It has been said that the reader generates just as much meaning from a text as a writer does, and as such no matter how fair and nuanced writers become in their depictions of Natives, the possibility of someone (over)reading a subversive racist subtext into everything will always remain. I believe Scalped to be the victim of what I call the stereotype that wasn’t there. By this, I mean that it is easy to assert that a creator is racist, but it is more difficult for said creator to conclusively prove that they’re not, meaning a piece of fiction can be burdened with a vague stigma of racism even without any substantial evidence to actually confirm what, with Scalped, too often amounts to overreaching assertions built on skewed interpretations.
Sadly, this mindset only hinders the representation of Natives (and other minorities) in fiction. It can be a vicious cycle, with writers reluctant to tackle minority-based stories for fear of being perceived as racist and so contributing to the underrepresentation of these minorities in fiction. And when a minority character does see the light of day, are they to be portrayed in a manner more “sensitive” (some would say patronizing) than their white counterparts, so as not to offend anyone? What a regressive view of minority characters, where their loftiest aspiration should be to not be offensive! Some critiques go so far as to suggest we should only allow white characters to be featured in crime stories, to be sure no one can equate any minority to criminality. I would say this is a dangerous precedent to be setting in the name of “equality”. It seems like backwards logic to me, that because there aren’t enough minority-focused stories out there, we should further limit them by branding certain genres out-of-bounds for anything but white characters. Isn’t it a better solution to stop viewing characters as “white criminals” or “Indian criminals”, to look past their color for more substantial ways of defining them?
With Scalped, Jason Aaron demonstrates that a Native American character can be just as flawed and damaged as a white character. Far from being racist, I would suggest that is a necessary step towards that sought-after equality.
Taken from an excellent piece by John Lees that grapples with the question of is Scalped a racist comic.