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"You act like you're white:" The words came back to haunt me, but today I am grateful

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  • "You act like you're white:" The words came back to haunt me, but today I am grateful

    By Arne Vainio, M.D
    News From Indian Country

    My Ojibwe grandmother was dying. Years of alcohol had done irreparable damage to her liver, and now her kidneys were failing. She slept restlessly off and on, but didn’t seem to be in any pain. She looked small in the stark white hospital bed. My grandfather was there and my mother was there with her. I felt uncomfortable visiting with her as she had never really been very nice to me and had never missed an opportunity to tell me that I was useless.

    Still, I wanted her approval. Just days earlier I had decided to quit my job at the Virginia Fire Department and go back to college to chase a new dream of becoming a doctor. I loved being a firefighter and a paramedic. It was the best job any one in my family had ever had and the decision to leave it didn’t come easy. I hadn’t told any of my family about this; I told my mother and grandfather about it at my grandmother’s bedside. My grandfather didn’t say anything. My mother knew this meant I wouldn’t be able to help her make house payments anymore, but she told me she was proud of me and that we would find a way to make ends meet.

    I bent over my sleeping grandmother and spoke directly into her ear. “Grandma, I’m going to quit my job and finish college. I want to be a doctor and I’m going to apply to medical school.” She was quiet for a long time, I wasn’t sure she heard me. My mother and grandfather were silent. Finally, she opened her eyes, looked at me and motioned me to come closer. I leaned over her to hear what she had to say. She took a slow breath and said, “You act like you’re white.”

    Last edited by Skabewis; 09-03-2008, 09:58 PM.

  • #2
    aww . . how sad that his grandma said those words to him. but hey, it helped him through school.
    Last edited by Mud_Woman; 09-03-2008, 02:58 PM.

    thats what u get 4 breaking my heart...


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