?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Before | Next

I was corresponding with dmp last night about my reticence to join steampunkdebate, because steampunk (just like most scifi) is still white-oriented and I'm not sure I'm ready to deal with people who can't see the after-effects of imperialism suffered by colonized countries or other institutional problems faced by PoC. Shit, I don't even think I could deal with it coming from other PoC.

This was made even more depressing by stuff that Lois McMaster Bujold, whose Vorkosigan works I've been meaning to get into shit that, well, fucking hurts =( (Basically, "wow! Look at all these PoC coming to conventions! It's good to see more PoC fans and I'm sure we'll be hearing more of them!" and well, uh, actually, we've always been reading, you just never noticed -_-;;;)

So, basically, been sticking to clearly coloured places like Racialicious for race issues and didn't even dare touch RaceFail. =/ Too many white people intruding, speaking up over us. Too many patronizing "calm down now dear"s and too much noise. Too much "I didn't know it hurt your feelings, I didn't mean to." Yes, even if I do end up in an echo chamber, so what? At least I know there's a place where my concerns are recognized as legitimate, and not passed off as me being "too sensitive" or "taking individual incidents too seriously". Too angry. Because I'd be gritting my teeth in frustration and rather than reaching through my monitor to do some trout-slapping, I'd be banging on my keyboard writing the worst profanities I ever learned on ShinraOnline.com, and then no one would be taking me seriously at all, because nice girls (and nice WoC) do not do that sort of thing.

I had no idea, but today is Shatter the Silence day at foc_u (Fen of Colour United). (Fen being the plural of Fan, and I don't know why it's spelled that way, but I'm pretty sure I'll find out soon.) It's where PoC all over speak up about how they feel about their fandoms, science fiction and fantasy, speculative or any other form of imaginative fiction which we love, but don't really see any parallels for ourselves within (because most of them are written by white people, with white characters). Yes, even Firefly, with its Chinese-speaking future, doesn't have a lot of Chinese people. We kind of fall short that way. Even I write white characters, because that's all I'm familiar with within my reading. I never came across a great science fiction story with an Asian character in it. You kidding me? The closest I got was Final Fantasy, and I never even played those games. Closer to home there was wuxia novels (fabulous fantastical martial arts stuff), and I couldn't read those because I can't read Chinese. (This is an after-effect of imperialism, another topic for another day.)

When you are a young PoC reading the mainstreadm scifi/fantasy culture, the first thing you learn is that big heroics and adventures and quests are for white people, and we're only sidekicks or mentors or prizes (I could say love interests, but "prizes" is a hella lot more appropriate word). That's not right.

The more I discover others who have found their words to express their discontent, the more I discover the language I need to express mine. The more I discover other writers of colour, the more determined I am to shape my own narratives. I, too, can compel magical beings to do my bidding even if my skin colour's yellow, and I, too, can go on great adventures into a wide wide world that's not just in the Northern Hemisphere.

So, anyways, go over to foc_u and check out the posts for today. There's so much good stuff.

Comments

( 16 Words — Have Your Say )
a_g_doren
May. 18th, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC)
Even I write white characters, because that's all I'm familiar with within my reading. I never came across a great science fiction story with an Asian character in it. You kidding me? The closest I got was Final Fantasy, and I never even played those games. Closer to home there was wuxia novels (fabulous fantastical martial arts stuff), and I couldn't read those because I can't read Chinese. (This is an after-effect of imperialism, another topic for another day.)

I'm an African-American woman, reading these types of statements by PoCs breaks my heart, regardless of their race. My mother taught me race pride as child and saved me from the despair that many PoCs suffer over this. I want to tell you though that you can write characters that look like you and have whatever heritage you consider yours. If you commit to it from this day going forward I know you can do it and I know that the folks posting in these blogs will help you.
cephiedvariable
May. 18th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
"taking individual incidents too seriously"

I generally find that in race debates the only people who do this are white people. While PoC speak of a whole tapestry of discrimination both subtle and overt, both personal and cultural that they have lived with for so long that it's become MUNDANE, white people get all: "OMG THIS ONE GROUP OF BLACK KIDS USED TO CALL ME CRACKER AND SPIT ON ME IN THE BUS. REVERSE RACISM!!!!!!" Funny that they'd accuse PoC of doing it. That tells me that the basic idea behind things like Orientalism is still alive: white people look at "the other" and all they see is a mirror reflecting back themselves.
cephiedvariable
May. 18th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
When you are a young PoC reading the mainstreadm scifi/fantasy culture, the first thing you learn is that big heroics and adventures and quests are for white people, and we're only sidekicks or mentors or prizes (I could say love interests, but "prizes" is a hella lot more appropriate word). That's not right.

