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Some Writing Ethics

May 5, 2012

I’m going to be reblogging and linking to this Huffington Post piece today titled She Is Not a Victim. She Is a Sister. by Chrysula Winegar.

Winegar briefly tells the story of Audrey from Tanzania and discusses the difficulties of motherhood in the area. But what I love most about the piece is this:

Audrey invited us to come to Tanzania. When we see and touch and feel what women in developing countries experience, we are more sensitive to the issues. She worries that hearing and reading and watching on a screen is not enough to move us to act — that we need that physical and emotional witness.

As an anthropologist, I couldn’t agree more. And reading this piece this morning struck a chord. Coming back from a night out with friends, I started up a conversation with our cab driver and in talking found out he was from Jordan (where I studied abroad for four months) and I felt this strange sense of home talking with him. I asked about his situation and how he came to the U.S. and he touched on all of the racism he experiences on a daily basis. He said that people sometimes find out where he’s from while he’s driving them and ask how he even learned to drive when they don’t have cars in Jordan. He hinted that this was the most frivolous kind of meanness he encountered and all I could do was try to so sincerely apologize for it all. It killed me.

During our ride I spoke with him about how I wish I could just make every person go live in Jordan for a while and watch as they would come to see their racism and hatred as misplaced as I do. But like Audrey, I know this isn’t possible. So who fills the gap? And are the people filling in that gap doing justice to the stories and lives they are representing? Is writing, journalism, reporting, online activism, and the like enough? And, potentially much worse, are we making certain and checking ourselves that this sort of activism isn’t turning into some insidious forms of neocolonialism?

What Winegar writes is important and the options she gives readers towards taking action about the story are great. To be a writer (an international writer especially) and to do it well requires who knows how many moments of “should I write this”, “is this appropriate”, etc. So kudos to Winegar for a great piece and to all of the other writers out there being intentional and trying to make the world a better place. You probably don’t know how many lowly bloggers look up to your awesomeness.

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