I actually have been wanting to post on this topic for several years, but recent events
have caused me to really sit down and examine who I am as a person, as well as giving me the impetus to actually do it.
I'm incredibly white. I was born and raised in the US, by parents who are both intensely racist homophobes. Don't get me wrong - neither of them would ever burn a cross or stone a gay, but they both would like it if everyone who's not white would stay in their own little separate, but equal areas.
I've tried to overcome it, but trying
only goes so far.
Looking at the shitstorm and how the person who caused it responded to it, all I could think was:
Would they have written the story set just after 9/11, with the characters sifting through that rubble?
The response they gave to all of the wank had something to the effect of, "I didn't think about race at all when I was writing it."
Well, if you're white and of English descent, you don't have
to think about race. I, as part of that privileged class, have the choice not to think about it. If I don't want to 'see race', I don't have to. A PoC doesn't have that choice, which is the crux of the issue.
Much as we might want the world to be as Dr. King dreamed it to be, right now it isn't. And dismissing race as a non-issue is in some ways as racist as burning a cross.
In Utopia, how much melanin someone has or where their parents happened to fuck wouldn't matter.
Here, now, on Earth, it does, no matter how inconvenient it is that that is the case.
Inconvenient if you're white. Reality if you're a PoC.
It's so difficult to have to consider the cultural and historical implications before writing something, so very unfair that in this year of 2010 such things still matter when we're all just human beings underneath.
See what I did there?
It's easy to make it about me, about how silly I find judging skin color or ethnicity, but it's not about me. It's about the lives of other human beings who are affected every day because there are a multitude of cultural backgrounds.
And in this future Utopia of which I and forward-thinking others like me dream, which culture would be respected? Skin color would not matter, but what about the historical implications of that skin color?
I remember watching a Deep Space Nine episode some years back and now I'm ashamed of myself for my reaction to it. Deep, welling shame that makes me feel like the scum you'd scrap off the floor of a taxicab.
In the episode, Sisko was speaking to his fiance about a holodeck program that the senior officers were really enjoying. It was a re-creation of a sixties casino, a la Rat Pack. His fiance enjoyed going to it - Sisko didn't because in the actual 60's, he wouldn't have been allowed in. His fiance explained that the way that it was programmed, it was the way that it should have been and that going to it didn't take away from the struggle of their people.
My reaction was to be disgusted that they were bringing this up on Star Trek, where the future had supposedly gotten past all of that. But the history is still there, period. Acknowledging the history is the way to keep from being doomed to repeat it and any
future worth it's salt would have a conversation like that over a holodeck program like that.
So yeah. Shame. Utter and complete for my ignorance and ARROGANCE at making someone else's historical and cultural perspective about me.
Our experiences are what shape us as individuals.
My experiences as a white woman are far different from those of any PoC. Yes, I can speak to the struggle of women, but the struggle of a white American woman is far different from the struggle of a Middle Eastern, Asian, African or Latin woman or for a black woman in the US. Hell, as someone of mostly English-speaking descent, my experience is far different from even a white woman in Eastern Europe.
It's horrible to realize that I was incredibly lucky to be born white, simply because there are a thousand things that I don't have to worry about because of it. The only
time it's a disadvantage is when I realize that as a pale white woman I'm worth a lot of money to those who traffic in other human beings.
Being white, I don't have to worry about someone thinking that I'm going to do bad things only based upon the color of my skin. I'll never be pulled over for DWB ('driving while black'). Well, that's not entirely true. Because of my slave-owning ancestors in the South, there is sometimes the presumption that I might burn a cross, but given that some of my relatives down there might have burned crosses, I can't blame anyone for making the presumption based upon historical precedent. Another statement that's not entirely true. If you think that because I'm white I'm automatically going to burn a cross on a PoC's lawn, then I'll blame you for making me guilty until proven innocent, but still... Given the historical precedent (and some of my actual behavior), I can't fault anyone for being cautious of me.
Especially when it's so damn easy to be lulled by being white. It's easy to forget about what other people go through simply because of skin color because 99% of the time, skin color is a non-issue if you're white, except as an advantage.
I listen to a lot of black comedians because their observations on race are ones that I try to listen to in order to see where I'm going wrong. My favorite movie of all time is "Blazing Saddles", but it's only as an adult that I can truly appreciate how brilliant that it really was.
I don't like having to think about race or cultural backgrounds, but again, if I don't want to, I really don't have to. Religion is a separate issue because I actually believe that it is harmful to humanity as a whole, but I feel that way about ALL religion, not one over the others, and I try to respect the cultures that have religion as their base, simply not what they do in the name of it. Again, I believe that religion is detrimental to the progression of human society, so separating the religion from the religious is difficult, but I am trying.
