Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Eyes

I'd really like to make it clear, for anyone who was offended by yesterday's post, that I am sorry. When the comment was made, "Well, you'd best ask for a picture, because for all you know, you're corresponding with an aborigine with a bone in his nose!", very simply, I took it at face value. How I read it was 'If Peter had turned out to be an Aborigine, well, Joann would have married a man with a bone in his nose.' I guess that I'm kind of oblivious like that.

Wasilla Bill is a photojournalist, and a published author, having written "The Gift of the Whale". He works with indigenous peoples of the north, documenting their lives, their customs, the people themselves. Bill's wife is Margie, who is a Navajo. He pointed out (and rightfully so), that "I will admit that I was a little taken back by the "aborigine with the bone in the nose" statement, but then all of us have some gaps in our education, so often in particular when it comes to the indigenous people of the lands that we occupy and live in. At certain points in their lives, I can imagine my parents making comparable comments regarding Native Americans - but not after they got to know my wife and the grandchildren she gave them. "

I've been thinking about that all day, and I have been bothered by it. Bill was right to point this out to me, and I am surprised that I missed it. Peter and Joann are lovely people, and while I do not know them well enough to understand what their feelings are on this topic, I would guess that these are not people who would consciously look down on others. I think that it was just a careless phrase, meant to be a joke. However, if you were an indigenous person reading those words, they might have sounded malicious. I apologize for those words. I believe that they were better left unprinted. Unfortunately, they have been printed. This puts me in an interesting dilemma. I could go back, delete them, and pretend they never existed but that would be a lie. I think that it is better to pull those words out, to look at them directly, to acknowledge them, and to apologize for them.

I have looked at them with new eyes. Again, I apologize for any offense they may have given. Thanks, Bill.


BUSH BABE said...

Deb - just catching up on some reading as we have had a rather hectic weekend. I loved hearing this story in its original form but I do understand Bill's comment.

However, can I say (as a journalist) that I loved that you DIDN't edit or change that statement. It sounds like a lovely banter between people who love each other and took some joy in the unusual fact that they had a connection BEFORE they knew what the other looked like. I'm pretty sure the line about Aborigine's was said without any kind of malice at all - simply as a illustration of 'opposite appearance' (a fact). I really believe it should be taken in that vein and not taken as any kind of racial slur. Kinda like someone saying I could have been sweet, petite and blonde - if that's what you are expecting when you meet me, you'd be shocked out of your socks!

I loved 'meeting' Peter and Joann, loved their garage door too, and hope they pop up again in your stories.

Jayne said...

As someone of Indigenous decent I wasn't offended; I don't speak for all the Indigenous Peoples of Oz but I, myself, knew it was obvious that there was no malicious intent ;)

Bill of Wasilla said...

Debbie, just for clarification, I don't think that it is ever wrong to quote someone in a story - whatever they say - unless the quote is taken out of context and thus given a meaning that the speaker did not intend. When you do quote someone, in no way does that mean that you see the world as they do.

And I, too, do not think they are people of malice and that is why I added the part about gaps in education. I'm glad that it did not offend Jayne, but I know that many people would find that comment hurtful. The easiest thing to put it in context would be to imagine a similar comment directed toward someone of African descent.

Again, my comment was not a criticism of you using the quote, but rather my reaction to the comment itself, which was not your comment. As a journalist whose work and life is mostly in indigenous communities, I continually see the hurt that similar words can bring to people.

One small correction - Margie is Apache. Lavina, my daugher-in-law, is Navajo. As both Apache and Navajo are matrilineal societies, Kalib and Jobe go with their mother's tribe and so are also members of the Navajo Nation.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Let me add, Debby (sorry for the misspelling above), you do a wonderful job with your blog and continually amaze me - and you did a good job with the post of discussion, you have nothing to be mortified about, so, please, keep it up, forge forward! When you get a chance, shoot and post a picture of the cat and dog. If you can't get them both, get the cat!