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. =)

May 2007 Erase Racism Carnival

Welcome to the 12th Erase Racism Carnival! Sorry this edition is a little late. We had a few issues to deal with at ABW Central this weekend.

This is a very media-heavy edition, mainly because media issues are very interesting to me. The summer movie season is starting to heat up and this season’s television shows are coming to an end, allowing us to examine them completely. There’s plenty to talk about in the realm of literature, too. So, get comfortable, grab a drink, and settle in. There’s a lot of great stuff to read.

Writing and Reading

In the past month, there’s been a lot of talk on this blog about diversity in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre. It started with a post by my guest blogger, N. K. Jemisin, called No more lily-white futures and monochrome myths.

Speculative fiction (SF) has been, historically, one of the most racist genres in American literature. Oh, it hasn’t had as many Stepinfetchits or Uncle Toms as the mainstream, but there are few more powerful ways to wrong a people than to wipe it out of existence, and this is precisely what countless SF novels have done. If the crew of the Space Navy Vessel Whozimawhatsit is all white; if a vast medieval epic spanning several continents contains no chromatic folk; if the scientific accomplishments of ancient nonwhite empires are dismissed as alien leftovers; if China is the only continent toasted by an invading space warship; all of this is a kind of literary genocide. (Yes, genocide.) And it’s something that SF has not only done well for years, but continues to do.

Author Tobias Buckell weighed in:

…I keep seeing the same repetition. Someone says SF/F isn’t diverse, people respond by chanting “Hopkinson, Butler, Delany, Barnes” like it’s a magical phrase that dispels the +10 diversity attack spell.
[...]
Is the cadre of writers in the field diverse?

No.
[...]
This could be a larger societal issue, an issue of fandom, the technical nature of SF/F, or that readers don’t see their faces in SF/F and don’t read it and therefore don’t write it, whatever your theory is (and I’m making no accusations or forwarding theories of my own here, that isn’t the point of this particular entry), it still doesn’t change the fundamental fact that is not a racially diverse field.

One way to address this issue is to encourage diversity in fiction markets, particularly the top tier markets. I offered some suggestions on how editors and publishers could achieve this:

  • Make sure a wide range of people know that your magazine accepts unsolicited submissions by reaching out and posting notifications in venues frequented by non-white and non-male individuals.
  • Put your money where your mouth is. Publish more stories by established authors that feature non-default people and non-default settings so that newer authors (and readers) will see your market as open to diverse views and ideas.
  • Update submission guidelines to very clear statements of what the market is looking for or lacking.
  • Get creative with ways to attract more diverse subjects, settings, characters, and writers.
  • In the fiction selection process, think carefully about the stories you choose. Publish stories that reflect a true balance (but don’t lower your standards to do so).

Some editors are listening, so we’ll see what may come.


Matthew Cheney over at The Mumpsimus gives a detailed analysis of a story in the latest issue of Weird Tales.

The question (problem? issue?) of how Third World countries get represented in First World fiction is one that has interested me for some time, mostly because I’m hyper-aware and perhaps hyper-sensitive to my own status as a First World reader.* My ideas about such representations have run quite a gamut over the years, and continue to shift and change almost daily.

Today, my thoughts returned again and again to Will Ludwigsen’s story “Faraji” in the April/May Weird Tales…

The central failure of the story is in its representation of Africa. The story is set in the future, it seems, or at least an alternate present, because there is a “President Russell” in the U.S. By not naming the African country where the narrator is imprisoned, the story unfortunately plays off of “Dark Continent” stereotypes that set all of Africa up as a mysterious, primitive, and brutal Other. It could be argued that the narrator is someone for whom the continent is, indeed, that, but I think such an argument utterly misses the point. The point is: Why tell this particular story in this particular way at this particular time?
[...]
Africa in such a story is not a place at all, but an idea, and that idea is the same damn one that Conrad and so many lesser writers used. There is a difference between setting a story in “Africa” and setting it in a particular place at a particular time. There is a difference between using the idea of “Africa” as a prop for your plot and actually writing about Africa. I think those differences are vital, particularly when writing about places that have suffered so much stereotyping in First World readers’ minds.

