August 2023 Archives

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What it was like?

I grew up around alcohol, everyone around me drank, everyone partied, they partied for days leaving me with babysitters, anyone who'd babysit, until I myself was barely old enough to watch over little ones. We'd have to scrounge for food. I remember there being a bunch of Jif box corn muffin mix that my mom bought on sale, I learned how to make those and feed us that. One of my cousins told me about how once when she was babysitting me at my place, she and I made mustard sandwiches, bread with mustard because that's all there was. She told me I said "I love mustard sandwiches". So poor. Growing up like that was horrible. When I was tiny I used to get mad at my mom and beg her to stop drinking and tell her when I grow up I'm never going to drink! I didn't stick to that for long. I drank for the first time when I was 13 years old. A guy who was a high school dropout who lived with his mom at the end of our apartment building, had me and a few of my friends over and gave us some beer. I gagged after my first sip, I hated the taste of it, I forced myself to drink it. I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be accepted. After getting buzzed for the first time, I thought it felt great, I had no worries, I was floating! It made the next time I drank easier knowing the results I'd get from drinking that nasty tasting beer. Most of the time it was Miller beer, the kind in the bottle. Me and my friends made it a game, we would see who could rip the labels off whole, we'd laugh and be happy when one of us did it. A few parties later, I became his girlfriend! I thought I was so cool, I was in 7th grade going out with an older guy who had parties! Not long after we started going out, while at one of his parties I passed out on his bed. I came to with him on top of me, he was having sex with me. That is how I lost my virginity. My panties and pants weren't all the way off, they were down by my ankles. I remember him on top of me, looking down at me, the look in his eyes, I saw fear, he was afraid because I came to and caught him raping me. I was still high, I was in shock now. He got off me, I pulled my panties and pants up and rushed home. I didn't tell a soul, not even my mom. She thought he was a nice guy and liked him. I didn't think anyone would believe me, I felt shame. I had been molested by an uncle (one of my mom's brothers) when I was 4 years old and never told anyone about that either, the shame from that was still with me. I felt like it was my fault, I was the one who was bad. Those feelings had a lot to do with me not telling. Not long after my "cool boyfriend" raped me, it happened to me again two other times, older guys giving me and my friends alcohol and raping me. One of my good friend's nasty old grandfather brought her, me, my best friend and a couple other girls out to his place which was out in the middle of nowhere, and gave us a shit load of beer, like cases of beer. He kept looking at me licking his lips. My best friend said let's kiss so he will think we're gay and won't bother us. So, we kissed. My 13-year-old drunk-self thought that was a great plan! Now that I look back on this, I realize that just tuned that pervert on! We partied so hard I blacked out. I woke up in the hallway with my panties and pants off. One of my friends told me she saw him eating me out and chased him away. I remember thinking why didn't that friend or the others cover me up, help me to the room where they all were to keep me safe, why just leave me with my bottom half naked in the hallway where he can come back for me. No cops were called, no adult was told. Another time me and some friends went to one of their friend's apartment. There were a couple of older guys there. One was in his 30s, he gave us a bottle of Jack Daniels whisky. Again, I got drunk. Again, I was raped. The last thing I remember was standing out on his balcony smoking a cigarette, with my back up against the wall which was covered with tiny jagged white rocks, I started to slip down to the floor. The rocks cut my back. I still have a scare on my back from that. I come to, I'm in a bed with him, we were both naked. I jumped up, got dressed, saw my friends out in the living room, we left. By this time, I was numb to what was happening to me. The very thing I used to get numb, alcohol, was the very thing that was putting me in these fucked up situations. I was drinking to forget about getting raped, and drinking was getting me raped. I went to a free clinic and got tested. I tested positive for gonorrhea. I was a 13-year-old with a VD and a drinking problem, who had been raped three times in one year. I have many, many more horrific alcohol related stories, those are a few from my beginning. I used to wonder where Creator was during those dark times. I think about how many times I could have died from alcohol poisoning or gotten killed by someone. I'm not being overly-dramatic, I really could have died. One time I woke up to get ready for school, my mom went out the night before, she was passed out in her room, there was a 12 pack of Budweiser beer sitting on the kitchen table. I started opening can after can, guzzling. I don't know how many cans I drank. I stumbled up to my room, fell on my bed and passed out. I missed school that day. My mom never knew I drank her beer, she must have thought she drank it herself. I was so broken, I had no self-esteem or self-worth. When I was 20 I got pregnant two months after I started dating a guy who lied saying he couldn't have babies, we got married six months after we met. Right after we got married he started to beat the shit out of me, while I was pregnant and after, once when I was holding my fresh newborn baby, I had to toss her on the couch so she wouldn't get beat by him. It took everything I had in me to get away from him. My two young daughters are what gave me the strength to run from him. Now I look back and see how Creator saved me, He kept me alive! His love for me is great, just like my love for Him! One of the blessings I've experienced since getting sober, I have a beautiful relationship with the Creator.

What happened?

