I think part of the problem is semantics. There's a difference between racial (or cultural, or insert difference here)insensitivity, and racism.
Often people that are accused of racism, don't actually hate someone based solely on their race, but they have completely missed the point that what they've said or done is unacceptable. The great thing about ignorance, is with information it often goes away.
To illustrate, a story: Back when I was still a manager in retail, I had an employee who wasn't the brightest bulb in the pack. Because he had "back problems" he couldn't bend over to tie his shoes.
So, he finishes ringing up a customer, realizes his shoe is untied, an puts his foot up on the counter to tie it.
The customer is an Indian woman, and is offended,, because he's pretty much just stuck his foot in her face, and she demands that he be fired.
So, is he an ass, who deliberately insulted a customer, or is he a moron who didn't have the sense to tie his shoe later.
Both are damaging and should be addressed, you can't learn a thing is inappropriate if no one ever tells you that it is. There is a place in fandom for discussion, because how else can we get past our difference but, approach is everything.
If you say, 'What you did was deliberate' then people just get defensive, and swear that is wasn't and nothing changes, but if you say 'what you did could be taken this way' then most (not all, because it could never be that easy) people will say, 'I didn't realize that, and I won't do that again.'
I don't have anything intelligent to bring up.
But I thought this would be an amusing time to mention that my current #1 fandom has some grade-A hilarious 'racism'
and so far nobody has wanked about it. Beautiful.
I think that if you are going to discuss race, you had better be able to deal with being uncomfortable.
Also: not using the term "playing the race card", which automatically means Lose and Fail.
just trying to draw attention to the fact that people abuse the "racist" card
You may want to rephrase this. As it is, I really must inquire as to how, exactly, people 'abuse the racist card'.
Further, I feel the need to point out that people in a privileged position do not have any business telling people outside that circle what they are and are not allowed to be offended by. If you are not a visual minority, you have privilege. Society is Eurocentrist, so people who are of the caucasian persuasion (or who can pass thus) have the privilege. We may not see things that others do, and this is due to the fact that more oft than not, the shitty, garbage messages are not aimed at us.http://blindprivilege.com/
is an excellent starting point for those curious about the phenomenon of privilege in society; Beta Candy explains better than I do.
This is pretty much what I was going to say.
Not seeing racism? Is pretty much a piece of my white privilege. I had the really uncomfortable experience this past week of watching The Mummy - a movie I LOVE with a friend. My best friend of the past close to 20 years, actually. Who is a woman of colour, and has done anti-racist education for a long, long time.
I saw a lot in that film, watching her watch it for the first time. Guess what? The racism WAS ALWAYS THERE. I didn't see it because I'm white. Because I haven't got a lifetime of putting up with racism directed at me. Because learning about and addresing racism is - for me - optional. Because I have to work at edcating my gaze and understanding of what's going on.
If you are really concerned about this, meaganimage
I strongly suggest you learn to listen when people are speaking about experiences of discrimination and their reflection and portrayal in popular culture.
Find some blogs, read them, pay attention to what makes you uncomfortable, and think about it.
Thanks for that link. I've been inhaling the archives on the Hathor Legacy after someone linked the excellent Bechdel test post, but I hadn't seen this yet.
I'm sorely trying not to get offended, and being just that privileged whitey you describe (and from your words I understand you are one too, though correct me if I'm wrong) it's easier for me not to, but I can't - though to be honest, substituting racism for sexism, as you proposed, makes it easier for me to understand why I have such big problems with your post. racism is such a huge deal, and invoking it brings with it such a large baggage of history and morality, that there are people who can't seem to resist bringing it up at every turn.
One is not the cause of the other. People don't bring it up to invoke the baggage, they bring it up because they see it and it hurts or offends them.
You know, someone pointing out racism is not intended to hurt you
or anyone. Actually, it doesn't hurt you at all. It's not a tactic. It's not a card. It's not a crusade. Or, you know, maybe it is in a way if you mean a struggle to right some wrongs, but that still
doesn't hurt you.
Racism can very well be
'a multitude of very small details on various shows that seem completely inoffensive unless you're very sensitive to the issue', because people who deal with it every day are very sensitive to the issue
and thus can be offended. And I'm sorry, but you can't blame them for it, nor say it's unimportant if it is to them.