There is a lot to chew over in that post, and many more good points than I can quote without making this carnival far too long.


Novelist PL Logan talks about examining prejudices in the context of the writing life:

The reason why it’s important to get at your prejudices (your ‘isms’ if you like), other than the part about everyone else being able to see them, is that unless you plan to write solely about someone exactly like you, you’d better be able to understand the Other (those who are Not You), at least a little.

If you can’t even understand the person sitting next to you on the bus or on the freeway or at your school or job, how in the world can you understand someone living in the fourteenth century, or in Tau Ceti, or in the Unicorn Kingdom?


Megatrouble’s Super Like a White Man? Searching for the Black Superhero in Comics and Film is a thorough examination of the subject, well worth taking the time to read.

Does the superhero genre of film and comic books speak to people of color? While comics have explored race and superheroes with more nuance, the films lag behind in their portrayals of African Americans. I am entertaining the idea, of course, that a “superhero” does not have to be white and male. My motivation for writing this essay, then, is to stretch the notion of what a super or action hero should look like. Because “hero” is ingrained with a specific image–an American white male, usually a firefighter, infantryman, or doctor–we need more diverse models for heroism.


Thomas Sowell has an interesting article on Bookstore Ghettoes that, oddly enough, has nothing to do with genre fiction. Unless you count ‘being a black author’ as a genre.

If Rachael Ray had been black, there are bookstores where her cookbook would not be displayed in the same section with all the other cookbooks. It would be displayed off in a special section for black authors.
[...]
The notion of honoring black (“African American”) writers with a special section in bookstores is just one of innumerable fashionable symbolic notions that ignore consequences.

In other situations, the negative consequences of mindless symbolism can be far more serious.

Movies & Television

Pam Noles has an excellent post about the casting decisions surrounding the film adaptation of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Quoting the New York Times:

When [HBO] broadcasts its two-hour adaptation of the book… at its center will be a new character: a man who was part Sioux, was educated at an Ivy League college and married a white woman.

“Everyone felt very strongly that we needed a white character or a part-white, part-Indian character to carry a contemporary white audience through this project,” Daniel Giat, the writer who adapted the book for HBO Films, told a group of television writers earlier this year.

Pam goes on to say:

Can we guess the cultural composition of “everyone” in this case? See, this pale and monolithic “everyone” needed a protagonist for their adaptation of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee… one of the touchstone works about the expansion of the West from the point of view of the people who lost out big time.

And the question that always floats to mind around here when I see these types of stories? Is the contemporary white audience truly as dumb, ignorant and xenophobic as the green light guardians at the Hollywood gate assume them to be? (To be honest, quite often my answer is yes. But lots of times my answer is no…)

…it comes down to we’ll never actually know if the contemporary white audience is not being given enough credit as long as the overwhelmingly pale Hollywood People who make the decisions continue to pull this crap.

Well said.


M H Ayinde gives us an interesting take on a possible interpretation of Spider-Man 3‘s use of dark vs. not-dark Spidey.

During the course of the movie, Peter Parker does indeed seem to be transformed into a strange stereotype of a black man. He becomes a sexual predator. He plays jazz piano. He struts down the street while classic soul plays, Shaft-like, in the background. He hits women, and he has to battle his own raging anger. Sounds like a black stereotype to me.

If Spider-Man’s suit had turned some other colour when he was “evil”, I might not have cared so much. But it turned black and, unfortunately, the connotations are far to obvious to be ignored. Aside from this, throughout science fiction and fantasy, dark is used as a lazy shortcut to mean something bad. How many dark lords are there? And even the word itself is used when a writer is stumped to come up with something more creative – the usage of the word really is a prime example of that old literary transgression: telling rather than showing. If we are told something is dark, we know it is bad, without ever needing to be shown why.


In Keep Your Grubby Paws off My Likeness, Lo offers a different take on media representations of minorities:

…being “underrepresented” in TV shows and commercials means that corporate America hasn’t learned how to exploit you yet. If you watch a TV show or a commercial and you find absolutely nothing in common with anyone, you have no desire to be like any of the people that you see; you are in a good spot.

