Two Separate But Related Issues, Two Separate But Related Posts #2

Two Separate But Related Issues, Two Separate But Related Posts #2

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…)

Table of contents for Two Separate Issues

  1. Two Separate But Related Issues, Two Separate But Related Posts #1
  2. Two Separate But Related Issues, Two Separate But Related Posts #2

Comments

  1. says

    My response to Ashok’s post:

    Um. You obviously haven’t read a lot of my writing on this subject. So I’ll start by saying this:
    I often talk about racism in SF, not just individual cases, but the systematic problem. Not always on my personal blog, but often there. (Up until a few months ago, that blog was mainly on livejournal, and you probably weren’t reading it then.) And very often on my blog dedicated to talking about racism and sexism, the angry black woman. So your assertion that I’m cautious and only mention in small measures is definitely not true for me, and also not true for Tobias or N K Jemisin. You probably just haven’t seen more of what we’re saying.

    And your assertion that I’m pulling my punches by saying the people I work with aren’t biased is, frankly, a little insulting. I don’t need my job at Fantasy magazine. It’s a labor of love for me, but I have a real job. If I felt that the fiction editor or the senior editor were bigoted people, I would not be working with them. This would not hurt my standing in the community nor my chances of being published for many reasons, including the fact that I would be saying to people “Those folks are bigoted so I refuse to work with them,” which would earn me sympathy from anyone who matters and also because I’ve already made such a nuisance of myself talking about race stuff, all those who might shun me for speaking out are already shunning me, so it makes no difference.

    I know, because I talk to and with my fellow editors, that they are committed to diversity and that they are not consciously bigoted. I can’t speak for how they act or talk in private or their subconscious thoughts, but outwardly, their actions match what they tell me, therefore I have no reason to distrust their sincerity.

    I think you need to read more widely before you decide which of us aren’t speaking out enough, or are just focusing on one thing. We have enough issues with the very widespread racism, sexism, and cultural insensitivity that you rightly pointed out here without the attending in-fighting amongst ourselves concerning how much or how often we should speak out.


    Ashok responds:

    You’re assuming a lot of things. I’ve not only been reading your blog Angry Black Woman, I’ve even linked to it a long while back, as well as your Live Journal blog. I’ve even linked to your WTF blog post on me, by the way, in which you assessed an entire 3000-page series based on a lifetime of research and study by reading the first 6 chapters and dismissing it with what I can only call cultural insensitivity. You’ve also made comments displaying gross ignorance of Asian and Indian genre writing in a round table discussion, and have made numerous offensive comments at Asian and Indian writers in various forums where I’ve lurked. So in fact, I should be going ‘WTF’ right now, because I have read virtually every word you’ve posted online, whereas you were arrogant and culturally insensitive enough to dismiss 3,000 pages after reading just 6 chapters (or was it 3, the count seems to differ depending on where you commented on it) and to also dismiss an entire mythology and culture in the same breath.

    As for pulling your punches, well, that’s my opinion. 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. I doubt you’re even aware that I’ve been writing about the issue of Racism in Literature, with special focus on bias against non-American writers in America, consistently over the past twenty-something years, and have over 2,000 published bylines to my credit as a journalist and columnist in India. Among a sizable body of other work which is always informed with the awareness that such biases exist and are endemic in American publishing. I think perhaps you’re guilty of your own allegation–and are grossly uninformed of my own writings on the subject. If you search long enough on this blog, you will find at least two earlier posts that make the same point as the current blog post and both refer to you, including a link to Angry Black Woman and your old Live Journal blog.

    I agree on one thing though: We have issues enough to deal with, without fighting amongst ourselves. So I say again, suck it up, and learn to deal with other people’s opinions of your writing, and accept that other cultures, other viewpoints, will always differ from your own. I do my homework thoroughly before writing, and that’s my honest and unbiased assessment of you. I still admire your stance and support you in every way. You rock, woman. Rock on, and I’m rocking with you.

    BTW, it’s ’systemic’ not ’systematic’. And I do agree, the problem with racism in American SF is systemic and endemic and finally, the only real way to deal with it might be for PoC to completely boycott the genre publishers and professionals in the USA and form an independent caucus to publish, edit, write and otherwise promote their own work, if only for a transition phase before the country is ready for complete and unconditional integration.

    In future, please do your own research more thoroughly before attacking other PoC. Also, your energy might be better focussed on addressing the problem within your own country rather than blindly attacking other cultures and people.


    I respond again:

    Wow… I had no idea you were such a “fan” of mine. Every word I’ve written? That’s… a lot. Okay then.

