Issues of Cultural Sensitivity

Adapted from: Vanishing Georgia: Issues of Cultural Sensitivity

This site includes historical images and accompanying materials that may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record. Please be aware before entering the site that some of these historical materials may be disturbing.

When viewing the content in the posts a picture of Ray City history emerges. However, The Ray City History Blog is not a complete picture of area history. For any comprehensive picture of history, it is necessary to look further and deeper than the limited images, information and memories presented here. Critical evaluation of biases in the available materials is needed when constructing a modern narrative of the past.

The Ray City History Blog grew out of a desire to preserve  documents and memories of local historical interests. It is critical that these documents and the living memory of the local community be recorded before they are lost. The Ray City History Blog accepts materials from individuals and other groups as a means of sharing this ephemeral information. Though the resulting collection does document local history in part, the project was not designed specifically to produce an exhaustive documentary collection. Items are presented as they become available through donation or research.

Significant aspects of Georgia history and culture, among them certain aspects relating to the lives of women, African Americans and other ethnic and racial minorities in Georgia, may not be adequately represented. Effectively, cultural bias limited what would be available to be documented. Additionally, one must consider the cultural bias that may be inherent in primary source historical documents.

For example, when minorities are portrayed flatly as stereotypes, humorous curiosities or exotica, or when they appear at the periphery of the documentation, this reflects the original recorder’s motivation, interpretation and judgment in documenting the content. These issues must be considered critically when constructing a narrative from any historical documentation. Oral histories and personal accounts are no less problematic from this standpoint. Though the information given is highly valuable, it must be acknowledged that it represents interpretation and judgment in terms particular to the culture of the donor. Outdated language, prejudice, and stereotyping of women and ethnic and racial minorities may be found in some of the source documents. However, as the record stands, such biases represent an important layer of Georgia’s history.

Wherever possible, it was deemed important to preserve the transparency of the layers of historical documentation as they are presumed to provide insight into the nature of history and the source documents themselves. These layers provide insight about what was thought to be important at a given point in time. As a whole, the Ray City History blog can be viewed as a synthesis of stories and images. Yet because the stories and images chosen for inclusion are imbued with the personal judgments and perspectives of their creators, it is an incomplete picture of historical reality.

The Ray City History project addresses issues of cultural sensitivity and gender as follows:

  •     The metadata (descriptive information) that accompanies digital images includes a field of descriptive materials titled “Description.” In cases where descriptions are provided from the original documents, or are based on information given by the photograph donors in field interviews, these descriptions may reflect cultural biases of both the individual donors and the original time period of the documents. In creating additional notes, care has been taken to use modern terms and to maintain a distinctly neutral tone even when the subject matter of the document, or the original description, reveals certain prejudices.
  •     These materials play a role in understanding the history of the local area. It is necessary to study original, unmanipulated images and the original language of captions, descriptions or document transcriptions, although they may be offensive or painful to today’s audience.  However, we emphasize that material that is disrespectful of women and ethnic and racial minorities does not represent the viewpoint of the compilers or their institutional sponsors.
  •     Suggestions for further reading and links to websites are offered.
  •     Discussion of culturally sensitive issues will be included in communication, presentations, and publications produced to promote awareness of the database.
  •     A Guide to Recognizing and Evaluating Cultural Bias in Historical Resources is offered for further consideration of the topic.
  •    This website includes opportunities for “Comments” so that users may express any concerns they have.

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