You have an opportunity to have a future. A future not tainted by subliminal messages.

I’m not sure I agree with her thesis, but it’s an interesting view.


Kevin on SlantTruth takes a look at a few movies and TV shows and what they reveal about America.

New Jack City – Black culture in its entirety. Notice all the Hip Hop played in the movie? This is all that is wrong with the United States of America.

The Godfather – Definitely not white culture in its entirety. A socio-economic metaphor for the difficulties involved in making it in the U.S.

The Blogosphere

Donna, at The Silence of Our Friends, comes to an uncomfortable realization about discussions concerning race on the Internet (and, really, anywhere):

My mistake was thinking that white liberals who blog and especially white feminists were ignorant about the way society and culture affect people of color, if you explained it, then they would be more supportive of our ideas and causes. It took me awhile to see that unity and solidarity were only for their ideas and causes and that for the most part it is all about them. This is what both Nezua and BA are talking about in their posts and how they are rejecting those who are users for only their own goals. I’m not so dense that I didn’t figure out long ago that this is true for a few, but I didn’t want to see the bigger picture and how true it is for many.

This came in the context of an excellent post about White POC – “those who are harmful to us collectively and are as self-serving as many white people.”

…there are POC who will tell white people what they want to hear in order to get ahead, and there are POC who have been socialized and acculturated to believe in the all-American racist stereotypes. [...] This is the unfortunate person we hear about when white people want to contradict our truths with their “NDN, black, asian, latino etc friend” who thinks that racism isn’t a problem and that we’re just making a mountain out of a molehill. [...] It’s also what we are talking about when white people tell us “Not you. You’re one of the good ones.” They mean we are assimilated and they notice we are white POC, or as Archie Bunker says, “You’re a credit to your race.” A white POC will think this is a compliment, instead of seeing it as an extension of racism.

In a sort-of related essay posted on Jesus’ General and other blogs, nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, The Unapologetic Mexican, writes about The True Front of Progressivism:

SOMETIMES YOU WONDER if blogging is a component of Real Change, done for distraction, provided as a social experience, or is just a game. And of course, it is all these things at different times. In their better moments, blogs can affect people and their views profoundly, just as a Great Book might, when dropped into your hands on a crucial day.
[...]
But we are all selective. And we all have blind spots. That is why situations like JC’s here are good. He has many guest bloggers, and they all bring their points of view. He does not edit, he does not pressure, he does not in any way censor inflammatory posts, and he lets the Whole work its business when he brings in those voices. This is a good way to avoid blind spots and evidence of a true progressive nature in action.
[...]
Yes, I burn hot, as many of the “brown blogs” do. Just as the feminist blogs do. Just as the anti-ablist blogs do. But change and truth are not lukewarm entities or processes, and nobody has to agree with all I write. I am sure JC doesn’t, and I’m sure Glenn Greenwald doesn’t, but they both read and blogroll me. It doesn’t mean we haven’t had rough moments, adjusting viewpoint pangs, or disagreements. But—to me—it means they earn the name “progressive” if only for their effort and willingness to move outside the mainstream boundaries. [...] I have plenty of exposure. I am happy at my place, and happy to guest post here, and happy that my words get out there.

I am not happy, however, to see how contained these points of view and discussions are in the “mainstream” blog world. My point is that there are many who are connected to this struggle. You want to talk about race? You want to talk about eliminationalist rhetoric? You want to talk about LEFT vs RIGHT….but that leaves no room for others, does it? Is there only Left and Right? Is it really so simple?

An excellent, excellent post.

News and Current Events

Jenn and James at Reappropriate take exception to something Pat Buchannan wrote about the mass killing at Virginia Tech. They decide to take him on point by point, delivering a solid smackdown:

James: While I concur with your point about safety in classrooms, the most insulting part of this argument, to me, is that America already has an ongoing experiment where we allow thousands of unregulated, uncontrolled small arms to infiltrate small, closed-in populations. These small arms contribute to thousands of unsolved and ignored homicides every year. We call this experiment the inner city. If you want to know what happens when everyone gets to carry a gun, go to the hood.
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Jenn: While it is important to remember what it’s like to be a 1.5-genner, and the isolation that such an identity entails, the association of Seung Cho’s actions with all Korean American immigrants is ludicrous! The 1965 Immigration Act opened this nation’s gates to countless talents and skills from around the globe; we can’t conflate one person’s actions with an entire race of people, based solely on skin colour and pathway to citizenship.

