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May 11, 2009

Can We NOT Do Racefail Again, Please?

I'm sticking my head out of its hole here (please note: my head is NOT wearing its CBS hat) to make a plea ... and realizing that I'll probably either get ignored, or get my head bitten off. This plea goes out to my fellow active and activist PoC and white antiracist SF/F fans. Anyone who doesn't fit this description, please refrain from commenting below (I will probably delete you.)

Apparently, Patricia Wrede has written an alternate history YA in which American Indians/Native Americans simply never existed, replaced by magical mammoths. If you don't immediately see what's wrong with this, read this list of links. (I also surfed through from this post and found a buncha stuff that wasn't on the links post above.) The posts linked often link to further reading, so go knock yourself out surfing.

Okay. I, for one, think this list of posts offers a perfect summation of what the problem with Wrede's premise is. What I'm asking for now is for PoC and white antiracists to take a REALLY DEEP BREATH ... and to fail to have a massive, collective, monthslong comment thread freakout like the one that happened this January/February/March/April (a.k.a. RaceFail '09.)

I know you guys are tired of it. We all are. I know the ignorant and vicious attempts to block and derail discussion are making you crazy. But responding to them in comments didn't do much good a few months ago ... and I think it'll do even less good now that the clueless are still smarting from the pileups at various whitepeople blogs which caused everyone to freak out and f-lock and delete their blogs and out each other's real identities and and and ...

What good did any of that do? What good will it do to go there again? The best thing that came out of RaceFail was a list of good, thoughtful posts about cultural appropriation that we can point out to people who want to be educated. Unfortunately, as much as people during RaceFail were linking to these great posts, they were ALSO engaging in increasingly angry comment threads with flamers and trolls who weren't interested in learning anything, and wouldn't have learned anything even if they were BECAUSE THEY WERE ON THE DEFENSIVE, AS EVERYONE IS IN A COMMENTS THREAD BATTLE.

So my suggestion -- my plea -- is to avoid engaging in comment threads as much as possible. You can't argue someone out of their ignorance. You can only lead them to water and WALK AWAY, hoping they'll drink after you've gone. There are some links pileups starting already. Let's contribute to them, and then make some private pledges to simply link to the links posts in comments and NOT COMMENT FURTHER.

WisCon is a week and a half away. I DO NOT want to walk into WisCon wondering who has put themselves in the wrong now. I DO NOT want to have to navigate sudden, new schisms having to do with random ignorant comments-thread comments. We DO NOT have to use this opportunity to excavate every ignorant corner of our fellow SF/F fans' racial consciousness. Let's put the info out there and let them do what they want to with it.

(A suggestion: those of you planning your own blogpost about this, please consider closing comments, so that anyone who wants to respond cannot do so anonymously, but MUST respond by posting something on their own blog. This will cut down on a lot of opportunities for people to enrage you from the safety of anonymity. I'm leaving comments on this post open because I'm hoping we can discuss ways and means of NOT engaging in a RaceFail 1.5.)


In other news, (putting my CBS hat on): the Carl Brandon Society is sponsoring a "Cultural Appropriation 101" class at Wiscon (Friday afternoon during The Gathering -- it will only take up part of the Gathering time, so you can still attend.) The class will be taught by Nisi Shawl, Victor Raymond (both CBS Steering Committee members) and Cabell Gathman.

This will be a SAFE SPACE for anyone who suspects they may be missing some of the basics to come to and learn and discuss, and ask the questions you're afraid to ask for fear of being jumped on. We strongly recommend that anyone who feels a little shaky in the basics, or who doesn't agree with what a lot of PoC are saying about cultural appropriation, come and attend this class BEFORE going into any panels on race or cultural appropriation. Forearmed is forewarned.


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Actually, RaceFail was tremendously productive. Among other things it resulted in the creation of a new press called Verb Noire. It raised thousands of dollars to create a new outlet for writers. That's what good it did. And if we get a new antiracist institution every time there is a RaceFail outcry, then we should be having them more often.

"But responding to them in comments didn't do much good a few months ago"

Well apart from the community that it's created and strengthened, and the publishing press is lead to be created, and the various new anti-racist resources that were also created as a direct reaction to Racefail '09. Of which your appropriation class will be one of.

Oh and remember the people who actually did respond to arguing in comment threads (some more so than others obviously) like scalzi did? They existed... And I hope you appreciate the irony of erasing all the good and people who did that good from the previous rounds of RF09 given that the main cause of this round of RF09 is the erasure of POC from the setting of an Alternate History.

