Saturday, 7 January 2012

making distinctions

There are a couple of errors that I have come across in recent days, that remind me of a conversation some years ago with my friend Flo. In a newspaper article about conflict in relation to land sacred to indigenous people in BC, the word "sacred" was repeatedly presented with letters transposed, "scared," as in "scared lands." Flo found this hurtful and disrespectful, and emblematic of the inattention that the settler society as a whole has developed as a defense against making a deeper connection with the larger (shared) truth of who we are, where we are, and what we are doing: what is going on, what has been going on between us all these years.


On the poster above, promoting a book by a non-indigenous person working in alliance with indigenous persons to expose some of the mechanisms that both create and result in systemic racism in Canada, and a talk by the same author, we find the following sentence:

She will explain how her research can be used to diagnose the remnants of colonialism that continue to haunt Aboriginal and Indigenous Canadians alike.
I wrote to those who sent me the promotional invitation and held up the mirror, adding, "I am assuming the intent was to be [a] little more inclusive, eg [this] impacts everyone?"

The attempt to segregate responsibility for racism, to allow the owning class/settler classes to disengage from responsibility for the ongoing tumble of colonization and leave it to those who are suffering from it to fix, digest, and/or simply shut-up about, seems endemic, a quality that is inherently Canadian as currently experienced/constructed.

Grace Woo, it seems to me, has gone quite a bit out of her way to engage directly with the we that is we, and deserves a more coherent invitation to ALL PEOPLE to come forth and engage with the fruits of her efforts, rather than this confusing tripwire set unconsciously at the gate: shall we all stay home and wonder nervously, what precisely is meant by the distinction between "Aboriginal" and "Indigenous" in this context?


In an engaging, provocative paper by teacher and blogger Starleigh Grass, published early December in/on meta-talon, we are deep in the thickets of discussion re- cross racial relations between indigenous women and not-indigenous men, when we find this statement:

The non-Indigenous man cannot be trusted with the safety of non-Indigenous women even when he perceives his actions as helpful.
At first I sat back, thinking the writer was really upping the ante, as she'd already established a sense of danger in cross-racial (and specifically, cross-power-divide) relations, and here she seemed to be expanding the base of argument for a really thorough writing-off of the usefulness of empowered-by-race/religion/class men.

Further reading revealed that, in fact, this was a typographical error, and that the intended sentence was not meant to diverge radically from her thesis as a whole. For non-Indigenous man read non-Indigenous man; for non-Indigenous woman, in this case, read Indigenous woman [at least until the glitch is corrected].

The things I liked best about this paper: that it was there at all, the thinking of an Indigenous thinker shared in public space, and what her sources for discussion were, the topic she chose, the approach she used, the edginess or failure to make distinction between intimate realms and what is played out on stage: eg pretty much the whole thing.

I have a relationship with each of her sources-- only one have I read/received in whole, the rest familliar to me through excerpt and through conversations with other artists who felt a need to speak in response to their receiving of and/or discussions and thinking about the theatrical works. It is actually a relatively rare thing, for me, to read literary criticism that takes on topics of interest to me using sources familiar to me: what a treat!

As a miscegenated person and mother of miscegenated persons, I have a raft-- a wealth-- of sensory inputs gathered and observations made over many years, to bring to bear on her thoughts and discussion: far too many in fact to even begin, here in a short blogburst of opinion. 

Further, I haven't seen or read the full text of any of the theatrical works under discussion, only Janice Acoose' fine work, so the centre of argument or response would be in engaging with the ethical and thought propositions, in further exploring the realms of domestic justice, looking more deeply into how we think about reality as we experience it, engage with it, reflect upon it, and as it is reflected back to us through literary forms. 

Or, of course, I could rattle around until I found the needed texts, and read or re-read all, prior to putting word to screen or paper. Lots of options, really.

What I would most like to do at this point is simply to draw attention to the essay, and invite readers to follow the link, and to engage: read, feel, think.

Being Invisible Can Kill You
  Inter-racial Intimacy, Indigenous Women, and the Imposition of Colonial Notions of Femininity in Canadian Drama

Sources: VPL poster for event, Dr. Grace Woo speaking about the work presented between the covers of her new book; essay by Starleigh Grass on meta-talon, Talon Books website.


Starleigh Grass said...

Thanks for discussing my work :)

That is a typo. I should contact them and see if they'll correct it.

Being mixed myself it was a little bit weird to write, but I genuinely do think it was an underlying theme in the play that was worth discussing.

Joanne Arnott said...

welcome~ it was a good read! i look forward to reading the plays or seeing them performed, & reading more of your essays, too