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Friday, February 8th, 2008

make this clear

What I learned about tone

<ETA date="03/07/2009">ide-cyan said in the context of RaceFail2009, the bit after coffeeandink was outed
Politeness (under which requests for the "right" "tone" seems to fall: it's not specifically a soft tone or a pleading tone or whatever that's requested, but something more abstract, especially in written discourse) is a product of cultural conventions that grow out of historical and political dynamics. It's a product of society: it reflects the order established in that society. Discourse that upsets the dynamics of society fails to comform to that order. (Sometimes it's on a micro scale, sometimes it's on a macro scale.) There is no way that anti-oppression talk can come off as polite, because it upsets the established order of a society based on oppression. And the rudeness of the oppressors toward the oppressed is invisible as such because it doesn't upset that order (as well as because the people at the top have the material means of getting away with it).
</ETA>. This seems to me a great insight, which I wanted to share with anyone who has been directed to this essay on tone. Back to the original post.


So, last week I asked if there had been observation of a polite tone used by a person of color preventing the person they were challenging on racist language or behavior from flipping out.

People came up with a few different examples. One of them did not fit my explicit criteria. Several others did not fit my implicit criteria: in mediafandom and online. Those examples that did fit all five criteria pre-dated livejournal.

Intersectionality

To begin, Miriam Moules recounted that her position was changed in the Doctor Who/Mammy Martha imbroglio by jlh’s post. I can’t find the post to which she refers, but I thought the origin post was neadods’ in Life on Martha, thus, causing the jlh example to fail on part 1. In any case, the entire Martha imbroglio clearly fails criteria five, since people lost their shit in it.

What Miriam’s case does bring up, interestingly, is that intersectionality is a blocking factor. Miriam Moules couldn’t focus on the racism arguments until she was heard about class, some of the people in the Life on Mars imbroglio seemed to feel that specifically not wanting to see Gene as racist meant thinking Gene was okay as sexist, ablist, and homophobic, and people were totally distracted by the use of cunt as an insult in the Lana Lang imbroglio. If there’s an intersectional oppression at work, or if a different form of prejudice is invoked in the decrying of racism, and people notice and say something, it behooves the challenging speaker to acknowledge the intersection. Because some percentage of people will be incapable of listening to one’s thoughts on racism as long as they’re focused on the cisgender privilege.

This Medium
Several people said that they had success bringing things up face to face. I’m just going to pull an “I’m an unverifiable expert” card here (I wrote my thesis on CMC) and say that asynchronous computer mediated many-to-many communication and face to face individual communication are not the same in ways which tend to have a large effect on politeness and hostility. Further, while on livejournal it is not uncommon for someone who gets challenged on their racist actions and behaviors to go off and sulk unlocked in their livejournal, in real life, people try to make sure that only like-minded individuals are in the room when they start spouting off about how an uppity negress attempted to school them. Some of the hostility which I counted as a fail for purposes of this discussion is simply not witnessed or recorded when a challenge happens in real life, so what appears to be a win by our reporters might not have been one had we possessed the All Seeing Eye of Truth.

Outside of fandom
People brought up two instances outside of fandom where they had seen a polite tone work.

1) Fashionblogger recommends shoe named egregious racial slur (kaffir) and apologizes.

2) Korean adult adoptee criticizes cooption of Umma/Appa (Korean affectionate parental titles) by white adoptive parents and white adoptive mother gives up pendant reading Mother in Korean.

I am speculating that part of the reason both the Manolo and Third Mom were able to listen is that they are in situations where they’re sensitized to racial issues. Manolo recommended the shoe in the context of his professional column for a Washington, DC newspaper, after the Don Imus incident. Third Mom is a blogger about international adoption, and the question of cultural appropriation and appropriate cultural learning is a subject of much discussion in this arena. My understanding is that many American adoption agencies who do international or interracial adoptions discuss these issues with adoptive parents as part of the process.

In Fandom

1) Lilacsigil remembers that in 1993 an Australian accepted that using the word Negro would not work for Storm and Bishop, and some Americans believed him when he said that, to him, Black = Australian Aborigine, which Storm and Bishop were not (at the time)..

