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18 January 2009 @ 09:33 pm
In the middle of the battle  
ETA: I'm very sorry to do this but I'm disabling comments for now. turning off email notification on this thread and won't be checking back on it for several days. I meant to disable comments, but then realized that would hide the comments that were already made, which isn't my intent at all.

This is all me and my silly head -- I need to work on a paper and won't if I keep wondering if people have said anything here. So I need to forbid myself lj till the paper's done.


I'm in no-man's-land here. My tribe, as I identify it, is fighting about issues close to my heart. And I realize that stepping into the fray is not gonna leave me unbloodied. But this hurts too much, and when it hurts, I have to try.

From where I am standing it seems that a few people on both sides are pointing fingers too hard, misinterpreting and fanning flames and speaking from too much anger to allow for any possibility of better understanding. This, in effect, forces other people to pick sides, and as far as I can tell these sides are starting to have much more to do with lj friend groups than race.

Which is just, so, ARGGGH. It's school cliques all over again; X hates Y forever not because of anything X or Y did but because X's friend J hates Y's friend S for saying something J interpreted as horrible. And our deep commonalities, as well as our real differences, get completely painted over with bullshit.

So. This is what I think. I think mac_stone and medievalist are not any of the nasty names that have been lobbed their way lately. Do I think they did everything right here? No. But I also think some people came in with a boatload of wrong assumptions about them, read what they had to say with mistaken context, and accused them of being things they're not -- and that's really not going to bring out anyone's best side. Is that a justification? No. Am I saying I think they don't have Any Unseen Privilege At All? Hell no. I think most of us do. I'm just saying I think they did SO MUCH better than I would have in the situation, which brought out the worst in many people. "Better than me" might be a low bar here, given how new I am to all this, but it's the only one I can really talk about.

Meanwhile, I do not feel able or willing to judge anyone who aimed namecalling at them. I have insufficient context; I think it's entirely possible that it all came about because of people really honestly passionately caring about the position of PoC in the field and in the world, and feeling threatened and ignored and condescended to. These feelings are valid even if I disagree with the interpretations that led to them, or lack the context to understand those interpretations.

ETA: It's also entirely possible (likely?) that some people on both sides are just shit-stirring to get a reaction. This is the internet; it's not a safe space. I'm not used to lj enough to really understand that part of it though, so I'm thinking this out in terms of everyone with good intentions on any part of this topic.

Here's the thing, as I see it. If person A thinks person B is the privileged and a speaker for a privilege group, and person B also feels excluded from that privilege group (even with different reasons), and does not share person A's assumptions about the dialogue, things can go really damn haywire really quickly with (initially) good intentions on all sides. Whether A is unaware of B's vulnerable status, or believes it to be irrelevant to the discourse.

And when we're angry we all want to lash out, to the point where even if we don't, even if we only talk about our anger in our own space, we are interpreted as lashing out in part because, well, that's what people do.

If person B angrily claims they are not responding from privilege, there are two options. 1) They are responding from privilege and are blind to it, so being pushed to confront it is deeply frightening to them. 2) They are otherwise vulnerable, and responding from that spot, and being written off as part of a group that also smacks them around is deeply upsetting to them.

Or there could be a combination.
And yeah, I know, one sort of Otherness does not make us experts on other sorts or immune from bigotry. We need to listen even when a group or person is angry. But there's a difference between listening to another person's anger and listening to another person's directed insults, especially for someone who's been abused. We need to listen, but one person being unable to deal any longer because their own issues make it just too hurtful does not mean Total Meltdown Failure.

And. I don't think it works to say "We're dealing with race now, let's hold the heteronormativity discussion till later" any more than it works to say "We're dealing with gender now, let's hold the race discussion till later". Different Othernesses are *different*, and being one does not make us experts in others, but it does give us some shared experience of -- and scars from -- Otherness. If we're all different from the mainstream, that's necessary information for contextualizing the things we say.

So. I wonder whether those of us who have been through this argument too often risk seeing the most common patterns even when there's actually a different and less common pattern there. Because I do know that, in other contexts, that's how human categorization works. We do overgeneralize.

And right now it's heartbreaking.


