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March 13th, 2009

9:48 PM

The right not to talk is an equally valid one

One annoying trend I notice in the whole Web 2.0 Livejournal/Twitter/MySpace community thingy is that, whenever emotions run high, there is a tendency for the self-proclaimed moral crowd to insist that everyone either be with them, the good guys, or be against them. We have seen that happen with Cassie Edwards' plagiarism scandal, and I am starting to see that happen in RaceFail09 when some people said in the Livejournals that they felt that they had to say something or their silence would be taken by the self-proclaimed good guys as sign that they are with the bad guys.

Okay, I'm Chinese. I have lived for decades in a country where open discrimination is practiced from the top to bottom of the government. For a short time, I lived through a period of emergency when the Communists plotted to overthrow the government and, with the Communists being predominantly Chinese, my family was considered guilty until proven otherwise by the law enforcers of that time. Fortunately, the Communists decided to pack up shortly after... only to have Malaysia plunged into a year of violent racial unrest as the Chinese and Malays went at it. I'd seen former Malay friends who overnight considered me an evil heretic. And yet, at one particularly troubling moment, it was a Malay family, who didn't know my family that well, that willingly hid us in their house for three days when a particularly violent of Malays vroomed up in town with their motorbikes, hungry for blood. When my eldest sister went into labor, a Malay cab driver kindly agreed to help my mother and her to go to the hospital when we couldn't afford the fare. I was a little girl then, and such events left an indelible mark in my mind. So, you see, I've lived through racial unrest, and I know also that, even when we seem to know for sure who the bad guys are, sometimes, we can't still be too hasty to judge.

That is why my reaction when I read RaceFail09 is to roll up my eyes. Yes, racism is wrong... but perhaps I'm just too old or jaded, but I see no glory in taking part in a e-penis measuring contest that seems, to me, more like a screaming match between people who had way too much time on their hands. I'm not saying that those people who are screaming racism are wrong, let me make this clear here, I just don't see the point in screaming and ranting and running around 300 Livejournals to make the same observations of disgust. (The other side didn't acquit themselves gracefully either - in fact, being that they are supposed to be adults, and professional adults at that... oi vey.)

So, to me, I feel that taking part in the drama is a waste of my time and energy. This is different from me agreeing with the stance of one side or the other. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way whenever some overwrought Internet soap opera threatens to submerge one completely. Some people refuse to participate in mass online hysteria. And we have the right to do this. It is the ridiculous kids beating on everyone's door, shouting that you are with them or against them, that should get some sense into their heads.

And - I'm going to be very blunt here - I do not take too kindly the patronizing lectures from people telling me that I do not know what racism or, or the suffering of some segment of persecuted society, or whatever it is that these armchair Web activists decide to embrace as their latest fad. Especially when these lectures come from very young people who often get their facts, examples, and third-hand anecdotes all mixed up in the process. If these people genuinely believe that they need to make a difference in the world, then by all means, spend less time haunting blogs and participate more in community awareness programs that will allow you to help the needy and make a difference in your own way. If they genuinely believe that winning a war of words and getting to high-five each other for proving that the other faction is homophobic, racist, whatever are actual examples of making a difference in real life, then they are the ones who need to take a step back and gain some perspective.

You want to really make a difference, make a difference in real life. Stop cheapening affirmative action and using the real need for change in the real life as an excuse to gather support in your online war with so-and-so. Stop pretending that if you don't win, Evil will triumph and the end of civilization will follow. Do not insult my intelligence by telling me that I can learn from your constant tirades against some perceived racism or what not in some other fellow's blog. I am an adult, let me pick my own fights.

And really, some of us have better things to do than to validate your sense of importance.

11 comment(s).

Posted by Conrad:

Racism, unfortunately, exists everywhere. We all watch American TV show and are able to see what it was like for the African-Americans not even 50 years ago. Disgust and hatred were the predominant emotions aimed at them. But is racism really all about color? After both the world wars, American-German were treated no less. And even before that, newly arrived Irish were treated just as worse.
Now you go to Dubai, a predominantly Arab country, where most people would assume the Muslims would be treated nicely; but not so. Obviously, Arabs are always given first priority and then the real pecking order begins: 2nd priority are given to Westeners (of any religion), then the Asians (Filipino, Pakistani, Indians), and lastly the Africans (Kenyan, Somalian etc). Notice how the last two were predominantly Muslim? It has been known in Dubai for the natives to openly sport a look of disgust any time a dark skinned person are within their range of vision. In Korea, a man married a Filipino woman who, for all intense and purposes, looks very oriental. But still that family is subjected to racism, just because she looks the tiniest bit different.
We humans are 99.99% alike. Its just that 00.01% that makes us different. The reason why Western countries are so tolerant is because they had experienced it in the past and now understands. Tolerance does not happen over night. Understanding, but mostly shame of all the wrong things done to people who are different is what breeds tolerance. Sometimes, that takes over a 100 years, maybe even 50; but it does happen. Of course, after that comes latent racism. But just like how people get rid of nasty addictions in steps; racism must go the same way. Amen to that. :)
March 14th, 2009 @ 6:32 AM

Posted by EmmyG:

Good post. I think that the more people talk about stuff and keep beating people over the head with it, the more people become apathetic about it. It's like violence. Violence doesn't shock us anymore because we see it all the time on T.V. We say stuff like, "Oh, that's terrible and then go about our business."
The key to real progress isn't to keep talking about racism. The key is doing something about it. When was the last time that all of these people who talk such a good game actually went out of their way to do something constructive to reach out to a person of another color or ethnic background?
Sorry, but just adding a black character to one of our stories doesn't make us non-racist, JMHO.
March 14th, 2009 @ 6:58 AM

Posted by Nonny:

The entire thing has been frustrating me. I see posts on my friends list that basically say they feel like if they don't speak up and say "Racism is wrong" or words to such effect, then they will get lumped in with the "bad guys."

