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My only "racefail09" post...

I was going to post this as a comment in another journal, but I decided in the end it wasn't really fair to the poster, because it didn't really directly apply.

In any discussion of prejudice and discrimination that you haven't personally experienced, it's really just best to sit back and listen.

Too many people use their own (and often very different) experiences of discrimination as a defense against the possibility that they may not be entirely free of the prejudice being discussed. 'Cuz, you know, none of us really are free of prejudice, what's important is whether we let it rule our lives.

Too many people use their own (and often very different) experiences of discrimination to make the discussion about themselves and escalate in an Olympics of suffering and oppression. After all, it's only the most oppressed who should really have a say, right? Didn't think so...

Sit back and listen. Use your experiences of discrimination to cultivate empathy. Let the discussion be about what it's about. Offer support. Attempt to ask intelligent questions. Let the people who feel aggrieved work through things, and take advantage of the learning experience presented. Examine the differences in their experiences of prejudice and discrimination. Evaluate the extent to which your thoughts and actions feed into further prejudice and discrimination.

Then, when a discussion about your experience of discrimination and prejudice starts (and yes, that includes "when you start it"), and somebody comes along and attempts to derail it with stories of their own oppression, you can say "Hold it. I listened to your experiences. I examined my own prejudice and discrimination, and try to use what I learned from you to act in a better fashion. Please do me the same courtesy."

Oh, and read "Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part I" and "Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part II" at John Scalzi's Whatever if you want an interesting take on the subject of racism and F&SF.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
shodoshan
Mar. 16th, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
Beautifully put and very wise. Thank you!
esprix
Mar. 16th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
So glad I missed that one! :)
jkusters
Mar. 16th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC)
Heh, apparently if you're not properly outraged by it, you're racist. And those who *were* outraged need to form "safe" communities for protection against those of us who weren't (even those of us who were blissfully unaware of it going on...)
bovil
Mar. 16th, 2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
Dismissive much? I'd replace "blissfully unaware" with "ignorant" based on your characterization of what is happening.

You fall into the same trap Scalzi did, the trap of focusing on the drama rather than the meat of the discussion. Scalzi at least had an excuse for focusing on the drama; some troll hijacked a comment thread on his blog to put their personal bullshit in front of his readers. When it was pointed out that the drama wasn't in fact the discussion but was obscuring the discussion, and that how he reacted was harmful to the people trying to negotiate a complex issue sans drama, he apologized.

There's nothing particularly racist in not responding to the drama. Read the last week or so of Whatever, (and particularly the guest-blogs by Mary Anne). It might help you understand how this response is uninformed and dismissive.

Edited at 2009-03-16 10:44 pm (UTC)
jkusters
Mar. 16th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
There's nothing particularly racist in not responding to the drama.

I'm glad you say so. In other fora, I've been attacked for not being outraged.

Perhaps I am too dismissive, but honestly it's a WHOLE LOT OF DRAMA for something that no-one seems to be able to concisely explain. Every time I've tried to figure out what the heck is going on (or has gone one, or will be going on), I get a mess of links full of accusations and finger pointing and screaming and invective, but not much of a calm discourse of why I should be so upset and why I should be supporting the creation of secret ghetto-ized communities where I could feel "safe" from horrible horrible people (of which I am apparently counted, despite having no idea what's going on). I mean, really, I look up "RaceFail'09" on Google, and try to follow the links that say "for a good summary of the issue go here" yet the destination page is full of links that all point every where but a good summary of what's going on.

I found a page that does seem to contain a summary of what's going on, but if this is the case, I have to say "so what, big deal, a lot of people did stupid things, other people reacted, and in true fannish fashion, it spun wildly out of control, but it's not the end of the world." (The page is http://logophilos.net/blather/?p=1162). Help educate me. Why am I such a bad person if I'm out outraged by what appears to be pretty much a non-event from my perspective?

Edited at 2009-03-16 11:02 pm (UTC)
bovil
Mar. 16th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
Have you read Mary Anne's guest blogs at Whatever?
jkusters
Mar. 16th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
I scanned the various Whatever articles over the weekend as I tried to unravel the "shitstorm" that hit the StarTrek community (noting that the person who dropped the bomb in the community has since deleted his/her journal after spending several days completely dismissing any attempt at dialog). Neither of her (Mary Anne's) entries actually talked about *what happened*. The first article provided some links I tried to follow to get an actual summary of *what happened*, but I still couldn't unpack it.

