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Can someone please tell me what Racefail 2009 is really about?*

I mean, I've read some of the posts, as well as pats_quinade's wonderfully biting write-up. I saw Elizabeth Bear's original response to a critique of her work, which I think was one of the starting points to this whole thing, and I very much respect the way she tried to handle it. I've seen the discussions spread from there, but it seems like it's transformed from a discussion of writing and race into a hatefest of personalities.

I haven't followed every fractal branching of the discussion, so it's very possible my impression is distorted or wrong. But it seems like there are two different conversations going on. One is (or was) a discussion of race. The other is a discussion of my hurt feelings and what I'm going to do to punish you for hurting my feelings (because of course it's all about me). Which leads to other people calling me on my bad behavior, which leads to me escalating and shouting even louder, until the original conversation -- the one that might have had some real value -- has been drowned out.

But maybe that was the goal all along, I don't know.

That comment was probably uncalled for. I don't think most people were deliberately trying to shut down a potentially valuable conversation. But which matters more, intentions or results?

I've also seen writers talking about how they're scared to write about "the other" now, because what if they get this kind of backlash to their own work? On some level, I do understand that fear. Criticism hurts, and few people worry about hurting the author's feelings when they talk about what was wrong with a book. Heck, I'm a little scared just posting this.

With all due love and respect, get over it. You publish your work, you're going to get criticism. Some will be valid. Some won't. Most of it will sting. Don't like it? Stop trying to be a writer.

And as far as I can tell, the only people saying "White authors aren't allowed to write about non-white characters" are the white authors. And most of the time, "not allowed" seems to mean "people might say mean things".

Seriously. Get over it.

I'm struggling with a working definition of privilege, and coming up with something like, "In a discussion of racial stereotypes, appropriation of the 'shiny bits' of other cultures without real respect or understanding of those cultures, the ongoing underrepresentation/misrepresentation of large portions of the population in fiction and other media, and the need to do better, privilege is when the most important piece of the conversation is your hurt feelings."

Thoughts and discussion are very much welcome, but the last time I touched on this topic, I ended up freezing three comment threads. So I'm asking up front that we keep it respectful. Sharing your thoughts is a good thing. Listening to each other is even better. I will try to post a warning if I see threads getting out of hand, but I don't promise to do so. If warnings are ignored, or if something gets nasty faster than I'm comfortable with, I'll stop it.

*Not asking for a literal roundup of posts, here. See merriehaskell's comment below, and I apologize if I wasn't clear. It's been a long week...


Mar. 8th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)
OK. I did call you a malignant fuckwitted troll. When I denied doing so I didn't have a browser window open on the other thread to read what I wrote yesterday, and my memory is imperfect, so I just stuck my foot further down my throat. (It'll be coming out my ass, shortly. I didn't intend to give a perfect worked example of what I mean about LJ being a crap medium for this form of discussion, but I appear to have done so -- it's the fact that the discussion is spread across so many blogs -- some of them unknown to some of the participants -- and that over 50 postings in a given thread results in LJ collapsing or hiding comments, make it hard to keep track of stuff.)

On the subject of apologies: you're not accepting them. (Fine.) Suffice to say I regret calling you a malignant fuckwitted troll and I'll try not to do it again.

Meanwhile, I am only making a fool of myself by participating here. (Can we agree on that?)

I don't like making a fool of myself -- in public or in private -- so I'm going to shut the fuck up now.

I hope that if or when we should meet in the real world, we'll be able to conditionally put this behind us.

EDIT: I'm outa here before I do any more damage.

Edited at 2009-03-08 12:50 pm (UTC)


Jim C. Hines


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