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Zer Netmouse
May 18th, 2009
08:48 pm

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May 18th: Fen of Color speak up


Following on RaceFail '09 I have friended a number of fen of color, not just because they spoke well in that discussion but because they seemed to be interesting fen and I would like to get to know them. I have also been tracking various communities that spun off that discussion. Since then I have seen numerous waves of topics sling through that community, more noticable by the fact that the topics have *not* touched most any of the journals I followed before RaceFail.

I am sad that the majority of my lj friends do not seem to know that these fen of color exist. Sad that so many of the FoC felt that a prominent author (L. Bujold) was saying they didn't exist in a discussion some have come to call MammothFail (about a book by another author entirely who solved the 'problem' of how to depict American Indians in her nouveau American Columbian Frontier Magic novel by erasing their existence entirely) that they called for a "Namecheck" of "wild unicorns" - those illusive fen of color that exist, yae, even that existed before the internet. Happily, this became a positive experience for those who arrived to post and realized that hundreds of posts proceeded them. The community 50 books_POC also started a thread for people to recommend alternatives to the book with such issues - alternatives written by POC, in keeping with that community's focus.

Today, late in the day because I was stuck in airports most of the day, I want to acknowledge that today has been called as a day for fen of color to speak out - to join the community for fen of color, united (foc_u), to write something in your own journal about being a person of color in today's sf fandom, and link to it from that community.


matociquala is one of the few white fen I have seen post about the day of protest today. She linked in particular to the essay Nalo Hopkinson posted for the day.

A more outstanding post today was this one by popelizbet, in which she links to a number of posts, journals and stories worth reading.

What I've mainly been reading, in the past four days, is a book called Acacia, by David Anthony Durham. It's a really good book, awesome in its span and engaging in its grip. It is also an important sort of saga to be read by any people who have grown up in a country that was born in the midst of a number of types of violence that it has tried hard to forget forged the very nature of its existence. Promises broken over and over again. People enslaved. No, Acacia (the empire) is not America. But I believe I see our reflection there. And I think I shall seek out Durham's other novels.

(16 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:atdt1991
Date:May 19th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
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I know of a number of fen of color *shrug*. My boss, actually, is a total star trek fanatic, taking a day off so she could see the midnight showing.

Alas, I would invite her into the con circuit, but I find her a very frustrating person (shhh!) and wouldn't like to see her in my "safe" space.

That acronym, especially in that graphic is... erm... *ahem* *looks away* Hmm.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 19th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
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yeah, I think there's some anger and finger-flipping reflected in that acronym, even though it's supposed to be a positive community.
From:tlatoani
Date:May 19th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
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I know they exist; I just am not getting involved in the discussion.
From:jer_
Date:May 19th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
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Ditto.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 19th, 2009 10:56 am (UTC)
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Meaning you will not say anything or you are not listening, or both?

Meaning that you know fen of color exist, as a category, or you know these ones exist, by name and character and deeds?
From:tlatoani
Date:May 19th, 2009 12:48 pm (UTC)
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I'm listening, but that's all I'm doing. As a white guy, it isn't my place to get involved, and many of the participants in the discussion have made that quite clear. What seems to irritate them the most is well-meaning liberal white people who feel the need to prove how non-racist they are. I see their point, so I'm staying out of it.

And I don't generally post about the SF community on my LJ anyway -- it's not a topic I write about -- so I'm not particularly motivated to write about this issue. Hell, if you look at my LJ, you can see that I'm not particularly motivated to write about much of anything on there right now.

I'm glad there's a new publishing company out there focusing on authors of color; I think it's a damn shame that we need one, but I'll keep an eye on them and I'm very intrigued to see what gets published that couldn't before. I look forward to reading it.
From:tlatoani
Date:May 19th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
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PS: The open letter you link to up there asks white people to listen, not to post messages of support.
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From:grimfaire
Date:May 19th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
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Bah
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From:netmouse
Date:May 19th, 2009 10:54 am (UTC)
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What does that mean?
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From:grimfaire
Date:May 19th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
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You really don't want to know 'cept to understand that it comes from my own viewpoint on things.
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From:danguyf
Date:May 19th, 2009 09:35 am (UTC)
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I admire your ability to speak up without self-consciously being paralyzed at the thought that your voice, as a white person, will be perceived as disenfranchising the voices of FoCs by implying that they are not sufficient and needed your cheerleading.