ETA: These are the thoughts I'm struggling with. I do not claim they are even so right as the stuff above. Please, if you can deal with it, tell me why this is wrong if it is; it's the best I got but I want to do better.

1) I didn't like coffeeem's tone; I think she was wrong to dismiss people who hadn't read all the way through Bear's book. But I don't see how that is racist. What I saw was undoubtedly dismissive, and I think it is missing a point (that people who stopped reading had a valid reaction worth talking about), but as far as I can tell that was on the basis of whether they'd read the damn book not what their race is.

As to the point itself, I wouldn't call the opinions of people who stopped halfway through a book less valid than those of people who read the whole thing. Gah. But I do think they are different. Seems to me people who didn't finish are uniquely qualified to talk about what put them off to the point of no more reading, but I don't see how they are qualified to talk about the ending they didn't read, or about the book overall as opposed to the part of the book they read. Similarly, people who read the whole book can't tell people who stopped "But it's different later so you're wrong". Or... well I mean of course they can, anyone can do all sorts of things I think are wrong and I have no power to stop them, and I'm not telling anyone what to do, but that doesn't stop me thinking it's wrong.

2) I understand the frustration with various people taking overly-academic tones & demanding emotional distance. I am sure my tone often reads as overly academic; when I try to be precise to prevent misunderstandings, that's the voice that offers itself up for me to use. I'm not saying this is a good thing or it makes me superior, just that I realize I'm doing it & apologize to anyone who finds it offputting. But. If we do keep our eyes open as far as possible for inbuilt prejudices, Academia has things to say here. They're not more valid than other people's points, but are they completely invalid? I don't think that refusing to hear something 'cause it's academic is any more helpful to us than refusing to hear it 'cause it's not.

3) I do have to wonder (of course I do!) if I am just blind to my own friends' privilege because they are my friends. And I know I didn't read all the arguments. I couldn't. I have been sick (most recent bout) for six weeks now; I cannot afford to make myself ill all over again crying.

4) But my sense is that they've been somewhat scapegoated. I'm not saying they didn't set off the reaction. I'm just... I think there were enough true ignorant bigots and hostile-supposed-allies to ... I guess dump more anger into the discourse than any of us fully realized, and that had as much to do with the response to Mac and Medievalist as anything they said or did. Meanwhile the perpetrators of "If you want more POC in ficion just write them" and other such things got off with rolled eyes.

I'm not dismissing the anger. I just don't think it all (or even mostly) found the right target. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but what I saw of the conversation reminds me of me, on those days when a dozen people piss me off or drain me and I'm relatively under control, and then a loved one says the wrong thing and I go nuclear on 'em.
 
 
Current Mood: distresseddistressed
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 19th, 2009 06:59 am (UTC)
I'm sorry that anyone is hurting over the recent kerfluffle.

Me too.


I don't think it's anything so static as a vector calculus. It's just... a way of talking about the ways in which people might be ignored or hurt, so that we might ignore or hurt one another less.

But almost by definition, many of the people talking about it are... people who have been ignored or hurt all their lives. And that's really a situation where things can spiral out of control fast, with everyone curling up around their hurt places and defensively getting their spines up.

Okay yeah, we're not hedgehogs. But that's sort of what I think I'm seeing, rather than one group absolutely exercising privilege and refusing to listen to the other.

And ya, that might be because of my context blinding me to things as much as anything else, but I think it's a possible interpretation.
(Deleted comment)
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
Not that I'm biased or anything but I'm metaphorizing (?) it more as an engineering problem than a math one - specifically, something like thermodynamics or fluid mechanics where it doesn't initially look too dangerous, then the deeper in you go the more complex and more interdependent everything is.
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
Which, come to think of it actually *are* math problems constantly in motion etc per your description.
(Deleted comment)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 19th, 2009 07:47 am (UTC)
*blinks*
*points* NERDS!






(Er. Context for anyone who doesn't know me, I'm totally a nerd, I'm married to a mathematician, and I come from a family of engineers.)
(Deleted comment)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 19th, 2009 07:57 am (UTC)
Of course the really telling thing is that I can almost remember the scroll-over text.

Though I can't remember what scroll-over text is called...
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
Well, yeah. With the engineering and science degrees to prove it!
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 19th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
Which is why my "Nerd" is actually an expression of faint envy.

