Gwen (dysprositos) wrote,

Racefail Bingo, Continued, With Drinking Game

(Previous post, with Bingo card, here.)

What's wrong with the "Get over it" column's arguments: Simply put, this discussion isn't for your enjoyment or even education. If you do get something out of it, great. If you don't, well, don't engage. Many browsers have a little red box with an "X" in the corner of each window or tab; if you don't want your squee harshed (or, in more mature terms, your escapism ruined, whatever), click the box, Esc, Alt+F4. Do whatever you do to GTFO. And if the discussion has taken over your fandom or your corner of fandom, gafiate. Take a break; come back when it looks like it's all blown over. But posting specifically to say "I don't care, so you should stop talking about it" seems--well, like you missed the part where it wasn't your discussion to control. It's not about you.

Addressing specific concerns: Elizabeth Bear has stated that she did not post about Avalon Willow's essay (which included critique of Bear's novel) to accept it in good faith and start a dialogue; rather, she intended her (fake) acceptance of the criticism to serve as a role model for everyone else. In other words, it was a social experiment.

At any rate, while she got quite a bit of credit for (seemingly) accepting the criticism at the time, her fail came in when she promised to moderate the comments to provide a safe space for POC and then utterly failed at keeping her promise. (She not only failed to moderate threads from people "defending" her against the criticism, but heavily moderated dissenting voices, many of which, of course, were POC.)

This fail was compounded when she claimed that expecting the moderation she had promised and disassociating herself from comments from her "defenders" that were obviously racist was equivalent to throwing her friends under a bus and that those expectations were equivalent to literally abusive behavior. And then posted about how her book sales were up because of her behavior, told everyone to shut up until WisCon when maybe we could have a mature discussion, and then "apologized" for starting the whole thing when she fake-accepted the criticism in order to "take one for the team."

Suffice it to say, Elizabeth Bear in no way drew fire primarily (or at all, from what I've seen) for just "accepting criticism of her book." (She has since apologized for her part in the fail, although vaguely.)

Finally, something can be racist even if it's in a fantasy novel (or movie set in a fictional world full of, say, people with powers over various elements). Racist tropes used in the narrative of a work created, published, and consumed in the 20th and 21st centuries on Earth, made for a 20th/21st-century Terran audience by a 20th/21st-century Terran author, are still subject to all of the possible racism of anything else, even if they're set in a different time or place, or draw on a different mythology, where (supposedly) racism doesn't exist or the tropes used can be lampshaded if you fanwank hard enough.*

Authors don't get to draw as heavily as they do on shared-culture understanding, beliefs, tropes, archetypes, and language, and then disclaim any connection between their Pure High Art and the Profane Reality it lives in. Maybe they didn't mean to propagate racist memes; maybe they didn't even know that that racist meme existed. But (arguably, of course) they did anyway, and the "it was Art!" is no excuse. Art is not created in a cultural vacuum. And the setting of the work--as non-racist and wonderfully idyllic as that setting may be--is not the same as the here-and-now the work was made and released in.

The "O is for Other" column's arguments are too varied to be addressed broadly, so:

Verbally equating POC's nonviolent actions and speech with "attacking," "emotional abuse," pillorying, lynching, witchhunts, and other forms of violence feeds into the stereotype of POC as violent, uncontrolled, and dangerous people, who form into hordes, mobs, brigades, and loyalty-oath demanding cabals at the slightest provocation and need to be controlled and feared by white people. I don't think I need to explain why this is especially problematic.

Verbally equating individual actions and speech by individual fans (many of them FOC) who have little or no institutional power to actions which are dangerous because of the institutional power behind them (e.g., calling a list of authors someone feels she can no longer in good conscience give money to, complete with links to the speech and actions of each author that led to this feeling: a blacklist a la anti-union corporations, McCarthy, and Nixon; a boycott; a witchhunt; and other terms which imply much more power than the individual has) can also be a way of silencing dissent and maintaining the status quo. Don't be That Guy.

Similarly, requiring a particular level and kind of "politeness" and "civility" might seem like a good idea until the twentieth time you see people react to the most politely worded suggestion that something they said might be racially problematic in some way with "OMG you're calling me racist! That's soooo rude!" It's never racist to call out racism, and to the extent that it's rude, that's society protecting old memes at any cost by only accepting criticism on its own terms (i.e., never).