But I have a choice. That's what the essential crux of this is. I have a choice about whether or not I choose to be sensitive to other races and other cultures. I have a choice about who I choose to be because being white gives me the freedom not to care.
A PoC can't choose not to be so. They can't choose to not let skin color affect them because it does every day.
I once had a black teacher in summer school who said that he hadn't had a day go by without someone making a racist comment or hearing something to do with race. Really think about that for a second, white people.
Not. One. Day.
I've been using 'black' instead of 'African American' because not all black people in America are of African descent and there are other countries besides the US were black people reside. I'm not using PoC to describe him because he's black, not Latin and while the issues are similar, being black in the US has its own unique set of issues. However, I realize that some might be offended by my using 'black' and all that I can say is that I apologize, but I simply wish to be as specific as possible with regards to this.
I told a racist joke to other black students in that class, nearly 20 years ago now, all the while saying, "I'm not a racist." Shame. Such amazing, all-encompassing shame for having just enough information to know that I was wrong, but not really understanding why and doing it anyway. I'm a racist. My racism is not as obvious anymore, but it's there. Ironically, I doubt that my black friends on my facebook page would call me a racist, but I am one. I am one because I still don't always think about race and how it really affects PoC's. The fact is, I don't have to.
I can think about it today. I can be outraged today. I can try and do better, but in the end, my awareness of race doesn't have any affect on my life other than what I choose to give it. I have a choice about how race affects me.
Until my awareness of this issue becomes something that doesn't only hurt me when I happen to pay attention to it, I'm a racist.
At the beginning of this, I said that in Utopia melanin and geography wouldn't matter. But what sort of Utopia would that be? What culture would be chosen to be valued?
I'll make it clear that if your culture practices female circumcision, forced marriage or stoning of unwed mothers, I'm going to be happy when it dies. Some cultures are better than others, but so long as a culture respects both sexes equally, what cultural background is the one on which to build this Utopia?
Personally, I like France. They seem to have their shit together. But they're white and European, so I'm biased. They also have complete separation of church and state and banned burquas, so that also makes me biased.
Which culture is the one that we should be trying to emulate? Or can we simply all respect each other's cultures and beliefs (so long as those beliefs don't advocate harm to other human beings)? Is it possible to have a civilization where everyone respects everyone else's history and individuality?
Questions too deep for me to answer. And I don't have to. Pay no attention to China or India - they're way over there and filled with people that we whites don't have to care about.
I think that racists like me are in for a rude awakening. I think that the world is going to stop telling us that they're sick of our backward shit and start showing us that the US doesn't live in a vacuum.
I should note that the person who caused this took down the story and gave what sounded like a sincere apology, even if I still don't think that they truly understand exactly why everyone's so upset.
The reasons why this happened at all are still alive and well.
To cut or not to cut, that is the question. Fuck it. 999 out of 1000 times, I cut. This one time, for this one issue, I'm not.
I'm not going to screen the comments or lock them either. Whatever you want to say. Whatever you feel on this topic. I want to hear it, especially if it's telling me other places where I've gone wrong and how I can improve going forward.
I want to get better. I want to care all the time, not just when it's convenient.
To those black girls to whom I told that racist joke, I'm so sorry. I wish I'd known better. Rather, I wish I had listened to the little voice that told me that I knew better before telling the joke anyway.
That's the worst part of that memory. I knew better and I did it anyway. Because it was a funny joke (or so I thought). And I didn't have to care when I did it, because the meaning behind the joke didn't affect me at all.
I don't want to be a racist anymore. Please help me.
ETA 6/17 6:47AM: If you are interested in continuing to follow this, amazonziti has an amazing post here that is following all of the various conversations that have come up and meta that have been written. Particularly interesting is the thread that started it all. What I find most damning is the number of people who thought that it sounded absolutely wonderful. This is not a conversation that should end quickly. The whole reason that shit like this continues to happen is that people get up in arms about it for a few days and then quietly forget. I know that we all have our own problems and lives, but this is a conversation that shouldn't stop.
Also, amozonziti made an excellent point about the author freezing the comments and/or deleting them, thereby ending the conversation as it had begun and rendering useless a lot of links in posts such as these.
I've been trying to give the author the benefit of the doubt, I really have. I even sent her a (fairly) polite PM regarding the situation. I don't expect her to reply, as I'm certain that her in-box is overflowing, but I'm going to go ahead and put the text of it here:
Subject: Your Big Bang Fic
I hesitated about sending you this, because you've done the mature and responsible thing by taking it down, but I simply wanted to leave you with one last piece of food for thought:
Would you have written this set just after 9/11, with them sifting through the rubble of the Twin Towers?