2) sameoldhope remembers racial challenges working on private Homicide mailing lists.

I suspect that, in the case of the Australian, matters were helped along by the fact that fandom has a script for the correcting of cross-cultural English errors, and it does not include personal attacks.

I also wonder if, both in this case and in the case of Manolo the fashionista, part of the reason the criticism was readily acceptable was because it was dealing with foreign racist terms, in which the poster’s own culture wasn’t implicated, and because it was about something which the original poster had relatively little investment. (Manolo’s recommendation of the offending shoe was offhand, and it doesn’t seem as if calling Storm and Bishop Negro vs. African was a big deal for the story this Australian wrote.)

If distance is part of the formula for success, then the implications for fandom are rather unfortunate. It seems to me that most of the time, when speaking of racially suspect fanactivity, people are going to have an investment in what was said. In fact, an anonymous commenter E linked to a review of a book called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) which suggests that the cognitive dissonance of a good liberal person finding out they’ve done something racist will make it near impossible for said liberal to admit what they did was racist (unless, of course, their worldview specifically includes the idea that everyone, including themselves, is capable of unintentionally racist behavior.)

In the case of Homicide, there were two factors at work here. One, as Hope describes the culture of the mailing lists on which these challenges were made, their culture did not allow for personal attacks because of disagreement. On one, there was an explicit civility code. On the other, there was an accepted culture of critique. Two, Homicide as a text explicitly addressed racism, so its fans had ideas about race and racism as part of their fannish culture in a way that, say, Heroes fans do not.

oyceter reports having successfully had people listen to her via private communication, but those people were personal friends already working on racism. She also appears to have had a polite exchange with people who said some pretty godawful things at Wiscon this year, starting with her LJ post and moving into blog responses. This one is interesting to me because it combines face to face and online communication. I think it’s also an example of people who have been sensitized to race issues, since Wiscon is where the Cultural Appropriation debate of 2006 began. For those who don’t know, Wiscon is a feminist science-fiction convention, not a media fandom convention.

Not In My Backyard

There were no reports of successful challenges made in livejournal mediafandom more recently than the Homicide interaction, which I’m going to guess happened, oh, before the movie in 2000 (Hope, please correct if I am wrong.) ithiliana (a dreaded acafan, noes!) has been making a formal study for a paper presentation, and some other people who specifically reviewed the racial discussions with which they were familiar couldn’t find any.



To sum up:
  1. In livejournal mediafandom, no one has observed tone successfully used as a mitigating factor, or they have not so far come forward to admit this.
  2. Successful challenges in related arenas lead to the suspicion that having an audience which is alreay aware of race and racism issues will lead to more thoughtful and less hostile responses.
  3. Private messages are sometimes well-received between friends, but sometimes not.
  4. Critique goes best where there’s a script for how to give and how to receive critique.
A lot of discussion was had on the question of who the actual audience for these discussions of racism was. There was wide agreement that a calm and measured tone meant that many more uninvolved third parties would positively respond. I have a bunch of feelings about that which are mixed together.

First, I was sort of annoyed that people kept bringing it up in my LJ. I know that calmness attracts third parties, and it’s evident that I know that from the posts I have made in the past. By the time the third person said something about third parties, I started to feel like there was some sort of backdoor tone argument going on. I never claimed that angry tones would be more likely to make the challenged person pay attention, or that third parties would take your side if you acted like a troll.

Also, frankly, that wasn’t the issue at hand. This really was, “Is there a way that a person of color can challenge someone else’s racist behavior/language and not have that person (or their minions) flip out?” aka the tone argument that will not die. How to raise general awareness of issues of race and racism is, frankly, an entirely separate discussion which is very interesting but upon which I was not focused.

On the other hand, I do believe that a more dispassionate tone does garner a much wider swathe of third parties to one’s side. Also, reacting calmly while the person you are challenging jumps up and down like a winged monkey makes other people not want to associate themselves with the airborne simian.

But this discussion of third party observers fails to take into account a few things.

