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Speaking of race and books...

The ever-delightful popelizbethas asked me to use my wide (*cough*) influence to help spread the word about con_or_bust,an LJ community started to help fans of colour to attend WisCon. The thought behind this? A little linkspamming to get you started:
kate_nepveuwrote a post about raising money to help people who are part of the Sci-Fi fan community, but tend to lack a voice in the S/F Con world because of financial issues. fight_derailingis the community she has started to talk about how discussion of race online in S/F communities and writers' blogs tend to get shut down before they get started (she also has some good links - the community is young, that's why we're getting the word out).

One of the things that a lot of the S/F community is starting (hopefully) to realize is that there are a lot of PoC who are really into this stuff, and are trying to get the word out that it isn't a default white fandom. This has resulted in some amazingly um... wrong statements by established writers resulting in the massive RaceFail of '09. The inestimable rydra_wonghas been compiling a fantastic database of links to all the issues, and the responses it has drawn from fans of all races.

Trouble is, to have a voice, you need a presence, and to have a presence, especially at cons, you need money. Hence, con_or_bust. You get a chance to sponsor someone who could not otherwise get to WisCon, who can add their voice to the discussion. Yes, there will always be people who can't afford to go who would like to go, but this isn't just "give us money so we can go!", it's about building a larger community of support for PoC fans who too often in the past have been given a pat on the head and a change of subject to get them to go away and stop asking pesky questions about why the SF community is so very, very white.


I've been following a lot of the issues, and the bit that makes me sickest is the idea that because PoC aren't constantly out there teaching white writers about how not to be racist, then being racist isn't the writer's fault. Writers do all sorts of research to write their books - to say no-one personally came to them about it is like saying you can't write about relativity because Einstein didn't come over to your place and personally instruct you on how it works. The intarwebs are full of delicious links - I feast on them all the time. Blogs (like sparkymonster 's) are in fact an awesome place to find out how people feel on a matter, because you know what? They ARE talking to you. These are people's personal feelings, and we get a front row seat. I am grateful beyond measure for the privilege.

Now - derailing - this is when someone in the discussion brings up "Well, I've experienced hurt, too!". This drives me nuts in any conversation, because it's massively rude. When the discussion is about someone else's issue, doing this is like having someone tell you they have a terminal disease, and replying "Oh! I know just how you feel! I stubbed my toe yesterday, and I really bruised it - it might even be broken, so I know exactly what you're going through!". As if that isn't bad enough, consider how your friend with the terminal illness would feel if when they said "well, actually, your problem isn't really in the same league", you yelled "How dare you tell me my stubbed toe isn't important!  You have dismissed me, and so I think you're just full of it, and what's more, you're overreacting!".  Awful.  It's rude, don't do it. But derailing is remarkably effective when someone doesn't want to admit to their privileged status as the default colour (and if you doubt that, consider the fact that every race except Caucasian is described in books, because it has to be for people to picture the person as anything other than white), so it happens all. the. time. This leaves PoC in the online S/F communities feeling dismissed, and they are. They can talk about it among themselves (and create safe spaces to do so), but preaching to the choir isn't the point.

People don't want to admit they are the "ins" - you get more sympathy by being a victim (and boy, do I have reams of stuff to say about this).  The world is full of people who try to excuse fucking up in anything by pulling out some sob story about their problems, and how you're not allowed to get mad at them because their life is so hard.  However, owning one's mistakes allows one to learn and grow, and it is better to admit to a mistake and apologize than it is to try and weasel out of the consequences of a racist remark.  Racism is still endemic, it's just gone underground.  All of us are going to fuck up and say something without thinking, because that's what humans are like.  The thing that makes a person racist rather than temporarily an asshole who just made a racist remark is that the racist then tries to weasel out of the consequences of that remark, whereas the person who had a moment of assholishness will sack up and say "Wow, you're right.  I apologize, and I understand if this makes you feel differently about me".  Then they make the effort to adjust their mindset.


Now - why do I support con_or_bust? Because it's much harder to dismiss someone in a face-to-face encounter, and while one person on her own may not be able to speak up comfortably, there is real strength in numbers. A support system and a way to help get opinions that have been shut down (or worse) on line out into the real meatspace world, where you have to look someone in the eye, not hide behind a screen to spew garbage at them.

Yes, lots of people are poor. But this isn't just about money - that's just the starting point. It's about people within the S/F fan community saying "you are welcome here". I can't say no to that.

Strictly voluntary, but I'd appreciate it if any of my readers choose to link and to spread the word. I really support this, but I'm cool if you don't. I have not turned off comments, because I'd appreciate it if people would ping me back if they do link. However, please don't smack me with comments arguing about why it's a bad idea, or how I've got it all wrong, because you're not going to change anyone's mind. Hit the back button, save your fingers, and go on with your day.

Thank you.