But apart from the premises of your post, and the conclusion you arrived at from that premises, being wrong in a patently obvious fashion, I agree with everything you say: There WILL be a cultural appropriation booth at WisCon and you SHALL head it, and damn the bastards who disagree with that claim.

Uh ... no, it's not a "booth," Fridgepunk, it's a *class*.

Nobody's "erasing" anyone, Fridgepunk. I never said nobody responded to arguing in comment threads. I said IT WAS POINTLESS TO RESPOND TO ARGUING IN COMMENT THREADS because the idiots who were there to derail the conversation didn't learn anything from it.

And this is *exactly* what I'm talking about. Why are you wasting your energy over here attacking me? I'm not the enemy. You seem to have built up too much outrage ... so much that you have to come over here and yell at me, when I've done nothing wrong, but simply asked people to ... uh ... well asked people to NOT DO EXACTLY WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

A lot of mildly clueless people were also caught in the crossfire of flame wars during the MONTHSLONG ridiculous fighting of RaceFail ... people who might have learned something if the fighting had stopped and more people had turned their energy to something more productive.

Try reading my post again Fridgepunk, then think about it, and then, when you go to respond in comments ... don't.

joseph lewis: i completely agree. and that's exactly my point.

verb noire was up and running by the second week of february, which is about right according to the usual timing of such internet flip-outs. the usual timing is that it takes about three weeks for the flip-out to run completely out of steam. RaceFail 09 started the last week of january, which means that verb noire as the ultimate response to racefail was right on time.

i think verb noire is massively awesome and i'm thrilled that so many people have jumped on board to help out with it. and yet, the existence of verb noire only serves to make me MORE frustrated with the fact that RaceFail continued on for another TWO MONTHS after verb noire got started.

i know it can be hard to disengage from a fight, especially when there's no clear, constructive activity to go to when you've disengaged. but this time there WAS a place to go. this time racefail 09 could have been special among the internet flip-outs solely for being the one that caused verb noire to get off the ground. all of the energy spent in the following two months could have been channeled into verb noire ... or other initiatives.

and people still continued to argue in comments threads and prolong the undead discussion. can we please not do that again?

Well, there's only about a million people who will want to chime in on these things, and they don't all find out about them all at once, so you have to expect that things will play out over a period of weeks or months as more people join in. It also keeps the ball rolling when the primary Failer keeps popping up to fail a little more.

i totally get that. i'm mainly speaking to the folks who've been in on the last 50,000 iterations of racefail and are so screamingly over it that they CAN'T participate again without snapping. a lot of these people are de facto leaders in online communities, and if they stepped back and said "this argument is over as far as i'm concerned," things would die down a lot more quickly.

it takes two sides to tango, and the will shetterlys of the world can argue with themselves in a forest, but if there's no one there to hear them, do they make a sound?

we're all involved with the internet communities because this is the only way we can tap into quite so geographically extensive a community. so a lot of times folks feel (i know i have) that they have to keep their hand in to keep their stake in, and to back up the folks coming in and arguing the good argue for the first time.

but i think it's cool to just step back and talk broader. write a post about it; do a wild unicorn herd check in; start a new publishing company ... you know, the usual ;). i think people should be empowered to stop arguing when it's time and start some actions that do the arguing for you ... effectively.

it's why i got involved with CBS. after about eight years online the arguments were as predictable as sunrise/sunset. and i once you come out the other side, where do you go? what do you do?

Why are you wasting your energy over here attacking me?

If I was attacking you I'd have called you a liar - and indeed, one of the many things I'm fed up about at the moment with these conversations is that any sort of fair criticism is treated as an attack whether it genuinely is or isn't - instead I merely pointed out that EVERY SINGLE POINT you made in this post is not only wrong, but was repeatedly shown to be wrong every time Charles Stross or Shetterly spun these exact same lies out for the umpteenth time during the first couple of months of Racefail.

Truth should matter, outright lies should be challenged, malicious lies should be corrected and their perpetrators mocked soundly.

Here is

oh ffs typepad

here is rydra wong's rond up of most of the race fail 09 posts, debunking of most of your points may repeatedly be found here: http://rydra-wong.dreamwidth.org/148996.html

educate yoruself or don't.

I don't think avoiding engaging anyone in conversation will help at all. Sure, it may help us avoid *combustion* at the sheer failure of it all, but to rely on old phrases, I think "the squeaky wheel gets the oil" applies well here.

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