Monday, June 17, 2013

What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor: Racism All Up in My Thang

Again. Again again againagainagainagainagainagain.

*pinch nose* Please humanity. Please SFF community. Can we please grow up and fix these things? Because I'm pretty sure the altruistic aliens haven't visited us not because of distances but because we can't even clean up our back yard.

A couple weeks ago, the grumplesnort surrounding SFWA was the discussion of sexism. The discussion, while started by something nose pinchingly bad, has been positive. Lots of great women are standing up and telling their stories, while others are standing up and doing something about it from within.

Then a woman I highly respect, NK Jemisin, stood up and told another story, a great story, one that needs to repeated often, and called for Reconciliation within SFF.

Of course you know there are some people in this world that can't allow a successful black woman their success and platform and words. I...just won't link to the rebuttal. Hell, that's too kind a description. I won't link to hate speech, a diatribe, a dehumanizing piece of garbage such as thrown down. I don't even want to say his name - invoking even that is giving him air.

Normally, most people would laugh and point, then walk away. That's all this person deserves, derision (and perhaps some pity, because it must be awful living in such fear and hatred of the rest of the world 100% of the time). And there's plenty of laughing and pointing going on. But there's not enough attention. Not nearly as much as there was the sexism SFWA debate, and there should be because the hate speech contained more than one axis of discrimination.

Says Sabrina Vourvoulias:
This controversy, too, has generated some blog posts (though not as many as the first) including at least one that has called for the writer’s expulsion from the organization. The originating post is an unapologetic, in fact gleefully, racist tract. It attacks on both personal and universal level. It flaunts the blog writer’s assumed intellectual superiority to the novelist it excoriates and dismisses every point raised by the speech it seeks to ridicule.
What is not easy to dismiss about this latest Piece o' Racist Garbage is that the perp used the SFWA's Author twitter stream to publicize the piece. This stream is an automated one, accessible via a hashtag, and the SFWA social media team did take immediate steps to remove the author's access to such a publicity tracts.

However, that's not enough. This person's behaviour is not a one-off. They are well known for these views, and here's the kicker: they ran for the President of SFWA ON THIS PLATFORM. That's correct - if installed as President of the union, they would remove writers of colour and women from the SFWA, because they are not people and have ruined the great state of SFF to said individual. Thankfully, they did not get voted into the position, but disturbingly they did garner 10% of the vote. Either there is a percentage of the SFF community blissfully unaware of such hatred in our midst, or they are supportive and gleefully aware of it. Both attitudes disturb me. 


Let that sink in for a moment. There are people out there who do not consider PoC and women even HUMAN. 

As Vourvoulias said in her post, we should not be surprised, we should be working on giving this hate speech the sunlight it requires: 
The hard stuff comes with opening our eyes and seeing that we are blind to, or complicit in, less obvious forms of racism — the everyday kind. The harder stuff is in recognizing the circumstances and instances when we let racism pass unremarked and unfought. The hardest stuff is in understanding that this isn't the work of one blog post or a hundred, but of a lifetime.

There have been other good pieces of sunlight on the situation as well. The brilliant Foz Meadows went in boots and all, calling for the individuals SFWA membership to be revoked:
If Theodore Beale isn’t cast out of the SFWA immediately, then that organisation is worth nothing.
If Black Gate continues to give Theodore Beale a platform, then that publication is worth nothing.

This isn’t just about Jemisin. It’s not even wholly about the fact that Beale has gone on record making excruciatingly racist comments; comments which are just the latest in a long and execrable history, and which he has publicly attached to the SFWA as an organisation by promoting them through its official Twitter feed.
Meadows has received push back of the usual derailing kind, being called "hysterical" and "just as bad as the other side". I take umbrage with the idea that those criticizing hate speech and calling for action against it are "the same". This requires the parties to be on the same level and they are so obviously not in a cultural hierarchy (which is so unfair and infuriating on a daily basis it makes my brain fry). The individual comes from a place of massively unexamined white privilege. They're in this odd moebius strip of cognitive dissonance. Though they don't believe the people they're oppressing deserves a platform or right of reply, they seem to think that if the person DOES reply, they're on an equal platform, that it's a "civilized debate" - when of course they believe ANY reply is uncivilized because why would anyone be so angry and distressed at the simple TRUTH?  Seeing the twisted logic here? It plays right into the bigot's tightly held to stereotypes. While some of the people doing the critique recognize their white privilege (as do I, and I don't always get it right), the ones I have read come from the other axis the individual is dismissive and hateful towards - We the Female. As I noted on Twitter late last week, there are some really smart women (smarter than me!) saying really smart things about this.

Jemisin has been nothing but class about the whole situation, but as she says its like many situations she's had to deal with in her professional and private life. She'd have every right to be angry. But right now, she's got bigger fish to fry, namely finishing her latest (brilliant, probably future award winning!) novel. I don't know how she does it, and yet I do know - she talks about these axes in her life, of being Black in Public, often.  

Our backyard is a mess. And we have to pull out these insidious weeds and creepy poisonous vines that seem to think they're entitled to more sunlight and water and soil than others. And we have to keep pulling. Sometimes it takes tweezers, sometimes a bulldozer.

Other posts about the situation:
Carrie Cuinn - Wishing Never Changed a Damn Thing
Sunny Moraine - Theodore Beale and Oh My Effing God This Again

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing all this to my attention through your blog, A.J. I was uninformed about the whole situation until I saw an earlier post of yours and have since looked up some of the other bloggers' posts about this really concerning issue.

    I find it incredible that this deliberate racist is getting away with such malicious insanity and these other (perhaps unintentional) sexists with such chauvinistic idiocy. Where are the checks and limits for the SFWA? Why does it not have a code of conduct that would allow them to kick out the trolls and help the unintentional offenders to rethink and learn to be better?

    Maybe being from New Zealand I'm too used to seeing public figures fall all-too-quickly on their swords when they make a mistake. But whether the mistake is deliberate or accidental surely there has to be some kind of appropriate punitive response and apology from the body as a whole when these figures are acting as the hands or the mouths?

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