First of all, not everyone is going to follow the rational, dispassionate argument, but some people are really good at the emotional logic. When they see that actual people are actually saddened or enraged by something, that’s when the issue achieves importance to them. (Which isn’t to say call such people irrational or unable to follow logic, but that they have either a communication style or a value system where emotion rates higher when they’re deciding what to care about in human relations today.)

Second, just because a person of color opens her mouth about race or racism, that does not mean she’s volunteering to teach for a day. Sometimes, screaming at livejournal is what one does instead of cutting a bitch. Sometimes, she’s calling on other people to go attack some Big Fandom Fail. Sometimes, she’s pulling a fandomwank and inviting people to watch the big mess which is going to occur in 5-4-3-2-1. Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be class sesson 237 of Racism 101.

Last but not least, people losing their shit perform a valuable service for those of us who are about to pull out the chalkboards and learn ignorant folks. They expand the margins, so that a calm and dispassionate tone looks like a regular person talking, at least in contrast to the crazy, scary person over there. They help introduce the idea of race and racism, the idea that people care about this issue, and they make somebody like me not the crazy, whacked out edge case, but somebody with whom one might have an actual conversation. In political terms, if the far left of American political parties were really communism and socialism, then progressives might seem like centrists instead of crazy pipedreamers.

I think this last point is the most important, the any publicity is good publicity angle. Because I really do think that the most valuable tool in getting people to not flip out when they’re called on racist behavior or language is that they know that racism is an issue on which one may get called out in fandom. These issues have to be on the table in a general way before people can accept being called on the carpet in the specific.

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

So, if you think I got my analysis wrong, or if you felt like I ignored something big, please say so. (Right on, sister! or refinements of my analysis are also welcome, of course.) I will be reading all comments, but I won’t be commenting quickly, because I’m still having RSI issues.

Also, I have anonymous comments turned on with screening. If you comment anonymously, please sign with a pseudonym, even if it’s not your regular pseudonym. For instance, if I were to comment anonymously, I might sign as Martha Jones, even though my regular pseudonyms are zvi_likes_tv or zvi.

I will be deleting unsigned anonymous comments, and unscreening signed anonymous comments.

Comments

(no subject)

jennyo on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 01:16pm (UTC)

Well, as a big fan of the, "why should I be polite to a bunch of passive-aggresive racist douchenozzles?" line of thinking, flipping out has a secondary benefit of seeing who gets immediately defensive and whose true colors seem shining through. And it's fun to watch them backpedal on the, "but you're meeeeeean!" bit. Because then you know who has unresolved whiteness issues (or unresolved female issues, and so on) and I tend to find that valuable.

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fox1013 on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 02:52pm (UTC)

I am nodding a lot at this, without having anything smart to say.

But now I'm wondering-

Critique goes best where there’s a script for how to give and how to receive critique.

For lack of a better way to phrase it, how can that script be created and refined such that people respond to it?

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boogieshoes on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 03:45pm (UTC)

fwiw, i think that is possibly the best/ most effective question to ask at this point. and i don't know how to answer it, but it's very much a practical next step.

and i'm all for moving forward, instead of feeling like we're collectively spinning our wheels in debate. and we do need to address this issue, in fandom, in society as a whole, as individuals... and i don't think my preferred engineering solution* would help much.

-bs

*(my preferred engineering solution for things like this tends to be 'destroying the planet from orbit and putting us out of Ghod's misery')

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cimmerians on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 03:30pm (UTC)

Last but not least, people losing their shit perform a valuable service for those of us who are about to pull out the chalkboards and learn ignorant folks.

That had not occurred to me, but speaking as someone who is most often a card-carrying crazy, whacked out edge case, I'm glad to hear it. I enjoy and applaud maximizing usefulness! :-)

I really can't thank you enough for your exhaustive research and analysis here. Once again, your brilliance shines through. Amazing, excellent job. Thanks so very much!

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jadelennox on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 06:27pm (UTC)

Maybe some of the clash is the perennial issue with what is LJ? Sometimes, as you say, people are venting in their own LJs, just expressing their own outrage at something. Which is great.

