Describing nomadic people respectfully
If you want to describe these nomadic people with respect, you should shrug off western views and imagine
being one of the nomads. They might have less technology, but they are more
than their technological advances in comparison to others. What are they proud
of, what have they cultivated, what do they value. What about their culture?
When you fully develop them in the sense of writing and world-building, you
shouldn’t have a problem describing them as equal to anyone.
But, if you really want to fix
the problem and understand why it arose in the first place, we need to delve
deeper. What made this question arise?
Western viewpoint and western media
Although I know there are many different
cultures in the western world, there are some things they have in common which
are essential to what I have to say.
The reason why you
both can’t find other words to describe these nomadic people is because you are
seeing them from a western viewpoint. Through western culture - and as a part
thereof the media - we are conditioned to see the world around us a certain way.
We have our standards (European beauty standards, the white is default problem
with these characters most often also being cis hetero able-bodied men). Those
who conform are “normal” and those who defy them are “the other”.
Because of the way our
media is we see the western standard everywhere. White western characters sneak
in in every setting and we have hardly ever been exposed to real non-western
culture (unless distorted for consumption) partially because of that. We have
though, exposed most of the world with western culture due to colonialism
(which still affects the world today). Do to the lack of representation we’ve
always had in western media, we have been taught to see the world in
stereotypical ways, since those are the only ones permitted, past the white
On a side
note, this is why those who “deviate” from the norm learn to see the world
through both/multiple viewpoints. The standard one is forced on them, while we
shape our own one because we are simultaneously othered by society.
We are taught to
think everyone sees the world the way we do, despite the obvious differences. Unconsciously,
our media teaches us that our way is “normal” and so, our modern and “technologically
advanced” civilizations are the norm. All those civilizations who deviate from
the norm are less-advanced, which is parallel linked to the advancement in intelligence,
wealth, etc. Because these civilizations cannot be called the same in the eyes
of the western viewpoint, we use coded words like tribe, which are linked to
non-western people (“the other”) and who have often been linked with “primitive”.
Because the culture is very competitive in nature (individualistic, capitalist,
etc.) the western view often is one of “looking down” because we are taught so through
our media (white savior trope, and many stereotypes which dehumanize poc).
Words don’t exist in
a vacuum. Because these words are coded, and so strongly even, that when one is
used, the others are often already at the back of our mind. Lurking. Tainting
our view without us knowing. It is because these words (“tribe”, “primitive”
and “nomadic”) have for a long time been used by westerners while they observed
“the outside world”. The only people who get called tribes are people who are
seen as lesser. Especially since the western world is focused on technological
advancement as a means to show how “far we’ve come”, it shows that
those with less are seen as inferior or backwards.
It is up to ourselves
to recondition ourselves so we don’t think in stereotypes and actually treat each other
like human beings. When you are conscious of these western goggles, you can
discard them and learn to see the world for what it is. Be open-minded and
listen to the people around you, especially to those who are never heard
because people talk over them or silence them in other ways. And don’t do it
from a point of superiority, but from a point of respect.
~ Mod Alice