The wording of what you wrote, specificallyIn any case, they believe it should be talked about. Loudly. These people see any discussion of racism as a *positive* thing. They don't stop to wonder if the person is just playing the "sensitive to racism" card for sympathy. They don't ask if the person actually *believes* what they're saying. They will rally around the person and turn their minor quibble into part of their personal crusade.
tells me that you yourself don't
feel it should be much talked about, nor think that talking about it a positive thing. No, people won't stop to wonder why a person brings it up if they feel the topic itself is worthy of discussion. Why the hell should they? Racism is not a 'minor quibble' to the people it affects, and you
don't get to tell whoever brings it up whether it affects or offends them. And if you think people bring up racism solely because they will sound like an 'intelligent self-aware person' if they do, I don't know what to say to you.
I have to stop now, because I'm getting pretty angry and I hate going to bed angry.
In conclusion, this
2008-07-25 03:52 am (UTC)
Because someone has to to do it.
Saying "I hated the way characters X and Y broke up in the last episode" makes you sound like a whiny fanboy. But if one of the characters is just a shade darker than the pure driven snow, you can just play the racism card. "The way X and Y broke up in the last episode is such a glaring example of racism!" makes you sound like an intelligent and self-aware person who puts a lot of thought into the things they watch.
Examples? In all my years of being in various fandoms, I have never once seen someone make a complaint like that. Ever. Just as an example in FF7, I've never once met a Cloud/Barret shipper that accused people who hate that pairing of racism.
There's no way to call a person out on it. At best, you're a privileged, insensitive whitey annoyed that someone's pointing out your preconceived notions and calling you out on it.
What exactly is there to call out? If you disagree with someone's interpretation, for whatever reason, say so, and explain why you see it differently. I swear to every God in existence that POC fen do not sit around wondering how we can accuse white fen and/or our canons of racism. I promise. Mostly we are trying to enjoy the damn show/game/movie/whatever, make vids and/or write fic like everyone else. We don't use "the race card" as a "tactic" in an argument. When POC and anti-racist fen come across something we find objectionable either in canon or fandom, it is not because we're some kind of Umbridge looking to play gotcha. We see the world differently, because it's viewed through glasses tinted by our own personal experiences of racism. We do not have the privilege (ding!) of ignoring racial implications of things.
Also, as Ecchan said, people in privileged groups simply do not have the right to tell oppressed peoples what they can and cannot be offended by. Period. You do not share our experiences, and you are coming to the discussion from a position of power, even if you don't realize it. Even minorities disagree amongst ourselves about what constitutes prejudice, but that's a discussion that we can have because we're all on the same playing field. You can't. Sorry.
They don't stop to wonder if the person is just playing the "sensitive to racism" card for sympathy.
THEY DON'T, BECAUSE THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. EVER. AND IT MERITS CAPSLOCK OF RAGE BECAUSE IT IS A STUPID, STUPID THING TO SAY. I am a queer, black woman in fandom, who has known many LGBT, women, black/Asian-Pacific Islander/Latino and intersections thereof in fandom. I have never seen someone say something like that in an attempt to gain sympathy. Do you know why? RACISM IS FUCKING HURTFUL. There is nothing more irritating to me than coming across racism when I am just trying to get my squee on. Because fandom is as much about escapism to us as it is for every other fan. I play video games to have fun and get away from crap like this. I don't know a single solitary POC or anti-racist fan who brings up race for fun or as a way to shut down arguments. Being POC, we can't escape it because it's thrown in our face 24/7 from the minute we wake up in the morning until the minute we lay our heads down at night.
You can't ask people to stop blaming everything on racism.
No, Princess Privilege, you can't.
You cannot, ever, suggest there might be a different explanation for the offending element.
As stated before, you certainly can. But you need to 1) not flail about whiny minorities "playing the race card" when you do it and 2) understand that people can and will disagree with you, based on their experiences and point of view, and that they are not personally attacking you when they tell you that the reason you don't see it the same way just may be because of your privilege.
I honestly don't know where I'm going with this
The most spot-on observation in your entire post, which could have been summed up neatly in one sentence: "OMG how can I tell those mean no-fun POC to STFU and stop calling me a racist".
Answer: stop posting things like this, for a start.
*hands you back your earrings and shoes*
I love you, Internet stranger.
2008-07-25 04:28 am (UTC)
Re: Because someone has to to do it.
*fangirls like a fangirling thing*
everyone else says it better than me.