I don't feel the need to prove to my friends list that I don't support racism. If lack of such a post would make them think that I do, then they're more than welcome to defriend me.

I've not commented heavily on the subject, although I have read some. The only thing I have posted on my own LJ about it is a rant in the abstract about some behavior I have seen (and frankly, that I have seen elsewhere, and bothers me no matter who it's coming from).

The horse? It's dead. Quit beating it.
March 14th, 2009 @ 7:26 AM

Posted by Melissa Lopez:

I'm so out of the loop. I'd not heard a thing about RaceFail09 and I've belonged to LiveJournal since '04/'05. Of course, I've not once screamed or ranted outside the labor room. ;)

I totally agree. Because I tend to avoid drama like the plague doesn't mean I'm for one side or the other. Just means life is short and I prefer to avoid negativity unless it's absolutely necessary.

Fact is, I've never felt the need to post about racism. My friends know where I stand.

Best,
~Mel
March 14th, 2009 @ 8:57 AM

Posted by Gennita Low Jenn:

What you said and more, Mrs. G. I've lived through May 13 just as you did in Malaysia and yes, I roll my eyes too when young people lecture others on their blog what racism and violence are and that people MUST weigh in or be judged themselves. Rrrrright, a blog entry with links makes you a knowledgeable world activist, huh. Sometimes it's the voices that muddy the waters and make things worse.
March 14th, 2009 @ 9:22 PM

Posted by Angela:

Hm, well, I guess I'm a "young person" in your eyes. ::eyeroll::

From what I observe, the frustration boils down to writers of color not getting the fair shakes their white (or "write white") counterparts receive, who also get the benefit of writing characters of color without being pigeonholed as a writer of color--and at the same time, inadvertently perpetuating general and colonialist stereotypes most of all of us don't recognize if we're not of that culture (example, the Gemma Doyle series and the characterization of India). This then leads to, ahem, all the "young people" readers continuing to absorb racist and colonialist imagery of "other" people, and when they set their pen to paper to emulate their favorite author, regurgitate those images for the next generation of "young people" readers--and all without anyone calling them out on it because of that, yes, PRIVILEGE.

So you see, maybe those "young people" getting involved are on to something. Stop the buck at their generation.
March 15th, 2009 @ 6:36 AM

Posted by Gennita Low:

//eyeroll
March 15th, 2009 @ 7:38 AM

Posted by Angela:

Ok...shut down conversation, much?
March 15th, 2009 @ 8:10 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Angela, I'm talking about RaceFail09. Not whether talking about racism is/isn't right.
March 15th, 2009 @ 8:38 AM

Posted by Angela:

I understand that and I agree with your statements, however Gennita Low's comment was a broad sideswipe that rubbed me wrong because it contributed nothing to the conversation except raise more negativity and hackles. The fact that she's just trying to bait me shows her intentions in joining the conversation.

But so, to get back to RaceFail: the intentions were correct, but as with my raising the conversation within the romance genre--though, thankfully, it didn't go as far as editors and authors jumping in to turn things to hateful and ugly--people end up with their feelings hurt and their pride trampled upon because the 800 lb gorilla (racism, cultural appropriation, etc) simply because the tools with which to open this sort of discussion have not been developed. And they haven't been developed because of that dreaded word "privilege"--and not solely white privilege, but male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc, etc. Ultimately, we end up with posts and comments that shut down the conversation because the negativity has dominated everything. Thankfully, the sf/f community is struggling to address this. I just wish the romance community would earnestly begin strides to combat this as well--but we're a baby genre, so perhaps by the end of my lifetime, we'll begin to see some measure of change.
March 15th, 2009 @ 10:16 AM

Posted by Anion:

Oh, thank you!! I've been watching this whole circle-jerk and wondering what exactly it is people hope to accomplish.

That isn't to say I don't think some good has come out of it, if it gets people thinking about their work from a new perpective. That's great. I'd love to see more diversity in books. I write diverse characters already and I'd love to see more, and I'd love to see more writers and characters of color out there.

But this whole "If you're not jumping in with both feet and flinging arrows it's a sign of your privilege and you should shut up" crap? Dude, it's an internet ruckus. More than that, it's an internet ruckus over genre fiction. This isn't new laws going through Congress. Nobody is forced to participate. Everyone has the privilege of stepping away from the discussion and saying "I'm going to work for change in my own way, on my own time."
March 16th, 2009 @ 7:42 PM