Only faint because, y'know, I haven't had to *sit through* an engineering or real-science degree (cognitive science has a science in the name so it's clearly not a real science...)
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
The cognitive scientist I know (well, knew) best has an engineering undergrad degree, so I think it counts! I can't imagine Lemur* having transitioned to anything easy.

Undergrad nickname. Doubt he uses it much these days, as a prof at Northwestern.
(no subject) - shweta_narayan on January 19th, 2009 09:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - dichroic on January 19th, 2009 09:32 am (UTC) (Expand)
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
The more you know about fliuds the more you know you don't know. Sound familiar?
(Deleted comment)
Dichroicdichroic on January 19th, 2009 09:33 am (UTC)
What spacecraft?

I've only worked on imaginary ones, myself. (Astronaut trainers for Space Shuttle, SpaceLab, Space Station.)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - dichroic on January 19th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - dichroic on January 19th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC) (Expand)
mallory_blogmallory_blog on January 19th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
Keep in mind that America is on the threshold of a huge event and it is huge BECAUSE of the racism that shaped it. This causes a certain amount of energy, uncertainty and charge. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this inauguration is a heartbeat in all of us.

::hugs::
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Good point, yes. Perhaps that has more to do with race being at the forefront of everyone's mind just now, rather than too many of us ignoring other outgroups.
(Deleted comment)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
I agree that nobody owes it to anyone to finish a book.

I just think that finishing and stopping half way give one necessarily-different experiences of the book.
Angelic Eye for the Gendered-Species Individual: moon dragonrysmiel on January 19th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
If person A thinks person B is the privileged and a speaker for a privilege group, and person B also feels excluded from that privilege group (even with different reasons), and does not share person A's assumptions about the dialogue, things can go really damn haywire really quickly with (initially) good intentions on all sides.

This sums up in a nutshell why I am leaving those discussions alone; the particular assumption I do not share with many of the participants being that the paradigms for discussing race in the US are universal truths and could not possibly contain any US-specific notions of class, historical artifacts or anything like that.

(Well, that and that I have great difficulty keeping my temper around anyone asserting Ireland counts as being on the benefited-from end of colonialism. For reasons starting with somewhere in the region of a million deaths from disease and famine between 1846 and 1851.)

Edited at 2009-01-19 03:09 pm (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)
People say that?

*boggles*

Anyway yeah, I understand why you leave these discussions alone.

I'm in a different situation, and I don't. And sometimes that is painful, but I think I've learned a lot from them :)
asakiyume: mirokuasakiyume on January 19th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
I find it very comforting, and it makes me smile, to see that most of the comments here veer off into the safe and friendly zone of fluid dynamics and math.

I'm relatively new to Internet social interaction, too, and have heard people talk about these kinds of blow-ups, but have never witnessed them directly--just hear of them in this way, through my friends on LJ referring to them.

I think your ETA is very true and pointful. Some people really enjoy conflict, enjoy the heightened emotion, enjoy grandstanding.

On the broader issue, I think it's important for everyone to remember than anyone with access to a computer and time to blog is privileged when compared to vast, vast swathes of humanity. It's also important to remember that even though we all do have access to computers and time to blog, we come from very, very different backgrounds, have lived through very, very different experiences and may have strong--and different--opinions on subjects.

Name calling represents a failure of conversation, to my mind, a kind of temper tantrum and a desire to antagonize. I guess sometimes people can be driven to that by stuff that's come before, but if a conversation is that upsetting, maybe it's better not to participate. I don't see how anything meaningful can come from conversation if people can't listen to one another, really listen. I guess sometimes it comes down to "I don't agree with you, and I guess we'll have to leave it at that."
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
On the broader issue, I think it's important for everyone to remember than anyone with access to a computer and time to blog is privileged when compared to vast, vast swathes of humanity.

Really important point!
That's where I'm coming from when I say I don't think anyone in these discussions is either as privileged or as non-privileged as comments sometimes seem to assume.

Name calling represents a failure of conversation, to my mind, a kind of temper tantrum and a desire to antagonize.

