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Playwright and humourist Drew Hayden Taylor has published, in this week’s issue of NOW magazine, a defense of his new children’s play (“Spirit Horse”) and an exploration of the political and social correctness or incorrectness of using racial epithets.
Drew Hayden Taylor
Here are a few brief extracts from an article well worth reading:
In a sequence where the children try to raise money to feed the horse by busking and begging on a street corner, several passersby refer to them as “dirty Indians” and “squaws.” … On the surface, these are indeed offensive words.…
I know a lot of people, especially the older generation, that still use the term “Indian.” And with the success of Thomas King’s amazing The Inconvenient Indian, it’s reintroduced the word into polite, educated company. Still, in most ears, “squaw” surpasses all epithets several times over.
The sequence of the play in question was written to show the thin veneer that exists between a healthy society and a racist one. These things happen, and I agree, it is a tragedy that it has to appear in a play for young audiences. I am loathed to be critical of those who may be offended because for many the term “squaw” still brings back a myriad of unpleasant and emotionally-damaging memories. The term should and does raise concerns among most natives who care anything about their culture and people.
But I do not believe eliminating the words from my play or any play will solve the problem. This was exactly the same argument used to justify the exclusion of the N-word from recent editions of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a few years ago.
… getting rid of words is very seldom effective in getting rid of racism. Racism needs to be confronted head-on, looked directly in the eyes, and kicked in the groin. Issues like this should be explored in the classroom, not eliminated from plays and literature. …
Read the full article online.