?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Because I said I would give more context - Zer Netmouse
March 9th, 2009
11:49 pm

[Link]

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Because I said I would give more context
a post explaining the context of a couple other posts recently...

There was this thing. At least, most of us are hoping it is accurate to use the word "was" because it seemed a rather toxic thing, such that it was easy to look at from the outside and dismiss as LJ Drama, or "a bag full of angry cats" or some other thing that apparently made various people who did not read it choose not to read it and some people congratulate themselves on the wisdom of staying far, far, away.

There are a couple names for it, but the one I've heard most often is RaceFail '09. There is a short summary here, and a linkety guide here including a link to a timeline and another summary of events (she calls it "Writing The Other/Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM '09" which is more descriptive in some ways, but doesn't have the short quick impression of total morass 'o doom that "RaceFail '09" does). Another comment people should read before diving in, with a lightly shorter link list, is here.

And yes, somewhere in there is evidence that there are certainly people who believe SF (as a written industry, and as a fandom) is not a safe place for people of color. Now, of course, many people will just point at RaceFail '09 itself to prove that point. I don't know how many people will listen to them. I know fandom is certainly both wider and deeper than this particular debate. I also know it is distinctly lacking in characters of color in writing by white people, authors and editors of color in the industry, and fans of color at literary sf cons. There are a few, but not enough.

(apparently there was another discussion last year that was slightly more sane. I remember reading Bear's post on it at the time, but otherwise didn't see much of it. )

If you are going to read any of it, I also recommend you read this essay on the definition of racism and also google "race theory" or "critical race theory" so as to avoid having the "what the heck are you people talking about and why are you mangling this corner of English so no one can talk to each other sensibly on this subject?" reaction in public the first time (like I did).

I have not read it all yet, but I plan to explore further, since the short summary (and other comments I've received) indicate "there have been many interesting and thoughtful posts by fans of color" and those are of interest to me. I hope to post a guide pointing to those later.

In the meantime, one thing some people point to as a positive !fail coming out of this is the creation of a new small press called Verb Noire. They are taking donations now to help them get started.

(23 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
From:rachelann1977
Date:March 10th, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
(Link)
it's all in how you define racism. I think it's a huge pile of crap, personally. You should read Spider Robinson's "Night of Power." If an old white dude could ever understand racism, he does, in my estimation.

Just an opinion, though, and I really do believe that opinions are like assholes..... :-p
Still, that book is a pretty good read, too bad he can't come to Penguicon.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 05:25 am (UTC)
(Link)
I really don't think it is "all in how you define racism" but I appreciate the book recommendation.

(What exactly do you think is a huge pile of crap, btw? Have you read it? The whole discussion?)
From:rachelann1977
Date:March 10th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I think the idea that any group as a whole should be labeled racist because of the relative scarcity of a particular group amongst its ranks is a particularly ridiculous bastardization of the word racist.


[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
What gave you the impression that is an accurate summary of what's going on? It doesn't sound like one to me.


To turn that around, can you see how the relative scarcity of a minority group within another larger group (meaning members of the minority are considerably more scarce there than they are in the population at large) could lead a person of that minority (and others) to wonder what lead to it?

Can you see how one strong hypothesis could be that the group is somehow not a safe place for people of that minority to venture into and try to find a home in?

Are you familiar with how people tend to see evidence that supports a hypothesis once they have it, and discard evidence that does not?

All these things come into play.

Though there may be people and posts within racefail who have made sweeping generalizations about fandom and literary fandom and racism, I don't think those are the norm. Most of the anger and statements about racism are identifications of perceived racism in a particular document, statement, response, incident, or pattern of behavior by either an individual or an organization.

Though it is sometimes frustrating when people depict complex organizations as having "behaviors" I think it's nonetheless sometimes a valid rhetorical exercise.

In any case, my impression is that you're dismissing this whole thing as simplistic and the participants as simple-minded and generally I think neither is true.
From:rachelann1977
Date:March 10th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't think it's simplistic, I think it's a non-issue. I don't think these people are simple-minded, I think they just want to argue. I've been there. That's where the bullshit element comes in.

We're all trying too hard to fight against something that doesn't exist. Tilting at windmills may be fine for a while, but eventually, you've got to realize that it all adds up to nothing but grief.
[User Picture]
From:i_naiad
Date:March 10th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
If you read the posts I link to below, I think you'll see that it is as far away from a non-issue and something that doesn't exist as you can get. What you are dismissing are people's life experiences and the very last thing most of them want to do is argue.

Isilya - Stones on My Chest
BossyMarmalade - Sees Fire
Ciderpress - Ven Ve Voke Up, Ve Had Zese Wodies
WistfulJane - Do You Even Care About Us?

