There are no easy answers here. That should be obvious.
There isn't any easy way to talk about this subject.
Over the last five weeks, I've realized that covering cultural appropriation in five posts is pretty foolish.
Still, you work with what you've got.
I've tried to start this post for several days, and each time it has gotten too long and I didn't get to the point.
So, I'm going to put the point of the post at the beginning. I know, that's backward. That way if the post gets long, I'll just cut the rambling nonsense.
How To Be An Ally In Your Own Work!
1. Do the research. Find out what you can about a story.
2. If your story comes out of a marginalized culture, find storytellers - you notice I have suggested going to more than one person - and find out whether or not it is okay for you to tell that story. They might be fine with it so long as you give proper context or credit. They might not.
3. Pay attention to how you introduce the story. Are there elements of the story that seem odd or unusual. Find out more about them.
4. Find variants of the story. Compare them.
5. Be aware of the language. How are you talking about the story? How are you describing the people? Are you offering context by the people who told the story or the people who told about the people who told the story?
6. If you are working with a story from history, find the story's origin. There are historical anecdotes and references that were made up by the "victors" but do not come out of the cultures about which they are told. Don't spread colonializing, degrading nonsense in the guise of history.
For instance: How many people actually know who Pocahantas was? How much of what we were taught about her is accurate and how much of it comes out of John Smith's complete misunderstanding of what was going on around him?
I was trying to find images of this young woman. She died at the age of twenty or twenty-one. This is supposedly a good likeness of her. I don't know.
As for the other images I've seen, they are either romanticized images of her or images of other women who people thought were her.
How do you tell this story? What exactly do you tell?
Are there more rules of thumb for dealing with this difficult subject?
I have no doubt.
Do I have any idea what they might be?
Not a bit. I suppose I could keep coming up with them, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be helpful to anyone. Myself included.
Was I an idiot to try to tackle this huge topic in five blog posts?
Yes, most assuredly.
As I talk to people do I realize that there is so much more to say, learn, and do??
Could I write posts about this for the next couple of months and expand on the topic in never-ending spirals?
Do I have any interest in doing that?
You might ask:
If this is such a difficult subject, you didn't want to write it, and it involves a never-ending conversation, why did you do this?
I've had some conversations with other people from marginalized cultures and discovered many of us have the same thought about this subject:
We Are Tired!
We feel like we keep coming up against people who get upset when we don't tell them what they want to hear about cultural appropriation. What they want to hear seems to be, "Do what you want."
If you don't say that, they argue you blue trying to tell you why they can do whatever they want.
We need allies. We need people to care enough to do the work themselves. We need people to understand why it is important.
All of us, whether or not we are from marginalized cultures, can learn to be better in the way we use language and images to share thoughts and stories.
My blinders are as debilitating as yours. I am as unable to see what I can't see as you are unable to see what you can't see. In so many ways we are the semi-blind leading the semi-blind. If we work at this together, all of us will see better.
This gets into another topic that could take months: Privilege.
I'm not even going to touch that.
To everyone who wants to be an ally, thank you!
Let us keep on keeping on.
Talk to me.
I'll talk to you.
Let's learn this as a community.
Part 1 - Cultural Misapproriationis A Better Term: Some Thoughts
Part 2 The Cost of Cultural Misappropriation: Invisibility
Part 3 - Cultural Misappropriation Is Easy To Do: The Accidental Appropriator
Part 4 - How Do You Know If You Don't Know Enough?
Part 5 - What Does It Look Like to be an Ally in Your Own Work?