While I agree that Mary Anne's articles are good things to keep in mind, it all seems incredibly common sense to me. None of us really experiences life as someone else, none of us actually really share viewpoints. And honestly, we all have to take fiction with a great big grain of salt when the author tries to write outside of their own gender/race/species/etc. Is it more than this?

Perhaps I'm really as stupid and clueless as it seems some are jumping at the bit to call me, but I really don't see why some people are making such a big deal about what really just appears to be a lot of smoke with very little fire. I'm really failing to understand what about this particular incident is setting up such a huge amount of "either you're with us or you're the enemy" in the fandoms I participate in.

(As far as I can tell, the events being called "racefail'09' is yet another cycle of a very long-standing "debate" going on in fandom. In this instance, apparent Ms. Bear said some stuff in her LJ about how easy it is to write from an alien perspective, someone called her on it, she retracted, much flameage happened, and then she unretracted, and much more flameage happened. How far off am I?)
bovil
Mar. 17th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
Don't scan. Read. The comment threads are particularly rich. Tempest Bradford's new guest-blog today is very good too.

"racefail09" started with the Bear incident. As Tempest put it in a comment to her guest-blog:
Author writes post about cultural appropriation and attempts to explain to (presumably white) people how to incorporate POC into fiction and not include sketchy stuff surrounding race –> reader raises hand and says, in light of this, I feel the need to point out the sketchy race stuff in one of your books –> author says, that’s a valid criticism, I don’t always get things right –> author’s friends go: WHAT YOU SAY? and then someone set us up the bomb (i.e. RaceFail).

It spawned flamewars (catching up quite a few big-name F&SF authors and editors) but that's not the important part, it's just the big flashy part.

It spawned serious discussion of race and racism in F&SF, both the product and the industry. Scalzi has been lending his bully pulpit out to some folks, but there's a lot more discussion going on. Check out Deepa D's "I didn't dream of Dragons" and the revival of interest in Pam Noles' "Shame."

That's the important and useful part.
jkusters
Mar. 17th, 2009 12:24 am (UTC)
Okay, so I have the gist of the surrounding events correct. Good to know.

And yes, I'm dismissive of the drama. I'm not dismissive of good, valid discussion. I'm completely dismissive of the attitudes I've been encountering lately where if you're not outraged then YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. I believe we *can* and in fact *must* have discussions of race (and other -isms), in SF/F and elsewhere, but I reject the notion that one must get enflamed about it and draw Maginot lines in the sand. That kind of activity is counter-productive and really is a disservice to the community. We need to shut our metaphoric mouths more and open our ears.

I realize I may have initially seemed dismissive of the need of the discussion. For that I am sorry. What I was reacting to, what I intended to scoff at, was what you accurately called "the flashy part", the incredible amount of meta floating around, especially angsty meta and typical LJ drama (journals being deleted, people weeping and wailing about how they are special and no-one understands them, wild accusations of ugly -isms with little to no supporting evidence, and the absolute refusal to engage in rational discussion).

For example, look at the chain of non-responses to a post in the Star Trek community: http://community.livejournal.com/startrek/797849.html How can we have a productive discussion on -isms, and actually effect change, if people hole up in self-created ghettos and refuse to actually engage in conversation? I perceived a significant attitude of "if you want to engage in dialog you are incapable of understanding," an attitude which really isn't conducive to furthering understanding.

Anyway, I've cluttered up your journal far too long with too many words already (heh, and probably lost a great deal of respect in the process). I thank you for your attempts to educate me, but I guess I'm too... something... (old, jaded, stupid?) to get caught up in the "drama" (which is what esprix seemed to be hinting about in his original response and to which I responded).
bovil
Mar. 17th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
That post on startrek is particularly ham-handed. Then again, so are the responses. I love the bit where a moderator got caught up in it and then had to put on the moderator hat. Conflict of interest?

On the other side of things, there's a new small press being formed with the express purpose of publishing works that prominently feature well-written minority protagonists (including LGBT characters). They've got a community at verb_noire. There's also fight_derailing, a community to help people argue against bigotry and intolerance, and keep the discussion on-topic.
thatwordgrrl
Mar. 16th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Amen, Brother Andrew.

My experiences are just that...mine. I've experienced everything from the truly horribic to the truly beautiful as a result.

But that does not confer upon me the right to make it into some sort of dick-sizing contest. No way.

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