Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map…

(A note to the editors, if you wanted to embed this video to aid in the digestion of this post, ‘twould be alright…)

Louis C.K has a bit (referenced above) about ‘Indians’… It goes something like this:

White Man sails to landfall and disembarks. He sees Indigenous People and assumes they are on the subcontinent of India because that’s what the White Mans maps tell them to assume…

WM “Are you Indians?”
IP “Nope.”
WM “Are you sure?”
IP “Yep”
WM “This is not India?”
IP “Nope. Totally other place.”
WM “Are you sure you’re sure?”
IP “Yep. Pretty sure.”
WM “Nah!! You’re Indians.”

And identity politics is born. Of course since Indigenous People can neither read nor write the language of White Man until much later, nor make maps of his own, the name ‘Indian” sticks. White Man can’t be bothered to either fact check or correct himself, he’s too busy being colonial and all…

Over time the White Man starts to lose his grip upon hegemony and Black Man gains some freedoms. The White Women follows. They start to say ‘wait a minute… they were called ‘Indians’ by colonial mistake. That’s offensive.’ They decide, in the neonatal stages of ‘political correctness,’ that they should, instead, be called ‘Native American.’ However, and here’s the thing, even Native American is wrong!!! The word ‘America’ is merely the imprimatur of the MAPMAKER, Amerigo Vespucci, White Man.

Of course White Man objects to all this renaming and speaking against the mistakes of the past. After all, who wants to be reminded of his brutalist hegemony and offhand mistakes? Any colonial power could have made them and, after all? Anyways, that was then and this is now, and all this ‘correction’ is the tyranny of ‘political correctness.’ White Man feels victimized to have it pointed out just exactly who, and how much, he has victimized others. And the backlash against ‘identity politics’ –which politics was essentially a mistaken assumption, in hubris, of a maps validity– is born.

I used to assume that without a map, one could get lost. Now I know that with one, you can also get lost…



Discuss

4 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. And when you put the two terms together...

    …you end up with a Smithsonian National Museum of the AMERICAN INDIAN, which IIRC was a name approved of by the population in question. To be fair the native peoples did this to each other too. Many tribes have names which roughly translate as simply “the people” with the implication that everyone else is “other”.

    • Really Christopher?

      AMERICAN INDIAN … a name approved of by the population in question.

      What did they do, round up all the red skinned folk and march them to a polling place?

      • I don't know the procedural details...

        …but yes, it is my understanding that representatives of our native populations who were involved in developing this museum agreed that this was an appropriate name for it.

      • ...

        AMERICAN INDIAN … a name approved of by the population in question.

        What did they do, round up all the red skinned folk and march them to a polling place?

        … tangential to this discussion is an anecdote from the late eighties or early 90′s when someone who owned either the Cleveland Indians or the Atlanta Braves was involved in local politics (I dont’ remember which and it’s not important enough to look up…). Some ‘outside agitators’ had, in trying to get at the owner made a stink about the name (either ‘Braves’ or “Indians”) being a relic of colonialism and offensive and condescending (not unlike more recent efforts to embarrass the owner of the Washington Redskins). Some intrepid reporter from a local newspaper went to some of the local tribes and asked them what they thought and they were ok with it…

        I learned this anecdote from a severely conservative friend who loved nothing more than to point out ‘political correctness’ and how, in his mind, the local tribes having been ok with name, answered the question. But, as I mentioned in the kerfuffle EBIII started with Pablo, the target of either an insult or a mistake (or both) doesn’t necessarily get to arbitrate the issue. Pablo, in that instance, didn’t feel offended and said so. And that’s fine for Pablo and he’s moved on. But that doesn’t excuse the behavior of the other party.

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Mon 27 Mar 8:40 AM