( 21 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Mar. 12th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. One note: FOC are already a presence at Wiscon, we're just trying to increase opportunity there.

Other people that want to repost and would like a c&p template about the project to use can get it here.

Thanks again, honey!

Mar. 12th, 2009 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you - I've never been myself, I was working on my memories of the S/F cons I used to go to on the East Coast (talk about your clustering of white males!). I'll adjust accordingly.
Mar. 12th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
Hoorah! One of the reasons wiscon was suggested for this project when Kate came up with it is that it already has an active FOC presence, including a POC-only brunch that takes place off-site, and thus can feel more welcoming as a safe space than other places even if it's not a perfectly safe space all the time.
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
That is cool - though I hate that a safe space is still needed. I think this is an awesome project.
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty excited to be a part of it.
Mar. 13th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
Oh, you should go to Wis Con. it is lovely
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:06 pm (UTC)
Excuse me, please. What does FOC stand for? it's a term I haven't seen before.
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
I would guess Feminists of Color, given WisCon's history as a feminist sci-fi con.
Mar. 12th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
Sorry - Fans of Colour (though feminists of colour works too!).
Mar. 14th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Fans of Color. :D It's not a widely used acronym.
Mar. 14th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
…stop asking pesky questions about why the SF community is so very, very white.

The problem with hard-core, con-going science fiction fandom isn’t that it’s white, it’s that it’s grey. For years I went to cons, and being (at the time) in my 30s, I was often one of the youngest people in the room. And the old farts aren’t always particularly welcoming to the new folks that wander into their private little clubs. In fact I wrote the NeoFan Manifesto back in 2000, and haven’t seen a whole lot of change since then. This year Arisia had a large influx of younger, college age attendees (of all colors). But I heard from the person responsible for the marketing that the powers-that-be Were Not Pleased. Idjits. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that many people of color who have managed to stumble across a science fiction convention only attended once and decided that they weren’t welcome and didn’t come back. Personally I’ve pretty much given up on organized science fiction fandom and have gone back to just reading quietly by myself at home.

The thing that makes a person racist rather than temporarily an asshole who just made a racist remark is that the racist then tries to weasel out of the consequences of that remark, whereas the person who had a moment of assholishness will sack up and say "Wow, you're right. I apologize,

Well said. *claps*

It's about people within the S/F fan community saying "you are welcome here".

This is the exact same thing I was hoping to get across in the NeoFan Manifesto. SF needs to be more welcoming. It saddens me that a decade after I scribbled down the notes that became my Manifesto that the SF community is still dealing with essentially the same issues.

Mar. 12th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Wow, am I ever glad I didn't hear TPTB of Arisia complaining about the new younger fen attending. I'm nearly 40, and I thought it was fantastic -- people for my 13-year-old kid to socialize with, just like when I was 14 and attending my first Boskone; people playing Rock Band on a projection screen until past 2AM; heck, I even convinced a 21-year-old friend of mine that she should get a day membership on Sunday, because she'd come to the hotel to bring me a dress and she spotted CUTE GUYS HER AGE.

Organized fandom isn't my ONLY social scene any more, the way it was when I was much younger, but for all its faults, it's still a place that feels like home.
Mar. 12th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, that's really interesting. I wonder why - it's the young 'uns that have the disposable income to play with all the stuff and buy the books, isn't it?

I'm such a fogey I haven't been to a Con in years. :(
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
I suspect it's for the same reasons that younger folks are less likely to attend face-to-face business conferences -- they are more accustomed to online social networking and feel less need for face-to-face interaction with like-minded folks.
Mar. 12th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
"The problem with hard-core, con-going science fiction fandom isn’t that it’s white, it’s that it’s grey."

ALthough I think the problem of PoCs in fandom is real, there is a lot of truth in what you say. I quit fandom over 20 years ago, largely because the only time anybody ever treated me like a grownup was when they wanted to get laid.
Mar. 13th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
Again, you would be pleasantly surprised by WisCon.
Mar. 13th, 2009 12:06 pm (UTC)
Even when I was attending cons on a regular basis, I rarely got outside of New England. And the few times I did (WorldCon in Baltimore, Chicago, and Philly) I just felt like an outsider attending someone else's family party. It was fun, but I clearly didn't fit it. =(

A feminist con does sound lovely though. =)
Mar. 12th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
Also, if anyone would like to repost, doctoreon has made a text box that allows you to c&p the base information without worrying about borked html:

Mar. 12th, 2009 10:25 pm (UTC)
It's weird, the Sci-Fi group in Montreal is... anything but all-white (and it's also a pretty broad mix of English, French and both). I wasn't aware this was an issue until recently, to be honest, and wasn't aware HOW BAD until recently either.
Mar. 13th, 2009 06:00 am (UTC)
Ah, WisCon. It is good to live in MadTown! I've not been in years, because the Barony hosts an event that weekend, but it is a good time.
( 21 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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