Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It seems to be really common for advocacy movements to develop Bingo sheets about what the 'other side' tends to say. Autistics.org has several here, and I kind of like them. But those Bingo sheets often give me an uneasy feeling.

And just now, I got an idea of why.

First, the background. I'm working on a story set in a universe where many mythological 'other worlds' - Faerieland, Heaven, Hell, Midgard, Olympus, etc - actually exist, as do many different gods. And then there's the Trickster, who is a mostly-neutral agent of chaos, just making sure that things keep changing. The Trickster isn't immortal, however, so he has to chose a successor, and he gets his six children to each try to change the world, in any way they choose. There's probably going to be a book about each of the kids, although it depends on how well they motivate me.

Anyway, I just had an idea, of saying that wisakecahk was the first Trickster, and based on this, one of the Trickster's kids decides to befriend a Cree girl and recruit her as a teammate. It's a spark of an idea that could help set me off into writing that story. But I'm worried that people will be offended by me, a white person, writing about Cree mythology.

So I was searching for stuff about cultural appropriation, and I found the Cultural Appropriation Bingo card. And I realized that several of the things on that card (arts always borrows, asked a person from that culture, doing it respectfully and contradiction with criticism of Anglo-centrism) are things I consider to be valid points. And the problem is, that card doesn't say anything about why they disagree with those arguments. It just says not to use those arguments.

For a person who does not know the issue, is not a part of the group affected by the issue, but earnestly wants to be respectful and understand their perspective, those Bingo cards are no help. They just attack, and shut down dialogue. I can see the usefulness of those cards for self-advocates, because those really are arguments used over and over, and realizing that can help take the sting from them - but some people really believe those arguments. And those people may want to understand why you disagree, may want to be an ally. Just telling them to not make those arguments does nothing to help them understand why not.

Now, some people may say 'it's not our duty to explain ourselves to others'. And sure, a random autistic or Native person or whatever group should not be expected to give impromptu lectures to the privileged on their differences. But if you put yourself out there and decide to be an activist, then you should be expected to explain. Not anything people ask, but those things that are relevant to your message. Furthermore, if you don't explain yourself, how can you expect them to understand you?


Blogger Mantic said...

Thank you for expressing something I often have trouble with describing :)

10:43 PM  
Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

Big Trickster fan. They can be either lawful or chaotic, as well as being neutral.

And I can see how 6 trickster-descendants might motivate you.

Some of the arguments I could come up with are more logical, and the others might be more emotional.

Loving the idea of actually-existing mythological worlds! That is terrific world-building and subverting.

I wonder if there's a bingo about mythology and things which have been done before. They can be good sometimes if what one needs are fresh ideas.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

But ... don't activists deserve a break sometimes, too? If they were explaining "101" stuff to every random person on the Internet who wants to know that could easily swamp them.

Chances are, someone frustrated enough at discrimination to go to the trouble of developing a bingo card to poke fun at it is already stressed enough and wanting to share something among other people who share their sentiments so they can release their tension together but in a fun way for a change.

Bingo cards strike me as something that is really meant for people experiencing the discrimination to have a way to deal with it--not as something to be used as an education tool. In other words, it isn't something that activists develop as part of their activism. It's something they develop as a way to take a *break* from activism so that later on, maybe they *will* have the energy to explain "101" stuff to someone if it seems worthwhile to do so.

If it doesn't make immediate sense to people not experiencing the discrimination directly -- well, so? It probably wasn't MEANT to. If it's education you're looking for, and if you need something at a 101 level, then bingo cards maybe aren't the right place to start.

Just because a bunch of people have found each other on the web and are sharing experiences with each other doesn't necessarily mean they're automatically available to explain everything they're saying AMONG THEMSELVES to people who have just now discovered their web site. They may feel a NEED to have a certain space where they DON'T have to explain everything to everyone all the time as a way of dealing with the stress of being an activist. It can let them "recharge" their energy so they can get back to being activists -- even if it means people like you are left wondering for a while longer.

4:30 AM  

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