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Indigenous Woman Called Out By ‘Uncomfortable’ Coworker For Talking About Her Heritage At Work

Karsten Winegeart/Unsplash

The workplace can often be a powder keg when it comes to conversation.

No one knows what to talk about.

And just when you’re comfortable… BOOM!

Issues arise.

Case in point…

Redditor justathrowaway7924 wanted to discuss her story for some feedback. So naturally she came to visit the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit.

She asked:

“AITA for talking about my heritage?”

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“So, I, 23 female, am Native American. I do not look it.”

“I have a white biological father, and my bio dad is not my sibling’s father.”

“My siblings, my mom, my grandparents, and the person I call my father are native, and they look it.”

“My skin color is rather pale because of bio dad’s genes.”

“And for a long time I was really self conscious about it.”

“With many people not believing my heritage or telling me to ‘prove’ that I’m native!”

“(Note, no native or other POC has asked me to prove myself or anything, it’s only ever been white people, lol).”

“As I’ve grown and gotten more in touch with my roots, I claim my heritage and I know that genetics being weird are NOT indicative of my true self.”

“That blood quantum is an outdated and racist ideal, etc, and I speak openly about who I am, ignoring the ‘haters.'”

“Recently, a man came into my work, who was quite obviously another native man, and told me that I have beautiful features and that I look like I have Native blood.”

“I almost cried, it isn’t often that someone looks past my skin color and notices my features, and it really made me feel validated.”

“We talked about cultural stuff for a little bit while I rung up his items, and, when he left, I couldn’t stop smiling!”

“Then, I noticed my coworker looking SUPER uncomfortable.”

“I asked them what was wrong, and they said ‘well, it just makes me uncomfortable to hear about your supposed ‘heritage.'”

“I asked them what they meant, and they said ‘there’s no reason to talk about that stuff at work, and it makes me uncomfortable to hear about because I don’t have anything like that to talk about.'”‘

‘”So it’s unfair, too. You get to pretend you’re special and it’s annoying.'”

“‘You look white, just accept it and stop trying to be special all the time.’”

“I got really mad at them and said that just because they weren’t connected to their roots didn’t mean I couldn’t be proud of mine.”

“And that maybe they should look into their ancestors and see if they could find something cool, they might be Irish or Eastern European or Scandinavian or something.”

“And those cultures have rich historical backgrounds, which they could learn about and then they could have something to talk about too!”

“They got really mad at me and said that I should just stop talking about it.”

“And they called me a jerk for acting like I’m better than them.”

“I don’t think I do act like I’m better!”

“If they were able to connect with someone and talk about their heritage, I would be so happy for them!”

“Am I really TA???”

Redditors shared their thoughts on this matter and weighed some options to the question AITA?:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Redditors declared our OP was NOT the A**hole.

It’s a tricky situation.

Let’s hear some thoughts…

“NTA — How wonderful that a customer saw something familiar in you – you should hold on to that.”

“There is nothing wrong with any of us talking about and connecting with our roots.”

“Each and every one of us are the descendants of survivors, lovers, haters, and people from times and circumstances we cannot really imagine.”

“Your co-worker needs to lighten up.”

“It isn’t like you started the conversation or rammed it down their throat.”

“Maybe they need to spend some time thinking about why that conversation made them uncomfortable.”  ~ IllDivide3316

“OP, it’s rare that vast cultural subtext becomes text, but you just ran up against one of these unicorn situations.”

“Appreciate it for what it is!”

“As I’m sure you’re aware, we live in a society in which white is standard and everything else is deviant.”

“That’s mostly upside for white people.”

“The one downside is that ‘white’ is a status that divorces itself from anything even remotely ‘ethnic,’ even including European ethnicities.”

“Many white Americans aren’t even aware of the vast differences in northwestern European cultures and traditions.”

“In addition, most white Americans are mixed ethnicity anyway.”

“So to nail down which ethnicity they should identify most with–if they were even aware that their heritage was “ethnic”–is nearly impossible.”

“As a result, white Americans often feel cut off from any kind of ancient culture or tradition.”

