Thursday, July 11, 2013

Letting First Nations Peoples Speak for Themselves: Native American Graphic Novel and Comic Book Creators Discuss Their Craft

In our earlier conversation about the Lone Ranger movie and Johnny Depp's depiction of Tonto, I shared how I do not typically take the liberty of getting offended on behalf of others. Why? Because in many instances this intervention can rob people of their own agency. Moreover, when the privileged speak for the "Other", the conversation can often be more about the in-group working through its own issues of Power and identity as opposed to giving voice to those who may (for whatever reason) be rendered "voiceless" in many contexts.

I am not rejecting the power of empathy or shared struggle. I am a firm believer in the powerful concept known as "political race" where different groups, often separated by the dividing lines of race and class, work together in the interest of a shared goal and thus reconfigure their social identities to that end. Effective social change work should be predicated on a relationship of equals, and not one where the privileged are the "senior" partner and the less advantaged are delegated to second class citizenship in their own movement or struggle.

Our First Nations brothers and sisters can speak for themselves regarding questions of race and representation. The above panel at the Phoenix Comicon was a great find. Praise these Intertubes. As a reader of comics and graphic novels, I learned about some new titles and artists-writer-creators which I will now seek out.  As someone who is always trying to be a better listener, and to allow other people of color to narrate their own struggles and exercise agency, sharing this panel panel is obligatory (in the best sense of the word).


Daniel Goldberg said...

This is great, Chaunce. Thanks for posting on this again. It's an important issue, one I struggle with, though I worry that even the struggle is narcissistic. (Reminds me of Achebe's classic criticism of Heart of Darkness, that it casts the entire continent of Africa as the background for the dissolution of one European mind).

For too long, white men have subsumed the voices of First Nations peoples. FN people do no need white people to save them, and they certainly do not need white people to speak for them either.

So how can a white man help? STFU and listening is the first step, of course, and I work pretty hard at that (doesn't come at all naturally for me!). Can I do more? How can i help?

To be cont'd, surely.

(And I love the idea of political race, BTW. Thanks!)

chauncey devega said...

I am not a First Nations brother. I think what we can do to help each other is first to be human beings who are good listeners, empathetic, and respectful of each other as people. The Golden Rule and all that other stuff we learned in kindergarten still applies.

Re: political race, that is from Guiner and Torres' book The Miner's Canary. I think you would find it of use and great interest.

Daniel Goldberg said...

Yeah, wouldn't be the first time I've overthought things. :-) I'll check out the book, thanks!

chauncey devega said...

Better to overstand as my Zulu Nation and 5 percent nations brothers would say :)