Dealing with bigotry: an SF response

So apropos of one of my earlier posts, we’ve had another Incident in the SF community.

In a nutshell, the editor of a prominent fiction magazine sent a rejection letter to a hopeful writer which contained some blatantly bigoted statements against Muslims. The letter got out, a shitstorm erupted; the editor acted even more unprofessional, and a very un-fun time was had by all.

This isn’t the first time that members of the SF community have shown their ass, and it won’t be the last. However, it was the first time that I’ve seen a large group of writers — including myself — make an organized collective response. The full story is here at our new site, Transcriptase. This makes me very happy.

 

(I often get asked why I bother with science fiction and fantasy. Aren’t there other, better ways in which I can use my writing talent to improve the world? Aren’t there more important battlegrounds for the fight against oppression? As my mother once told me, “Why don’t you write something black?”

What it all boils down to is this: we have a future too. [Hell, we own the future.] We have a past that’s worth exploring. Our dreams and lore are just as potent, and just as worthy of sharing, as everyone else’s. When I write science fiction and fantasy, I am writing “something black.”

So this is why.)

On Feminism, Part 2

I bet you don’t remember part 1, do you? Here’s a reminder.

I said back then that I was still trying to put my own feelings into words and hadn’t succeeded yet. Considering what’s been going on in the blogosphere lately I think it’s time to finally crystallize my thoughts. The problem I keep coming up against is that my interactions with feminism and feminists varies greatly depending on the venue, I am finding a hard time resolving my feelings in one area with my feelings from another.

I’m being vague, sorry. Let me be specific.

As many of you know, in my other life I am a science fiction and fantasy writer. I have spent almost my entire adult life hanging out in that community. Now, from the outside, the SF community would not seem to be a place to understand, interact with, and discuss feminism and feminist issues. But lo, there are feminists to be found. Really smart feminists. There’s even a con dedicated to feminism and feminists in SF–WisCon.

WisCon is one of my very favorite conventions because of the topics of panels, the conversations I have in and out of panels, and the caliber of people who attend. These are smart, passionate folks who care about literature and media in equal measure. And, if they’re at WisCon, they more than likely consider themselves feminists or, at least, allies.

Through attending WisCon I became interested in feminism in a more direct way than I had been before. I vaguely understood feminism and felt, as most intelligent people do, that the core ideal of feminism as I understood it was a right thing–i.e. women are equal to men and should be treated as such. That women and men may be different, but men certainly aren’t better, in general. But from attending WisCon, I began thinking about the issues of gender, privilege, and feminism in ways I had not before.

Over the years I’ve convinced many people to come to WisCon, but it was sometimes a struggle because I had to break the barrier of ignorance surrounding the word “feminist”. I’m sure many of you have encountered this same problem. People equating feminism with “FemiNazi” (what a bullshit word), or with the extreme types who ruin every ideology/movement/etc. At this time I was not aware of the real problems of feminism. Ones that were far more disruptive and dividing than women who “hate men” or other such nonsense.

Since that first WisCon my involvement in SF’s feminist contingent has deepened. I’m one of the bloggers at FeministSF.net, I contribute to the Wiki, I consider some of my co-bloggers there to be good friends, I participate in WisCon programming, and now I’m a jurist for the Tiptree award, an honor that arose from the ideas and ideals that WisCon was created to explore.

If this was the only experience I had with feminism, then I would have no need to write this post. I’d be perfectly content to call myself a feminist and be done.

But oh. Then there’s the wider world.

Then there’s Gloria Steinem, Erica Jong, Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and any number of white feminists from the second and third wave that really ruin feminism for the rest of us. If they’re not insisting we put aside our “of color”-ness in favor of our woman-ness, they’re busy using their white privilege to marginalize, dismiss, silence, or otherwise treat us the way those pesky white men they’re so angry with do.

I hadn’t been on this blog long before I apprehended that all was not well in feminism-land. Remember the post about Cesar Milan? It started on some blog where the white, female poster was up in arms because Cesar had made some comment about women that she objected to. She claimed that if he’d made a similar comment about black people the entirety of America would have jumped down his throat. Because, see, racism is no longer a problem in America, but sexism is.

Sigh.

It just gets worse from there. As we have daily proof.

And these recent blow-ups not only make me angry because of what these white feminist bloggers are doing to women of color, but because it makes me angry at feminism itself. As Aminah put it way back when, feminism just isn’t made for us women of color. And as someone else (I can’t remember who, but someone please tell me in comments if you know) said recently, it seems like what white feminists want is to become white men. They want what white men have going on, up to and including privilege and the ability to ignore voices of color unless it suits them.

Some of you may feel this is an unfair generalization. And others of you are sitting at your computers right now shaking your head and saying, “Nuh uh, not me!” Maybe so not you, and maybe so I am being harsh. But you take a look around the blogs right now and tell me that the view from where I’m standing doesn’t bear that out. And take a good look at yourselves. Think about if you can honestly say that you’ve considered your own privilege when dealing with the issues of feminism and race lately. Some of you have, of course, but some of you absolutely have not.

