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Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 06:32 PM
I'm giving my WIP that final go over and as I read the following passage it ocurred to me that maybe someone might be offended by it. Or maybe not. I'm not sure, so I put the question to you, is the description of the character, a Native American, stereotyping? And if so, should I make him look -- oh, I don't know -- Jewish? ;) (I'm thinking of the controversy over Star Wars I where the character who Anaikin was indentured to was blasted for being a blatant Jewish stereotype.)

Anyway...



I shook hands with John Menomonee. He had a strong handshake and an even stronger aura. It shown bright red indicating he was either very energetic or that he was very powerful magic-wise.

He had a strong jaw and a hawk-like nose that looked like it had been broken several times and allowed to heal unset. His shock white hair was long and held back in a ponytail.

His dark pinstriped suit hugged him perfectly. There wasn't a bulge or crease in view. I've seen GQ models that looked more slovenly.

"Have a seat, please," he said as he settled himself behind his desk. I noted that his desk was clean and organized, obviously the sign of a sick mind.

His dark eyes glittered as they watched me but they betrayed no emotion, reminiscent of his namesake. [ed. His Native American name if Flying Snake, revealed earlier in the story.] "You didn't say what it was you needed to see me about, Mister...?"

"Tromonte, but call me Alex, please," I said.

"And you may call me, John," he returned. "Now, this is about?"

"I'm interested in tribal superstitions."

"I'm a lawyer, or was a lawyer. I retired last year. Now I just handle simple legal matters for the tribe. If you want to discuss superstitions, you should see a..." he paused as a mocking smile crossed his lips and then finished, "witch doctor."

alleycat
03-06-2007, 06:42 PM
I don't think I've never heard "witch doctor" used for an American Indian tribe. I've heard "medicine man". I believe there are other terms that are used as well.

pink lily
03-06-2007, 06:47 PM
Ditto to "medicine man" unless your character uses "witch doctor" as a slur to mock medicine men. Also, you have a typo, "He had a strong handshake and an even stronger aura. It shown bright red" should be "It shone bright red."

Your description does not appear to foster a racial stereotype, to me.

PeeDee
03-06-2007, 06:50 PM
The smile before he said "witch doctor" made me think he meant it sarcastically and cynically, so I don't mind that at all.

I thought it was a solid description. Not racist at all. But then, all that jabber from the Star Wars movie was silly, silly talk anyway. They had to work pretty hard to find a way to make Sebulba seem like a Jewish legend. It was pretty pathetic.

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 06:52 PM
Medicine man. Yeah, I was having the Native American character use witch doctor as a slur. There is an undercurrent of confrontation between the two that comes in later in the conversation until they get to know each other better.

And shone. Thanks.

Cav Guy
03-06-2007, 06:53 PM
People will find something racist and/or stereotypical in just about anything if they are of a mind to do so. That said, either medicine man, shaman, or wise man might be more fitting for proper reference to a native practitioner. If he's being sarcastic, as PD suggested, then stick with witch doctor. He could also be casting his own aspersions on what he considers "less pure" native practices, depending on the character.

davids
03-06-2007, 07:16 PM
No

just_a_girl
03-06-2007, 07:17 PM
Obviously I'm reading this passage out of context, but I'm wondering if Native Americans would refer to their religious beliefs as "superstitions" or call their spiritual leaders "witch doctors?"

RJLeahy
03-06-2007, 07:24 PM
I agree with the rest. Simply describing a character with specific racial traits, is not racist, and much preferable I think, to having everyone "homogenous".

Also, your description of a Native American character was much kinder than the one from my latest work:

He had a face like leather, creased and pitted, as though someone had left a baseball mitt in the rain for a week, then beaten it with a rock. These weren't just age lines, they were crevices you could loose change in. I've seen weather damaged skin before, but this was ridiculous. I've thrown out better looking shoes.

Judg
03-06-2007, 07:27 PM
I agree with the rest. Simply describing a character with specific racial traits, is not racist, and much preferable I think, to having everyone "homogenous".

Also, your description of a Native American character was much kinder than the one from my latest work:

He had a face like leather, creased and pitted, as though someone had left a baseball mitt in the rain for a week, then beaten it with a rock. These weren't just age lines, they were crevices you could loose change in. I've seen weather damaged skin before, but this was ridiculous. I've thrown out better looking shoes.
Psst. That's lose, not loose.

RJLeahy
03-06-2007, 07:28 PM
thanks judg. At work, typing from memory here.:)

Judg
03-06-2007, 07:31 PM
Ah. Thought it was from the manuscript and thought you would want to know.

