RaceFail and assorted interweb fuckbiscuitery

Sooo, RaceFail. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell, it’s a huge debate going on, mostly on LJ, between people involved in SF/F. It seems to have turned into an industry vs fans thing, but I’ve given up trying to label it. 

It started off being just about ‘writing the other’, then it turned into a giant mess with valuable bits of insight here and there. Mostly it’s just a mess, though.

I’ve been wanting to post about it for a while. It started in January, and it’s still going on. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what to say. Racism is bad? Duh. Racism is really bad and it sucks that half the time, people don’t even realise they’re discriminating? That’s better, but it’s still got a worryingly high duh-quotient.

What really opened my eyes was an entirely different debate I got involved in. It was regarding mental issues, and I got extremely angry. I hardly ever get angry nowadays, so yeah, this is something that really gets under my skin. 

The part of the discussion that really opened my eyes, was when someone tried to equate the suffering of someone with these issues to that of someone without these issues. Of course, these people can suffer the same amounts, but not in the same way. I didn’t feel I was able to make that clear to other people.

Then it dawned on me. That’s exactly the point that I wasn’t getting in the whole RaceFail thing. 

There were plenty of posts and comments in that giant crumbly fuckbiscuit that essentially came down to, ‘Hey POC, stop whining because other people suffer too’. Sure, other people suffer too. There’s a whole lot of suffering in the world, and it’s not limited to people of a specific ethnicity.

But you know what? If you’ve got the privilege of being white, you’re never going to know what POC feel when they’re discriminated against just because they don’t look white enough. You might have experiences that are just as awful, but they won’t be that experience.

With that realisation came another: this is what was meant when people said that some individuals were trying to make it about themselves. The discussion is about people not being treated with respect, it’s not a competition to see who’s suffered most. It’s about combating discrimination, not trying to tell those who feel discriminated against to stfu because omg, this privileged person has suffered way more than you.

Because of how I felt last night, I’ve become extremely aware of my own privilege, as a straight white woman living in a Western country. I think that’s an extremely important step towards becoming a fairer person. When you have the privileges I do, it’s easy to forget that hey, there are people with different experiences, and not everyone has it as easy as this. 

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s ignorance, especially when I’m the one guilty of it.

ETA: I’ve made it about me, I’m an idiot. My apologies to anyone I may have offended with this short-sighted and frankly stupid post.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “RaceFail and assorted interweb fuckbiscuitery

  1. Matthew

    I’ve caught myself beign guilty of that too, an embarassing number of times. :-[

    I think that maybe suffering gets used the wrong way in these discussions a lot of the time. I’ve also seen what you’re talking about, and I remember a big debate from grad school about who was the biggest victim of discrimination, African Americans, women or gays.

    IMO, suffering shouldn’t be a contest, or a point-winner in a debate. Suffering should be the thing that draws us together. When we hear about another person’s suffering we can say, I know how wrong that is. I haven’t had that experience, but I’ve suffered unfairly too and so I care about everyone’s suffering.

  2. “But you know what? If you’ve got the privilege of being white, you’re never going to know what POC feel when they’re discriminated against just because they don’t look white enough. You might have experiences that are just as awful, but they won’t be that experience.”

    What about the opposite? Would that be close enough?

  3. Leah

    It depends. Would it be discrimination based on the fact that the one discriminated against suffers because he is actually privileged, as opposed to those discriminating? If so, then the person could simply move to a more standard area of whatever country that was, where they would ‘enjoy’ their privilege, rather than be judged for it.

    But if you live in a country where whiteness is without privilege, then yeah, I’d say it was the same.

    It really depends on the social constructs. It’s not the actual skin colour that’s important, but the value that has been assigned to said skin colour by society.

    I’d like to add that I’m a Clueless White Chick, and everything I say may well be a load of privileged BS.

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