Archive for October 30th, 2015

In-between the end of summer and the start of winter, I often wear my Dorothy Grant jacket. It’s a casual but elegant piece of clothing, black with a gold eagle on the back in the Haida style and a gold wing down the left arm. It’s by far my favorite jacket, and I wear it as often as I can without freezing myself to death, which is why I was surprised at the reaction it received a few days ago.

I was leaving after a visit with some acquaintances, the first of which I have close ties with, and the second of which I tolerate mostly for the sake of the first. The second one has a tendency to argue with half of what I say, and to derail the other half with irrelevant puns and feeble jokes.

He seems to think, too, that he can advise me and I will follow his advice, even though I have shown no signs of doing so for decades (if I ever did). The truth is, his view of me has so little connection to the reality that his advice usually strikes me as outlandish. Usually, I hear him out, then thank him for his opinion before going ahead and doing what I intended before he spoke to me.

I was putting on my jacket when I saw him frown and make motions as though he wanted to talk to me in private. Doing up the zipped and adjusting the collar, I reluctantly went into the corner, already anticipating an embarrassing scene.

“You can’t wear that,” he said. “People might think you are an Indian.”

I thought I was prepared for anything, but the comment took me by surprise. I had the sense that he thought I needed saving from myself, that I was so naïve I might unconsciously cause trouble for myself by wearing the jacket. In his world, I sensed, being mistaken for First Nations was one of the worst things that could happen.

I don’t think there is much chance of me ever being mistaken for First Nations, considering my features and hair color – although I suppose I might be mistaken for one of the many these days with mixed ancestry.

More to the point, I considered myself well-dressed. To me, Dorothy Grant is an artist in cloth, and although I can only afford the cheaper of her designs – and even then only when they are on sale – I consider wearing a jacket by her a privilege. It is so obviously a work of art that I regularly receive compliments when I wear it.

Yet in his racist world view, being mistaken for First Nations was something to avoid at all costs. Where I saw art, he saw something tacky.

After I had left, I thought of all sorts of comments I might have made, but at the time I could only mutter, “Oh, you think so?” and make for the door faster than I had intended. I wonder, though, if he had any idea that all he had done was make me think even less of him than I had before.

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