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 07:40 PM
Obviously I'm reading this passage out of context, but I'm wondering if Native Americans would refer to their religious beliefs as "superstitions" or call their spiritual leaders "witch doctors?"
Well, the MC, who is a white American male like me, said superstitions. So that is partly why the NA character replied with the sarcastic "witch doctor."

benbradley
03-06-2007, 07:41 PM
It's clear this lawyer is looking down at this medicine man/"witch doctor" stuff, but what about this Alex Tromonte, the first-person speaker? He says:
"I'm interested in tribal superstitions."
and the word superstition has negative connotations. This tells me he himself is either ignorant or biased against Native American medicine and religious/spiritual beliefs (it appears these things are closely tied together). It may be better for him to say "I'm interested in tribal medicine" or "I'm interested in tribal religious beliefs" (showing that he already has at least a speck of knowledge about the subject, and respect for others' beliefs) and then let the other speaker bring up superstitions or similar words.

If ALL such characters are biased, the idea may come accross that the AUTHOR is biased.

If you're concerned that someone may be offended that you have a character who stereotypes a group of people, I say don't worry, people do this in real life all the time, and you're just depicting it in your story. But of course as everyone says, it should be an integral part of the story and push it forward, bla bla bla.

Sweetlebee
03-06-2007, 07:42 PM
I'm not quite so sure about the hawk-like nose. I picture some of those sports mascots that are highly offensive to Native Americans. I'd personally get a Native American's opinion.

Toothpaste
03-06-2007, 07:50 PM
well the only thing I really thought might, might, be a problem is in fact the red aura. As of course native americans were often reffered to as red skins. Can you make it a different colour?

(I also agree a bit about the hawk like nose, could you say roman nose? That would confuse people nicely!)

Sweetlebee
03-06-2007, 08:02 PM
I noticed the red reference too but thought the mention of a red aura was a theme. If it's only used in this one instance for this particular character, I'd avoid it too.

Judg
03-06-2007, 08:05 PM
(I also agree a bit about the hawk like nose, could you say roman nose? That would confuse people nicely!)
Ah, but Roman noses are something different.

Judg, who is married to an Italian with a Roman nose.

ChaosTitan
03-06-2007, 08:07 PM
Saying the nose was "hawk-like" drew a very clear picture of the man's nose. I didn't think it was a stereotype, just a description.

Then again, I'm not Native American. *passes a grain of salt*

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 08:16 PM
well the only thing I really thought might, might, be a problem is in fact the red aura. As of course native americans were often reffered to as red skins. Can you make it a different colour?

(I also agree a bit about the hawk like nose, could you say roman nose? That would confuse people nicely!)
I could change the color, it didn't occur to me that red and "red skin" might be connected. I didn't pick that color at random, but chose red because it's a sign of high energy by those who believe in such things.



Red
A vibrant red is usually seen around children before the age of puberty. It reflects their boundless energy and enthusiasm for life. People who are very active or sporty often have a vibrant red aura. Darker reds are a sign of anger and can show in someone who is bad tempered or violent.

For instance, my MC has already met a farmer who has a green aura. Green thumb? Get it? Huh? Because green, accordingly shows a love of the outdoors or a closeness to nature.

swvaughn
03-06-2007, 08:21 PM
I'm part Native American, does that count? :D

I agree with PeeDee on the witch doctor bit. I saw it as sarcasm, too. And "hawk-nosed" is a general term to describe a particularly shaped nose, which is a common trait among Native Americans. So I don't think it's stereotypical.

I used to work at a McDonalds about a half-mile from an Iroquois reservation. You wouldn't believe how politically INcorrect the tribe there is. They refer to themselves as "Indians" or even "Injuns", and they aren't insulted when other folks refer to them in kind. The only thing that pisses them off is our governor's continual attempts to tax their cigarette stores. This causes them to shut down the portion of Route 81 (the major highway here) that is situated on their land. Personally, I'm with them. :D

(Shadow, I am completely intrigued by your story, even with just this brief excerpt to go by. It sounds like a great read!)

Toothpaste
03-06-2007, 09:02 PM
I did know that roman nose was something else, that's why I suggested it.

But really I don't think anything mentioned (aside from the medicine man) is all that offensive. I was just pointing out things that may be.

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 09:03 PM
I can't use Roman nose because it reminds me of that joke from my 1001 Insults for Every Occasion.

"You have a Roman nose. Yeah. It's roamin' all over your face!"

MidnightMuse
03-06-2007, 09:23 PM
I hear "Roman nose" and I think of horses.

lfraser
03-06-2007, 10:21 PM
I see nothing racist in your scene. But even if there were, the racism would be within the story or in the characters, not in you, the writer.

engmajor2005
03-06-2007, 10:26 PM
The smile before he said "witch doctor" made me think he meant it sarcastically and cynically, so I don't mind that at all.

