Today rattled me pretty badly. The attitudes expressed were not attitudes I was surprised by, I knew they existed, but I have never heard them on this scale. However, they are probably something you will be surprised by because even my husband was shocked to hear about it.
I’m a woman, and thus I have experienced both subtle sexism and overt sexism my entire life. I have dealt with microaggression and overt aggression, one on one and group comments and actions against women, and other sexist things my entire life. It’s inherent in having boobs and a vagina. Sorry for being crass about it, but it’s true, sadly. Thankfully, things are starting to change. Slowly, but they are.
This was not sexism.
I’m white. Most people think that because I’m white, I do not understand racism. You would be wrong to think that. I grew up in an area where white was a minority, actually, especially once I hit high school. While I admit that I haven’t experienced racism as often as other races have, and I haven’t experienced institutionalized racism, I have definitely experienced it. Racism in the form of microagression and overt aggression, actually. I’ve been called derogatory names, purely to get a rise out of me (I knew it though so I didn’t cave), and I’ve been threatened. It’s gotten bad enough I’ve feared for my safety a few times.
This was not racism.
I have been the victim of atrocious bullying. I have been bullied in pretty much every way you can imagine. I was never given a black eye, but I have been bruised (I just usually got hit on the torso or kicked in the shins). I was bullied to the point where I planned out every detail of my suicide, but then something happened that made me change my mind at the last minute (and now I’m very glad it did). I was bullied on every level of bullying, from people walking past me in the hall and “cough*ugly*cough” to chanting to exclusion to purposefully hitting me with playground balls to explicitly telling me to die to taking my things from me to vandalizing my possessions to threatening my life. The bullying didn’t stop until after high school, and I’ve even run into a few instances since then.
This was not bullying.
Today was different.
Since moving to Colorado, I have gotten a VERY distinct feeling that people in Colorado are EXTREMELY “closed.” What do I mean by that exactly? Coloradans do not want other people here. There are these dumb and crazily passive aggressive bumper stickers (and other things, but mostly bumper stickers) that you see EVERYWHERE that show the Colorado license plate image and say “Native” on them. First of all, dumb choice of word. You are not a native, and if you are, what tribe are you part of? (You know, because the true natives are the Native American tribes that were here for thousands of years before you ever got here you jerk.) But that’s a separate matter. Okay, you may say, what is wrong with being proud of being from Colorado? Well, nothing is wrong with being proud of being from Colorado. I’m proud of being a “California Native:” I’m seventh generation Wheaton from Southern California and that is pretty damn impressive! Also the last, which is sad (well, my sister too, we’re the last two). However, these stickers are not about being proud about being from Colorado. There are a plethora of stickers for Colorado pride… Tons of stickers are available with the flag on them or the “C” emblem from the flag, or various other things. The “Native” sticker is very much a passive aggressive message towards people that were not born in Colorado.
You know what makes that even sillier though? The odds are, most of these “natives” were probably born to non-native parents. I was born in 1990, my parents were born around 1960, so we’ll use those 30 year increments for the population statistics. In 1990, there were 3.308 million people in Colorado (Google). In 1960, there were 1.769 million people in Colorado (Google). In 1930, there were 1.04 million people in Colorado (Google). In 2010, there were 5.049 million people in Colorado (Google). Does this point to a massive population growth in recent years? Yes it does. However, this growth was not all due to births. A lot of the people moving to Colorado are likely the parents and grandparents of the people that like to rub their “native” status in the face of the “non-native” people.
Some groups get it worse than others.
Today in my psychology class, we were talking about stress. We reached a point where we were talking about acculturation stress. Acculturation stress is the stress felt when introduced to a new (and dominant) culture. There are different kinds of stress, due to how you choose (or are forced) to deal with it. My teacher asked how many people were Colorado “natives.” More than half the class raised their hands… ‘oh no’ I thought, seeing where this was going. As I said earlier, I wasn’t surprised by the attitudes I’m about to explain, just the magnitude. Then how many of us weren’t, obviously, this is where I raised my hand. She started asking us where we were from. I was not the first person to answer, and many people were getting “neat” or “okay” or silence in response. I was, however, confused as to why half the class laughed when a guy said he was from Kansas. Seriously, any Colorado “natives” want to fill me in on that joke? Or anyone for that matter? All I could think would maybe induce a slight smile was the whole “we aren’t in Kansas anymore” line from the Wizard of Oz but that’s so old at this point I don’t think that’s it. Then it was my turn. I took a deep breath…
Me: “Southern California”
Yes… the ENTIRE class of natives made sounds of annoyance and frustration and anger at me being from Southern California. I am not kidding. It was audible enough that I could have taped it. It was audible enough that I caught a microexpression of confusion (or shock) cross my teacher’s face.
I said a little more then said that I’d been here for almost 10 years, so you’d think that it wouldn’t matter anymore.
Once again, pretty much the entire class expressed emotions of “no, you don’t belong here.” As if it didn’t matter that I have been living and working in Colorado, contributing to the state and the economy of the state, buying a house, buying a car, attending school, working jobs, etc for the past ten years. I simply did not deserve to be living in this state because I was born in Southern California.
I said I didn’t like it here because of how cold all the “natives” are, and someone said that it was because of how many of “you” there are (specifically meaning Californians). Interesting thing is, in the almost ten years I’ve been in Colorado, I have barely met any people from Cali. I’m wondering if it’s because we’re all scared to death to admit that is where we are from. Seriously. If I were to put a tiny little California sticker on my car, then my car would get vandalized, I can promise you that.
I experience microagression on an almost daily basis. Those “native” bumper stickers are literally everywhere and I’ll see at least 3 anytime I drive for five minutes or more. Anytime anyone gets stuck in traffic, even our friends, I have to listen to them bitch about how “Californians can’t drive” (apparently they all forget I’m from California?) as if Coloradans can? (Okay, but seriously, even Dan doesn’t understand why they think Californians can’t drive when Coloradans have panic attacks when it starts to drizzle and the roads are still dry.) Californians can definitely drive better than 90% of the people that drive around here, that is for sure. Most of the people here drive like idiots. The only thing a lot of Californians are not used to is snow, because a lot of California doesn’t have it, but Coloradans refuse to give any advice about it without being complete jerkwads about it so there isn’t any hope for that getting any better. Pretty much anything that goes wrong in Colorado, I have to listen to how it’s all California’s fault. I’m not even kidding. “It’s too crowded because everyone from California is moving here.” Oh shut up. I’ve met far more Coloradans in California than I’ve met Californians in Colorado. Oh, and you don’t know crowded until you get stuck in slow and go traffic at 1am on a Saturday that is NOT due to a traffic accident or snow. Is the city growing? Yes. Is it growing quickly? Very. Is it crowded? Sure, a little. It’s mostly that people are too busy complaining to do anything about it so the infrastructure is falling behind.
The most stressful type of acculturation stress is marginalization. Marginalization stress is stress from giving up both your home culture and rejecting the dominant culture. That is the stress I am suffering from. I have had to give up my proud California culture because I fear the reaction people have here in Colorado. Dan hadn’t realized how bad it was for me until I had this experience to relay to him. I refuse to adopt the Colorado culture because it is one that fosters this intense ethnocentrism/xenophobia. As I’ve told Dan multiple times, I don’t have a problem with Colorado at all, it’s the people in it I’m not overly fond of. I do know some people that do not harbor this kind of hate towards Californians, but they are very few, and most of them do not self-identify as “natives.”