From:rachelann1977
Date:March 10th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
(Link)
My point is supported by these posts, and my point is this:

These people have opinions that they feel an undeniable need to express, and those opinions ultimately have nothing to do with whether or not there exists a problem of racism within the science fiction community as a whole. Those opinions are personal. I do not place any less value on them, but I think the context for them is misplaced.

I think it's terrible that we live in a society such that we need excuses like this to share our personal stories and experiences. We are dismissed as emo, and our posts become "too long to read" if we express our inner selves this way randomly.

Maybe the problem isn't science fiction; maybe it's just humanity.
[User Picture]
From:i_naiad
Date:March 10th, 2009 11:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Of course it is humanity, but SF is a part of that and isn't free from the same problems. In particular, this ongoing discussion is demonstrating that many within the professional SF community have difficulties dealing with race and that SF as a genre isn't as progressive as it seems to think it is.

My point is supported by these posts, and my point is this:

These people have opinions that they feel an undeniable need to express, and those opinions ultimately have nothing to do with whether or not there exists a problem of racism within the science fiction community as a whole. Those opinions are personal. I do not place any less value on them, but I think the context for them is misplaced.


I disagree. Those posts were created as a result of these people feeling unwelcome in the SF community (in general and because of the actions of some SF professionals). The context is very much appropriate as it is the direct cause. All of those authors talk about race regularly, across a wide variety of subjects, this isn't them finding an excuse to share their feelings. Furthermore, they were just a cherry pick of the many, many posts by fans of colour about feeling unwelcome in SF and the hundreds of comments that they have received demonstrate that they are far from the only ones.

And it's not just the fans. Writers of colour are also affected.
[User Picture]
From:dr_memory
Date:March 10th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
(Link)
Your first link is now locked, apparently.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
hmm... it might have been f-locked from the beginning. I really need to switch to an LJ format that shows me these things. If only there was an *intelligent* new LJ style that still retained LJ friends list colors. Ghods help me, I haven't found one, and it drives me nuts trying to read my flist without the color coding.
[User Picture]
From:jrittenhouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 08:15 am (UTC)
(Link)
I assume you saw Scalzi's comment on this when someone tried to drag it over there. In my case, I blew up on it a few days ago for the same reason; serious 'you have to join the fray or else' crapola that Just Set My Teeth On Edge that I got from a regular on my area, who I seriously told off in a private email.

I agree that there's serious and worthwhile discussion material in the middle of all this, somewhere. The vitriol, however, overwhelms it.
[User Picture]
From:liviapenn
Date:March 10th, 2009 12:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)

FYI, Scalzi blew up because people were trying to "out" a person in his comments who didn't want her real name plastered all over the internets, not "you have to join the fray or else' crapola".
[User Picture]
From:jrittenhouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
(Link)
OK, most precisely you're correct as to what sent him over the edge, but I quote:

This is of course intimately related to a long and to my mind absolutely goddamn pointless discussion that’s been going on over at LJ for the last several weeks, which was supposed to be about something but in which that something has been primarily used as cover for a bunch of people to spend quite a lot of time being shouty to be shouty and being pissy to be pissy. Since it’s happened to involve people I know one way or another, some other folks have asked me why I hadn’t weighed in on it to this point. The reason I haven’t is for the same reason I don’t regularly stick my head into a bag filled with angry, feral cats. The fact that someone involved in that “discussion” got a nasty itch to use my site to settle a score basically confirms my opinion that any actual value that particular LJ crapfling might have ever had (which given its overall execution, wasn’t much) has long since evaporated. And what we have left is people thinking it’s a swell idea to drag their shit into my house.
[User Picture]
From:liviapenn
Date:March 10th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)

Unfortunately, the most charitable interpretation of that paragraph is that he hasn't actually read the discussion that he decries as "goddamn pointless," and is hearing about it second-hand. It would be really sad if that was his *informed* opinion.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:liviapenn
Date:March 10th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)

Actually, the most charitable interpretation is "I see a few people trying to have a reasonable discussion in a sea of folks reaction to their emotional hot buttons."

No, at that point you're reading things into it that he actually didn't say. He called the whole thing "goddamn pointless" and a "crapfling." That's a long way from "a worthwhile topic that deserves to be discussed in a non-reactionary manner."
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:veritykindle
Date:March 10th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Sorry to break into this long thread, but the way I read that was that Scalzi thinks the subject is important, but that everybody involved (everybody, on both sides of the discussion) is not discussing it, but "being shouty to be shouty". At no point did I see any indication that he thought anybody in this "bag filled with angry, feral cats" (which is how he apparently sees LJ) capable of saying anything reasonable.

