Canada | Opinion

Tiffany Midge: A response to winning the cultural appropriation prize






The spring 2017 issue of Write: The Magazine of The Writers' of Union of Canada, which features indigenous voices, includes a controversial opinion piece on cultural appropriation by a non-Native. Image: Writers' of Union of Canada

The editor of Write magazine in Canada resigned and apologized after penning a controversial opinion on cultural appropriation in an issue that was meant to celebrate indigenous voices. Poet Tiffany Midge, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, isn't impressed with Hal Niedzviecki's explanation for taking on the issue:
Hal Niedzviecki writes: I don’t believe in cultural appropriation. In my opinion, anyone, anywhere should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities. I’d go so far as to say that there should even be an award for doing so—the Appropriation Prize for best book by an author who writes about people who aren’t even remotely like her or him.

My response: I don’t believe in white supremacist primo douche canoes who windbag about subjects they clearly have no understanding of. In my opinion, people such as yourself, should not be encouraged to imagine themselves foremost experts about other cultures, other identities. I’d go so far as to say that there should even be an award for doing so—the Flaming Bag of Poo Prize for Best D-Bag Move by an Editor Propagating Appropriation and Racism.

Niedzviecki writes: The idea of cultural appropriation discourages writers from taking up the challenge, which is at least one reason why CanLit subject matter remains exhaustingly white and middle-class. The bulk of its producers are white and middle-class, and hesitant as they are to be accused of borrowing too heavily from the other for their own enrichment, they mostly follow the classic first rule of writing: Write what you know.

My response: The idea of promoting cultural appropriation encourages white writers to continue cultural theft practices, which is at least one reason why CanLit (and AmerLit) Indigenous subject matter remains exceedingly dominated by white writers stealing from cultures not their own. The bulk of its producers are white and middle-class, and not hesitant whatsoever about appropriating intellectual property, and don’t mind in the least being accused of stealing too heavily from “The Other” for their own benefit; they mostly follow the classic first rule of writing: Write what you can steal.

Read More on the Story:
Tiffany Midge: Hal Niedzviecki, Here Is Your Award for Propagating Appropriation and Racism (Indian Country Media Network 5/20)