I'm all for FoC having a louder voice in fandom, but I want it to be their voice, I can't bring myself, as a non-FoC, to champion it for them. There are just too many ways that it could be misperceived. It paralyzes me.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 19th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
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Then do as Bear does sometimes and indicate that your post is simply to "pump up the volume" of voices of color. Say as other allies have said about the name-check thread, "I'm passing on the word for fen of color. White fen & allies, avoiding the derail starts at home: this thread is not for you."
Try and if it is mispercieved and you receive criticism, listen to the criticism and alter your aproach, then try again.
The point is not that they cannot speak for themselves, it is that their voices cannot be everywhere, and that to not acknowledge that their voices are speaking - and not just speaking, but saying important, eloquent things - is to participate in appearing to approve of the silence around them and with regard to them.

What exactly do you fear, that paralyzes you so? That some people on the internet will say something harsh about you? Will that endanger your livelyhood, or the events that you enjoy? Or your standing with your friends and colleagues?
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From:danguyf
Date:May 19th, 2009 11:35 am (UTC)
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No, I don't fear any of those transient things; I fear ethnocentrism.

I like the idea of spreading the word, but fear the accusation that claiming that you are just "pumping up the volume" implies that the volume needed to be pumped up by those in a position of white privilege, that FoC can't do it on their own. I feel like it's a minefield, and no matter what you do you open yourself to seemingly-valid criticism.

You post, for me, is full of racial triggers, from the first sentence: "not just because they spoke well" (so well spoken!). And then I have to ask myself, is it ridiculous for me, from a position of white privilege, to flinch at this? Is it my place? Is it presumptuous of me?

Because I support what you're trying to do, but I can't think of a way to do it on this scale without feeling like I'm either trying too hard or not trying hard enough. All I'm left with is trying to be aware, and equitable, in my personal life and individual interactions within fandom and trying to be the change I hope for the larger community.
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From:netmouse
Date:May 19th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
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Ah, interesting. For me, the line about not just speaking well in Racefail but also being generally interesting people was not "so well spoken" - it is not strange to me that people of color would be well spoken, but I know I gravitate to people who are - but that beyond RaceFail, these are _fen I have things in common with_. These are rounded individuals, not one-faced people streaming a constant race-based message, and the rounded individuals that they are are _fen_. What saddens me is that there are these cool smart people over _here_ and these cool smart people over _here_ and they have stuff in common, but they don't seem to be talking to each other. They don't know each other, and they express fear of trying to talk and get to know each other. (on both sides).

It's quite appropriate for you to feel at different points like you're trying too hard or not trying hard enough. I have felt both ways in the last couple of months. Too my the question is why are you letting the fear of those senses keep you from trying at all? Especially when there are a number of open letters to the white folk in fandom asking you to please say something?

What are you doing to try to be aware? Are you going out of your way and reading stuff like what I linked out to yesterday? Or are you just trying to respond appropriately to what passes your way? Because a large portion of my post yesterday was about the fact that unless more white people carry the message, yes, there are a number of places to where the message will not go. I'm not saying the FOC need us to carry that message, I'm saying that *we* need us to carry that message, to help our own genre become more aware, more diverse, and more interesting.

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From:netmouse
Date:May 20th, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
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darnnit... a friend pointed out that link does not link to the letter I meant to link to. see my next post for links to the posts I was thinking of. The link I posted was at the top of a list of entries and I thought it was something else.

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From:jeffreyab
Date:May 19th, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
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You should point out that foc on LJ has moderated membership so people won't be in right away.

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