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RaceFail 09 - I'm With Stumpy
Your quarterly moment of zen
O, wonder!
O brave new world
 

Poi
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 13:47
Subject: RaceFail 09
Status: Public
I have been following this for some time but rarely commenting. However I do not want my silence to be taken for apathy or assent, particularly not assent with this piece of condescending fuckwittery (a more elegant response to that here, also here, here, here and here).

If you don't know what I'm talking about (srsly?), various timelines & summaries are around, most recently here, and especially this earlier one. rydra_wong is also keeping track of MANY RaceFail09 posts here.

I'm not likely to ever meet either of them, but I support the various calls to shun both Will Shetterly and Kathryn Cramer for maliciously and repeatedly outing coffeeandink (her posts, 1, 2, 3, 4, see also: this and this).

A few of the excellent posts that have I have read/re-read recently (some from this week, some from a month or two ago, so pls check the dates if you're going to comment):

Cultural Appropriation 101 by shewhohashope
For the people who still don't know what the big deal is, or have been pulled so far into the soul-sucking vortex of internet pseudonymity and professional egos that they've forgotten that there was a deal: Cultural Appropriation 101. Hopefully, by the end of the course, you will comfortable with the basic arguments against appropriation of marginalised cultures by dominant cultures.

Why this hurts everyone by oyceter
RaceFail has, from the very beginning, had authors and editors on one side and readers and consumers on another.

On Safe Spaces by eruthros
I've been thinking about the degree to which some people don't understand what a safe space is, and what it means -- a self-determined space, a space I declare safe, a space under my control.

I didn't dream of dragons by deepad
One of the most frustrating arguments I’ve encountered is—If you hate it so much, stop bitching and write your own.

ven ve voke up, ve had zese wodies by ciderpress
As the dust settles, I have seen a considerable number of white people repeatedly declare that their painful, difficult ordeal has been worth it, thanking and patting each other/themselves on the back and having a little cry or whatever it is people do when they feel like they have had a cathartic moment.

on the David Levine thing by vito_excalibur
So let me recap. I want to stand up in public and say whatever fool thing comes into my head. If I say something insulting and anyone calls me on it, I want to react by getting hugely defensive and insisting that I didn't do anything wrong. And I want this not to result in the internet coming down around my ears.

Some thoughts on the impossibility of opting out of the economy of privilege by miriam_heddy
An effective white anti-racist is not an ex-racist or a never-been-racist but instead is a racist who finds racism problematic enough to work against the privileges that systemic racism offers white people at the expense of recognizing the humanity of PoC.

*

50books_poc
verb_noire
The Remyth Project
Team Fandom at Kiva
Scholarship type thing for Wiscon
12th POC blog carnival
POC in SF/F Carnival call for submissions
First Asian Women Blog Carnival call for submissions
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a princess of now
User: skywardprodigal
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 15:12 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Good post, poi.

Thank you.
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Poi
User: poilass
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 15:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh god, please don't thank me. I should be apologising, I should've done it much earlier but I go all passive and silent when I'm depressed.

Anyway, how you doing?
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a princess of now
User: skywardprodigal
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 15:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Okay, yeah, if it was all about me, I could have used this sooner. :D

There's a reason just about all my personal reflection has been under private locked or in safe spaces, and it's that conspicuous silence, but you said something. For which I am GRATEFUL.

Thank you.

I'm hurting but putting the pieces together. Doing what I can to connect with my better angels. Holding my peace and venting my spleen. Praying. Meditating. Writing.
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Poi
User: poilass
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 20:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I do think many people have been seriously, astonishingly, awe inspiringly magnificent, and some good things like verb_noire have come out of it, but I know that doesn't balance out the harm that's been done. Good luck catching up with those angels.
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User: dawnkiller
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 15:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ahaha. I haven't been following this, but I'm guessing it exploded out of the white-washing of the live action Avatar movie.

This entire debate is interesting to me, in a "I want to stay away from this" thing. Don't get me wrong, being genetically biracial and considering myself culturally Japanese-American while generally being taken as white by society means I have a few opinions. But dear god, what a mess.

The thing is, I think the greatest damage is done by the parties who insist that there is no problem and people should lighten up on either side of the argument. If you want to piss someone off, tell them their opinion and own life experiences don't matter, or even flat-out wrong. A non-racial parallel would be to have someone tell you that clearly you can't be very smart if you didn't attend or finish college, HS, what have you. (As a cum laude graduate I feel I have some standing when I say assumption is complete BS.) And whites aren't the only ones guilty of this kind of behavior -- all those who rant about straight/white/male privalege to an abusive degree should bear in mind the stress that this sort of reactionary stuff can create for that group as well. White liberal guilt as a phrase exists for a reason. While the term "oppression" doesn't fit when applied to the group nominally in power, it's not as if they're getting away totally free and clear either.