It's not POC's (or anyone's) job to educate you, or to provide you with posts and essays and links exactly the way you want them, written to spec, in the style you prefer. If you think a particular resource would be helpful but it's not out there, write it yourself. If you want information, use Google. ("Racism 101" is a good starting search phrase.) Working against, or wanting to work against, racism does not mean that other people will serve you, do what you want them to do, or give you cookies or pats on the back for minimum human decency and effort.

Along similar lines: if you're wondering how to write CoC without offending people and falling into stereotypes, there are scores of essays and posts out there telling you how to do exactly that. And I have yet to see anyone seriously suggest that white authors are better off never writing nonwhite people at all rather than risk getting it wrong--except for white authors using "but the FoCing Cabal will come after me in a horde with torches and pitchforks and crucify me if I get even the tiniest detail wrong!" as an excuse to avoid writing CoC. So don't give me that "damned if you do, damned if you don't" bullshit.

Lastly, nobody likes being slapped in the face every time they turn on a television or open a book. No one likes realizing that there's nobody who looks like them or deals with the same kinds of issues they do everyday in any of their favorite stories. No one's out to be offended. No one's "playing the race card" or "race-baiting." (And considering how people react when very real instances of racism are pointed out, why on Earth would anyone bother with false accusations of racism?!) People are talking about very real issues in their lives, very real sources of pain, and responding with "oh, you're just overly sensitive" or "you're just looking for things to be offended by"--or anything else on this card--is itself offensive.

Runners up: "Black, brown, white, blue, or green...", "Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would agree with me and my colorblind-ness!", "Maybe it's because they don't speak English...?" (seen in the Avatar casting fail multiple times as well as Racefail. News flash: nonwhite people in the United States don't all speak Hyphenated Americanese or something!), "Wanted to write about Americans" (or "But the Doctor is British" or "coded white" or anything else which implies "only white people can be..."), "PC Brigade/political correctness," "But Black people police other Black people for 'acting white'," and "Just throw people in for diversity points without regard to history" when it's used to imply that there were no POC in Europe in the Renaissance or before, or in the Old West or Revolutionary War.

Honorary mentions: "I'm from $non-U.S. country, where we don't have racism!" and "I've experienced racism against whites, [isolated incident from person not in position of power here]." There are no doubt other, equally stupid or more stupid, arguments, perhaps ones on par with those guys who wanted to bring Socrates in to a discussion of whether the female brain is innately different from the male (without even having read any philosophy, no less!), but it is too late/early for me to think of them. (Any nominations?)

Get drunk enough to follow Racefail getting pissed instead of pissed off by drinking every time you see: new depths of fail, new heights of win, fake (...I just apologized for a social experiment) or backhanded (I'm sorry...sorry you're such a BITCH!) apologies, anything on this Bingo card, MLK, W!ll Sh!tterly, fake exits (I'm leaving! O.K., I'm leaving NOW!), posts or comments deleted/locked/screened by their author, relevant linkspam by sparkymonsterfollowed by silence or goalpost-shifting by the original poster asking for the types of links given, an author doing/saying something winceworthy or stop-reading-and-donate/sell-books-worthy, and an author doing/saying something cheerworthy or buy-all-their-books-NOW-worthy.

Stay almost completely sober during Racefail by drinking only every time you see: an entire post or comment with essentially the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" complaint without using this phrase; someone who quotes a civil rights leader other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (especially Malcolm X); someone who appropriates a civil rights leader to describe their poor martyred position being bullied by all the POC (especially Rosa Parks); a real apology; and a sincere expression of gratitude toward sparkymonster</lj>for requested linkspammage, especially with an indication that the original poster is reading/has read the provided links.

*Usually the fanwank falls through the same way the "it's not racist, it just disproportionally affects POCs!" defense does. The world didn't just happen to be set up the way it was; it was the result of decisions (more or less conscious) by the author. It takes choices to make the Scoobies white. It takes choices to make the guy from the street black, and the two Slayers who didn't want to live badly enough to defeat Spike non-white. Unless you're actually making a (racially correct, unlike 21) documentary/based-on-a-true-story movie, you're responsible for the colors and corresponding actions of your characters; it's never "just coincidence."
Tags: essays, fandom

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