Historical Erasure in Everyday Life

Introduction

History is overwhelmingly shaped and constructed by people in positions of power. In most circumstances, the dominant groups choose to suppress the interpretation of a historical event by minority groups, including racial, ethnic, and gender minorities. Hence, these minority groups’ historical contributions are often erased. Alberto, Diaz, and Flores-Marcial’s writings reflect the prevalence of historical erasure of native identities, particularly in education and art, implying the critical importance of including alternative voices in the historical interpretation in contemporary society.

Summary of Authors Experience of Historical Erasure

One of the most significant areas whereby historical erasure can be encountered is education. In her article Coming Out as Indian: On Being Indigenous Latina in the US, Lourdes Alberto shares her experience of historical erasure she discovered in school. The history school curriculum is the primary platform whereby individuals first familiarize themselves with history. Alberto describes how she was astonished and proud when she saw the public perception of her native Indian identity, which was previously not discussed and remained largely invisible (Alberto 248). However, she “felt violently misread” when the teacher used “settler grammar” to describe her identity (Alberto 250). Namely, she diminished her Indigenous subjectivity to mere objects rather than including Alberto’s subjective experience with her identity (Alberto 250). Meanwhile, Alberto wanted recognition and acknowledgment of her distinct indigenous identity rather than mere grouping with North American indigenous people in general (Alberto 250). Hence, Alberto’s experience of historical erasure is part of a broader systematic, interstitial erasure that schools and curriculums perpetuate.

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Xóchitl Flores-Marcial and Natalie Diaz

Xóchitl Flores-Marcial and Natalie Diaz engage in a profound analysis of historical erasure in the art by providing several examples in which native identities and historical contributions are suppressed. Diaz writes how Western academies frequently attempted to devalue and deemphasize native art by framing it “folk art or primitive art, street art or outsider art, political or incendiary art” as part of “systematic oppression of nationhood” (Diaz 20). Hence, the art portraying native identity was historically constructed by western, non-native individuals. For instance, Flores-Marcial emphasizes Dean Cornwell’s 1933 mural that provided a colonialist and racist depiction of Indigenous people by ignoring the internal complexities of the community (Flores-Marcial 101). However, such historical erasure is contrasted by her experience of “no longer feeling invisible” and empowered in native, Zapotec identity when she stood in front of a mural of an Indigenous woman (Flores-Marcial 100). Hence, as Diaz put it, the creation of art can be used as a resistance to historical erasure and oppression (Diaz 23). As such, Xóchitl Flores-Marcial and Natalie Diaz experienced historical erasure of their unique native identity in art.

Importance of Alternative Voices in Contemporary Society

Allowing and considering alternative voices is critical in contemporary society, including history, politics, and art. An erasure of historical identity contributes to the suppression of voices, hence, helps the dominant groups to present the homogenous, dominant interpretation of the historical event. Such a society is likely to give rise to further exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination of indigenous groups from public discourse. For instance, quoting wa Thiong’o, Diaz writes that dominating one voice over another in the mental universe is one of the most dangerous and effective ways to control the colonized (Diaz 24). Thus, the active inclusion of diverse voices is critical to the survival and flourishment of a distinct identity.

Conclusion

To conclude, Flores-Marcial, Natalie Diaz, and Lourdes Alberto share their perspectives on their experience of historical erasure, proving that despite some progress, historical erasure is predominant in art and education, among other spheres. However, the authors also emphasize that instead of remaining passive victims of imposed invisibility, indigenous groups should, as they did, engage in active attempts to reinstate intrinsic, authentic native identities as a resistance. The inclusion of diverse perspectives is crucial to producing a society whereby equality, recognition, and justice replace discrimination, exclusion, and marginalization.

Works Cited

Alberto, Lourdes. “Coming out as Indian: On Being an Indigenous Latina in the US.Latino Studies, vol. 15, no. 2, 2017, pp. 247–253. Web.

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Diaz, Natalie. “A Lexicon of the Indigenous Body: Images of Autonomy and Desire.” Los Angeles Review of Books, 2017, Web.

Flores-Marcial, Xochitl M. “A Perspective from the South: Tlacolula to L.A.” Visualizando El Lenguaje, Oaxaca En L.A.: Un catálogo De Proyecto=Visualizing Language, Oaxaca in L.A.: a Project Catalogue, 2017, Web.

Flores-Marcial, Xochitl M. “Getting Community Engagement Right: Working with Transnational Indigenous Stakeholders in Oaxacalifornia.” Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, vol. 3, no. 1, 2021, pp. 98–108.

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