I thought it was a solid description. Not racist at all. But then, all that jabber from the Star Wars movie was silly, silly talk anyway. They had to work pretty hard to find a way to make Sebulba seem like a Jewish legend. It was pretty pathetic.

It was Watto. Sebulba was his Anakin's podracing rival, and if Sebulba was any kind of racial stereotype, he was an Italian mobster.

engmajor2005
03-06-2007, 10:34 PM
Oh, and your passage did not strike me as offensive at all. But then again, if your narrator is a racist, then it's perfectly acceptable to have racist passages. I mean, if my narrator is a member of the KKK, then I'm not exactly going to say "African-American" or "Hispanic" now am I?

Tiger
03-06-2007, 10:47 PM
The only thing I see is in your bracketed comment... Most would rather their nations referenced, i.e.: "Navaho name" as opposed to, "Native American name."

But, I'm sure you took all of that into account in the passage you referenced.

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 10:48 PM
Oh, and your passage did not strike me as offensive at all. But then again, if your narrator is a racist, then it's perfectly acceptable to have racist passages. I mean, if my narrator is a member of the KKK, then I'm not exactly going to say "African-American" or "Hispanic" now am I?
No, my MC is not racist. And until mentioned here, I didn't even think superstition would be offensive. So thanks, I've done a little editing to enhance the initial conflict between the two. The MC doesn't realize saying superstition is offensive and the Menomonee character takes offense to it.

janetbellinger
03-06-2007, 11:09 PM
Well, I don't know about American Indians, but Canadian First Nations peoples don't necessarily have hawkish noses. Their noses and other facial features are as varied as those of any other group of people. I'm not sure why you have him wearing a tight fitting suit. From what I understand, First Nations men flip their ties over their shoulder and wear it that way. Also, I've never heard a First Nations (Native American in the U.S.) speak sarcastically or cynically and would likely have more respect for his heritage than to speak of witch doctors. I have taught First Nations school children and know that they have some courses taught by an elder that teach them about traditional customs. The elders do not want the young to forget their heritage. Sorry to sound critical, but you asked.


I'm giving my WIP that final go over and as I read the following passage it ocurred to me that maybe someone might be offended by it. Or maybe not. I'm not sure, so I put the question to you, is the description of the character, a Native American, stereotyping? And if so, should I make him look -- oh, I don't know -- Jewish? ;) (I'm thinking of the controversy over Star Wars I where the character who Anaikin was indentured to was blasted for being a blatant Jewish stereotype.)

Anyway...

Shadow_Ferret
03-06-2007, 11:25 PM
Well, I don't know about American Indians, but Canadian First Nations peoples don't necessarily have hawkish noses. Their noses and other facial features are as varied as those of any other group of people. I'm not sure why you have him wearing a tight fitting suit. From what I understand, First Nations men flip their ties over their shoulder and wear it that way. Also, I've never heard a First Nations (Native American in the U.S.) speak sarcastically or cynically and would likely have more respect for his heritage than to speak of witch doctors. I have taught First Nations school children and know that they have some courses taught by an elder that teach them about traditional customs. The elders do not want the young to forget their heritage. Sorry to sound critical, but you asked.

No, all good points. Exactly what I was looking for.

He is Harvard educated and has worked as a high powered lawyer in the "white man's world" for many years until he has just recently retired and come back to his "reservation" to work as their legal consultant. He wasn't being sarcastic of his heritage, he was being sarcastic of my MC's use of the word "superstition." And he likes Gucci suits. Just as you say that they have all sorts of noses, I say they have all sorts of personalities, too.

Out of curiosity, why the tie thing? And do they ALL do that?

lfraser
03-06-2007, 11:38 PM
Well, I don't know about American Indians, but Canadian First Nations peoples don't necessarily have hawkish noses. Their noses and other facial features are as varied as those of any other group of people. I'm not sure why you have him wearing a tight fitting suit. From what I understand, First Nations men flip their ties over their shoulder and wear it that way. Also, I've never heard a First Nations (Native American in the U.S.) speak sarcastically or cynically and would likely have more respect for his heritage than to speak of witch doctors. I have taught First Nations school children and know that they have some courses taught by an elder that teach them about traditional customs. The elders do not want the young to forget their heritage. Sorry to sound critical, but you asked.

Another word I have heard used by aboriginals is 'shaman.' I don't think I've ever heard a native refer to a 'witch doctor.'

To some extent facial features can be predicted by where the tribe lives or originally settled. A Dene from Hudson's bay will likely be quite short and have a broad face. But many Canadian natives are partially Scot or French Canadian, too, so racial features can be deceptive. There is no reason why an aboriginal man could NOT have a hawkish nose, either -- depending on where he is from.