In We Are All Criminals, Brownfemipower keeps the real issues surrounding the immigration debate up front:

Right now, although anti-immigrant aggression still centers on economics (the dirty spics are stealing jobs/making us pay for their welfare), the driving force behind the debate, the issue that really triggers the debate, is the “war on terror.”

Some of the first anti-immigrant organizations in the U.S. to capitalize on anti-Arab “war on terror” policies were the hate organizations the Minutemen Project and the American Patrol Report. Both organizations were classified as hate groups by the U.S. government pre 9-11. [...]But all of this was conveniently forgotten by politicians, government officials, and universities in a post 9-11 world.


Rachel (of Tavern fame) feels that Racism is the Problem and Shooting the Messenger Promotes Racism, a reaction to a news story about a teacher disciplined because of something published in the school paper she oversees.

The article in the May issue of the Blazer included anonymous comments from students questioning the intelligence of blacks and expressing disapproval of interracial dating.

Some of the anonymous quotes accompanied an editorial by a student staff member who called those attitudes appalling.

Rachel says,

It is difficult from the article to tell if the administrators were more concerned about how black students would feel after reading the bigoted comments or if they were more concerned about how it would make their school look. But if school administrators think that these types of comments are not made on a regular basis, they need to get real. Racial abuse is not uncommon in schools; bigoted remarks are also common. They may be said only amongst racial peers or close friends, but they are there nonetheless.
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Should these students and their advisor be punished for exposing racism? Should we shoot the messenger or attack the message? I think we should attack the message without white washing it, and punishing the messenger only puts a lid on the problem.

We, As Individuals

One of the reasons I love this carnival is that it never fails to bring home to me that Erasing Racism is not just the work of groups of people, but of individuals. People who live in the world and do individual things with other individuals to combat and eliminate racism. Whenever I find the world too overwhelming and it’s problems insurmountable, I remember that I don’t have to take on the world, I just have to deal with what surrounds me every day. With that thought, I leave you my final carnival offerings:

MissProffe muses on one of the side-effects of being a teacher of color:

We chatted about TOCs being role models – not just for students of color, but also for majority students – at a predominately White independent school. S.G. remarked how there is added pressure on TOCs to project a positive image with respect to appearance (dress) and manner (language).
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Is it fair that my colleague and I must cross every proverbial T and dot every proverbial I in the words we choose and in the clothes we wear? No. However, Life isn’t fair, and This Life presents a double-standard for people of color, regardless of our level of education, an impeccable wardrobe, or ability to speak the Queen’s English.

And finally, Rachel S. writes about Things You Learn About Race From a 7 Year Old on Alas, A Blog:

A few weeks ago my partner’s son B was here for the holidays, and as usual he and I spent a great deal of time together. I’m often curious about when and how kids learn about race, and I always observe how B discusses race. He is a dark skinned black child, and I am a very fair skinned white person, which makes it fairly obvious to any on-looker that I am not his biological mother.
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B: “Were [those people looking at us] because I’m black and you’re white? They want to know if you are my mommy.”

Rachel: ”Why do you think that?”

B: (very matter matter of factly) “Because black kids have black moms.”

Rachel: “Can black kids have white moms?”

B: (laughing at what he thinks is a joke) “Black kids can’t have white moms.”
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I found it interesting how conscious he was of other people looking at him and me. He very clearly connected it to race.
[...]
These are the kinds of issues that frequently come up in mixed race families. They are also faced by monoracial families even if they don’t realize it. …I do wonder if it would be different if I was the black one and he was white. Given that we live in a fairly rich area, where many upper middle class and upper class white parents have women of color as their nannies, it is not too uncommon to see black and brown women taking care of small white kids. However, a white women taking care of a black child is almost unheard of, which is why we probably get some many stares.