I agree that a lot of noise has been made that has covered up and made it much more difficult to find all of the important, thought-provoking, challenging posts that people are (still) making on the subject of race. I would even argue that a lot of that noise was made with the express purpose of burying those posts and posts like them, so that it would be easier to dismiss this whole debate as just another "LJ crapfling". But that makes it all the more important not to allow those posts to be buried! Dismissing the whole debate (ETA: by which I mean making public posts and comments that dismiss the debate and denounce everyone still involved in it) because some people are going to great lengths to keep people from listening to it is not somehow "remaining above" the debate; it's giving in to bullying, and helping to suppress an important conversation.

(Note: the posts I linked to in that last paragraph don't even come close to showing the whole complexity of the debate that is going on, or reflecting all the points being made. They are just a few posts I dug up in about 5 minutes of looking. And even in that time, I was able to dig up so many good posts that I found myself unable to link to all of them. There is a lot more out there, all thought-provoking, and all important! But of course, this is all just about "a bunch of people to spend quite a lot of time being shouty to be shouty and being pissy to be pissy", and there is no reason to pay attention, right?)

Edited at 2009-03-10 08:04 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:March 10th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Hey, thanks for sharing your links and thoughts. I feel like pointing out that the phrase "been primarily used as" does imply a secondary process going on that is somehow different. Aside from that, Scalzi has specifically commented that he doesn't want me to feel like I have to defend him, so I won't. He told me late (Late!) last night that he had read most of RaceFail, and I think he's still reading, just like I am. but I can't blame him (or anyone) for waiting for the stabbity stabbity glint in some people's eyes to die down before trying to tread those waters.

(I love those late night IM conversations where both parties are sitting there asking "why are we up so late discussing this NOW?" I had an even later conversation with Mary Robinette Kowal that was like that. I'm looking forward to conversating with her sometime when I'm awake. :) )
[User Picture]
From:veritykindle
Date:March 11th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
I feel like pointing out that the phrase "been primarily used as" does imply a secondary process going on that is somehow different.

Heh. I did notice that phrase, as well. I guess I just object to the notion that the part of the conversation with the "bunch of people spending quite a lot of time being shouty" *is* the "primary" part of the whole mess. I see the current debate as being primarily a very difficult but still important conversation about race that some people have tried to suppress by... well, by using pretty much every method mentioned in that link. Dismissing it as being primarily about all those examples of suppression instead just proves that yet again, those methods of suppression are succeeding. And that's just not right!

And here's the thing that has finally been brought home to me as I was reading this latest round of the debate, and saw the sheer lengths some people went to in order to avoid talking about race: any real conversation about race is going to end up having a lot of extraneous angry noise and people shouting at each other in it, too. It isn't possible to have a real debate about race that includes both people of color and (even well-meaning) white people new to the subject that will be completely "polite and civilized."

Race as a topic is uncomfortable. If you are having a discussion about racism that doesn't make ignorant white people like me reading it feel uncomfortable and defensive, then chances are it's because the conversation in question is controlled by those white people, and is more about making them feel happy about themselves than about making any actual progress talking about how racism is affecting people of color.

Sure, it's easy enough to admit that there is racism in society, or even that there is racism in Science Fiction in general. But if anyone dares to, say, start giving actual specific examples that aren't really obvious and extreme, then you can be sure that there will be people who will get offended and angry, and think that the fact that they liked that book or that movie or that TV show means that of course it could never have any racism in it, and how dare the person giving the example imply that they are racist! And those people will do everything in their power to make the whole debate about them, and what they like, and how they've been hurt by the debate. (And chances are, they won't even realize that they are doing it!)

We can't have an honest conversation about race by letting white people in power, unaware of their own privilege, control the conversation. And if someone else does take charge of the conversation, then chances are that there will be times when the conversation will make us uncomfortable. And when that happens, the thing to do is not to try and take control from the people leading it, or dismiss the whole conversation as "uncivilized" and beneath our notice.

I can't blame him (or anyone) for waiting for the stabbity stabbity glint in some people's eyes to die down before trying to tread those waters.

Oh, of course I can't blame him, or anyone else, for wanting to just stay quiet and read and learn in the face of such an uncomfortable situation. I'd hardly be one to talk, given that I haven't posted anything either, and every time I try, my hands start shaking, and I can't think of anything new to say. (And I don't even have a popular blog, like Scalzi does, or have any kind of personal or professional relationship with any of the people involved.)

But when he does post about the subject - and he did post about it, after all - I don't think it's unfair of me to get upset with him for dismissing everybody involved, just because the debate has gotten uncomfortable for him.

But heh, you said that you don't want the conversation to be diverted to defending him, so I will stop venting in your space over something that is really not your fault. Sorry about that! *sheepish grin*

ETA: sorry for the length of this comment - I seem to be incapable of not being wordy. *g*

Edited at 2009-03-11 12:26 am (UTC)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:veritykindle
Date:March 11th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
(Link)
my own emotional knee-jerk reactions reduce my already-low tolerance for morasses. I wish I had the emotional detachment to "shut up and listen" (as one white person described her take on her role in this).