    You’re obviously still upset at my review of your book, so I’ll get that particular issue out of the way up front. Just because I didn’t like it and decided not to read it in full, I wasn’t being culturally insensitive. I’m not required to put up with writing that does not engage me simply because you’re from another culture. If it does not grab me, it does not grab. I do remember saying that I might have enjoyed the book more had I known more about the original Ramayana. And were I a fiction editor interested in acquiring fiction written by people from cultures other than my own, I probably would have read more of the book and attempted to educate myself on that score. (Plus, if a book is based on some mythology or spiritual/religious tradition I’m familiar with, I’m willing to give it more time–Sumerian? Mittanni? Ancient Egyptian? Nubian? I am THERE). However, I was just a reader of your book. A reader looking to be engaged, entertained, and immersed in a new world. Your writing did not have that effect on me, so I stopped. Is that dismissing your life’s work? I wouldn’t use the word dismiss. I would use the word “declined”. Lots of people decline to read what you write, what I write, what any writer writes. That doesn’t make them all horrible dismissive cultural insensitives. And, in my case, declining to read your book is NOT the same as dismissing your entire culture.

    Now, on to the rest. I’m not as up on Asian and Indian culture as I am on my own, that’s very true. I do try not to make culturally insensitive remarks, but I know I must sometimes fail at that due to my own lack of knowledge. I do what I can to educate myself and to listen. If I failed at that many times, as you say, I can only work to do better. It might be nice to know specifically what you’re talking about, though. On the ABW I remember one post where I unwittingly engaged in Asian stereotypes and it took me a while to recognize it. I’m a work in progress, but I do try. As to numerous offensive comments to Asian and Indian commenters in various forums, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Again, specificity would help.

    I feel you don’t have the guts to name names and kick ass when it’s warranted

    Okay. Give me some examples. I would be VERY interested to hear about times when I’ve not called people out by name or kicked some ass. If I’m being lazy on that point, let me stop that right now!

    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.

    Heh, that’s actually kinda funny. As to my associates being private bigots, that’s not something I can really know, can I? I have no reason to suspect that they are, thus my continued association with them, but most of the people I know could be closet anythings and I wouldn’t be aware. Am I supposed to shun all the white folks and men I know simply because somehow, maybe, at home, in a closet, they might be uttering the N word while stabbing a black barbie doll between her legs with a sharpened spoon? What matters to me is that their actions and words match up with how they present themselves to me. Thus, I trust that they aren’t secret bigots. But I can’t *know* just as I can’t know that you’re not actually a Japanese woman with a split personality and a lot of time.

    But yes, I am still working in a field that has major problems with race and gender. I’m not doing so because I am naive, thanks, but because I just can’t stop coming up with SF/F ideas. My options in that case are kinda limited. But if you were a person who knew me, or even if you were a person who read my posts as much as you say, you would often hear me exclaim “Why the fuck am I still in this genre, anyway?” when another horrible thing comes up. Many of us POC wonder. For me, it’s a combination of things. The fact that the folks who tend to skew more toward racism and sexism are all older and will be dead sooner than I probably will be is a big one. We young’ns will outlive them, at least. And even among those who are older, there are plenty of people worth being associated with. There’s a lot of merit in the community, at least. On the publishing side, maybe not as much. But I haven’t completely given up hope.

    I doubt you’re even aware that I’ve been writing about the issue of Racism in Literature, with special focus on bias against non-American writers in America, consistently over the past twenty-something years

    Newp, not aware. And if you had told me that last week, I would have eagerly read those writings because I would have assumed you had something very interesting and enlightening to say. Now not so much.

    Until yesterday, I didn’t know you had a blog. I literally hadn’t heard one thing about you since you left the MonkeyLint list years ago after fighting with your agent and editor. So yes, I am unaware of your writings on this subject, which is okay for me since I didn’t say “You don’t write about this.” You said that about ME, remember? So it’s no capital crime I haven’t read you. (Though I’m surprised that I didn’t find you through trackbacks to the ABW blog. I used to check my stats there pretty obsessively.)

    So I say again, suck it up,

    Suck what up??

    and learn to deal with other people’s opinions of your writing,

    Um, is this advice for yourself? I don’t have any problem with others’ opinions about my writing, I only take issue with being told I’ve NOT done something when, actually, I have.

    and accept that other cultures, other viewpoints, will always differ from your own.

    …I always do.

    BTW, it’s ’systemic’ not ’systematic’.

    Noted

    the only real way to deal with it might be for PoC to completely boycott the genre publishers and professionals in the USA and form an independent caucus to publish, edit, write and otherwise promote their own work, if only for a transition phase before the country is ready for complete and unconditional integration.