I'm not asking this because I'm judging you. I'm not actually in the SPN fandom, didn't read your story (except for passages quoted out of context) and have been guilty myself of the past of hurting others unintentionally through thoughtless words and actions.
I know that you're in a bad place right now and you didn't deserve the name-calling at all, but you did deserve the outrage and the offense and saying, "I didn't mean to", isn't the same as saying, "I'll never do it again."
In reading your post where you talk about taking it down, you address everything quite well, but coming into this with no knowledge lets me see it slightly more objectively (I think).
You're still coming across as someone who is apologizing not for the mistake, but because everyone is saying that you should. In other words, apologizing because you got caught, not because you truly feel that what you did was wrong.
If that is not how you feel, then I sincerely apologize and believe me, I do understand about how difficult it is to come back from something like this. I understand the need to try and tell your side of the story, but saying, "I tried not to while I was writing," doesn't help the situation.
You messed up. You don't deserve to be vilified forever for it, but you do for a while.
I'm sorry to put it like that, but the level of fail in your story will be something that will take a while for you to get past. You need to do some serious self-examination and decide who you are as a person.
Are you someone who's aware of every person and their cultural backgrounds, regardless of what those backgrounds are? Or are you someone quite similar to myself, who simply doesn't understand why race is such an issue?
In a perfect world, we would all be judged not by the color of our skins or where our parents happened to breed, but by who we are as individuals. If your fail came because you feel (as I do) that that's the world we should all live in, then I can understand how it happened.
In the world that we live in, there is a race divide and PoC's have no choice but to be aware of it. Being as white as white can be, I have a choice as to whether or not I let the question of race affect me. A PoC doesn't have that choice.
"In fact, I never thought about it in terms of race at all, really. Yes, Jensen and Jared are white. Yes, the majority of Haitian people are of color. Those are just facts and, in my head, had no bearing on the dynamic of the story. I had hoped to convey the sincerity of Jensen and Jared's intentions without regards to race."
The fact that you never thought about it in terms of race at all is why everyone is so upset with you.
Whether we like it or not, race matters. It does. In Utopia, it wouldn't, but we don't live there.
Anyway, I'm sorry for adding to the dogpile, but having been through something similar (though not on this scale), I wanted to add my perspective.
I hope that this has opened your eyes to the reality of the rest of the world. If it has, then at least something good has come out of it.
I also think that you are very wise to stop posting on it. However, unless you want to delete your journal, it will come up again. The internet is fickle, but some people on it have long memories. Unless you find some way of addressing it going forward, coming back from this is going to be very difficult.
You're going to need to do some deep soul-searching and perhaps actually read some of the history of Haiti to better understand exactly what you've done.
Something to consider, depending upon how much effort you are truly willing to go through to fix this:
Read the history, then critique your own fic and show your understanding of where you failed and how. If you can show that you've actually given some thought and care to really understanding where you went wrong, it might go a long way towards showing people that you are actually sorry, as opposed to sorry for getting caught.
Just a thought, :).
Take care of yourself.
[My real first name] aka Teleen
I don't know what else to say or think or feel. There are so many interesting and nuanced perspectives on this and I've found reading them quite enlightening. It seems that with every new one that I read, I learn something new or see yet another way of looking at this. Unfortunately, the more that I read, the more staggering the depth of the fail here becomes, because as several people have pointed out, this didn't happen in a vacuum. More people than just the author saw this before it was posted and not only that, still more of them saw it and thought that it sounded good.
Just... Keep talking people, please. Thanks.
ETA: 6/17/10 3:39PM eviinsanemonkey linked this to a post here. I highly recommend taking a look at what they wrote here as well. Particularly of interest is a thread that was started by a PoC.
Going back over what I wrote, I realize that I still made this all about me. maygra wrote a wonderful post about this topic yesterday and I realized that some of what I wrote is quite similar to what she wrote. I sincerely apologize for the unintended plagiarism. She said it all better than I could, anyway.
This is not about me or my experiences with being a racist. This is about how this could have happened and I think that I've made how it could have happened blindingly obvious. White people are not the center of the Universe, but boy do we like to think that we are.
I apologize again for being completely unaware and would like to thank amazonziti for helping me to realize it.
I posted this on facebook yesterday and only one of my friends responded. It shocked me. Now I understand it better and realize that I'm still an entitled jackass.
Please keep signal boosting. Please keep talking. Thank you.