Thanks to everyone who submitted (even those I could not include) and everyone for reading. Don’t forget to submit posts for next month’s Carnival, hosted @ white anti-racist parent.

Also, if you’re interested in reading more stuff about race in the SF/F genre, keep an eye out for the People of Colour SF Carnival. The first one is due out next month.

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Race or Gender?

A couple of weeks ago author Steven Barnes posted this on his blog:

I had a conversation with a friend on racial and gender issues. The question came up of whether Hillary or Barack had the best electability. It was her contention that white men would rather vote for a black man than a white woman. I kind of agreed… But the question presents itself: which causes more social and life problems, race, or gender? I don’t know (although I have opinions) but I have a suggestion for anyone who wants to know. By the way, I haven’t performed this experiment, so this isn’t a trick. Here we go: choose an arbitrary number large enough to provide some kind of statistical reality, say a minimum of 10 or 20. The next 10 or 20 black women you have any kind of real interaction with, ask THEM which has been more of a hinderance in life: race or gender. Which has caused more discomfort, and in which have they experienced more prejudice?

At least 10 women of color read this blog, so I’m sure we could gather some interesting data here.

For my part, I have to say that I have experienced more direct/obvious prejudice or people attempting to hinder me due to my gender than due to my race. This is, of course, based on my own awareness. There may have been more times when my race was a factor for others and I just didn’t know.

All of the times I’ve perceived myself to be in physical danger, it was due to my gender. No one has ever threatened to rape me because I am black. Any time I’ve encountered a person who thought I wasn’t very smart, I was pretty sure they assumed that because I am a girl. Men often try to pull their patriarchal control games on me because they feel they can intimidate me/push me around because I’m a woman. No one has ever said, “It must be that time of the month” to me because I’m black.

Ever since I started this blog I’ve had more strangers getting up in my face because of race than I ever have in my life. But I we’re talking random interactions in the real world, I have definitely felt my gender more than I’ve felt my race.

There are several reasons why this could be. One of them being that white people perceive me as a ‘safe’ black person because I have light skin, speak ‘properly’, and have interest in things that white people can relate to (science fiction being one). But, again, may be missing a lot concerning people’s true motivations and thoughts about me.

What do others think?

My final thoughts on Language

Note: I’m off meditating in the woods until April 30th. This post was written beforehand and set to go live in my absence. Feel free to comment and discuss as you normally would. Just be aware that I can’t take part until I come home.

By the time this post goes live we’ll be a week or more away from the whole Don Imus thing. I’m sure people are talking about something else now. The Virginia Tech shooting or the war or something stupid a politician said/did.

I did not comment on the issue back when it was new and fresh and happening. And I don’t plan on saying anything about it now. Not directly. The only thing I have to offer is the words of others:

“Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” – Rush Limbaugh, host of a radio program syndicated on nearly 600 radio stations nationwide

“Many, many, many of the poor in New Orleans are in that condition. They weren’t going to leave no matter what you did. They were drug-addicted. They weren’t going to get turned off from their source. They were thugs, whatever.” – Bill O’Reilly, host of a radio program syndicated on over 400 radio stations nationwide

“A woman not only who was distasteful physically, but is distasteful mentally. […] This hag, this hack, this brisket maker has the audacity to say that we should be having a dialogue with the Hitler of our time — coming from that hag who happens to be Jewish is a triple disgrace.” – Michael Savage (on former Secretary of State Madeline Albright), host of a radio program syndicated on 400 radio stations nationwide

“She looks like a ghetto slut. It’s just — it’s hideous. No, it’s not braided. It just flies away from her head in every conceivable direction. It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory. It’s just hideous.” – Neil Boortz (on U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney), host of a radio program syndicated on over 300 radio stations nationwide

“I didn’t think I could hate [Hurricane Katrina] victims faster than the 9/11 victims.” – Glenn Beck, host of a CNN Headline News television program and a radio program syndicated on over 250 radio stations nationwide

from 5 Statements Made by Radio Personalities Who Have Not Been Fired on East Village Idiot.

Don’t grok me? How about this:

…the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority.

from Politics and the English Language, George Orwell

Language is Power. What are you going to do with it?

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