DEAR AMY: My mother is adopted. She believed that her biological father was part Native American. As a child with lots of trauma, I completely understand why this may have become a part of her identity growing up. This was something she believed and passed on to my brother and me as we were growing up. I identified way more with the very German side of my father's family, but my brother seems to have grown up with this idea as a core part of his identity. Recently, my mother and her bio brother (my uncle) did a DNA test that showed there is no native blood in our family, and while my mother has adapted seemingly well, my brother still goes around promoting this part of his heritage. He is a local politician and publicly announces his native ancestry. He had symbols of native ancestry at his wedding (which took place after finding all this out). I heard more than one comment about how it was not OK. He uses native rituals, publicly posts and gives interviews about his heritage. Amy, it makes me uncomfortable, as he is clearly culturally appropriating what does not belong to him and announcing that our family is something it is not. Any attempts to bring this up to my family, or to him in particular, has resulted in outbursts and accusations about me being "too sensitive." My brother and I have previously been estranged, and while I would be OK heading back into that territory, it caused my mother and father a lot of pain, so we now maintain a bare minimum of communication. I've been asked to not bring this up with him further. I could let it go, or continue a fight that causes more division. And why do I care so much if it doesn't affect me directly? I think it's in poor taste and reflects on our family poorly, but is it my place to address? My friends and those closest to me already know the truth.
So Many Questions
DEAR MANY QUESTIONS: While we in this country believe people have a right to reinvent themselves, I agree that the practice of cultural appropriation is offensive, not only to the group being misrepresented, but to other people who simply don't like to be lied to.
Your brother's behavior is fairly extreme, both because he seems to hold a public position where he is representing himself as a Native American in interviews, and because he actually knows the truth about his DNA and is choosing to continue.
I think you care so much because it bothers you to have someone who shares your DNA lying about it.
However, I don't think you should do anything. Your brother will have to accept whatever consequences flow from it, including your disapproval.
DEAR AMY: Would you address the alienation that bereaved parents feel this time of year? We lost our only child, and lost many close relationships because it was too uncomfortable for people to be around us. I understand that they worry about saying the wrong thing. Maybe they feel they are giving us space, but I've never felt this alone in my entire 46 years. Please remind your readers this holiday season that most bereaved parents just want you to remember their child and to know that they are not forgotten. Thank you, Amy.
DEAR LEFT BEHIND: I applaud your bravery in writing to me, and I think your question will be widely shared and discussed. Thank you for highlighting the invisible wounds so many of us carry.
No, your child should not be forgotten. No, you should not be ignored. I hope you can get to a point where your happier memories can sit alongside your immense grief.
I also hope you will reach out to someone close to you to say, "I'm feeling alone. I need to remember my child. Can we talk?"
DEAR AMY: I can understand the disappointment of those who seem to have spent time and money celebrating the events of others "Still Here," but unfortunately, too many people believe they should be rewarded simply for existing, even though they may have done little. We celebrate events that occur in our lives that hopefully will make it better (births, engagements, marriages, graduations, birthdays, professional success). Why begrudge that? If you want something to celebrate, DO SOMETHING!!
DEAR BILL: Note to readers: Do not have a baby in order to receive a baby shower. It's just not worth the onesies.