August 11, 2010

"A savage people" in 1996 encyclopedia

On a mission to open minds

By Carol PomedayWhen Rick Gonzalez was principal of John Long Middle School in Grafton, he received numerous samples of textbooks and other reading materials.

One small book—“Young People’s Picture Encyclopedia of America”—that came across his desk in 1996 changed his life and sent him on a quest to learn his true heritage.

Gonzalez’s mother was American Indian, his father was Puerto Rican, and he spent much of his life denying, or at least ignoring, both cultures.

“On page 13, an unlucky number, there is a picture of an Indian warrior. The description reads ‘A savage people by nature with the least ability for civilization,’” Gonzalez said.
Comment:  As Gonzalez said, "This is a good example of institutional racism." How many people did this book go by before it got to the principle's desk? Writers, editors, copy editors, proofreaders, printers publishers, book reviewers, book selection committees, teachers, students, parents, administrators, et al. None of them noticed anything wrong until Gonzalez. The whole system worked together to promote the "savage Indian" stereotype.

And this was in 1996, people, not 1896. A mere 14 years ago. How is it possible to miss this in the modern era of "political correctness"?

If you need someone to find the stupid stereotypes in your work, writers, editors, and publishers, feel free hire me. There's no way I'd overlook something like this.

For more on savage stereotypes in books, see Stereotypes in Tarzan of the Apes and Savage Maori in The Wives of Henry Oades.

1 comment:

K said...

I don't know if there are Native American tribes with less "ability for civilization" that a lot of caucasian races, including my own. The movie Josie Wales disparages the Cherokee for their civilized nature.
The Cherokee dressed like Lincoln and became the presidents of the Unites States (who are not pure White) and dominate the Arts which are considered the most civilized of pursuits.
Winston Churchill was Iroquois on his American mother's side. Compared to Cherokee, less "ability for civilization". He was the World War I pioneer of tank warfare. Didn't hurt civilizaton none.