In the Blog

Borderline racism….....

June 30th, 2008     by Jessica Yee     Comments

I’m back in the US but not without a story to tell yet again from what it was like to cross the U.S. border as a Native-black-haired-darker skinned-young-woman-travelling-alone.

To give you some background, I have been stopped and questioned repeatedly in higher security levels when I bothered to tell the whole truth about why I was crossing. And let me tell you, they sure don’t like fighting for reproductive freedom or working for Native American rights.

In fact, last year when I actually said that I was going to do some work with the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, I was told to move to the next security level where I was fingerprinted, photographed, and had to explain my ancestry and why I would want to do “work like that”.

So I’ve learned to say the lesser activist reasons as to why I’m going to be in the US.

This time around I’m driving, and what do I see when get down to the long lineups for border crossing but 3 border patrol officials who are standing around amongst the plethora of cars, looking all stern and serious. This is new to me, I thought if you were going to be “randomly searched” it would happen when you at least get to the official in the booth.

Not anymore.

Of ALL the hundreds of cars around, (and I mean there were LOTS of them) after 10 minutes of sitting there waiting in line, I get a knock on my window.

“Unlock your doors, pop your trunk, and start explaining why you are going to the United States of America”. I replied to visit my partner, which is true! (that’s after I finish doing stuff on different reservations…but I’ve learned what to say now remember)

As they proceed to rummage and pick through everything in my car, I’m asked how I know my partner, how long have we been together, why am I dating someone in the US, how come I’m travelling alone. They also happened to find my sacred tobacco and tossed it to each other, questioning “Why is it so sacred?”

This is just the icing on top of the cake, because when I actually get to the official in the booth, I’m not only asked the same things, but told to prove where he lives (the Oneida reservation in Wisconsin) to which I’m THEN asked what will I be doing in the community there (sitting and visiting with family and Elders) to which I’m asked what exactly will we be talking about (I’m losing my learned border-crossing cool at this point).

The whole time I’m looking back in my rearview mirror to see if those 3 border patrol officials are stopping anyone else. NADA.

I think I’m allowed to wonder now that I if I had blond-hair, blue-eyes, was travelling with a man, and had no Native decals on my car, this might not have happened.

Luckily, I know and work with the ACLU.

Tags: activist report, in my opinion..., race and racism

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