Alcohol was supposed to make me feel better, take my troubles and pain away. It lied to me. Alcohol stole my self-worth, I was worthless. Alcohol broke my soul. Every single time I drank I knew that I shouldn't, but I couldn't stop myself. I was putting my babies through the same hell I grew up in! I wanted to quit so bad! I tried so many times, I couldn't do it! Then I don't know, maybe my 101th try it finally stuck, I conquered alcohol! It was because of my four babies and Creators endless love for me! That last try, me and my four babies stood in front of the bathroom toilet, them each holding one of my beers, one by one they took turns pouring them into the toilet. That was cathartic for me, seeing them do that! My babies were my reason, my love for them did it! I didn't want them to grow up and drink and live the hell that I did! I needed to break the cycle! I needed to make a better life for them! They deserved the best version of myself and that could only happen if I was alcohol free! Now my babies have a mom who is sober and always there for them, I am their biggest cheerleader! Because of this they are all academically successful and most importantly happy.

What it is like now?

Once I was alcohol free I had to face my demons and I had some ugly evil demons. I had to remember it ALL, things I buried so far down. The shame, the guilt. All the trauma. I had to pick up the million broken pieces of myself and put them back together, one good thing is I put them back together differently, better than they were. I had to find my voice, a voice I never used before. Once I found it though, I couldn't stop using it! It was like a broken faucet that was stuck for years, now it worked and it all came rushing out! I had to learn to cultivate my feelings into words then into my truth. I knew many would be unhappy with me speaking my truth, but I also knew it would help with my healing and I prayed it would help others with theirs. 16 years later, I look back and wish I had done it sooner! I wish I had never started drinking, I wish my tiny self would have kept her word and never drank. I didn't write this for pity. There are others who've been through worse than I. I open myself up and share my story in hopes of helping others, to take away the shame, the stigma. By sharing this; I shout from the rooftops that "I went through some bad shit!! I know what evil looks like! I am here and living and loving! You are not alone!" It is the greatest gift, if I could say there is a gift from my story, that others will read it and know they can persevere and win despite adversity!

