". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cultural Mis-Appropriation - Mainstream, *The Help*, Novel and Film -- And Gettysburg

SF/F genre writers and their fanfic writers have been having this discussion for quite some time. With The Help opening tonight here in NYC, this discussion has hit the mainstream. It is around, as seems to happen most often, a white woman writer taking black experience, particularly black women's experience, and making it about her and the white sensibility about what is the real lives of black women -- and thereby also reaping career and profit. Right at the moment on the NYC largest public radio station, the biggest broadcaster of NPR and PRI programming, WNYC, on the Brian Lehrer show this discussion is happening. It might be worth our time to tune it in over the innertubz, particularly the white women who call in about the novel on which The Help is based. They haven't had the advantage of Ally 100 or Mis-appropriation 100, or even Magic Negro 100. They couldn't put down this novel about black maids in Civil Rights era in Mississippi as told by a white woman. "I just loved it gave me a window into a world I never thought about, and how victimized they (meaning the white ladies who employed those maids) were in those days, both white and black." Earlier this week Nelson George wrote about these same issues in the NY Times around this novel and the film, in his article , "Black-and-White Struggle With a Rosy Glow," here.
This is an interesting bookend to that of Ta-Nehisi Coates' meditation on his visit this week to the Gettysburg battlefield, and the history of his thoughts about this battle specifically and the Civil War generally, his thoughts as an African American, whose legacy of these things he puts into this equation:
(White Folks)[Kidnapped+Whip+Rape(Lynch+March+Beatings)]=You

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