    You’re probably right, but I have low hopes of that happening. The boycott part, anyway. If there was a way for us to form a large publishing house dedicated to POC and non-American writers, we might have a shot. But a venture of that size would require a lot of funding, amongst other things. If you ever put something like that together, call me.

    In future, please do your own research more thoroughly before attacking other PoC.

    Again, is this advice for yourself? I don’t believe I actually “attacked” you. My crimes, by your estimation, seem to be that I didn’t like your book and that I refuse to understand that everyone I know is a bigot and that I am not angry enough. My comment? Wasn’t attacking you, it was merely saying “Hey now, I DO do the things you say I don’t.” My assumption that you haven’t read me much was based on the fact that, from my POV, you’re pretty ignorant of how I roll. You say you’ve been reading my journals and blogs for a long time. That’s fine. So instead of just not knowing about me, you’re wrong about me (on some counts, anyway.)

    Also, your energy might be better focussed on addressing the problem within your own country rather than blindly attacking other cultures and people.

    Okay now I’m going to need some evidence of this accusation that I blindly attack other cultures and people. 90% of what I talk about is America, so how is it that I’m not focused on my own country?

  2. Nora says

    Waitaminnit. He’s advocating ghettoizing all non-white non-male non-American authors into their own genre/industry, after complaining about the problems of ghettoizing non-American authors in his own blog post? This is a complete contradiction. And he’s accusing you of pulling your punches? You?! ::boggles::

    He’d PM’ed me with a link to that blog post, but I hadn’t had time to go read it completely. I’ll go check it out now.

    As for your “moderate”-ness: I think this is Barack Obama Syndrome. You’re always going to be too black for some people and not black enough for others, depending on their conceptualization of how black people are supposed to act. ::shrug:: No way to escape it, because the problem isn’t you, it’s the internalized racism of others.

  3. says

    I agree with Nora on the Barack Obama syndrome. You’re not this guy’s kind of blogger or writer and it looks like he’s got as much beef with your review of his book (and not reading it after 6 chapters) as he does with his perception of your willingness to take up for Asian poc.

  4. says

    One would always hope that an author would handle a negative review with more class than this writer seems to be able to do. As a person involved in one roundtable with you, I can’t say I ever saw such offensive statements made. Perhaps if he bothered to do the work and quote things out the everything of yours he supposibly has read, his comments would have made more sense. Honestly, so far his statement have come off as little more than sour grapes.

  5. unusualmusic says

    I don’t get this comment at all. YOU pull your punches? Really? Then what the hell would be you going full throttle?

  6. Justin says

    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?

    To answer this question, I certainly don’t think you’re the moderate, but in the thick of the argument I fear you begin to flail and lose sight of the target, possibly losing as many supporters as you gain. If anything I would want you to be more ruthless, but focussed. You have already mastered the hammer and knock things about that need to be knocked about, now learn how to use the knife to get in there for the close work.

    I am unsure though if this is simply saying “moderate your tone” in a different fashion. In which case, please say so. As someone who considers you a friend, it’d be wrong for me not to at least let you know what I think.

  7. says

    You know, whenever POC bring up race, even in the ‘mildest’ of tones, we’re accused of being separtists and ‘get whitey.’ So I kind of factor that fact in reactions. Are you too moderate? I don’t think so. I just think you recognize the difference between ‘blind-spot’ bigotry (for instance, gender representation in SF submissions) and malicious bigotry (see, Wm. Sanders and Orson Scott Card). Are you too ‘radical’? I don’t think so. When some uses a racist term in a professional context (just as an example), I think there’s a moral imperative to stop that sort of thing.
    I also think that Mr. Banker misses some of the nuances in your arguements.

  8. Delux says

    I’m not even going to go there with this Ashok cat, because that’s just a hot mess of ‘little girl I know better’ and who has time for that?

    Anyway.

    I think everyone has their own way of dealing w/ race and racism and calling out white folks (and others). I personally am a lot more acerbic and impatient with people than you are in these discussions but on the other hand, I’m not involved in the professional scifi community and these are people I am unlikely to be sitting next to at a convention panel or publishing event. I think having RL contact w/ people makes a difference.

  9. Dawn says

    I don’t think you’re ‘the moderate’ but even if you were, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I have little patience for people who run around making shrill, hysterical noises about whatever cause they are fighting for. In my experience, the hysterical ones (who claim to be ‘radical and proud’) are often speaking out based on emotions, not objective judgement. They often fling accusations but don’t bother to back them up with solid facts. They may or may not have a valid cause, but they’re certainly no good at persuading people to their viewpoint. I would much rather listen to someone speak up calmly, listing all the pertinent facts and telling more than just one side of the story. If doing these things makes you a moderate, then I think that’s actually a good thing.

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