Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Editor of Write resigns for writing column promoting "cultural appropriation"

Hal Niedzviecki
Hal Niedzviecki has resigned from his position as editor of Write, the quarterly magazine of the Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC) as the result of furious criticism of an opinion article he wrote in its latest issue. In it, he said that he rejects the notion of "cultural appropriation" and went so far as to encourage writers "to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities" and compete for the "appropriation prize".

Other contributors to the magazine and to the particular issue (which was themed mostly with articles from indigenous people) were outraged and said so on social media, noting that their articles were specifically against cultural appropriation, which involves taking over creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. An example of the furor was a Facebook post by Helen Knott, a TWUC member and a contributor to the issue. 
“I am seriously disgusted that someone would use the Indigenous issue of Write as a jump point for a case for cultural appropriation on the backs, words, and reputations of the Indigenous writers featured in it. It’s not enough that we are finding our voices, reclaiming our ability to tell stories, and having to heal to tell these stories. But people want to tell them for us.” 
TWUC issued an apology which said, in part 
"The (article) offended and hurt readers, contributors to the magazine and members of the editorial board," said the union, noting the magazine is intended "to offer space for honest and challenging discussion and to be sincerely encouraging to all voices." 
"The union recognizes that intention is not enough, and that we failed in execution in this instance. We remain dedicated to honouring the very hard work we have set ourselves, and to taking responsibility for systemic wrongs in which we as an institution with a place in helping to define Canadian culture have participated."
Niedzviecki, who is also an author and founder and editor of Broken Pencil magazine says now 
“I started out kind of flippantly and I think that I failed to recognize how charged (the term cultural appropriation) is and how deeply painful acts of cultural appropriation have been to indigenous peoples,” he told the Toronto Star
“Sometimes the things that you’re trying to convey aren’t being conveyed in the right way.” He hoped that, in the future, the writers he worked with “would be willing to talk to me and dialogue with me about why it happened.” 
“I’m certainly going to be thinking about this incident in the future when I write. At the same time I think it is important that we engage with each other, that we speak respectfully to each other about our differences of opinion. I don’t think we want to have a chill on expressing ideas,” he said.

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