genocide (both actual and cultural), which is foundational in historical and present-day North America, is to make monthly donations to the American Indian College Fund. It's one small effort but, I think, an important one. Here are some reasons I've chosen this:


• 84% of K-12 curricula currently do not teach Indigenous history beyond the 1900s.

• More than 12,000 individuals have served in the US Congress, and only 22 of them have been Indigenous.

• There are only 3,400 Indigenous doctors in the US.

• On demographic forms, "Indigenous" or "Native American" is often not a choice; selecting "Other" as a racial category is not inclusive representation.

• Indigenous lawyers make up less than 0.5% of all lawyers in the US.

• Fewer than 10% of people consider themselves knowledgeable about Indigenous issues and do not know how or where to access more information.


Samantha Maltais, the Wampanoag woman in the image on this page is pursuing a law degree at Harvard, thanks to a three-year scholarship from the American Indian College Fund. She writes, "I am the first in my tribe to attend Harvard, even though our homeland is right off the coast of Massachusetts. I do it to fix a broken system and to protect Native communities for generations to come."


I took a side trip here from posting book reviews because I think it's important to think about how we can make reparation for the grave racial injustices from which we continue to benefit if we are White and living in North America.

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