Not forty minutes later our total fragmentation was illustrated by the hate rhetoric issuing passionately out of the mouths of my classmates, prompted by the very gentle voice of the professor who spelled out hate with the softest of voices I had ever heard from a man. The more flamboyant and reckless a student comment was, the more it was validated by the little voice at the front of the room. Our racial composition quickly presented a problem. Skin color identified us with the conquering horde or with those who were subjugated and defiled.
Logical thought, a minimal knowledge of world history, varying cultural perspectives, current events or even a cursory awareness of the nature of human behavior were not welcome as part of the "open" discussion. My interjections suggesting accountability with the kinds of myopic and chillingly angry opinions expressed were all rejected as 'insensitive'.
Yesterday, two days after my 16 year old daughter's 10th surgery since her injury almost two years previous, class discussion suddenly broke new ground; the American judicial system and the criminal sentencing process. When they began to propose there ought to be a separate court system for indigenous people in America – because anything else denies them their spiritual and cultural identity – I spoke up again, and boldly.
The perpetrator who maimed my little girl for life was a Mexican. I asked my classmates if I should be satisfied for the Mexican Consulate to step in and adjudicate for my daughter's best interests – since that would be culturally appropriate for the defendant. This viewpoint was side-stepped by reference to our chapter study guide that day (prepared by group 2) which included an all important question: did we feel guilty for what happened to the American Indian, and if not, why not? Somehow we concluded the discussion by allowing that a good American is a guilty American.
For an ideology that reverences 'balance' and 'harmony' and living 'the beauty way', the still, small voice in this case is anything but the voice of peace. It was the last thing I expected from an American Indian Religions class at the local community college.