*nodnod* Like the anti-semitism Yuletide blowup, which happened because one person vented in an unlocked post in a private LJ, but the nature of LJ made it such that it's hard to distinguish between "venting" and "attacking".

Thanks again for being willing to keep raising this issue.

Ditto on this one, too.

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shrift on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 04:43pm (UTC)

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist.

Yeah, this. I think the reason why people generally flip out when called on their racist behavior is because a) they didn't INTEND to be racist and b) they AREN'T racist, so clearly c) nothing they do could possibly be racist!

I think most people have this kind of kneejerk emotional reaction when called on their skanky issues, because most people don't INTEND to behave that way, and very much don't want to believe themselves capable of it. It sucks when your [general you] skanky issues make themselves known, but I am pretty sure that it sucks way harder for the person who is hurt or offended by those skanky issues. However, I think most people who are called on their racist behavior are too busy flailing to notice that.

I've seen conversations follow a similar trajectory when discussing how certain Shows X and Y have elements of misogyny, and people bending over backward to deny it because they like Shows X and Y, and they aren't misogynists, so clearly Shows X and Y can't be misogynist.

False syllogisms all over the place! Crappy logic makes the baby Jesus cry.

I wish more people would take the "stop flailing, listen, apologize, don't do it again" approach, but that's probably too pie in the sky.

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therck on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 06:02pm (UTC)

I wish that people found it easier to admit to liking things that have profound flaws. That is, admitting that show x is misogynist or that show y is racist or show z has crap historical research/characterization/continuity/whatever doesn't mean that the shows don't have other, very attractive qualities and doesn't mean that a fan loves the bad parts. Of course, I don't think that uncritical engagement with a text is the only or best way to enjoy it.

Not that I necessarily engage critically most of the time. Sometimes I'm too tired. Sometimes it's something that I can't do alone. Sometimes... Still, I find critical engagement worthwhile. It keeps my brain alive.

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latxcvi on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 07:33pm (UTC)

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

This is a really important point that I think gets lost a lot in race/racism discussions and it shouldn't get lost because I really do think it's true. Like that one person said in your other post:

The very fact that someone has thought it reasonable to bring up your (general 'you'/'your') unintentionally racist behavior is precisely because they're giving you the benefit of the doubt that you don't know you're doing something that's racist/racially insensitive.

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ithiliana on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 10:32pm (UTC)

Excellent recap/post, and I think this part: The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass. needs to be repeated and repeated and repeated (in every possible tone). I've seen it before, but if too often does not even get raised.


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ithiliana on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 11:01pm (UTC)

Just FYI--I linked back from my journal!

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ignazwisdom on Friday, February 8th, 2008 @ 11:21pm (UTC)

Because I really do think that the most valuable tool in getting people to not flip out when they’re called on racist behavior or language is that they know that racism is an issue on which one may get called out in fandom. These issues have to be on the table in a general way before people can accept being called on the carpet in the specific.

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.


I really love these two observations--I never really thought about it like that before, but of course you're completely right. Thank you.

Sorry about the RSI issues and I hope you start feeling better very soon!

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delux_vivens on Saturday, February 9th, 2008 @ 06:07am (UTC)

Good post.

If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

minor details!

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harriet_spy on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 07:12am (UTC)

As I was saying elsewhere today, I think there's something else of value offered by people genuinely flipping out and losing their shit.

I wish that human nature was so amenable to reasonable persuasion that racism could be combated solely by appeals to reason and our better selves. But it's not. This is why every society employs punitive sanctions as well as moral education in its attempts to discourage people from doing undesirable things.

Many people will respond to a reasonable tone (at least as observers). Many others, however--for whatever reason--will not. The only thing that will deter some people is the sense that if they do or say racist things, they will, in fact, be treated like people who have done or said offensive things. In other words, they will get flipped out on, just as someone would get flipped out on if she said something rude about someone else's mom. Some people will only be held in check by these kinds of negative consequences.

Obviously, I'd much rather be in a world where everyone is carefully educated into the reasonable range of opinions on racism and has their practices governed by sincerity. It's certainly a lot less uncomfortable to think about. But, judging by history, we'll never get there. I'll settle for a world in which a fair number of people will at least keep their damn mouths shut instead of mindlessly tossing off racist remarks because they know they'll take heat for it.