I hate this. So much. I probably don't have much right to speak on it being pale as a sheet of paper (British, French AND German- fuck yeah, I'll oppress you all over the place!) but grahgsdhj.

Thank you, Avatar movie casting. Thank you, Wizard of Earthsea mini series. *twitch twitch*

lol lol lol the default person is white lol lol lol

What's weird is the cognitive dissonance people experience in fiction where their brains seem intent on viewing everyone as white despite evidence to the contrary. I just remember a very specific moment with an RP character of mine back in Jr. High that made me hyper aware of this: the first time I coloured a picture of my half gryphon character a friend of mine remarked: "Oh, I didn't realize he was black. I thought his skin would be pale." and I was like: "....... he. Is Egyptian. Circa... 3000BC. How would pale skin happen?" She had just assumed.

I dabble all around in Fantasy and I can't think of a more racist "white's only" club of a genre than that. I like to be surprised that characters I thought were white aren't. Fantasy novels teach me the exact opposite. D:
cephiedvariable
May. 18th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
I like to be surprised that characters I thought were white aren't.

Though the fact that I even HAVE to be surprised....
fantasyecho
May. 18th, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC)
What's weird is the cognitive dissonance people experience in fiction where their brains seem intent on viewing everyone as white despite evidence to the contrary.

I know I've had that kind of cognitive dissonance. When I read Wizard of Earthsea, I pictured Ged as white. I was actually super surprised to find that he's not actually white. It just never occurred to me. And this was before I saw the miniseries.
fantasyecho
May. 18th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
OH, AND THEN THERE WAS DRIZZT.

YES. THANKS FORGOTTEN REALMS FOR LETTING ME KNOW THAT MATRIARCHAL WOMEN OF COLOUR ARE ALWAYS EVIL.
cephiedvariable
May. 18th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
MATRIARCHAL WOMEN ARE ALWAYS EVIL.

FIXED IT. T___T
fantasyecho
May. 18th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
Man. Fuck. *sigh* We just can't win, can we? (What other matriarchal societies are there? Were the Witches of Rasheman (sp?) evil?)

Obviously we need to have our own hot chocolate enclave.
(Anonymous)
May. 19th, 2009 04:05 pm (UTC)
Huh.

I almost never noticed the descriptions of the viewpoint character. It got in the way of the story. There's a novel out there where the protagonist is revealed as black at the end, but I don't recall any hint otherwise. Only in the last ten or so years have I actively tried to notice things like character description. And that's been deeply disappointing; 'nut brown' seems to be the limit on darkness in the human.

Fen, plural of fan is analogous to men, plural of man, and goes way back in fandom's history.

Van Vaene
fantasyecho
May. 19th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's definitely disappointing. I think the only series I've read so far which had PoC in them that I really related to has been the Islam Quintet by Tariq Ali. And that's not scifi.
ardwynna_m
May. 19th, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Racefail gave me the bad twitches too. I'm too confused about a lot of things to be truly coherent on the matter. Yes, I would LOVE to see some more brown skin all around, brown skin that does the important things and that makes it to the end of the movie in one piece even. But I also don't have the built-in anger that other people seem to on the issue of cultural appropriation.

Is that because I luckily grew up in an environment that didn't look down on me for expressing my heritage? Or because my Colonial roots are so deep I don't have sense enough to recognize when I'm being exploited? What about people of color dabbling in the cultures of other people of color, because I've seen it done and considering all the kimono in my closet, I've done it too. Where does appropriation end and learning and exchange begin?

fantasyecho
May. 19th, 2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Funny you should ask that, I had this same conversation last night with someone else!

I've noticed that cultural appropriation tends happen most in environments where there're clear power dynamics involved, and the powerful take from the powerless, reshapes what's been taken, without consideration or respect for the group which has been taken from. It's especially worse within North America where there's one clearly powerful group.

