Flight Papers

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Archive for the ‘media justice’ Category


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

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I don’t know anything about Ethan Zuckerman, really, but I’m happy to have stumbled across an old post of his on the importance of pointing, rather than speaking, in activist works.

That is, don’t tell us, in Zuckerman’s case, about the plight of a detained Chinese blogger—carry his words, and his family’s words, far and wide. Don’t, yourself, speak out about sexism in Indian culture—work with Indian women, supporting them and their words.

Don’t, in short, center your words, actions, desires, and experiences. This isn’t about you.

This is the core of media justice: Everyone has a story. We are obligated to make the world such that everyone can speak them.

This applies to more than activist work; this applies to all storytelling. Over here, talking about narrative appropriation, I said,

But I think they first have to love both the stories and the people. They need to know them. And the stories, even and especially in a white storyteller’s mouth, need to writhe and dance and move towards liberation as we would expect and hope them to.

That is, specifically, you can’t tell a story like it’s the story of those quaint primitive people over there who wear funny hats. You can’t, equally, tell this story as if it were your own, as if you knew it from when you were a child. You have to tell it as it is, breathing the air that it breathes, loved by the people who love it, rooted in the earth it came from. You, the storyteller, have to point.

That’s not just the nature of being a good ally. That’s the nature of being a good storyteller.