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lilacsigil on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 07:44am (UTC)

I've been quite alarmed to notice a recent trend for non-Americans to claim that we are not racist because we are not American, which is rather alarming. This was why I sent in my recollection of the interaction between an Australian fan and American fans - it was a perfectly civil exchange that reminded me that cross-cultural misunderstanding can be handled with grace, not just with cries of "OMG you don't understand!" and denial.

It's very interesting to see that strict communication rules seem to be helpful in resolving difficulties, when LJ really works against that by mixing up personal, personal-but-public and totally public at every turn.

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redsnake05 on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 07:46am (UTC)

I love reading your posts. They always make me think - and that is great. I was particularly interested in the Australian example. I come from NZ, and have to say that sometimes the debate around racism in the US makes absolutely no sense to me, as we have a completely different context here (which is complicated in its own way). I can easily see how I could make a mistake like that, and agree that the writer probably regarded it as being corrected on an error, not called on being racist.

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lexin on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 10:34pm (UTC)

I come from NZ, and have to say that sometimes the debate around racism in the US makes absolutely no sense to me

I'm from the UK, and I occasionally have that problem as well. We're just as institutionally and in other ways as racist over here as people can be in the US, but I think it comes out in different ways. Plus, of course, we have class to contend with and that gets mixed up in it all as well.

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angiepen on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 08:52am (UTC)

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

Definitely agree here. I think a huge part of the problem is when someone says, "That statement has some racist connotations," and the person being spoken to hears, "OMG you're a KLAN WIZARD!!" and it's all a firestorm from there on. The more people who understand that being called out is actually a compliment, in that it implies that you're not deliberately being a jerkwad and that the person calling you out believes there's a significant chance you'd welcome a chance to correct your behavior or thinking or whatever because you really do want to be a cool person, the more likely your average person will be to maintain when they're called on something. I think the intentionality issue is a huge disconnect between POC and allies, and well-meaning but unaware white people, and getting everyone on the same page there would be a huge step forward.

Angie

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miriammoules on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 08:55am (UTC)

I didn't see the original posts on the subject. I just saw karnythia's posts and jlh's.

I'm still pondering the issues of American Privilege as well, because part of the intersectionality for me was about American writers not acknowledging a difference in UK culture, not just about class in the UK. It's interesting that you termed it as being about "class" rather than "American Privilege", when either could have worked. Admittedly I went on more about class, so that explains a lot.

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alex_beecroft on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 11:47am (UTC)

The intersectionality thing is very interesting to me. I had a great discussion on mimesere's lj at one point about the fact that sometimes when people from the UK say 'but they look white to me' about a Latino person, that can be due to difference in culture rather than racism. Ie, because of the race makeup and history of our country, the Latino person looks to us as though they are French or Spanish - so we see 'White Mediterranean' rather than 'PoC'. There was definitely a sense in which neither of us were quite connecting with what the other person was saying. I think because we were talking past each other.

However, because that was a polite discussion in which everyone was very patient with me, I did go away later thinking "well, OK, I'm not sure I managed to get my point across about cultural differences, but at least I do understand now why it's an issue for people in the USA. So it's not something I'm going to say again."

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*nod*

commodorified on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 07:15pm (UTC)

This is one I spend a lot of time thinking about, being another non-USian.

I need to come back later and be more thoughtful, but my experiences in that sort of conversation leaves me thinking that the one place where 'tone' is perhaps legitimately an issue is as between Allies.

Or maybe that's me. I've worked really hard to deal with my "it's different in Canada" reflex, because, well, yes it is, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily BETTER, and that's (sometimes) important and (always) tricky to get across.

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vee_fic on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 04:02pm (UTC)

By the time the third person said something about third parties, I started to feel like there was some sort of backdoor tone argument going on.

This might be a sign that many correspondents believe themselves to be -- in fact, fervently hope they always are -- third parties, and never the person being called on a mistake. (After all, if you gain an education by witnessing someone else being called out, that means you could easily have been the one making the mistake instead.) I wonder if it betrays an unconscious self/other distinction whereby tone never works with anybody else, but of course it would definitely work with me.