I grew up in Asia, so I never noticed the problems of cultural appropriation myself until I came to Canada. So people ask me, "is it bad if I wear the Chinese cheongsam?" I say no, as long as you're wearing it because you truly dig it and not because it's wank material for you (see the essay by Atlasien; I posted a link a couple of days back). As long as you're not Othering it (ie when you wear it it's because you want to be something "other" than what you are). The subject is fraught and there's no easy way to enter the discussion, but I'm working on writing a primer that will hopefully illustrate why some people find it so insulting, and why some people don't.

The exchange begins, I believe, when we truly start to recognize that equal representation is important. When the PCD wear saris on TV, it's not inherently bad: the hypersexualization in how they wore it and claiming it to be a fusion of east and west was, and basically, "you can wear my stuff on TV and yet I'm not allowed to stand next to you onscreen?" This obviously isn't that much of a problem with people who either grew up in a multi-cultural society where they have equal representation in the media, and with people who don't notice that they're being systemetically edged out of the media in the first place (see the Avatar debacle).

Of course, other people would have different takes on this.
nolan_ash
May. 20th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
I'd be banging on my keyboard writing the worst profanities I ever learned on ShinraOnline.com, and then no one would be taking me seriously at all, because nice girls (and nice WoC) do not do that sort of thing.

Maybe it's not about being a "proper young lady" and more about finding an appropriate way to express yourself. I don't take people seriously when they spew profanities online no matter what race or gender. I've always believed 'Anything worth saying can be said civilly.' As soon as you lose your cool and pepper your arguments with insults, you just make your audience defensive. The walls come up. The listening stops.

If you're frustrated and you just want to preach to the choir (or listen to it), by all means do so. But as a fellow outraged person, if you want to be heard, be an activist, actually make a difference, at some point you're going to have to swallow that "holycrapthisperson'sstupid", take a deep breath and explain yourself civilly. They're going to be dumb and say stupid things. You address those stupid things civilly, then restate or rephrase your point. Wash, rinse, repeat until a person gets it.

If there's one tool that's been useful to me this year in getting my point across and being heard, it's having the patience to answer the asinine questions, being willing to repeat myself using different metaphors, basically realizing a person might not 'get it' until the 10th (or 50th) time. Frustrating? Hell yes. But I'd rather take it on the chin and make a point, than be one more angry voice quacking in the wind. You're going to be indignant and frustrated with the situation anyway. Why not do something to fix it?

I don't believe MLK would have made the progress he did by whipping himself into a frenzy of indignation until he's so frustrated with whites that he can't tolerate addressing them. The guy had poise and civility and that's when people (even stupid people of an opposing view point) start listening.
fantasyecho
May. 20th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
It doesn't matter how nicely I say it - if I say it like a normal person, the chances of me being ignored are high. The chances of me being ignored if I bring up something the other person doesn't WANT to hear are higher. It doesn't matter how civil I am if my audience is forced to confront their privilege in due process - the walls will come up anyway.

That's part of what it means to be a minority.
nolan_ash
May. 20th, 2009 11:34 pm (UTC)
Then what's your proposed solution? If none of the tactics you use work to change minds, maybe it's time to shift tactics.

Personally, I don't think confronting someone with their privilege is an effective tactic any more than preaching hellfire is an effective form of evangelism. Saying "you're in the wrong!" makes someone instantly angry and communication breaks down before you start.

The concept of privilege may be true and worthy of griping about with fellows who can see the imbalance, but if it doesn't work in changing minds and making a difference, maybe it's time to adopt a different teaching strategy.
fantasyecho
May. 21st, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
I could be just stating a few facts, something as innocuous as speaking about mis-representation or being under-representation, and those with privilege would still get defensive, accuse me of being "too sensitive" or "you're seeing problems where there are none", or dismiss me with a "oh, it's nothing, you're probably over-analyzing" when it's clearly systematic. What do I do then? Say nothing? There's really no other way to say "uh no, I get this all the time" and start into a 101 about micro-aggression, which, if the privileged person doesn't get it, and doesn't want to, because then they'd have to own up to their privilege, then how I say it doesn't make a difference anyway.

No anti-racist activist who knows what they're doing wants to start a flame war and bust out attacks, but there is always that underlying frustration, and yet, that lack of opportunity to really lash out with our rage because we're taken less seriously if we show just how hurt we are, remains.

Hence why I, being the lesser person here, am choosing to simply withdraw from spaces where my voice will not be taken seriously and choosing instead to be in a place where I won't HAVE to feel I need profanities to be noticed.
( 16 Words — Have Your Say )