Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Are people objects to be viewed?

I got a kick out of a story on NPR this morning.

Evidently, there is a new sky walk over the Grand Canyon. It's quite a site. The Hualapai Indian tribe opened the skywalk to generate income for their tribe.

One of the tribal members had worn a traditional beaded shawl over a long, print dress with colored ribbons on the hem. Visitors took her picture. In turn, she took pictures of them. One reporter asked her what she thought of all of that. Laughing, she said she was thinking about the fact that she was taking pictures of all of the White people. The reporter asked why she thought that was funny. Ms. Cuerto responded by saying, "Because everybody takes pictures of the Indians."

In other words, Ms. Cuerto had decided to turn the tables. Since everyone was taking pictures of the Indians, she decided to take pictures of all of the White people. I think it was her own little way of making an irritating situation humorous.

I don't know if that resonates with anyone but me, but I was laughing right along with Ms. Cuerto. I'm not sure that those of us who are White think about what it feels like to always be the "object" of people's excursions and adventures...and photographs.

I've often felt like Ms. Cuerto...not because people come to take pictures of me, but because people come to take pictures of the kids and our community. The inner city has become a novelty to people.

They come,
they play with the children,
they take pictures of the children,
and they go back home and show the children to their friends.

They come,
they look at the Indians,
they take pictures of the Indians,
and they go back home and show the Indians to their friends.

It sounds like what I do when I go visit a petting zoo.
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