Canada and cultural appropriation?


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Thread: Canada and cultural appropriation?

  1. #1

    Canada and cultural appropriation?

    Are there any other Canadian writers here nervous about including first Nations characters and situations in their fiction?

    I grew up with, went to school with, am friends with, worked and played with First Nations people and I include them in my stories.

    Considering the current political climate though, as a non First Nations person I'm cautious about even submitting my work to publishers.

  2. #2
    Member KHK's Avatar
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    In all honesty, I am sick and tired of hearing about this PC crap.
    Write whatever you see fit, give it to your First Nations friends to read, and if they don't mind and have no objections, treat everything else as just noise.
    All these self-righteous social justice warriors are not worth your concern.

  3. #3
    Just do your research extremely well AND have it beta read (or, is possible, written alongside or in consultation with) First Nations people — preferably those who are also intimately familiar with the history of their culture and I think you’ll be fine. I think you’re right to be concerned. It’s really not an “SJW” issue but simply an issue of accuracy, right? You wouldn’t write a cook book without understanding the ingredients.

  4. #4
    I'm with KHK on this.
    If you listen to the social justice extremists then you would only be able to write about people of your own ethnicity.
    That's bunk. We are writers, and if you can write about space aliens, then you can sure as hell write about people of other ethnic groups.

    But if you don't wanna get trolled for it, then do your homework and write them right.
    Write real people.

  5. #5
    Member KHK's Avatar
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    I completely agree with the accuracy part.
    Unless the author intends to deliberately (or by omission) insult whatever group of people - in which case I don't want any interaction with such author altogether - any characters should be three-dimensional human beings. Yes, with their strengths and flaws - but not caricatures.

    But I believe the original question was not about this.
    MichelD asked specifically about "cultural appropriation" which I, personally, consider a purely SJW, "woke" concept that should itself be seen as offensive by any thinking individual that is not paternalistic to any group of people.
    The idea that this group of people may have some special veto right on any artifacts of their culture is utterly bizarre in my eyes.

    P.S. This is coming from someone who's gone through 2 immigrations, speaks 3 languages, and belongs to a very sensitive and easily offended group of people

  6. #6
    I'm Canadian, but I've never written about first nations people particular in a story yet. I have written some short film screenplays, where first nations people were cast in it later, as some of the characters though, but no race was specified on paper. That probably doesn't help though the OP though.

  7. #7
    I agree with KHK--don't worry about the noise. Research, have beta readers, but don't be scared to write what you want to. As long as you love your characters and care about them--you're good. You might mess up but you can always fix it. It seems like writing First Nations characters comes naturally to you. I say write them--I don't see a lot of Native characters in fiction and if you're doing your best to represent them well, I think that's awesome. There's always going to be people who won't like aspects of what you write, and while you should listen to criticism, don't listen to people who say you can't write a certain race/culture because you aren't that. Writing for me is about going outside myself and delving into characters and experiences not my own--not haphazardly, but with research and care. So as long as you're doing that, you're good.
    "ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
    forget your perfect offering
    there is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
    that's how the light gets in."

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by KHK View Post
    I completely agree with the accuracy part.
    But I believe the original question was not about this.
    MichelD asked specifically about "cultural appropriation" which I, personally, consider a purely SJW, "woke" concept that should itself be seen as offensive by any thinking individual that is not paternalistic to any group of people.
    The idea that this group of people may have some special veto right on any artifacts of their culture is utterly bizarre in my eyes.
    Yes, but that's a sociological/political point and of tenuous relevance to writing.

    This type of topic has been discussed and debated on this board ad nauseum. I appreciate you are a newer member so may not be aware of that, but a very brief search of threads going back only a matter of a few weeks and months will demonstrate to you quite plainly that nobody on this board would say that any topics are off-limits to any writer, or that any demographic has a veto. In short: Nobody needs to go there with the 'I hate SJW's' stuff, it's a non-issue with adult, sane people. Every single time the matter comes up here, the tantrums, and ultimately the agreement, end broadly with agreement.

    The only question worth discussing, where reasonable people may disagree, is what level of care should be taken to certain topics with regard to accuracy, and how to minimize (reasonable) accusations of opportunism and carelessness with regard to culture, race, religion, etc. That is a perfectly valid question and the only one relevant to 'appropriation'. Indeed, that's what the adult-level definition of 'appropriation' actually means, not simply 'you can't touch X because you are Y'. Nobody sane-minded believes that.

    As stated: The OP is right to tread carefully, however provided they do the necessary research and ensure they listen to the opinions of First Nation people prior to hitting the 'publish' button, they should not feel gagged. I assume everybody agrees.
    Last edited by luckyscars; January 7th, 2020 at 01:41 PM.

  9. #9
    Member KHK's Avatar
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    Nice!
    It was worth joining this forum, if for no other reason, to get the most polite and eloquent dressing down I've ever received!
    Leaving aside the search tips, I concur that this is probably going to be yet another case of a discussion ending broadly with an agreement.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by MichelD View Post
    Are there any other Canadian writers here nervous about including first Nations characters and situations in their fiction?
    I am a Canadian writer and I am nervous about including first nations characters and situations in my work. So it seems that this question is addressed to me.

    First of all, it is not characters that I'm so concerned about, it's cultural appropriation. I know there's a lot of flack about self-righteous PC crap. That's just noise as far as I'm concerned. There is a real issue at stake and that is stereotyping and the reinterpretation of history from a naive or false point of reference which is very easy to do when it's a member of the dominant culture assuming things about members of the subordinate culture.

    It is laughable to compare writing about indigenous people to writing about space aliens. As far as we know, there are no space aliens on the planet. Anything ever written about space aliens in the past or future is pure fiction. There is no one to offend or harm by false assertions. There is no stereotype contrary to history to
    reinforce. Space aliens haven't been slaughtered, enslaved, raped, relocated, poisoned, tortured, stripped of there homeland, their human rights, their culture, language, history or future, nor have they been exploited for personal fame and glory. There aren't any space aliens and never have been. On the other hand, indigenous people are real people with a real history and no one should be making shit up about them.

    There is a difference between cultural appropriation and including ethnic characters in a work of fiction. The difference should be obvious. And obviously, one should never make assumptions about history or culture that one doesn't have clear knowledge of. Growing up with Indian friends isn't good enough.
    Last edited by TL Murphy; January 7th, 2020 at 10:52 PM.

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