Overall, I find the way OFMD fandom interacts with race, especially in regards to Edward, to be extremely disappointing. I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who is Black, but also as an outsider to Māori culture. I wish people would put in a greater effort to do research before commenting on how they assume race and racism interacts with Ed. I also don’t feel anywhere close to an expert because again, I am not Māori or Polynesian, which is why I prefer to just keep my mouth shut and continue learning about things so I don’t write anything stupid in my fanfictions. So, take anything I say with a grain of salt where I’m continuing to try and educate myself as time goes on and encourage others to do the same.
The vast majority of posts I see that talk about Ed and his cultural identity are made by people who are not Māori, but still speak as an authority on it. I’m not saying you can’t talk about Ed and race if you’re not Māori, not at all, but people need to put in the work of researching cultures outside of their own instead of going off of vibes or assuming their own experiences will translate over.
And this isn’t a personal attack on anyone or their meta, but something like assumptions on how Ed would conceptualize his biracial identity doesn’t necessarily copy over from other biracial groups (I’m biracial Black/white for what it’s worth) and you’re better off looking towards how many Indigenous cultures think of multiracial experiences. But Māori identity isn’t reliant on blood quantum and New Zealand never had a push to force its Indigenous population to prove their ancestry. Even when doing census taking in the early 1900′s the determination of whether someone was Māori or European was based on the Māori idea of whakapapa which is a concept I don’t think I can do justice to explaining so here’s an article. But was largely based off of self-identification and connection to the culture. I’m severely oversimplifying this, and this doesn’t mean there isn’t an inherent lack of cultural conflict for people of mixed Māori descent, but I’m just trying to express that racial identity differs globally, and if you’re going to talk about Ed’s experiences of being biracial, you need to contextualize it.
Race in the 1700′s didn’t operate the same way it does now, and in general, race in modern-day America is very simplified in comparison to other parts of the world because of our unique history. This isn’t to say it’s better or worst here or anywhere else, but that racial categories form differently depending on time and location. Looking at stuff about Ed especially is hard because, and I feel like I’m going insane every time fandom ignores this, there was next to no European contact with Polynesia in the early 1700′s. James Cook is still 50+ years out from his lil exploration trip! What this means in the show is… complicated which is why I assume they haven’t deep dived into Ed’s race/cultural identity because I’m pretty sure Blackbeard was originally written aracially (which essentially means he was written white,) Taika asked if he could be in the show, and Jenkins went “yeah sure there’s no reason why Blackbeard has to be white!” and they decided to not focus too heavily on Ed’s race in s1 and will probably only go further into the topic if they hire a Māori writer to give the topic the care and attention needed. This doesn’t mean Edward is white! He is still racialize as a poc! But for right now, it’s pretty safe to say in my opinion that they’re deemphasizing, not erasing, Ed’s race for s1 until they can take the time to craft a more in-depth storyline.
But I guess speed running some random misconceptions I see in fandom that again seem to be reliant on vibes and assumptions:
Donkey is not a slur against Polynesian people. I think misinformation comes from people seeing the term “moke” which means donkey and connecting this as a slur
Moke is also not a slur against Polynesian people, for the record. It’s Pidgin Hawaiian and used by locals in the same joking manner one might say redneck. It’s not leveraged by white people against poc.
Donkey is also not a slur against mixed people. You’re thinking of the word “mule” which is a combination of a donkey and horse and makes up the term mulatto. These are different animals. Mulatto is also specifically a slur against mixed Black people, not Polynesians.
The drawing of Blackbeard in the book isn’t a racial caricature. Racial caricatures exaggerate specific ethnic features to perpetuate stereotypes and there are specific ways Māori caricatures look. The picture of Blackbeard we see The Kraken based on is actually a play on of the real-life drawings of Blackbeard, probably updated to look more like Taika.
There are specific traits used in caricatures of Māori people and specific stereotypes associated with them. You can see some more information about that here. Just because a picture of Ed is mean, doesn’t mean it’s a racial caricature specifically. That is its own thing.
Also, Izzy didn’t buy Ed as a slave y’all sdkjbfjsd
The transatlantic slave trade didn’t work this way. I know this is going to sound stupid, but the enslavement of Native Americans was actually illegal. This didn’t mean that it didn’t happen (you can read more about this here) but it took a specific under-the-table form of using alternative language like indentured servitude. It’s true that Black pirates captured were sold back into slavery if captured instead of hanged, but there aren’t really? Many accounts of Native American/Indigenous pirates in general, so I wouldn’t make broad sweeping statements that this is true for them as well. Either way, the enslavement of Native Americans was largely of children and women in specific locations and wasn’t fostered by the transatlantic slave trade.
There is a specific history of the enslavement of Polynesian people called blackbirding that involved mostly kidnapping and tricking people in the South Pacific Islands and taking them to other locations, often Australia, as “indentured servants.” For the most part, the Māori weren’t impacted by this btw and this was largely in the 1800′s with questionable and shifting legality under British rule where it’s unlikely that the navy would have sanctioned this. Often, the navy was the ones holding court charging people accused of illegal slave trafficking (but also the navy fucking sucks, the rules would change, and people were rarely punished.) Again, this is the 1800′s though because, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the Māori were currently chilling in New Zealand in the early 1700′s because the last time someone tried to land their ship on land, they got chased the fuck out and nobody came back for 130 years.
Either way, none of this would apply to Edward who is a British citizen (which we know since he joined the navy!) and can’t just be enslaved. Again, as stupid as it sounds, there were specific rules to who could be enslaved where you can’t just point towards the nearest brown person and buy them from the navy. For Polynesia and a lot of Indigenous groups, the way the slave trade operated for them was much more similar to human trafficking of today where people were kidnapped and transported to far-off foreign lands where they didn’t speak the language. This legit would just not happen to Ed and it’s not something likely to be done under official navy business. You can’t accidentally buy a slave it’s just not done.
Basically, I just want people to do their research before making assumptions about what’s going on with Ed and his identity. I feel severely underinformed on the nuances, so again, I simply just try and keep my mouth shut. For a lot of people on here who aren’t Māori or Polynesian, this is a whole new subject that we aren’t taught about in schools and isn’t often brought up in activist circles outside of the region. Please just remember to verify information, and to not assume your experiences translate over on a 1-to-1 basis because race is complicated and changing especially in the 1700s.