And unfortunately, even my happy pocket of SF feminism isn’t immune from this crap. Last year at WisCon I heard more than one report of goings on in places I was not that revealed the racist attitudes of certain feminist con-goers. This was extremely sad, but not a great surprise. I resolved that this year I would make it my special project to watch and listen out for such attitudes and do what I could to put an end to them. Because I believe that WisCon and the community therein is worth my time and effort to make an even more excellent space than it already is. I want to be able to attend a con without base sexism and racism at the same time. I’m willing to be one of people making that happen.

But I’m not entirely sure I want to do that on these here internets. Why? Because maybe the wider swath of feminism isn’t worth saving.

Feminism is made for and by white women. And I really feel like this is one of those areas where the white women need to get enlightened before things can change. But, of course, many of them won’t be because they don’t see racism, which is directed against women of color, as a feminist issue. They’re hard pressed to acknowledge that racism is as great a problem as sexism at all.

No, actually, what I should say is that the white feminists who are seen as leaders, who are given press and attention and cred are in need of enlightenment. Because there are plenty of white feminists who do get it, who are enlightened, who can see the interconnectedness between anti-racist work and anti-sexist work. So what’s really needed is a good purge. Those of you who know what’s up need to weed out or educate those of you who don’t. Because obviously we women of color are too angry or jealous or indelicate to do it.

And, quite honestly, I am tired of the burden being on us to fix this mess. I’m tired of having to decide if I want the label of “Feminist”, not because someone might think I hate men, but because someone might wonder why I would want to associate myself with people who think my voice and experiences are less important because I refuse to put my gender ahead of my race.

What am I, if not a feminist? I’m not sure. Maybe this will help me figure it out:

When I offered the word “Womanism” many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of color, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honor devotedly, our singular path as women of color in the United States. We are not white women and this truth has been ground into us for centuries, often in brutal ways. [...] We have come a long way, Sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time. One of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on Truth.
Alice Walker

Not Going Anywhere (But I Damn Well Feel Like It)

So I get back from my little vacation and find that Black Amazon took down her blog.

I don’t have a lot to say about that, because it should be obvious that it fucking angers me that white feminist bloggers (need I say ‘certain white feminists’? Or name some names? Nah, I’m sure y’all are smart enough to figure out who I mean) are silencing, disparaging, stealing from, and otherwise oppressing women of color bloggers all while whining about how they are victims and oh, it’s so sad. WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE WHITE WOMEN PLEASE!

It’s all just so much bullshit. I have a long post about it coming, but I wanted to say one thing:

I’m not going anywhere.

And let me also say that this is not some sort of underhand condemnation of those who choose to close down their blogs because of this shit. I understand the inclination. I support that choice. There have been times when I had to step away from this blog and other parts of the internet just to salvage my sanity. One day I may need to do so again. But right now? Right now I am staying here.

(and oh, you don’t know how hard it is for me not to use gendered slurs against you whiny little princesses right now. oooo!)

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

So, while folks were being all contemplatey here at ABW for Black History Month, the stupid was still out in force elsewhere. Like, Colorado. This got noted at Alas, A Blog and on some other anti-racist sites, but it was just so special I wanted to note it here too. A U. of Colorado editor wrote an “opinion” article including this choice tidbit:

I’m such a fool for not realizing it sooner. I can’t tell you how many times the Asians have treated me like a retarded weasel and I’ve forgiven them. But now I know that Asians are not just “a product of their environment,” and their rudeness is not a “cultural misunderstanding.”

They hate us all.

And I say it’s time we started hating them back. That’s right-no more “tolerance.” No more “cultural sensitivity.” No more “Mr. Pretend-I’m-Not-Racist.”

It’s time for war.

Continue reading

All good things must come to an end

February and Black History Month are over! My limited exposure to the media meant I didn’t have to deal with too much stupid BHM crap this year. Must remember this strategy next time around.

First thing, I want to thank all of the guest bloggers and essayists who contributed to ABW last month. Your contributions were everything I hoped for and more — you’re all amazing and talented folks.

On the guest blogger front, I’m happy to announce that Karynthia will be joining us as a regular political blogger. She’ll usually post on Mondays, though if this election continues to bring the crazy, you might see her even more. Nora will remain a contributor as well.

Due to the awesomeness of the author essays, I am going to make them a regular feature. I might use different themes each month or stick with the history thing, I’m not sure yet. Suggestions are welcome.

I must say, though last month was awesome, was also one of the busiest on this blog in a long time. I loved it, but I am ready for a break. So here are some links to tide you over this weekend:

If you’re interested in more discussion, debate, and musings from creators (not just of fiction, but of art, comics, television, movies, etc.) then I highly suggest you look over the Race Around the Net list compiled by digital_femme on LJ. It’s an excellent place to start if you’re looking to read and learn more.

