The related post I promised. (Also part of IBARW) To recap, Ashok Banker posted about problems of bigotry is SF/F field. Said some very interesting and insightful things. He also quoted me, Tobias Buckell, N K Jemisin, and Micole talking about the Sanders thing and bigotry in general. He agrees with us, but has a quibble about our methodology:
Other American SF writers like K. Tempest Bradford have admitted that such bias exists, and have spoken out against it. Although their rants are invariably tempered with mention of the two or three SF editors they know and are working with who are definitely not racist or biased, because, how could they be, if they’re working with them? Punches are pulled, no doubt about it. And nobody seems to have the balls to really call a spade a spade–or, to use a less unfortunate turn of phrase, a white lily a white lily.
Writers like Bradford, Buckell, and others who have spoken out against racism are always cautious to do so in small measures, focussing their ire, often disproportionately, on individual cases like Sanders of Helix Magazine. This is understandable. These writers want to make a living in that field, and are undoubtedly afraid of antagonizing people they work with on a daily basis, or people they hope to work with someday.
No doubt, they also haven’t seen such bias openly exhibited by those fellow professionals and colleagues–not yet.
In a later response to me in comments (which I’ll post in full, below, as the first comment) Ashok went on to say:
I not only feel you pull your punches, I feel you don’t have the guts to name names and kick ass when it’s warranted, and the very fact that you’re still working within the field and associated with other professionals whom even you admit could be bigotted or racist or sexist in private, shows your naivete.
Just two weeks ago I had someone tell me that I go too far and write “crazy” things whenever I post about bigotry in the field. Also that if I would just moderate my tone a bit, people would listen to me. The person in question was white, Ashok is a POC. So essentially I’m too angry for one group and not angry enough for another.
I’m unsure how to feel about being the moderate here. It’s so not me.
I have two reasons for bringing this up. One is to record the exchange Ashok and I had on his blog, since the comments got shut down (yet were quoted from). But the more important one pertains to the different ways people view what I and other anti-racist activists in SF do and how effective it is.
Most POC and women have experienced the phenomenon of pointing out some instance of racism or sexism and being dismissed, then having a white person or a man come along, say the exact same thing we just said, and receiving not only credit for pointing it out, but a positive reaction. Or, even more fun, being told that people would listen to us if only we were less shrill or angry (or other gendered or race-based adjectives) about it all. “Look at [white person and/or man]!” they say. “He doesn’t go off the rails like you do!”
This is an oft-used tactic to dismiss what the POC or woman has to say, as Naamen educated us on in this post. I mean, why be all angry about bigotry, particularly that’s directed at you? Be sensible, polite, and reasonable about it so as to make the bigot comfortable, right?
If you buy that, stop reading right now. In fact, let’s not talk to each other again until you’ve gotten rid of that notion, okay? Because, seriously, the comfort of the bigot is not my concern, neither should it be yours.
I and other POC get this all the time from… well, I’ll let you guess.
As a friend recently had to point out to someone: yes, the word racist or sexist or bigot or related is very much a strong word that should not be tossed around lightly. We know that. Boy do we know it. That does not mean we should hesitate to use it when that is what is going on. No matter how twitchy that makes you, especially if the you is a person to whom a particular stripe of bigotry is not aimed. I’ve mentioned this before.
Even if you are a person who has experienced one kind of bigotry (for example: sexism but not racism) that does not mean you are completely immune to ignorance of how a particular bigotry works for other people. If you’re a white woman, even a feminist white woman who works hard for tolerance, you can still engage in or be blind to racism, unwittingly or not. And one manifestation of that is by claiming you can’t listen to an aggrieved party because of their tone.
I’m used to that aspect of the discussion, but not so much used to the other side, wherein I am not being tough enough on the SF/F field. I’m not entirely sure what more I could say, what language I could use to make my issues with the racism and sexism of particular people and parts of the whole community clearer. It’s certainly not easy for any author to say, “This editor and/or person in power is a bigot/engages in bigoted language or actions,” especially if the author is or hopes to work with that person. Because unless the author in question is a white man (and sometimes even if) there are repercussions.
Ashok points out in his post that he doesn’t care about or want to be published in any American markets or with American publishers, thus he can say what he wants. That’s fine. But I don’t think it’s at all fair to dismiss those of us who do as being too afraid to speak out. I can’t speak for Tobias or anyone else, but I am certainly not afraid to call a spade a spade, just ask Gordon van Gelder or Ron Moore. I suspect that Tobias isn’t, either, nor are other authors of color in this genre. Major example right here.
What you think of this push and pull? Do I and other authors who speak out about racism, sexism, and other bigotry in SF go too far or not far enough? Am I the moderate here? (scary…)