sab: (un >> go team foreign policy!)
[personal profile] sab
On the ongoing discussion of race:

I read [ profile] fiercelydreamed's post and firstly want to say that a lot of what's in that post has been on my mind, and that I really agree with where she's coming from.

I mean, in fandom, we're pretty much all queer and Jewish. (ETA: This actually might have been truer when the post was flocked, but still, I have never felt alone on LJ because of my queerness or Jewishness or whatever) We all have mental or physical health issues, and fandom is nothing if not a safe space for people like us. And for a lot of us, even outside fandom we've been in supportive communities for queer or Jewish or disabled people. Even if that's not true, we're still here arguing in an arena that's been nothing but inclusive and full of people like us, and when the subject at hand is about asking the general populus to shut up for a second and listen to somebody else for a change, I am really really on board with listening to somebody else for a change.

On the other hand, it's a little frustrating that the suggestion is now circling that people who haven't engaged in RaceFail '09 are exercising privilege by doing so. Even if it's true, I'm willing to exercise my own privilege not to start talking when I lack the vocabulary to navigate the conversation, or when I don't have anything to add. I'm also not wild about participating in anything dubbed "Fail," because, seriously, diving into a debate that's already been written off as an insulting and vitriolic mess on all sides is not my idea of a wise choice. By which I mean, I'd only bungle it up.

Even now, as I go to post this, I stopped to do a little tally of the people of color on my friends list. There are certainly many of you whose race and background I have no clue about, but I did stop and think about my friends of color specifically reading this. I don't really have any particular thoughts about it beyond the fact that I did the mental census, but I am aware that it's a product of my privileged experience growing up in incredibly inclusive, multiethnic, liberal, supportive communities. Which is to say, everyone's a little bit racist, definitely including me.

ETA: I'm unlocking this post because there have been good challenges to it and discussion in the comments.

And while I'm here, let me just get it out of my system. One of the main reasons it's hard for me to find ways to involve myself in the ongoing conversation is because nobody wants to hear a white girl explain her experiences with racism, even though sometimes, awkwardly, that's an instinctive way to feel included in the conversation. So, here goes: as many know, my sister's girlfriend is black and my family all adore her and we hope they stay together forever (no pressure, Lizzie). When I introduced my 88 year old grandfather to my girlfriend he kissed her and said "welcome to the family." Once in high school I won a game of Monopoly and my friend Andy said: "Isn't it appropriate? The Jew gets all the money!" I made fun of him and explained to him why that was not cool. On the other hand, on the recent episode of House, Taub, the Jewish doctor, got made fun of for his large nose. House himself teased him by calling him "Berkowitz." And while that is broad stereotype and quite indicative of the way TV deals with race, in this case I actually liked it. I felt included and I felt like House was thinking about and speaking to Jewish people like me. I felt happy to be called Berkowitz at any time. And several months ago I kicked a guy out of my house for using the n-word. Similarly, one of my favorite songs, De La Soul's "I Am, I Be," uses the n-word, and even when I'm singing along alone in my house I either close my mouth or sing "people" instead -- it has the same two syllables. And, the kicker; some of my best friends are black.

Honestly, that's what I know how to say in a conversation about race and there are so, so many of you who have written and expressed things that have educated and inspired me. Please continue to link me to the very best stuff you come across; I basically read what [ profile] ciderpress, [ profile] rachelmanija and [ profile] telesilla link to.

Now to have some food and then go to bed, dreading waking up tomorrow to find out who I may have offended. I truly am sorry in advance if I bungled it all up again.

Date: 2009-03-09 09:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
it's a little frustrating that the suggestion is now circling that people who haven't engaged in RaceFail '09 are exercising privilege by doing so.


How about I haven't engaged because I'm overloaded with classwork? How about I haven't engaged because I have nothing at all to add that hasn't already been said? How about I haven't engaged because I'm so far behind on a discussion that ranges so far and wide across so much of livejournal that I couldn't possibly catch up?

If I jumped into the fray of every single social or political issue/argument I have an opinion on, I'd never do anything else. I'm not sure what privilege I'm exercising in this particular instance, but I don't think it has anything to do with my being white.

Date: 2009-03-09 10:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think that the demands to Say Something have mostly been aimed at people who are actually in the book-SFF fandom/publishing community and might actually have some influence in getting the people who have been behaving badly to behave better. I have seen more general demands but I think that they risk the actual POC posters being buried under another destructive avalanche of well-intentioned white liberals trying to prove their cred.

Date: 2009-03-09 10:08 am (UTC)
ext_150: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
I think you are really misunderstanding the term racefail, and if you think the entire conversation has been written off as "an insulting and vitriolic mess on all sides" you have not been paying attention at all, because that is so, so far from true.

This post has links and excerpts of some of the best writing to come out of this.

Also, fandom is not a safe space for many people. That's part of what this is about. Fandom (whether it be media fandom or sci-fi/fantasy fandom) is often a very unwelcoming, very hurtful place for fans of color. The rhetoric that it is a safe space for everyone is in and of itself hurtful.

Date: 2009-03-09 12:59 pm (UTC)
ext_6909: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
YES to all of this, and thank you, [ profile] kyuuketsukirui, for the link. I had not yet seen that post, and it's a wonderful one.

Date: 2009-03-10 02:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't think Sab's post implies that fandom is a safe space for everyone. I read the post as suggesting that she has always felt it is a safe space for people who are queer, jewish and/or have mental and/or physical heatlh issues, and therefore it is potentially very productive for those groups of people to listen to other groups of people, who might not feel so included.

