Anyone who has ever been to a “nerd event” will recognize everything that occurred in the “Good” and the “Bad” columns in Devega’s post. The predominately white crowd, who are fans of some (racially/sexually/everything-ly) fucked up literature, are “open” to hearing opinions from people in those groups, but at the end of the day, are not interested in rethinking their childhood nostalgia or their great heroes in order to root out all of the (racially/sexually/etc) fucked up things that those authors wrote.
Additionally, I am actually surprised that most people at the event were receptive to the questions and concerns of people of color. By Devega’s account, the panels concerned with identity were attended by various people who took the concerns seriously. However, the fact that these panels were voluntarily attended speaks to the kind of attendees that you end up with–everyone in a “Women in Science Fiction” panel is going to be receptive of what is talked about.
The thousand people that don’t go to that panel are the people I am concerned about, and I am afraid that they aren’t changing–hints of these people and their opinions are found in Devega’s “Ugly” section of the post.
Now I am going to excerpt some particularly interesting (and sad) bits of the post in case you don’t want to read his original post (though you should).
Visible discomfort and upsetness. There were several moments when issues surrounding race, gender, sexuality (or questions about white privilege) in science fiction were introduced by a panelist—or troublemakers like me—and the eye rolling annoyance by a good number of white men in the audience was readily apparent. Their responses to these questions and interventions were always polite; however, the energy suggested that these subjects were problems for “those people,” and not the “good” and “forward thinking” white people who are into science fiction. As is my common refrain: racism is not an opinion; the lie of post-racial “colorblind” America is that discussing race makes one a “racist.” This is perverse and backward thinking. Unfortunately, such wrongheadedness is common place–even at a science fiction convention.
Of course the intersection of the science fiction crowd and the Tea Party would be in the “total asshole.”
Like a ghost, Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege” always makes an appearance when race and white privilege are discussed by otherwise well-meaning white people who are somewhat aware of these issues. Please people, I am begging you, stop mentioning that damn essay: deferring to white people’s expertise when talking about racism is itself an act of white privilege and white supremacy. Start with Du Bois, and other people of color before you become giddy with the “discovery” of white privilege. Black and brown folks were doing it better, first, and many years before the Invisible Knapsack of Privilege first circulated on these Internets.
John Scalzi’s great blog post on white male privilege was also enthusiastically mentioned in the same panel (he was at Chicon 7 so the allusion was a timely one). Be warned: it will at some point usurp McIntosh’s work. And yes, I would offer the same critiques about its use by white anti-racists as I did McIntosh’s essay.
White people who want to be serious anti-racists need to go to the source, the well-spring, and not those white activists who are at the other end of the river.
This is something I try really hard at. I have things to say about race, but I can never say anything that trumps actual experiences. And everyone should remember that.
There was lots of white male bravado, triumphalism, and an exaggerated sense of confidence that science fiction was “their” space, on display at Chicon 7. Quite a few white male panelists slipped effortlessly between an unqualified “we” and “us” when talking about science fiction, questions of morality and ethics, identity, “moral and social relativism,” and justice. This was also common among the audience members. You are not “us.” Please stop deploying the universal “I.” Many of the questions and comments were also uncritically Eurocentric. Folks need to get into the second half of the 20th century…never mind the 21st.
This is the best summation of the field of science fiction that I have ever read.
And while not a lot of this is surprising to me, a white male fan of science fiction, I am incredibly happy that someone is writing about it. The “you are a bad person for airing dirty laundry” mentality is incredibly pervasive in the fantastical writing community, and discussions of issues in the field are usually limited to Cat Valente‘s blog, Livejournal/Tumblr rants, or great academic books that fans don’t read.
What lesson did I learn? We need more WARN coverage of nerd events.