Oh, trust me, me, too! I don't want to put myself forward as some sort of model of dealing with this situation, because I'm very much not. I'm a clueless white person, and my knee-jerk reaction is also to look away and not deal with anything I find uncomfortable. And I think that I've only been able to read as much of this debate as I have (which I admit is not all of it) because I've cringed and looked away from so many similar debates in the past, and I've finally seen enough on the subject for some of it to actually stick. (ETA: I'm not saying this because I'm proud of it in any way - I'm saying it because I'm deeply ashamed of myself, and to show that I do understand how tempting it is to hide from what is going on, but I believe that hiding is still the wrong choice.)

There are important things being said! (ETA: And I strongly believe that these issues are important not just for the people involved in the debate, but for everybody who reads science fiction.) The fact that our first reaction is to try to hide from everything that is going and and avoid listening to it is our failure, not the failure of the people leading the discussion.

If you are serious about looking for more interesting posts about race, here is a post I just found that has some of the links I included before, plus a lot more, some of which I haven't read yet either. And, since this current round of RaceFail has certainly not been the first time this subject as come up, this tag has quite a few very useful and interesting Racism 101 for clueless white people posts from previous debates, as well. (ETA: Also, this post that I just found has a very useful summary of events that shows why I so firmly believe that this is primarily a discussion about race that has been purposefully derailed by people not wanting to listen, rather than just another LJ flamewar.)

And, since you mention book recs, there are a lot of very interesting book recommendations showing up in the comments of quite a few of the posts, as well! This post in particular has a treasure-trove of cool recs in the comments, because there are ten pages of comments and the great majority of them include some book recs along with other reactions to events. Apparently, some people are making a spreadsheet of all the book recommendations in that post. I am really looking forward to seeing it, because my sense is that there are literally hundreds of book recs there! :)

(But as I said, I'm hardly an expert on this subject! These are just some links I personally found interesting and thought-provoking, reading from the sidelines as I have.)

ETA: edited to add a few things, and edit a few typos.

Edited at 2009-03-11 05:37 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:liviapenn
Date:March 10th, 2009 09:23 pm (UTC)
(Link)

"primarily used as cover."

That's the part that makes me hope he is speaking from ignorance. Because it's not true.

He's posted again, though, and clarified his opinion. It's really sad. I wonder if he realizes he's actually giving people an incentive to behave badly? If people are trying to say something thoughtful and useful, all you have to do to shut them up is behave badly; then Scalzi gets to decide that the *whole conversation* has been completely pointless.

Talk about ignorant.
[User Picture]
From:_earthshine_
Date:March 10th, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I keep hearing about this, and i keep wondering what it was all about, and i keep hearing that to really find out what it was all about i had to go out and read a shite-ton of stuff that would probably make me angry, so i've been holding off.

My curiosity is piqued, tho. I keep wondering how an activity that is based in creativity, requires (relative to the overall pool of possible activities and vocations in life) little physical interaction, and is largely populated by people who understand what it means to be socially excluded at some level could potentially be so rife with something like racism.

I don't want to just assume that, like many of the useless debates in our culture, it's a bunch of generally good and compassionate people on both sides merely suffering from normal communications limitations and then emotionally set off by a few rabid extremists on both sides... but i think i do. Of course i wont act on that assumption without doing the research.
[User Picture]
From:splash_the_cat
Date:March 11th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
(Link)
Joe, I won't remotely cop to being neutral about this, as I am so enraged I am not only never buying their works again, but actually getting rid of books I already own written by some of the SF authors involved, but Ive been following it from the beginning and can hook you up with some summaries and my take, if you're interested. But I absolutely feel it is not a useless debate, and while often filled with anger and emotion strong words, it so very important.
[User Picture]
From:_earthshine_
Date:March 11th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I appreciate the offer, Splash, and i'll look for an opp (lunch? perhaps after i solve my little employment problem?) to take you up on that. This isn't the first time i've heard about racism (and sexism, and homophobia) being a problem in the fiction world, and you're up there at the top of the list of people i've been inclined to ask what it's all been about.

I'm used to the idea of most debates being lots of good people upset about the acts of very few, and i hope that's the case here, too. Still, if you're throwing away books in reaction to acts committed, i'm very willing to believe that "the few" have done more than propagate misunderstandings, but something blatant. I'm also hoping that i wont find out that "the few" are far more in number that a mere tail on the curve.

While i can't claim to be an author or even enthusiast of any particular subgenre, i do consider myself part of the larger sci-fi and fantasy "consumer" fan base. As such, i have to say i find this news sad. As i said above, you'd think that a world based on imagination would be the most tolerant community out there. :(
Netmouse on the web Powered by LiveJournal.com