“We’re all aware that the U.S. is only 250 years old, and only 400 or so years old as a European colonial settlement.”

“So their history in this place, as this people, is not ancient nor ‘ethnic.'”

“And there’s an incredible ignorance and misunderstanding around the uplift of BIPOC identities that started in the 60s.”

“In which BIPOC started publicly declaring their identities beautiful and special specifically because their identities had been considered ugly and degrading for so long.”

“The misunderstanding is that these white folks don’t know that ‘Black is Beautiful’ and the like is pushing back, not merely pushing.”

“As a mixed race Asian American, I know what it’s like to have randos constantly questioning your identity.”

“And also how amazing it is to be recognized by a stranger who is like you.”

“Enjoy your connection with that man, and pity your coworker for her ignorance and self-hatred.”

“Maybe consider–if you have the energy and patience and desire–educating her a little.”

“Or not; it’s not your problem. NTA.”  ~ JadieJang

“The co-workers hypersensitivity was so extreme that I wonder if there’s more to it.”

“Perhaps they are ashamed of their heritage?”

“German? Grandpa an actual Nazi?”

“Perhaps they feel disconnected from it because they have abusive parents?”

“Perhaps they’re adopted and genuinely don’t know their heritage (were perhaps even shamed for asking?)”

“None of which is OP’s problem, of course, and colleague def needs to get a handle on themself ’cause their reaction was very inappropriate.”

“But there might be room for compassion as few are so belligerent without some underlying pain.”  ~ Nheddee

“NTA. It’s probably because there was once this weird ‘trend’ (for lack of a better word) to be indigenous.”

“So (white) people would get their genetic DNA done or trace their ancestry and try to find out how not-white they were.”

“It was kind of annoying and cringy.”

“But you have direct connection to your heritage.”

“Passing as white doesn’t mean you should be deprived of that.”  ~ Kitchenerag

“I’m also ‘white passing’ and Native.”

“And that exact kind of rhetoric from your coworker is why it’s been incredibly hard for me to connect with my roots.”

“I was raised by my mom’s (white) side of family, and they were either hostile about my heritage or just ignored it.”

“Whenever people recognize it when they look at me, I’m beyond elated to have that acknowledgement.”

“It’s so incredibly important to be able to relate to your background, especially after centuries of attempts to stamp it out.”

“NTA for this, ever. Be proud of it, and yourself.”  ~ friedapplecake

“Consider writing down exactly what you want to say to your manager, so you don’t fumble your words.”

“You received a compliment from a customer who shares the same native identity as you, and the two of you chatted while you rang his purchases up at the counter.”

“After the customer left, your coworker said x,y,z about your race, and told you to a,b,c.”

“You are uncomfortable because this appears to be racial targeting.”

“While you are not asking for any action to be taken at this time.”

“Her comments made you uncomfortable enough that you wanted the manager to be aware of this.”

“Because, yes, NTA, your coworker was making an unacceptable racist comment about your heritage.”

“Just because she’s uncomfortable about her personal background and heritage.”

“It doesn’t give her the right to say anything negative about yours, or to ask you to erase your heritage.”

“Native Americans/First Nations have been erased for too many years.”

“It’s completely unacceptable.”  ~ androiddays

“NTA- I get it.”

“I’m half white and half Mexican.”

“I embrace my Hispanic side and love the culture especially because my dad is full Mexican and passed away in 2013.”

“Which made me feel the need to embrace it more for my kids as he’s not around.”

“But I have been around people who downplay me being Hispanic at all because I don’t ‘look’ or ‘sound’ like it.”

“Keep being you OP!”  ~ PeachxScone

“NTA at all!”

“You are right, just because they aren’t in touch with their roots doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be.”

“Native peeps have been told to suppress their culture since white America took over.”


“I say this as a half white half mexican who isn’t in touch with their roots.”

“You do you boo!”  ~ stumblin_thrulif3

Do you that OP… you do you!

Reddit has your back.

Maybe you can chat with your coworker and bosses and come to an understanding.

Until, keep doing what makes you happy.