Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Toni Morrison: "racially inflected language"

I am rereading Joel Taxel's "Multicultural Literature and the Politics of Reaction" wherein he quotes Toni Morrison saying there is "no escape from racially inflected language." I hear that kind of language all the time. Many examples come to mind, such as "sit Indian style" or "off the reservation" or "Indian giver" or "on the warpath." Which ones come to your mind?

Joel's article is as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1997. He writes about the NRA and right wing talk radio.

One thing that needs doing, however, is a shift in categorizing American Indians as part of the "multicultural population" in the U.S. This is not meant as a criticism of Joel or anyone who studies children's lit. It is my effort to bring scholarship and writings of Native people into Children's literature. We are a minority and we are underrepresented but... Due to our status as sovereign nations, there is a legal and political dimension that sets us apart from other groups. I am working on an article about that difference.

3 comments:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

>I am working on an article about that difference.

Thank you. This is an topic where education is much needed.

Kaia said...

My colleagues would often use a totem pole metaphor to talk about the layoff policies of our district--you know, "low man on the totem pole."

Debbie Reese said...

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, in his "Great News for Boehner" piece wrote:

"Small government diehard Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has announced that he's going off the reservation and won't vote for the new continuing resolution (to keep the government running) endorsed by Speaker Boehner and the GOP leadership."

The racially inflected language he used is 'OFF THE RESERVATION.' Reservations were set up by the federal government as a place to confine Indian people. There were government agents assigned to the reservations. They had a great deal of control and power, and abused that control and power.

Indians who left the reservation to hunt---without permission of the agent---were considered out of bounds and out of control. Hence, "off the reservation" came to mean out of control.