2008-07-25 06:32 am (UTC)
Re: Because someone has to to do it.
Your commentary makes the quotes from the OP readable and slightly less cringe-worthy. Thank you, and extra thanks and sympathy for reading the whole thing and putting up with it.
2008-07-25 07:00 am (UTC)
Re: Because someone has to to do it.
How dare you be in fandom mainly for fun?
What I think the OP needs to learn, and respect, is that the vast majority of discussions on race happen in good faith, between people who really are trying to do the right thing while AT THE SAME TIME enjoying their experience of being fans.
I think she also needs to realize that by bringing important issues to the fore, it prevents them from festering. Racism is definitely a problem area in fandom, all the more so when people decide that just because they can't see it, it cannot possibly be there.
I can't help but think that it has to hurt for people of color to have their experience of watching the show denied by people who have never even tried to walk in their shoes. One of the best parts of fandom is the fact that it allows us fantasy access to lives we could never live, worlds we could never see. Fan geeks are supposed to be good at looking at the world through someone else's eyes... it's embarassing, then, when they fail at exercising this kind of empathy a little closer to home, back in the good ol' AU world of Reality.
I'm sure you don't expect every person to see the same things you might. Hell, your interpretation of a situation might be wildly different from that of other persons of color, and I'm sure you expect that, and welcome discussions along those lines. The whole point is that it is YOUR experience, and you are a fan, just as much as anyone else. You see what you see. For anyone to expect you to stop talking about that just because what you see might happen to be tinged with issues of race, that is... well, "naive" is probably the best thing I can say.
You know what makes me feel uncomfortable?
2008-07-25 04:23 am (UTC)
At best, you're a privileged, insensitive whitey annoyed that someone's pointing out your preconceived notions and calling you out on it.
This? Totally the vibe I'm getting from your post. Or at least, you're coming off as a privileged, insensitive whitey annoyed that someone might have noticed racism that you, being privileged, didn't notice and you're even more annoyed that they had the gall to point it out. I'd like to see a fandom where it became overrun with racism discussions where it wasn't warranted.
Personally, I love racism discussions. As a Guilty White Person Without A Token Minority Friend I think they're pretty useful for helping me clean up my subtle, unnoticed racism and my ignorance due to privilege. Sure, it might ruin a show for me, but I like to think that's because I'm a good person.
Many excellent points have already been made, but I'd just like to add that this:
This state very quickly spirals out of control until a whole fandom is completely choked with it
is nonsense. Unless your fandom is miniscule, I would wager there are still plenty of corners not discussing racism at all. If you don't want to join a discussion on race issues, fine, scroll past the posts. If your eyes are accidentally sullied by it, hit the back button. There's bound to be plenty of other discussions, fic, squeeing, etc. going on.
If you choose to stay and read the racism discussions, then express your opinion and accept that people may disagree with you and that you'll feel uncomfortable, or lurk and realize that's your choice.
Overall, fandom and politics are a dangerous mix because people get carried away. It starts with someone innocently bringing up the subject of race or sexism regarding a show, and it's a perfectly valid comment. People happily discuss it until someone dares to present another viewpoint, which ranges from either "well maybe you're reading a bit too deep into this" or "oh stop it, they broke up because they broke up and that's that", and the discussion gets a bit more tense, but continues civilly nonetheless. Then someone gets super-offended and accuses the dissenter of being ignorant, the dissenter puffs up defensively, they argue, someone else jumps in with something COMPLETELY uncalled for, wank happens, happy funtimes are over for everyone.
ETA: aaand I treaded into a potential war zone without realizing it, hope this comment isn't out of line. >.>
That's a fascinating question. *puts on Vulcan ears*
Let's assume that racism is, in fact, "a multitude of very small details on various shows that seem completely inoffensive unless you're very sensitive to the issue." Therefore, we define a "racist incident" as a barely-noticeable to moderate-sized incident in which negative stereotypes are applied to an ethnic minority. (Note: We ignore for the moment that stereotypes may not be negative of themselves, and may simply increase ethnic divides by emphasizing a specific trait or set of traits believed to apply to a minority.)
Now suppose that each person has a Racism Intake Limit. It's a bit like the point where radiation goes from being safe to not being -- beyond this point the person cannot take any more racist incidents. Can't handle it. Has to fight back. Assume that the limit is lower for members of minorities than for members of the majority, and that in every group there are people who are less sensitive or not sensitive to racism.