Date: 2009-03-10 02:22 am (UTC)
ext_150: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
That's great that she has found it to be. Based on the anti-semitism I've seen around, I'm sure many other Jews would not agree that it is a safe space for them, and certainly I do not find it to be a safe space for trans people. I really feel like the insistence that fandom is a safe space is not productive. (And it's usually used to silence people who don't feel it to be a safe space.)

Date: 2009-03-15 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yes, I shouldn't have generalized, but I personally have found many, many people just like me or very similar to me in the fandom community, and they make me feel safe and fully a participant. This isn't to say that other people, even in the same demographic, don't feel disenfranchised.

But of course I should speak for myself. I feel that I am safe and protected enough to jump over any hurdles that might be put up against people like me, or any insults or generalizations. But there is no reason to expect other Jewish/queer/etc people should feel the same way.

This was mostly to say that AS a person who feels safe, I want to give the floor to people who DON'T, if for no other reason than to see what I can do to make them feel safer, and what I may have done in the past to offend or alienate them.

Date: 2009-03-15 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And you know, even my above post probably used inflammatory language and made generalizations I didn't intend to. This is why in my original post I said I feared I lacked the vocabulary to be a useful voice in this conversation.

I only know what my experience has been. I listen to others talk about their experiences and I want to make them BETTER, and I feel hurt and angry at the world for being this way, but any stories from my own experience (outside fandom; I have never once had a problem within fandom; clearly I have been one of the luckier ones) are small and insignificant compared to what other people have been through. So anyway, I just feel better listening.

Date: 2009-03-09 11:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm with you (though I'm not Jewish, queer, or mentally or physically disabled)-- I didn't say anything about it either, and am not planning to. I find the Internet is just about the worst place to try and discourse on things like this (especially when you have issues with both sides). Heck, I'm probably making a mistake commenting here, but I did want to say that there's at least one other person who's keeping relatively quiet out there.

Date: 2009-03-09 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
where exactly is the suggestion circling that people who haven't engaged in Racefail are exercising privilege by doing so? I mean, I've seen people complaining about people who show up in comments to say, "I don't know what's going on! It is too much reading for me! Will you tell me what's been happening?" and the privilege that entails, and I've seen people talk about potential reasons behind the conspicuous silence of some SF/F authors and editors, but neither of those seems to be aimed at general folks on LJ. I know that [ profile] toft_froggy posted saying that she felt that she was exercising privilege by not reading posts, but that seems like a decision she's made for herself - she finds that she does have the time and the energy to be able to do it, and she was making excuses for herself before. YMMV, right?

The reason I am concerned about this is because of posts like this one, which seems to be rather accusatory without ever stating what she's reacting to or who is accusing her - see also sparkymonster's post that deals with this. No one has to post who doesn't have the time, or the spoons, or the inclination, or whatever. But if you have the time to make a post on your lj, or leave a comment on someone else's lj, about how you don't have the time to even read any of the posts, and resent the implication that you should, that seems to me to be . . . I don't know, a conscious representation of your ignorance of the race debate as a mark of pride? Which is problematic.

I don't think that's what you're doing in this post, by the way, and I hope you know that I don't mean to be accusatory myself . . . I just wanted to point out that it's not clear where exactly these suggestions are coming from, but I don't think they're coming from the front-lines antiracists in this debate, and I certainly don't think they're aimed at you or me. I hope that helps with your discomfort.


Date: 2009-03-09 11:49 pm (UTC)
ext_7696: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
On the other hand, it's a little frustrating that the suggestion is now circling that people who haven't engaged in RaceFail '09 are exercising privilege by doing so.

Yeah, this in particular, I've been thinking about a lot. I feel bullied by that kind of statement because there's an implied threat here: if I don't post about RaceFail (and don't echo the party line), people will think I am a racist. If I did post about RaceFail, I would be doing something that I despise every time a white person does it - I'd be drawing attention to what a good, non-racist white person I am. I'd also be lying, because I have a serious problem with how some people in fandom have been using RaceFail and the associated moral high ground as an excuse to act.

I'd rather donate my time and money toward actually combating racism than complain in my LiveJournal about how some people on the internet are racist.

Date: 2009-03-15 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I, too, think that the demand for people to post was specifically aimed at SF/F industry people who had chosen to remain silent on the behavior of their peers.

I have a problem with you saying that "we're all queer and Jewish"--for one, I'm neither, and in fact I've seen enough discussion about how Jewish people and queer people are sometimes treated in fandom that I don't think that even that group is in a "safe space"--this isn't ever really going to be a safe space, by virtue of the fact that it's a public space, and we all come in with our baggage from our racist, sexist, homophobic, religiously biased societies. Ultimately, I think one of the things this entire affair has hammered home is that it can really hurt people for us to act as if "everyone in fandom is just like me."

Also, so much good discussion and positive action has come out of Racefail 09 that it's really unfortunate it has that moniker. It may have been written off as "vitriolic on both sides", but really, it's not like that at all.

Date: 2009-03-15 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As I said above, I didn't mean to imply that everyone in fandom is like me. I meant to express that most people in fandom who ARE like me (not "most people in fandom are like me," but rather people who DO share my demographic or are not prejudiced AGAINST my demographic) have made this a safer space than most... for ME.

But I'm sure there are plenty of Jewish people or queer people who have felt oppressed by LJ. So either 1) I have surrounded myself with only awesome and accepting people, or 2) I have a thicker skin against oppression, or 3) I am not sensitive enough to racial issues. It's probably 3. It's in fact possible I've been looked down on all this time and just didn't notice.

The bottom line is because *I* haven't felt oppressed here in fandom I think it's more educational for me to listen to others who have been, and try and find out what I can do to be part of the solution rather than inadvertently add to the problem.

Date: 2009-03-15 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thanks for clarifying your point! I appreciate where you're coming from.


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