There's also no reason why a native wouldn't wear a tight-fitting suit. Maybe he has a nice butt and likes showing it off, just like any other vain man.

In the effort to avoid sterotyping, we can end up tying our own hands by being afraid to say anything that mght be construed as "racist," and thus run the risk of creating a character that is utterly unrealistic and unbelievable. A native man is still a man; he will have strengths and weakenesses like any man. He may be cynical or kind or evil or good, just like any other man. His culture and upbringing and history will undoubtedly have shaped him, in the way that everyone's life shapes them. But to go out of one's way to avoid anything that might be construed as racist is a form of self-censorship.

Jenan Mac
03-07-2007, 01:12 AM
I'm not quite so sure about the hawk-like nose. I picture some of those sports mascots that are highly offensive to Native Americans. I'd personally get a Native American's opinion.


Depends on what tribe. If you're describing a Seminole as having a hawk-like nose, it'd be silly. Some others, not so much silly as expected.

Jenan Mac
03-07-2007, 01:17 AM
From what I understand, First Nations men flip their ties over their shoulder and wear it that way.

The only distinction I've noticed sartorially is an unfortunate fondness amongst some Seminole men for bolos and cowboy boots. That could be a function of location, though. Some of the white guys in south-central Florida don't dress so hot, either.

Maryn
03-07-2007, 01:34 AM
What tribe is your character? Huge differences in noses between the plains, the southern tribes, the western, etc.

I saw nothing offensive in the way the native character is portrayed. The character interacting is kind of a doofus, calling what may be his religious beliefs 'superstition,' but that's his problem.

Remember, all racial and ethnic stereotypes have a basis in fact. The reason the stereotypes exist is that there are individuals within the group who exhibit those traits or behaviors.

(FWIW, I had some disagreements about punctuation, but I'm assuming this is now a draft and all that pesky stuff will be dealt with in due time.)

Maryn, who could easily envision the character

Shadow_Ferret
03-07-2007, 01:39 AM
W
(FWIW, I had some disagreements about punctuation, but I'm assuming this is now a draft and all that pesky stuff will be dealt with in due time.)



Oh, don't say that because it's not a draft, it's a nearing the finish and I'm just going over minor consistencies. In fact, I have a query out on it.

Maryn
03-08-2007, 02:53 AM
Eek! How can I help?

janetbellinger
03-08-2007, 02:59 AM
You're absolutely right. However, it would be a good idea to run it past an Aboriginal person first, just so you covered your butt.

No, all good points. Exactly what I was looking for.

He is Harvard educated and has worked as a high powered lawyer in the "white man's world" for many years until he has just recently retired and come back to his "reservation" to work as their legal consultant. He wasn't being sarcastic of his heritage, he was being sarcastic of my MC's use of the word "superstition." And he likes Gucci suits. Just as you say that they have all sorts of noses, I say they have all sorts of personalities, too.

Out of curiosity, why the tie thing? And do they ALL do that?

Shadow_Ferret
03-12-2007, 08:38 PM
Eek! How can I help?
You could, stop, making fun, of my, punctuation! For starters.

Melanie Nilles
03-12-2007, 09:22 PM
Coming from an area so close to a reservation, I have one other observation. At least among the more traditional Native Americans in this area (mostly Lakota and Dakota), they don't use firm hand shakes, or even offer a hand shake but if are approached with one from someone else will give a very light one, and will not make eye contact immediately upon greeting a stranger. They are very respectful of other people, a very gentle culture in the traditional sense. The younger people and those who live off the reservation, and in particular those in higher positions in their jobs are more like any American in their culture, a kind of mix of both worlds.

I've encountered all kinds living here. I prefer those who have stuck to their traditional roots. Those are very nice, respectful people. There are a few bad apples that give them all a bad name, but you can't let that influence your overall view.

HTH.

Melanie

Sassenach
03-12-2007, 09:59 PM
I think this is stereotyping:

You're absolutely right. However, it would be a good idea to run it past an Aboriginal person first, just so you covered your butt.


I've encountered all kinds living here. I prefer those who have stuck to their traditional roots. Those are very nice, respectful people. There are a few bad apples that give them all a bad name, but you can't let that influence your overall view.

:::::::::::::::

The first dumps all Native people into one category, and assumes that any one of them is qualified to make judgments about a specific fictional character. Would this advice also be applicable to other "ethnic" characters? Should a writer find a Jewish or Puerto Rican or Irish, etc. reader to make sure your "butt is covered"?

The second comment is, IMO, condescending.