March 18th, 2009

default [trufflehog]

racefail '09 - some thoughts, some links

There are myths that get perpetrated by society at large, I think, about social justice and equality and who and what and how we're allowed to care. We should stand in our own corners and keep ourselves to ourselves and fight for our own causes alone, and ultimately, we're fighting for legal rights and legal protection and as long as that's been achieved then that's fine, we're done here. In this latest long, painful round of RaceFail, I've seen those sorts of ideas crop up an awful lot - ideas that the conversations at hand aren't important or aren't my problem.

Wait, what is RaceFail? I hear you cry. Because not everyone catches everything that happens on the internet, and fair enough. Quick recap time!

In terms of what actually happened to prompt this particular round of both conversations about race and also Epic Fail, I'd suggest reading some or all of the following: super short summary, longer summary, timeline of events, further reading, and a summary of summaries.

Things to bear in mind: this isn't grudgewank or an instance where there are 'good points on both sides' -- some people said some wrong-headed, ignorant and pain-inducing things and it's prompted a lot of response both from people calling them out on it and also discussions about race-related topics from cultural appropriation and problematic representations in sci-fi/fantasy to the silencing of non-white authors to safe spaces in fandom, online and off, and the frequent and horrible lack of them.

Also, my god, all of this has happened before and it will happen again! rydra_wong's linkspams are all tagged Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of Doom '09 because this is pretty much an annual ritual, and it's always unnecessarily painful and full of derailment, defensiveness and white privilege, because apparently this is the only way we can talk about this. Because this is what it takes for us white fans to listen, to allow our squee to be harshed, and because it is this level of fuckwittery that prompts non-white fans and their allies to decide that their urge to speak out and say things that really shouldn't have to be said in the first place is greater than their desire not to be flamed, not to be insulted and falsely accused of all manner of ills, not to have their offline identities outed -- that's not a trade-off anyone should have to make.

And it sucks. It sucks that I have gained an enormous amount of education from this, because I am benefiting from the pain of fellow fans, because it took something like this to prompt me to be more pro-active in my education, and that's a big failing and a big exercise of privilege on my own part.

That being said, an awful lot of good things have come out of this. There have been countless intelligent, moving, thought-provoking posts on all manner of topics from all manner of perspectives - endless, almost. Then there's projects like the Asian Women Blog Carnival I've linked to previously, verb_noire and The Remyth Project and 50books_poc and 12films_poc.

A smattering of posts I've personally come across and found particularly useful/helpful/interesting:

deepad : Reappropriating my man
thingswithwings on privilege and the burden of proof
eruthros on safe spaces
inalasahl on tone
hesychasm : brown person representin' with authoritah
coffeeandink : When I say that you have said or done something that was racist, I do NOT necessarily mean that...
stoneself on privilege
fox1013 on invisible pants
zvi_likes_tv on how not to post, and also links

And as for more general 'educating yourself' resources -- goodness knows this has made me realise I'm still more clueless in more areas than I'd like to be:

sparkymonster's delicious links for clueless white people
mystickeeper's Racism 101 Primer
racism_101 - new and in response to the current round of Racefail, it's designed as a space for well-meaning but clueless white people, and it's got a good amount of crossover with debunkingwhite where the conversation tends to be both more politically topical and more clued-in.

I think the reasons that we, as white fans, should be reading about this comes in two strands. One: well, this is about our fandom and our genres and the ways in which they're failing people in our community, and we should be so, so much better about not letting that happen. Two: there are a bunch of pretty self-interested reasons why making sure I'm educated in these issues will help me. If I act like a wilfully ignorant jerk I know I'll lose friends, and rightly so. If I refuse to engage in racial critiques of my shows because hey, I, in all my white liberal authority, didn't think that was racist, then that removes all of my right to talk about the problematic gender and sexuality issues in the same shows. If I write stories that thoughtlessly appropriate other histories or exoticise or Other or otherwise commit racefail, I will lose readers and my stories will be worse for it. Knowing more about more things is always a good, beneficial thing to do.

So, read a few links. Maybe not the ones I've picked, maybe things you've seen elsewhere or things you've had bookmarked from previous rounds or things you stumble upon in the coming weeks, but however you do it I think you'll find it engaging, illuminating and important.

One final link, because it hit me right in the guts. catvalente's captured something I've believed in very strongly for a long time and haven't had the words to express properly. Let Me Tell You A Story.