Has this ever happened to you?
You hold the door for a disabled person and offend them.
You ask someone for their preferred pronoun and get an appalled reaction.
You make a comment to engage a minority member and single them out.
Every single time I meet someone new, they will ask me, in order, 1-Where is my accent from? 2-Where in Italy was I born? 3-Then they proceed to tell me about their great-grandfather who was born in Sicily.
After seventeen years in the United States, it's a struggle to remember that people are trying to connect with me rather than remind me all the reasons I don't belong here.
Truth is, that no matter how hard we try, it's impossible to make everyone happy. Some disabled people will love help, some won't.
This is different from cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation, or rather, mis-appropriation, means mimicking the behavior of a specific ethnic group without understanding the cultural meaning of such behavior, possibly for amusement.
Examples: insensitive Halloween costumes, faking any accent ever.
However, there are some gray areas. For example, when I moved here in 2003, my American English was terrible, and I soaked up slang and colloquialisms. I was appalled when a coworker told me off for using a "typical African American" expression.
"So what?" I thought.
_Was I wrong or was the person telling me off reinforcing a cultural divide?_ It's still a gray area to me.
On to the issue at hand.
I live in Buffalo, New York, which is geographically intertwined with native lands specifically belonging to Seneca natives. Yet, in the seventeen years I have lived here, I have heard nothing of Seneca culture. So, I documented myself and learned about it through native blogs and books (by native authors).
As an author, I want to give a voice to the Seneca natives of my community. Particularly, I want to break some harmful stereotypes (see Pocahontas and the negative reactions it caused in native communities).
Can a non-native author speak for a native community? Of course not. In fact, unless someone is elected as an official spokesperson, no one should ever speak for a community!
We are individuals, with subjective views and experiences.
The conundrum: can a non-native author write a native character?
Thankfully, a number of native blogs offer excellent guidance on the topic. For example, "Indian Country" on Reddit is an excellent source of information.
The book I am working on is a sci-fi romance titled "In the Arms of Morpheus," and I am now seeking native collaborators (possibly Seneca) to gauge their point of view and/or hire them as beta readers.
I am hoping to empower a fundamental minority within my community and bring you an awesome novel at the same time <3
What do you think? Have you ever been offended by fictional content that misrepresented a group you identify with?