Here, well, I see what you're saying, but there's a dismissive quality to "temper tantrum" that doesn't acknowledge the massive stresses that can lead to it.
I don't entirely agree with The Privilege of Politeness</i> post on ABW, but I think it makes an awful lot of important points.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
Pretend I closed that link
:)
asakiyume: more than two problemsasakiyume on January 20th, 2009 08:58 am (UTC)
Re: Pretend I closed that link
No worries--you're speaking to a person who almost never remembers to put in a closing parenthesis, in spite of using parentheses in almost every post she writes....
asakiyume: mirokuasakiyume on January 20th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
That's definitely true about the massive stresses. In that essay, the writer herself says,

I’m not saying it’s okay to say ‘You stupid shit how dare you write this!’ There is a difference between being angry when addressing racism (or sarcastic or “rude”) and insulting people.

--and I guess that's what I'm talking about: the "you stupid shit" element.

I thing sometimes those massive stresses you're talking about probably even forgive the "you stupid shit," especially when the antagonizing event is thrust upon you, but in cyberspace it's rarely thrust upon you (by which I mean, people rarely come over to your own journal and seek to antagonize you.... hmmm, or maybe sometimes they do? )

The part of that essay that really rings true for me is the part about how the demands of so-called politeness can be used to shut people up. I've experienced that myself, and I know how enraging it can be--and I can imagine how much more so if you've spent your life fighting from a difficult position of some sort.
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 09:17 am (UTC)
The part of that essay that really rings true for me is the part about how the demands of so-called politeness can be used to shut people up. I've experienced that myself, and I know how enraging it can be--and I can imagine how much more so if you've spent your life fighting from a difficult position of some sort.

YES.
And I've been enculturated into not making waves and not upsetting anyone and backing off the minute anyone expresses outrage. That essay showed me I'd been doing it, as well as not listening, especially to people who would make waves, and was a real eye-opener.

But there's something other than insults that can be damaging. Some people do confuse their reading with a writer's intent, forgetting that it's not just the words that may betray unexamined prejudice and defensiveness, it's also the interpretation that may betray unexamined prejudice and defensiveness.

So that some people see a trigger and claim bigotry, even if the context of the comment they saw it in is neutral. Probably some want to fan flames, but this can happen when people are so angry it is coloring their reading. It can also happen when people come from different cultural/dialect backgrounds and have different word associations. And there's a really fine line between that and bringing real bigoted undertones/implications into the light of day, and I can't always tell the difference, since I have different triggers from other people.

But I think there's some burden of proof on the person making accusations, and I think some people are not being careful/responsible about this.
asakiyume: corvus coroneasakiyume on January 20th, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
It can also happen when people come from different cultural/dialect backgrounds and have different word associations. And there's a really fine line between that and bringing real bigoted undertones/implications into the light of day, and I can't always tell the difference, since I have different triggers from other people.

Absolutely. That's so, so true, when talking across cultures. Words that are perfectly innocent in one culture can be dreadful in another, but a naive speaker from the one may have no idea of this fact... yeah, it can be a can of worms.

a princess of now: raven is a crow is a black bird - irek kskywardprodigal on January 19th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
tangentially related to the op
Earlier I wished you luck. I still do.

You may find it worthwhile to consider the People of Color in Science Fiction and Fantasy Carnivals. In the context of dissimilation and dis-enculturation you may gain from reading Intra-Racial Dialogues - What Lies Between Us, Sankofa in Space and What I Heard About You And What That Meant For Me. At present, every PoC in SF Carnival has touched on dissimilation and dis-enculturation. Making pearls takes patience and putting up with discomfort, I feel. :)

Stories some of us are telling for our sakes can be found at The Remyth Project.

Maybe Willow's (aka Seeking Avalon's) creation and organization of the People of Colour in SF Carnivals might also be relevant in terms of diagnosing and treating wounds (self-inflicted and otherwise) incurred as a wicked step-sister.

Other places of interest might also be Racialicious, Sepia Mutiny and Ultrabrown.

Also, if you hadn't heard of deadbrowalking you may wish to watch it.

Eta for grammar.

Edited at 2009-01-19 09:47 pm (UTC)
shweta_narayanshweta_narayan on January 20th, 2009 02:11 am (UTC)
Re: tangentially related to the op
Thank you for the links. I'm familiar with a couple of them and look forward to exploring the rest.