writing rengeek magpie mind

August 2014

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real magic can never be made by offering up someone else's liver.

Please read this linked post before proceeding. This post has been closed to new comments.

As this is an open letter, I believe it deserves an open response:

You're right.

You're pretty much right categorically and without exception, and I'm sorry to have mislead you for a moment into believing I think anything different. I will say that the book of mine you threw across the room is, in part, actually intended to address the point you make about it, but I obviously failed for you as a reader in doing so, and I'm sorry.

That racism serves a story is never an excuse, especially if the racism is unexamined. There's a fine line to walk, of course, because it's also racist to make people of color sacrosanct in fiction. The only long-term solution I am aware of is saturation: getting enough characters of color out there that each one stops being special by virtue of their color.

When I said that sometimes it helps to write as if somebody "happens to have" a particular background, what I meant was not that anything else is the default. I meant that the character needs to be a person first, rather than being a stereotype or a token. A person, in other words, not an archetype or a stereotype or a role. 

It's a hard thing to talk about, to explain, and we've seen enough evidence already this week that the same words can sound very different to different people.

My intention really is not to earn brownie points. It is, hopefully, to do something about your pain and lack, and my own pain and lack, and the pain and lack of my friends and family and random strangers on the street.

If I check in with friends to see if I'm making mistakes, it's because I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem, and obviously I'm not doing it well enough yet.

ETA: Think VERY CAREFULLY before you comment on this post. And make damned sure you are being both polite and respectful of others when you do. Or I will close comments.

Oz has spoken.


deepad's essay, here, is also excellent.



(I do wish people would stop assuming I'm straight.)

Comments

Re: Seems an overreaction

If you step on my foot, I'm going to scream "ow!" It's not my job, to tell you how you should get off my foot, or what you should do to make sure you don't step on my foot in the future, how you should make apologies and amends, or even to make you feel better about stepping on my foot while my foot is still hurting. If you're a decent person, it's your job to figure out all those things, not mine. And you actually do have the capability to figure out all those things without my assisting you.

Re: Seems an overreaction

Ok, well for one thing, if you step on *my* foot I'll probably yell "Get off my foot!"

For another thing, that's a pretty concrete example you are talking about, and not the best analogy. It isn't as though it is not generally known that getting your foot stepped on hurts, the foot-stepper has likely had similar experiences, and there is a certain set of things one does to fix this:

1. Get off of other person's foot.

2. Apologize.

But we aren't talking about foot-stepping. We are talking about people doing things that may be hurtful to someone without having any inkling that it is so. Or even someone *trying* to be helpful and failing because they don't know how to help. A better analogy would be in how one teaches children, who don't know any better.

When a young child does or says something rude or hurtful, you correct them by telling them why they shouldn't say or do that thing, and give them examples of what they should say or do instead. Why? Because otherwise they can't learn. And how many parents have come across their young child "helping" by actually making a huge mess and possibly even ruining things? You don't scold them for doing a bad job and withhold guidance on how to do it right. You acknowledge the effort, give them some pointers, and help them practice.

And no , I'm not saying that people who say or do hurtful things under any sort of -ism are children. But they are obviously ignorant or misinformed or inexperienced in some way, and in need of some sort of guidance to get them on the right track. They may figure it out on their own in time, but there are pretty good odds that they will continue to blunder into saying and/or doing thing that are hurtful for much longer if they have to do it all by trial and error.

Re: Seems an overreaction

And I think that is where I'm going to leave my arguement. I've said my piece and said it several ways.

Re: Seems an overreaction

The problem here is that you're asking the people who are the ones who have been on the receiving end of racism to be the ones to do more about it instead of asking the ones who are privileged by it to do more about it. This is a problem, not least of which is that when the privileged ask, it's never just asking; because of the power differential, it is a demand. Especially when so many people of color have authored writings that provide insight into so many of those questions already and keep taking the time to provide info . . . like some crazed link fairies. To ask for a personal guide through the pitfalls of racism is kind of a privileged thing itself, ya know?



Re: Seems an overreaction

This is a very concise summary. Thank you.

Re: Seems an overreaction

I'm just going to jump in your analogy here, and point out that PoC are not the parents of white folk who do racist shit, so it's not PoC who are responsible for guiding white folks to do right. The responsibility lands on the offender to find resources and educate themselves how to walk without stepping on feet.

Re: Seems an overreaction

Whose job is it if the offended party refuses to guide the offending party?

Re: Seems an overreaction

I am no longer hosting this discussion. Please have the courtesy to take it elsewhere.

Re: Seems an overreaction

Apologies. I thought you said you weren't participating, not that it was closed.

Won't happen again.

Re: Seems an overreaction

Totally okay. And thank you for your courtesy.