Like how everybody thinks they're an above-average driver.

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helsmeta on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 04:28pm (UTC)

Two things that I agree with so much I can't even say:

a book called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) which suggests that the cognitive dissonance of a good liberal person finding out they’ve done something racist will make it near impossible for said liberal to admit what they did was racist (unless, of course, their worldview specifically includes the idea that everyone, including themselves, is capable of unintentionally racist behavior.) -- emphasis mine

and

I also think that there needs to be a serious discussion in fandom about intentionality. The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

And when I think about it, these are part of the same thing, really -- the idea that intention means something very different to some PoC and some racially privileged people. There's been a real theme of racially privileged people behaving as though not deliberately intending to be racist is a get-out-of-jail-free card that means they couldn't possibly have said or done anything racially insensitive, which can be infuriating to people who are aware of the many ways in which society passively, not actively, perpetuates racially insensitive themes.

People who are on the racially privileged side of an argument get really bent out of shape when they're told that it would've been okay if they'd just sat down, shut up, apologized and agreed not to do it again, as if this is a trick question we haul out after the fact, as if we were looking to catch them in a pattern of behavior that proves our point. And that's so not it. In fact, assuming that motivation is a pretty big slice of racial privilege right there; to assume that people are getting into racism debates to make racially privileged peole look stupid because it's fun for us implies that we are able to take a lack of racial privilege for granted, that we're not in these debates because we're sick of people unconsciously saying offensive or hurtful things that are quite personal and personally hurtful to us but rather to score points.

We don't have the time or luxury of trying to score points on clueless people addicted to their own racial privilege. We're just trying to create a safe space for ourselves where we don't have to put up with being hurt or offended and having people tell us we're overreacting or have no right to feel that way. Because look -- it's not that we think that people are never going to hurt or offend us; we get that racism is an unconscious, pervasive part of society that we just haven't eliminated yet. But to tell us "don't get upset because I didn't mean to do anything" or "you have no right to be hurt because I didn't mean to do anything" misses the point entirely. Part of what's so hurtful about unconscious racism is the fact that it's unconscious -- that people can say things without any understanding of their meaning, and use that ignorance as an excuse for why they weren't at fault, and if they weren't at fault and didn't see a problem, surely there wasn't one, right?

Er. I have gone on for a very long time now. I'll stop here and just say thank you for all the work you've put into this post. Thank you.

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commodorified on Monday, February 11th, 2008 @ 04:34am (UTC)

People who are on the racially privileged side of an argument get really bent out of shape when they're told that it would've been okay if they'd just sat down, shut up, apologized and agreed not to do it again, as if this is a trick question we haul out after the fact, as if we were looking to catch them in a pattern of behavior that proves our point.

*lightbulb*

One of the things that comes with privilege is the expectation that if someone with less privilege than you have wants you to do a certain thing they are obligated to explain themselves in such a way that they persuade you - without ruffling your feathers.

Whereas, if you want THEM to do something, all you have to do is issue your orders, in whatever way suits you.

OK, this is the bit of white privilege I am going to give up for Lent: I will believe when I do not see. At least, I will try to.

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tourniquette on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 09:55pm (UTC)

I think this last point is the most important, the any publicity is good publicity angle. Because I really do think that the most valuable tool in getting people to not flip out when they’re called on racist behavior or language is that they know that racism is an issue on which one may get called out in fandom. These issues have to be on the table in a general way before people can accept being called on the carpet in the specific.

Yes, yes, and Word.

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tijmetje on Sunday, February 10th, 2008 @ 10:16pm (UTC)

Thanks. I very much enjoyed the initial post and it's comments, and I'm very much enjoying this, too.

I'm sorry you're still having RSI-issues.

That book sounds very interesting. I've dealt with cognitive dissonance when talking veganism with people and it often ends up making me want to bang my head against a wall.

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coffeeandink on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 @ 03:11am (UTC)

Thank you for posting this. You've given me a lot to think about.

