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On my way to catch the bus this morning, I passed a man. He was pushing an old shopping cart. In the car was a large black garbage bag. By the sounds I heard, I assume the bag was filled with empty pop bottles and cans. The man was unkempt. If not homeless, he definitely seemed poor. At least downtrodden.

Every once in a while, I’ll come across someone like this, particularly since we live in midtown. I don’t often think much about it; I’ve seen homeless/poor people a lot in my life. After all, there’s not a lot I can do to help them all.
Anyhow, this time, I noticed something I hadn’t seen on anyone else I had come across in similar situations.

He wore cap with the words “Native Pride”.

It made me wonder. What made him proud? Certainly, his economic situation didn’t seem like a source of pride. I know it’s a cultural thing for aboriginal persons in Canada to avoid eye contact when meeting someone of authority (not that I am any sort of authority). I wonder, however, if having his eyes averted to the ground the entire time we encountered each other in the crosswalk was more than culture.

The entire experience made me wish I could do something. Something to encourage real cultural pride. Something to help my own people. Sometimes I feel a kinship with my aboriginal brothers and sisters. At times like this, however, I can really feel the separation generations of European genetic dilution has caused.

13 thoughts on “Pride

  1. I understand your angst with this type of situation. I come across a similar individual nearly every day on my way to work.

    I too, would like to find some way to help, but then i’m not sure how to do that. Any donation would not go to productive purposes I’m sure, so it’s quite a conundrum. I feel guilty to keep walking by.

    I feel even worse when someone refers to me as an Anishinabe ‘buddy’ when asking for help. It just cuts a knife into me when that happens.

    And he is not alone, there any many in that same situation, in any urban center. And it upsets me that there is little that can be done, at least from the individual level.

    As proud as i am of the gains that Aboriginal people have made in many parts of society, it’s the impovershed who keep us humbled.

    So I don’t have any answers, just more questions.

  2. I find myself bridling at the description of “the separation generations of European genetic dilution has caused.” In an indirect way, it seems racist to me. Here’s why: I don’t think the separation Kim describes is the result of genes. I think it’s the result of ways of living. It seems to me that, in order to believe the separation results from “genetic dilution” (which, by itself, is a troubling term to me), we would also have to think that those differences between the way Kim lives and the way the man he saw lives are are the inevitable result of genetic coding—in other words, that one’s racial background determines such things. I don’t think that’s true, and I think that view (which I am not claiming Kim has adopted) is a racist view.

  3. …and please, don’t misunderstand me when I say the differences between Kim and this man result from “ways of living.” I’m not saying that this man’s downtrodden condition is all his fault, based on his own life choices.

  4. The point is, ltbugaf, that if none of my European ancestors had mated with my Cree ancestors, there’s a greater likelihood I would have been in a similar boat as the man I met. In addition, because of my background being predominantly European, what Cree culture there was in my background is gone; I was raised with no one in my family acknowledging or celebrating our Cree heritage.

    That’s why despite sometimes feeling a kinship with my aboriginal brothers and sisters, I can really feel, at times like this, the separation generations of European genetic dilution has caused.

  5. I understand what you mean. I just think you’re really talking about a separation that generations of European cultural dilution (or diversification) has caused, rather than anything that should be attributed to genetics.

  6. No. I am talking about genetic dilution; although, I think it may lead to cultural dilution. The more European ethnic background, the more the Cree background gets pushed out.

  7. So you actually do believe that the separation between you and the man you saw is a product of genetics? You believe his genes caused him to be how and where he is, while your genes caused you to be how and where you are?

  8. Yes. If he were white (or even Chinese for that matter), the chances he would be in the same situation would be much smaller.

    Culture has nothing to do with it. It’s not part of Blackfoot culture to be drunk and homeless.

  9. I’m not saying that Blackfoot culture makes you drunken and homeless. I’m saying that the way he lives, and the way you live, are not the product of genetics. They’re the product of behavior. I think the view that your genes, or your race, is what accounts for these differences, is a racist belief.

  10. “the way he lives, and the way you live, are not the product of genetics. […] I think the view that your genes, or your race, is what accounts for these differences, is a racist belief.”

    At the risk of appearing to you like a racist, I believe that there are genetic differences which make each of us more or less susceptible to certain behavioral inclinations.

    For example, I believe that certain genes will make you more likely to become addicted to alcohol than others. Perhaps if you never put yourself at risk by never taking that first drink, you can eliminate the genetic factor, but it’s there nevertheless.

    My belief seems to be supported by the fact that many first-nations people have stronger than average compulsions toward alcohol.

    So the question really becomes, why do first-nations people have stronger than average compulsions toward alcohol? I think this question will be answered in the next 5 to 10 years when genetic tests become so cheap that it becomes standard procedure for everyone to just look over your genes and see what extra or missing genes you have compared to everyone else.

    If it is genetic, then the way you live or the way others live, is in fact, heavily influenced by our genes.

    How would this affect the way you think of free will?

  11. You ask about the apparently strong propensity of American Indians to abuse alcohol, and tie that to their race. What if you asked about the apparently strong propensity of blacks to commit violent crime and tied that to their genetics? Would that be racist?

  12. “What if you asked about the apparently strong propensity of blacks to commit violent crime and tied that to their genetics?”

    That’s a very good question. I think a large part of whether asking such a question is racist has to do with intent.

    Scientifically speaking, not asking the question closes doors on potential knowledge, but social speaking, asking such a question makes one appear Machiavellian.

    Since I’m not in a position to do the research, I would shy away from such a question for fear of appearances, but if the data presented itself, I would take it at face value.

    I would also extrapolate from such data that any person of any skin colour or heritage who has a tendancy to commit violent crimes likely has either missing or extra genes to make them more prone to such activities.

    Then again, I fall more into the “nature rather than nurture” camp of why we do the things we do. (Don’t get me wrong, I know that nurture is a big part of it to, but I tend to lean stronger on nature).

    Does that make one a racist? I hope not.

  13. Did anyone consider the possibility that the man in question wore a hat saying “Native Pride” because no one was giving away hat that said “Please Help Me”?

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