You may have noticed links to Black News Junkie on some posts. BNJ is sort of like Digg for black blogs. It’s a good place to see what folks on blogs are talking about, you can vote on interesting stories, and you can submit your own blog posts to it. Right now it only drives a bit of traffic, but as more people use it, it will benefit both bloggers and readers more. Go make an account!

For those of you interested in children’s literature written by and about black folks, check out the festivities over at The Brown Bookshelf. Every day in February they highlighted an author or illustrator and there is a lot of good stuff over there.

A few weeks ago I got an email about TheRoot.com, a new website headed by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. It’s a bit like a Huffington Post, but with African-American concerns at the fore. It’s also more news magazine-like with the various bloggers only being one component. So far I find it interesting and entertaining in equal measure.

Besides the blogs and news, there’s also a section where you can start your genealogical search and get your DNA tested to see where your origins lie. Now I am aware that this process isn’t perfect, but I am rather interested to see if there’s something in my background I’m not aware of or if I can find out from what region of Africa some of my ancestors hailed from. Still, until I have a few hundred dollars lying around doing nothing, I will just have to wait.

Last and least, here’s the stupidest Black History Month thing I came across on the Internets:

Walgreens Sort of Celebrates Black History Month

Walgreens BHM

Is this a cotton-picking joke? We’ll never know. What crazy stuff did you all find/hear about?

Jena Thursday

Though I’m not leaving the house today, I’m wearing black in support of the marches on Jena, LA.

black shirt

I waited to write this post so that I could point to news coverage of the protest. I’m happy to say that it’s been mentioned on All Things Considered (twice) and Morning Edition today. A GoogleNews search threw up a ton of results.

As a black person, I often feel sad that the black community doesn’t (in my opinion) come together enough for social justice issues like this. I was starting to feel we’ve become complacent in the post-post-Civil Rights era. But this protest proves me wrong. Because it’s not just Al Sharptona nd Jesse Jackson “rabblerousing”. It’s a whole bunch of people insisting that attention must be paid. I hope we’ll continue to do so.

Another thing I keep hearing on NPR is that the mainstream media didn’t cover this story very well, but black bloggers kept at it. Now tell me blogging isn’t “doing” something.

Protest in Jena
Click to see more pictures [ABC news]

To everyone who was able to go down to Jena today or took part in local protests: You Go.

ETA: the Thin Black Dude’s post on some Jena reactions is very enlightening.

International Blog Against Racism Week, the Sequel

Guest blogger Nora, with a heads-up:

Not getting enough hot and smexxy race-related discussion here on ABW? Well, you’re in luck, because it’s International Blog Against Racism Week again! Last year’s IBARW was an impromptu event that pretty much boiled out of the confluence of a Wiscon panel, a multi-blog-discussion on cultural appropriation that got pretty heavy, and a whole bunch of people collectively deciding that we need to talk more about this stuff. You can find the roundup of last year’s discussions on the link provided (which goes to the new IBARW community, where this year’s discussions will be tracked), as well as “against racism” icons and resources to use if you decide to blog against racism too.

Which you should. Here’s how, if you’re a blogger:

1. Announce the week in your blog. (Doesn’t have to be an LJ blog, though you might have to get an LJ account to create a link post in the IBARW LJ community. If you’re feeling too lazy to do that, drop me an email or post the link in the comments here, and I’ll use my LJ account to post it for you. Ain’t I nice?)

2. If you use icons on your blog or elsewhere, switch your default icon to either an official IBAR week icon, or one which you feel is appropriate (see the link above for icons).

3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of a race that isn’t yours, portrayals of race in fiction, review a book on the subject, etc.

That’s it. Easy, huh?

Actually, it’s not. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the weeks since I started guest-blogging here at ABW, it’s that it’s hard to talk about racism. It’s infuriating. Frightening. Crazy-making. I’m a pretty mild-mannered, optimistic person, and some of the crap I’ve heard here on this blog has made me both incandescent with rage and cynical about our future as a species.

And yet I keep talking. I have to. In our society it has become increasingly common to equate discussion of race with racism. I’ve heard it over and over again, even from supposedly intelligent people — “If you would just stop talking about it, racism will go away!” Which makes me wonder whether aliens have kidnapped a large percentage of our population and secretly replaced their brains with Taster’s Choice. Yes, racism is a social concept, not a biological one. Yes, it’s an invention from a bygone era, when it was vitally important to a number of global powers and institutions to establish a ranking difference between Us and Them (and Them and Them and Them). And yes, theoretically, ending racism is as simple as shedding all those racist ideas and treating everyone equally. But before we decide that racism no longer exists, it needs to actually no longer exist, and right now that’s not the case. Right now racism is alive and kicking, thriving even, and y’know what? This whole “stop talking about it” attitude? Protects it. Enables it. Blinds those who would otherwise see it. Lulls those who would otherwise be vigilant against it, into complacency.

Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt; denial keeps racism going strong.

So. For one week, I charge every one of you to join IBARW, and become your own Angry [insert ethnicity] [insert gender]. Talking about racism isn’t the only way to fight it, or even the best way, I’ll admit. But talking about it damn sure helps.

So get to it. =)

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