Tuesday, August 05, 2008

What is wrong with celebrating diversity?

Among the ALA newsletters I get is one from Booklinks. The theme of the August 2008 issue is "Celebrating Multicultural Literature." I think "celebrate" is a problematic way to approach this body of literature.

Celebrations are meant to mark an event or moment or accomplishment. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We do this with cake, balloons, and sometimes, with the exchange of gifts.

As a Native woman, parent, educator, I don't want my Nativeness to be celebrated with material objects. I'd much prefer a fundamental respect for who I am, who Pueblo peoples are, who Native peoples are... I don't want to be honored, on a pedestal...

When we 'celebrate' culture by eating the foods of that culture, or making a craft of that culture, what are we doing? When we plan that sort of activity, what are we conveying, and what are we leaving out or ignoring?

What does it mean to respect a culture/people?

For me, it means an honest presentation of history, of issues, of present day struggle and success... All of it. The good and the bad, the matter of fact. It means publishing books that tell all of that.

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rebecca rabinowitz said...

Ugh. The very concept of Multicultural Literature reinforces the assumption that "normative" literature, the starting place for any multicultural attempts, is white. It makes it sound like if there were to be only one literature, of course it would be white, and anything not-white is kind of a "mix-in," or an addition.

tyiatime said...

i never thought of it that way...it seemed like such a positive word...but when you put it that way it does allow for a "tourist" view of other cultures as well as glossing over the very obvious "exotic" features of the "other"...thanks for the perspective...