(Yes, I sympathized with whitey. What can I say, my father is a White.)

The best advice was given by I think Elizabeth Bear. First, do not be lazy and just slap a different name on an obviously existing culture. Second, if you're going to do that, do your research. And third, and most importantly, stop thinking of The Other as "The Other". That has to be the single biggest perpetuation of stereotypes in media. By thinking so hard about what a character is, the writers all too often forget to consider the who -- a lot like some people on either side of the argument.
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let's get the seven lines.
User: bookshop
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 16:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

it actually did *not* explode out of the white-washing of the live action Avatar movie. That actually is a completely separate issue that fandom communities have also been dealing with. While our awareness of both issues happening at once has certainly contributed to the discussion, I do not know of any instance where those discussions have overlapped.

The issue actually began because of the advice you mention by matociquala, who unfortunately throughout this debate has not proved as willing to extend her advice about accepting the "other" to the role of accepting critique about how well she had practiced multiculturalism and non-appropriative techniques in her own writing. This began a debate that spawned outward from her journal and Seeking Avalon's (whose timeline that Poi linked to is essential reading if you want to get a good overview of the debate and subsequent upheavals/flounces/violations of privacy).

A larger debate about cultural appropriation has been ongoing and at intervals very heated (though never like this) throughout the sci-fi community, as evidenced by the WisCon panels on the subject for 2 of the last 3 years, and Bear's wry reference to the continuing WisCon debates during the post in which she asked everyone to just "let it drop." The most succinct response to that coming from bossymarmelade - "I would never dream of telling anybody to "let it drop" when what "it" is ... is themselves."

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User: dawnkiller
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 17:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Um, yeah, I gotta agree with bossymarmelade there. Sometimes I think the other side can fail to understand that the reason many people pursue things like gay/women/race -rights is because it's not just an abstract cause, but a personal reality.

I wasn't aware of the SF/F debate, not being hugely involved in a focused fandom, but yeah -- thinking about many of the books I've read, I can't say I'm surprised to learn it's an issue (though oddly, no one seems to mind the cultural appropriation in Avatar -- perhaps because the Asian elements were not only generally well-researched, but essentially made Asian/Inuit groups the protagonists rather than the Exotically Foreign Adversary).

I did skim the list a bit, though it was tough to puzzle out without foundation -- I've never read Bear's work, so I haven't an opinion on her failure or success, but in general terms I have to say that if a member of the group you're purporting to be representing points out errors in your approach you should probably suck it up and listen. Criticism about something you're proud of is a bit hard to take, but you know, if it's actually going to benefit what you're going for . . . ah well.

I'm pretty sure that at least one poster pointed out that you're never going to be 100% right in a depiction of another culture (although frankly the odds of you being 100% right about your own isn't exactly assured either), which is true. One of the things that makes racial politics so volatile is the fact that even among various minorities there are different flavors of oppression, so one groups' experience isn't necessarily going to convey to another's. If you want to tackle the issue, your only hope is probably to be sensitive and willing to take criticism. And, possibly, invest in a flak suit.
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Poi
User: poilass
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 20:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Bear's book was criticised -- politely -- by all of two people, at least one of whom also said that she had enjoyed the book despite having some problems with it. Bear responded in a post that was widely praised, apologising and agreeing the book had failed in that respect. The fail began when people made racist comments in that post, Bear didn't call any of them on despite having promised to moderate the discussion, and eventually started agreeing with them, saying she was just "taking a hit for the team" and, god, I don't even want to go into it now, the details are linked above if you want to search them out. In her most recent post she now says that the original criticism was shallow and never valid, and she only *pretended* to believe that she'd made a mistake because she "felt it was important to serve as an example of how to engage dialogue on unconscious institutional racism."

Not that Bear is even the point anymore, despite what she seems to think, but no-one needed a flak jacket for making a *mistake*, is what I'm saying. No-one attacked Bear or anyone else for trying but not quite getting it 100% right. It took a lot of people working very, very hard to cling to their racism to get this thing where it is now.
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User: dawnkiller
Date: Friday 6 March 2009 21:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Taking a hit for the team"? Yeah, I think that's the official sign that Reason has left the building because Martyrdom keeps elbowing it in the eye. *headdesk*

Well, the debate proved a kind of equality . . . If nothing else, we've got a good demonstration that anyone, regardless of race, sex, religion, finances and fandom, is capable of sticking their foot so far up their mouth they can kick themselves in the tonsils.
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Trisha Lynn
User: trishalynn
Date: Saturday 7 March 2009 20:08 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The fail began when people made racist comments in that post, Bear didn't call any of them on despite having promised to moderate the discussion

This I'm interested in seeing. Which link above goes to this part?
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