Famed author JK Rowling has been in the news of late. Her recently released History of Magic in North America stumbles over a number of insensitive cultural hot points, not least of which is her characterization of Native Americans.
Simon Moya-Smith, culture editor at Indian Country Today, explains why the conversation is important, but he couldn't care less about JK Rowling's fiction, because it is fiction. Moya-Smith reminds us that our public school textbooks spread deeper lies.
What matters here, folks, in this debate over J.K. Rowling's latest work is the language society uses – the language that is still taught to kids in schools today about Native Americans and our spiritualities.
Think about it: How in the living hell can a child differentiate alleged fact from fiction if schools continue to teach students that Native Americans practiced magic? Note I used the past tense of 'practice.' There are very few lessons in grade schools that provide any information on contemporary Native American societies. Super sad, but super true.
And let me leave you with this, home skillet:
Twitter turns 10-years-old this month. Facebook is 12-years-old. Social media, then, is prepubescent. It's still trying to figure out why the hell hair is growing down there. But it's through this peach-fuzzy platform that people are only now learning that Native Americans ARE STILL ALIVE. Seriously. Previous to the ubiquity of social media, propelled by the proliferation of the Web, people thought Indians were either dead or living in teepees. Ask any bona fide Indian and they'll tell you they've be subjected to some asinine query concerning where they live, and if they are REALLY an Indian. Lucky for us, thanks to Twitter, Instagram, etc., these curious Q&A sessions are quickly becoming blunders of the past.
But do you know what else social media has done? It has provided the Native American voice to the non-Native American, and at once it has revealed to them that the U.S. education system is largely full of shit, that they have been lied to the majority of their lives concerning indigenous peoples, and that, in fact, Native Americans ARE NOT casting spells, we ARE NOT living in teepees, and that white people actually drink far, FAR, more than we do. Avada kedavra to that stereotype, muggle.
So it's up to you: You can read J.K. Rowling's "History of Magic in North America," or a U.S. History textbook. Both illustrate Native Americans as magical creatures. Just make sure your kids know which has the most fiction … probably the U.S. history text. Cheers.