Until now, research has been focused on the cultural differences between Native Americans, the U.S. government, and the general public and how these differences prevented Native Americans from succeeding in the mainstream school system. Native Americans are not the only minority in the United States. The largest minority groups - Blacks, Asians, Hispanics- and a host of other smaller groups all face similar barriers as Native Americans. In 1983, at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Chicago, a symposium was held to present and discuss ethnographic findings on school experiences of different minority groups in order to shed light on why some groups are more successful than others. Following the symposium, Gibson and Ogbu (1991) compiled a volume of papers on the subject titled Minority Status and Schooling: A Comparative Study of Immigrant and Involuntary Minorities. This volume addresses the central question of why some minority groups do relatively well in school, in spite of facing substantial barriers related to such factors as their different cultures and languages, the prejudiced attitudes of the dominant group toward minorities and unequal access to jobs, while other minorities confronting similar barriers do far less well in school. (Gibson Ogbu. 1991, p. ix) In a nutshell, Gibson and Ogbu (1991) asserted that there were two types of minorities in the United States, immigrant minorities and involuntary minorities. Immigrant minorities are those who come to this country voluntarily, looking for a better life. They accepted hardships, barriers, and prejudice because they wanted to become part of the mainstream. They came to this country because they believed the move would lead to economic well-being, better opportunities, and greater political freedom. These immigrants appeared to interpret the economic, political, and social barriers against them as temporary problems that they would or could overcome with the passage of time, hard work, and more education. Such immigrants accepted marginal jobs because they felt they were still better off than they would have been in their own country. Therefore, they tended to "explore economic resources and niches not wanted by members of the dominant group or other members of their host society" (Ogbu, 1991, p. 12). The immigrants appear to rationalize and to acquiesce to the prejudice and discrimination against them by saying, for example, that they are strangers in a foreign land and have no choice but to tolerate prejudice and discrimination as a price worth paying in order to achieve the goals of their emigration. (Ogbu, 1991, p. 13) Involuntary minorities are those who were forced to become part of American society through slavery, conquest, or colonization. They usually resented the loss of their former freedom and perceived the social, political, and economic barriers against them as part of their undeserved oppression (Ogbu, 1991). This undeserved oppression led involuntary minorities to differ from immigrant minorities in their perceptions of chances for success in mainstream society. They interpreted the economic, social, and political barriers against them differently than immigrant minorities. The biggest difference was they did not see their situation as temporary; on the contrary, they interpreted the discrimination against them as permanent and institutionalized, which led them to develop oppositional identities (Ogbu, 1991). Indians who developed oppositional identities believed that regardless of their ability, training, or education, whether they lived off or on the reservation or dressed and acted like white men, they would not be treated as equals (Green & Wallat, 1981). Furthermore, Indians, as involuntary minorities had no place to go to seek relief from a society that treated them like second-class citizens; they were strangers in their own homeland (Ogbu, 1984). Finally, involuntary minorities distrusted members of the dominant group and the societal institutions controlled by the latter. This was especially true of Native Americans. Native Americans did not trust schools to provide their children with a good education. Unlike the immigrants, Native Americans find no justification for the prejudice or discrimination that they experience against them in school and society other than the fact that they are Indian. Furthermore, Native Americans, unlike the immigrants, see the prejudice and discrimination against them as institutionalized and enduring. Beginning with the earliest attempts to educate them, Native Americans believed discrimination against them was institutionalized and that it was not going to be eliminated entirely by getting an education (Ogbu, 1982). Unlike the immigrants, Native American students did not interpret the cultural and language differences they encountered in school as barriers they had to overcome and did not, apparently, make concerted efforts to overcome them. Rather, they interpret the cultural and language differences as markers of identity to be maintained. Moreover, they do not appear to make a clear distinction, as the immigrants do, between what they have to learn or do in order to succeed in school (such as learning the standard language and the standard behavior practices of the school) and the dominant-group's cultural frame of reference (which may be seen as the cultural frame of reference of their "oppressors"). (Ogbu, 1991, p. 26 This attitude, on the part of involuntary minorities, often led (and still leads) to a dilemma; they have to choose between academic success or maintaining their minority cultural frame of reference and identity - a choice that does not arise for immigrants. Involuntary minorities have a deep distrust for members of the dominant group in society and a distrust for the schools that this dominant group controls more than immigrant minorities do because the former "lack the advantage of the dual frame of reference that allows the immigrants to compare the schools they now attend with the schools they knew 'back home'" (Ogbu, 1991, p. 28). Instead, involuntary minorities compare their schools with those of the dominant group and conclude that theirs are inferior because they are minorities (Ogbu, 1991). Having concluded that their schools and education are inferior, they divert their emotion and efforts in a continual quest for "better schools and better education." The message is also communicated to children quite early that the schools they attend and the education they are receiving are inferior, a message that contributes to the development of distrust for the system. (Ogbu, 1991, p. 28) Gibson and Ogbu's (1991) book contained a chapter solely dedicated to the Ute tribe of Utah. For 100 years, the Utes have been exposed to the American educational system through private, church-run, or federally funded on-reservation schools, boarding schools and the state public school system. The free public education system of Utah has served Utes since 1952 but has produced relatively few Ute high school graduates. Utes perceive the school district and the schools as generally hostile to their children and as a system which is nearly unassailable. This perception is based on a history of long-standing grievances between Utes and neighboring non-Indians, on the racist attitudes of many non-Indians, and on the differing values and expectations held by Utes and the public school. (Kramer, 1991, p. 287) The Utes also view the schools as agents of assimilation. They are viewed, therefore, as a threatening rather than a beneficial force in the lives of Ute children. Fred A. Conetah, the Ute tribe historian, noted that '"one issue that was particularly troublesome for the People was the efforts of federal officials to educate Ute children'" (as cited in Kramer, 1991, p. 291). "Utes opposed and resented the notion of their children being taught 'white ways,' and most refused to send their children to school until the second decade of this century" (p. 291). This resulted from how they perceived their children would be treated in school, and their perceptions were often correct. Coleman et al. (1966) found that as many as one-fourth of all teachers in public schools if given a choice, would prefer not to teach American Indian children. Thus, "teachers' negative attitudes have often dominated the Indian child's school experience and hindered academic achievement" (Berry, 1969, p. 34). Cultural differences between Utes and the people who operated the schools were a frequent cause of friction between the groups. This was most noticeable in the manner each group viewed awards. For example, the school recognized students who "came in first," whether it was grades or athletics. Ute's parents could not comprehend this; "they believed that awards were deserved by those who tried the hardest in every class or in every game, regardless of the final grade or score" (Kramer, 1991, p. 297). Clearly, the dominant group's values that promoted production and competition were at odds with tribal values that encouraged process and personal commitment. According to Kramer (1991), American Indian tribes cannot be compared to other ethnic minorities because American Indians stand to lose their culture by integration into the larger society. Christensen and Demmert (1978) "urged tribes to take legal and moral responsibility for their children's education by exercising control over school boards, approval of curricula, and, if necessary, by establishing separate schools" (p. 140). The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (1981) reinforces Christensen and Demmert's advice: Politically, other minorities started with nothing and attempted to obtain a voice in the existing economic and political structure. Indians started with everything and have gradually lost much of what they had to advancing alien civilization. . . . Indian tribes have always been separate political entities interested in maintaining their own institutions and beliefs. . . . So while other minorities have sought integration into the larger society, much of Indian society is motivated to retain its political and cultural separateness, (pp. 32-33) Unknowingly, tribal college leaders may have been familiar with Gibson and Ogbu's concepts of involuntary minorities and immigrants. They expect their students to perpetuate their respective Indian societies, not the American society at large, and they promote that the most viable political and economic position for Indian tribes is to co-exist with American society, not enter into it (American Indian Higher Education Consortium [AIHEC], 1999).

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