Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cultural Identity and Cultural Appropriation @3QD

My most recent articles at 3 Quarks Daily:


What about this provocative poster?



For one thing it assumes and audience where people would recognize what’s going on in the lower image. The upper image is obvious, white children playing at cowboys and Indians. But the lower image? It shows Native American children at a boarding school where they are being separated from the traditional world of their parents and being educated in the ways of the White Man.

When I was a kid I was one of the kids in the upper picture. More often than not I would have been an Indian (or is it “Native American”, “American Indian”, or more specially, Lakota, Dene, etc.) and I made sure that us Indians won some of the battles. By the time I was in my early teens I more or less knew what that lower picture was about and didn’t like it. But the social and cultural system connecting those two images, man, it’s complicated. It includes Mark Twain’s Injun Joe (and Nigger Jim) and, a bit later, Oliver La Farge’s 1929 novel, Laughing Boy (1930 Pulitzer Prize) which I read in my early teens. More recently we have Tony Hillerman’s wonderful Joe Chee mysteries.

But what about white children dressing up as Indians and playing? Should we do that anymore? Why or why not? For that matter, is it so common as it once was? Westerns, with cowboys and Indians, were all over television and in the movies when I was a child (the 1950s), but that’s no longer the case. I’d guess that such play is no longer so common, though I don’t really know.

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