Suppose that there are x available shows. Each show produces, per season, an average of y racist incidents. If each person watches an average of q different shows at any given point in the regular TV year, then the number of racist incidents they view in a given TV year is approximately (y/x) * q, yes? Now, given the amount of television people watch over the courses of their lifetimes, even assuming that people didn't experience racist incidents from any other source, sooner or later any person sensitive to the issue is going to reach their limit (assuming q > 0 and y > 0.) The straw that breaks the camel's back.
Now, obviously it is true that the individual incident did not push this person over their limit. We have defined it such that incidents are trivially small. However, as we know from beaches and measuring areas under curves, many small things can and do eventually add up to big things. This is why they matter, even if they seem ridiculously unimportant. Because there are a bloody lot of them, and if they are not challenged there will continue to be a bloody lot of them.
My only thought is that when white people talk about race, we often end up sounding like big asses. Even when we are trying our best to be sensitive and understanding. Sometimes especially when we are trying our best to be sensitive and understanding.
Want to know why this is? Because even though we have opinions, and are qualified to have them, it doesn't change the fact that if people of privilege want to do the right thing, the best thing they can do in any discussion about race is to listen.
I have a lot of opinions on race issues. There are probably times when I think race is being discussed when I don't really see the issue, or think people are making a big deal about nothing. But in general, I've found that sitting back and listening to what other people have to say is the best thing I can do.
So let's just say that people are discussing race, and you don't see the issue. Well then: listen, and ask judicious (and not baiting) questions. Because even if you disagree, there ARE people who believe race as a concern permeates every aspect of life, and I think its important to respect that, just as it is important to respect that other people have different experiences. And as long as you are really, truly listening, odds are good that you'll end up learning something valuable anyway.
Praying I don't sound like a fucking moron here...
Nothing at all to add to this, except for the fairly useless comment that until I noticed the 'small incidents that you don't notice unless you're sensitive' and 'racism card' garbage, my first thought was of all those lovely people who use the term 'racism' the wrong (dickish) way in a discussion. As in 'you identified that there are different races so YOU must be the racist'. Because my privileged white self can't see a POC using race to win a fandom debate (though I'm sure there are some outliers who are jut that wanky. rabid Jacob/Bella shippers? no, you could make a few VALID arguments for racism in that one I'm sure). But there are a few white people that I can certainly see doing it.
OP, I actually feel for you because I didn't get the 'why it's bad to be "colorblind"' thing until recently. I remember being hurt and wondering if I was a bad person and Just Not Getting It because there were a couple of little things that I hadn't understood so it just wasn't clicking. My advice: if you feel uncomfortable, be it when a discussion like this starts or when you're in a mostly-POC gathering, sit and dissect WHY. Do you feel like things are usually a certain way? SHOULD it be that way? That's the first look at privilege, right there.
. Especially all the required reading links. But please dear God lurk before you even think about poking a toe in, because it's a space for POCs and they really don't like people just showing up in a thread and derailing it.
Maybe it's due to my family's very mixed background*, but I have to say that, just like with all SRS Internet Discussions on Race, I think I find almost all the comments here pretty presumptuous no matter which skin colour is the unfortunate group getting the attribution. Ethnicity: It's not a hive mind.
(*Scottish, French, African and Nepalese [and Cherokee if you believe my great grandfather] for the curious. My skin? Pasty white. Gotta love those recessive genes.)
2008-07-25 12:52 pm (UTC)
Mod Note for the people who don't read every thread.
Going after the poster -- whether it's "Princess Privilege" or a "you're just fail" falls in the One-Swipe Rule:
3.Check your personal feuds at the door. Argue the post, not the poster. If you can't do that, don't reply or get bopped with the The One Swipe Rule . What's the One Swipe Rule, you ask? Simple. If you attack or flame someone, they get to respond in kind once. Then the matter is dropped. If either party continue the personal attacks, the offender's comment will be screened and posting priviliges revoked for at least 24 hours.
If you have objections, email me -- don't reply here.
2008-07-25 03:07 pm (UTC)
Next morning edit - WTF?
Seriously? The sociology experiment excuse? SERIOUSLY?
How dare you?
Racism causes real and serious harm to people. Discussions about racism evoke that harm.
I think you're trolling, or so fucking clueless there's no point in talking with you.
Go fuck yourself.