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July 2014

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can't sleep books will eat me

don't want to put you in a pop coma

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

State of the Bear:

1) I've participated in Warren Ellis's Blue Monday Signage Self-Portrait meme. Down the bottom.

2) I said I wasn't going to do this, and I already regret it.

But I'm on the horns of an ethical dilemma here. I'm still trying to stay out of the cultural appropriation debate. Yes, I am. Because it's not about me, and it hasn't honestly been about me in days, and honestly I don't care what people I don't know think of me. I'm not here to defend myself and I'm not here for a pat on the head.

Here's the thing: It's not about me. It's about people feeling marginalized and feeling that their voices are going unheard and being dismissed, and there's a lot of provocative language going around, and it's become personal enough that there's no way I can say much or anything at this point without seeming to choose sides. And since I have dear friends on both sides of the argument, and I currently disagree with things that most of them have said, and I am politically about the worst candidate for peacemaker around, I'll be over here wishing we could all stand down from our ego-defense and self-justification a little and maybe listen some.

I will, however, share something that I wrote in part as a reply to a comment by browngirl which seemed so wise and balanced to me that I needed to respond. I'm not going to link to her comment, because I don't want to lead the flamewar there, but here's what I've learned (am learning) during this past week.

I think there's an elephant in the room that I think is getting largely talked around, and I think it's because to half of the discussants, it's so invisible they don't realize it exists, and to the other half, it's so enormous they can't understand how anybody could MISS it.

It goes like this. (White people, please pay attention here.)

1) I, as a white writer, am coming at including COC in my work from an outsider perspective. I am aware of this, and even if I attempt to write those COC from a subject position rather than an object one--

2) a white audience may find my outsider-written characters more compelling than insider-written COC (because they conform to a pre-existing outsider bias)

3) which may mean that my outsider-written COC contribute to a dominant image of "what POC are like" in dominant/colonizing/assimilating culture

3a) which is perceived as competing for space with insider portrayals, and thus reinforcing the object position I meant to undermine

4) thus also leading to a perception or reality of silencing or further marginalization of writers of color, which is

5) entirely at odds with my own intention of *increasing* the representation of same in the field.

6) Facepalm, lather, rinse, repeat.

So, no, writers of pinky-beigeness, nobody is telling you you can't write characters of color. They're telling you, please listen when (and after) you do. I know that's not what it feels like you're being told, but that's because you are missing the context of existing marginalization. If you do choose to write characters of color, you are also choosing to accept the criticism of same. However, if you choose to write for publication, you are choosing to accept criticism of your work. Period.

Put on your big boy pants and suck it up. As nojojojo has pointed out, writers of color are also not immune from these criticisms and difficulties, either.

(in exemplia: in the post on othering in which I planted the seed for this meltdown, I criticized kenscholes's construction of women publicly. Ken is a friend of mine. We share an editor and an agent. You know what Ken did? He sent me a nice email saying "Thanks." Ken has big boy pants.)

And you know what? There is absolutely a place for outsider or commonly-othered characters as written by more mainstream creators.

I am thinking of this, because I am much more familiar with the insider trading of queer politics, as the Brokeback Mountain problem, and that one, I can comprehend from an insider point of view. Which is to say, BBM, a movie about two white gay closeted men, was created from a story written by a straight white woman (AFAIK?) and directed by a straight Asian male.

Mainstream society found this story a lot more accessible than many (all) queer movies about the queer experience, and I think in a lot of ways BBM *was* very narratively honest in its depiction of both closeted homosexuality and the collateral damage related to same. I ALSO think it changed the zeitgeist, awakened a lot of mainstream viewers to the idea that Gay People Are Human Beings, and may have made the world a better place.

However, comma, it is a movie about Tragic Gay Guys Who Die Or Are Miserable Because They Are Gay. And the queer community is really, really tired of that shit.

(I'm not equating the queer experience and the black experience, but I am drawing an analogy between the way art is perceived by insiders and outsiders to a marginalized subculture. So I think maybe we-collectively need to find a way to talk about and correct that sense of marginalization. Some of which is as simple as to, hello, encourage white readers to read Sherman Alexie instead of or at the very least in addition to what's-her-name.)

In other words, there's two such massively different sets of experiences at work here that we almost can't hear each other, and we really don't understand what each other are saying.


