Thursday, April 21, 2005

What's Black and White and Red All Over? Part I

I used to have a crush on Drew Hayden Taylor. I did because, during a moment of crisis, one of his books helped me through.

This admission comes about as a result of discovering his column in Off-Centre, a local alternative magazine. The column is called Urban Indian and the article I read was called Profiling In Black and White: A Crash Course In The Tradition of Racism. It concerns racial profiling by the Toronto police department but it's wider message is one of an inherent racism at the heart of the white psyche.

Taylor's writing was introduced to me by a friend after a bit of a traumatic encounter with Jane Ash Poitras in which she called me The Enemy. I was at the Aboriginal Achievement Awards with a group from the Banff Centre and was unfortunate enough to be the lightest skinned (unconnected) person in the group.

I was in a show at the Walter Philips Gallery at the time (one I'd rather forget, actually, but here I go, picking at the scabs again) and the pressure was on to create objects that fit everyone's ideas about what aboriginal art is all about - the land, various injustices, historical narratives, etc. Already feeling woefully ill-equipped, the Poitras incident pushed me over the deep end.

So, when I found a book of writings by Drew Taylor, a part-native humorist, I thought that, perhaps, I had found someone who I could relate to - who would speak for me from the perspective of between-ness. I read him on the way back to the Banff Centre and laughed at his family stories and nodded at his insights. I almost felt like I belonged. Almost.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you mean Poitras targeted you because you weren't dark enough to qualify you sitting at the Indian table? And does this mean the notion of native identity is based on how dark one's skin is. If that is so, most of the mix-bloods who flaunt their born again Indian status would be off the platform as they are 3rd and 4th generations removed from the rez.

12:05 PM  

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