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commodorified on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 @ 06:28pm (UTC)

It occurs to me somewhat belatedly and not necessarily immediately usefully that the whole "tone" argument has the feel of a classic case of projection. Because if there's anyone in fandom who really needs to work on their tone, it's white fen, as represented by the pile of Shit Losing up there.

On which note I must go repent my share of the sins of the world see the dentist.


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oyceter on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 @ 06:42pm (UTC)

Thanks for this, and thank you in particular for the note that POC and allies are not always posting to educate the Great White Majority! Because while sometimes I try to channel my anger into something that will be constructive to white fen, sometimes I'm just pissed off and looking for a good rant, or talking to other POC and allies.

The short version is: the only people who get called out about their racist behavior are the ones that the challenger assumes is not intentionally racist. If we (fans of color and their white allies) think you are intentionally racist, we’re probably passing your name around friendslock and preemptively bansetting your ass.

*hearts*

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skywardprodigal on Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 @ 08:58pm (UTC)

Thank you for this round up and explanation of the responses you received.

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rushthatspeaks on Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 @ 10:46am (UTC)

Thank you for this. Very, very much.

I find it really interesting that one of the consistent themes of the examples of people quietly apologizing and correcting errors when called on them is that many of these examples took place in international contexts-- errors made by people who find that they are being offensive to cultures that they know are not the one they live in. The outside-of-fandom examples are both of this sort, as is the incident with the Australian described by lilacsigil, and I think someone mentioned that portions of the Homicide lists involved were based in Sweden.

And I think that this is indicative of another way in which the white liberal script that a lot of white U.S. liberals have been raised on has failed: namely, just about every civilized human being I've ever met, of any cultural background, understands that when dealing with a culture you weren't raised in and don't have experience with, you listen to the people who know more about it, and when in Rome, you don't act like you know more than the Romans. This leads to apologizing if you do or say something that turns out to be hideously offensive, because you know damn well that you are acting on ignorance in your dealings with the culture that you don't belong to.

And a lot of white U.S. liberals I know, including myself, were not taught that *there are differences that are that major within the English-speaking U.S.*. I was told as a kid, if you behave in the following ways, you are not being a racist, if you behave in these other ways, you are; I was not told that the experiences of institutional and personal racism that the people of color I was going to meet would have would be sufficiently different from mine that it would be best for me not to fall back on that set of learned behaviors, that that template could well leave me critically ignorant. If you ask many of the people I know whether they would know how to be polite if suddenly deposited in a small village in Uzbekistan, they'll tell you they don't know, but they'd shut up and take what cues they could. In an African-American Southern Baptist church, the same people think they know how to behave already, thank you.

And of course it's complex because a lot of the actual culture, the language, the referents etc. in the U.S. are shared, and so a lot of the time people do know perfectly well how to behave; common politeness is common. The gap of having been raised with various kinds of privilege or without them is not seen as an obvious-enough set of differences to kick people over into I-don't-know-how-to-behave-and-should-listen-to-people-who-do mode.

So I'm unsurprised that a lot of the examples of people fixing offensive behavior are international; that culture gap's a lot clearer. And I think that part of the defensiveness that causes things like the tone argument comes from the party whose behavior has been challenged going "What do you mean, this is offensive? I was raised to know what's offensive! My parents would have told me if this were offensive behavior! OMG it is so rude for you to tell me I am being rude when I haven't done anything impolite! Gaaah!" Because telling somebody that they are being rude when they are in fact being reasonable is a time-honored way of being insulting and dismissive-- which the challenged person then immediately proves by doing it themselves, to the challenger.

And so, in addition to getting the message out there that it is possible for decent people to be capable of unintentionally racist behavior, I think the message that nobody's previous training has been good enough to make them automatically polite in all circumstances is a good one too.

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nextian on Monday, February 18th, 2008 @ 02:59pm (UTC)

Left you a thank you comment, realized that it sounded once again as though a white chick was making a PoC's problems into something that's All About Educating Her, deleted it, then felt like a chickenshit. Um. I'll say thank you again because that part I think transcends the privilege I'm still trying not to show whenever I open my mouth online. Thank you for this post, and this discussion.

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