Both pursuant to and tangential to the discussion, I'm still reading Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, which is beautifully written, structurally problematic, and full of straight white guys with straight white guy problems. And yet it gave me this sentence last night, which I think has bearing:

"You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story properly. Too much truth confuses the facts."



Comments on this post are so, so very, very moderated. Feel free to agree or disagree with me or anyone else, but if you can't be polite, I'm not having you in my house. And I'm going out tonight and most of the day tomorrow, so I won't be responding or unscreening very much. I say this in advance so that nobody feels as if I am picking on them.



...and yes, the current music was serendipitous, not selected.

Comments

I have some questions for you. Why haven't you actually called out any of your defenders who were being racist? You name checked nojojojo in the context of her post, and kenscholes as someone who can handle direct criticism. Why not say "hey, medievalist it was awkward how racist you've been in defending me from a criticism I agreed with" or "Hey truepenny and coffeem it sucked how you didn't notice the racism that was happening while discussing reading texts closely." Or how about cdguyhall began comments on this post of yours by saying racist things, and went pretty much unchecked despite you ending that post by saing "And make damned sure you are being both polite and respectful of others when you do. Or I will close comments."

Or your lack of response to the next comment by rolanni which says "So, all storytellers should shut up because they can never tell everyone's story for them, correctly and exactly as that person would tell it, if they could? And we shouldn't even try, because we'll only Get It Wrong?

*is depressed*

Going back to bed, now. I shouldn't read LJ when I'm sick."

By not freezing those threads, or clearly saying "cut it out", you are implicitly telling people reading the post that you think those are acceptable types of arguments to make. And that people making them are somehow being polite and respectful.

Basically, you set off a bomb which resulted in a lot of PoC being hurt and wounded. I understand you may not have realized you were setting off a bomb, but after it happened I didn't see you doing much to protect or help PoC that were injured by the shrapnel.

Yes when I burrow into comment threads I can see you having discussions and going "oops I didn't realize my privilege goggles were still on" but at that point there has already been a ton of people saying and doing hurtful things who believed they were helpful, and doing things you were OK with.

What I'm seeing a lot of in comments to this post are white people praising your insight and strength in apologizing. What about the strength of PoC who have been engaging in this discussion while having their intelligence insulted and their humanity belittled? What about the time and energy PoC and white allies have put into this discussion only to receive complaints that things weren't phrased nicely enough? What about mentioning that this imbroglio has resulted in the comments and posts by PoC being referred to as "Orcing" (apparently a racist step above trolling). Orcing, as in a reference to dark skinned, mindless savages who live to destroy things. Nothing racist there. Nope.

Apologizing for making a mistake is good. Acknowledging the fullness of what happened is better.

Edited at 2009-01-21 02:43 am (UTC)

As for ideology, the hell with it.

If you read my post, you will see that explained in the first paragraph.

Because I did not participate in those discussions, or frankly even read most of them, and I have no intention of reading them.

Because I am an adult, and I do not take responsibility for the actions of people other than myself.

Because I am only the arbiter of my own behavior.

Because in this blog, I make an attempt to allow even people I disagree with to comment, and I have done so since I started keeping it. It is my space, and I run it as I see fit, not to please anyone else or suit anyone else's agenda.

Because if I were to play ethical arbiter, I would have to say that I think there was plenty of bad behavior, name-calling, and baiting to go around.

Because I have no intention of justifying myself to you, or anyone else.

Because as I already said, I am not going to take sides.

Because I don't honestly care what *anyone* involved in the discussion thinks of me, except for the select few persons I consider friends.

Although it's a charge that's been leveled at me repeatedly, I'm not here to collect some sort of cookie or establish myself as a well-behaved antiracist ally. I grew up inside a very similar ideological machine, and I find them generally destructive.

I'm not here to defend myself. I'm not here to accuse anyone or cast blame. It doesn't interest me, because I think it's far more important to educate people and encourage them to do something about changing the world than engaging in circular firing squads on the internet.

And that is my final word on this topic. It's not about me. And no matter how much you try to make it about me, it never will be.

Edited at 2009-01-21 03:05 am (UTC)

TNP

Roll out the red carpet (the kitchen entrance please)
We have some guests today (NAACP)
Let's listen closely now to all they have to say
Roll camera test the mike (See, I quite enjoy this game)

But you can't fight City Hall
Except with a bomb
You can't bite the hand that bleeds you


Ah, so that's what "orcing" is supposed to mean. Google would have me believe that it has something to do with Optical Character Recognition.