Friday, September 10, 2010

Censorship at Racialicious, Part 2: answering commenters

Since I replied to the Racialicious post here, I'm also replying here to some of the folks who commented there:

cathy said, "The vast majority of those who use the label liberal are capitalist."

In my experience, if you speak of liberals, USAns will assume you're a conservative, not a commie. That's why I speak of liberal capitalists. That quibble aside, well said!

Jihad Punk 77 wrote:
by the way, here is a good Marxist smack-down on why racism is not tied to classism:
Since Adolph Reed Jr. doesn't convince you, try Sharon Smith's Race, class, and "whiteness theory".

Winn wrote:
I apologize if this is thread-jacking, but I just wanted to give you a virtual fistbump for your pre-emptive call out to Will Shetterly. I know that had to be extremely difficult and emotionally complicated for you, and I’ve been there, and am there now (the recent Morrissey flap), and navigating between loving an artist’s work and disagreeing with or even actively despising their actions, behaviors, world view, etc. is difficult at the best of times.
Speaking as the artist in question, I don't understand how a fan of my Borderland novels or of Dogland could engage in "pre-emptive" censorship. Those books are, among other things, all about the freedom to speak and disagree. Only the bad guys try to silence anyone.
Shetterly has already posted on his own blog about “Censorship at Racialicious” (please), but its not as if his own display during “Racefail” and since haven’t made his position and motivation perfectly clear. And as posting on Racialicious is hardly a Constitutionally-guaranteed right, I’m not sure how Shetterly is being “censored”, especially as he is…yes, free to post his views on his own blog, or anywhere else with unmoderated forums.
Censorship is always local: Censors can only censor where they have the power to make disagreement disappear, whether that's in a nation or on a blog. I completely agree that we all have the right to censor. But like all rights, it should be used wisely. The concept of "pre-emptive" censorship is as suspect as the pre-emptive strike in warfare.
It would be helpful if Shetterly understood that trotting out some writers of color or selective quotations to buttress the idea that class trumps race neither proves the argument, nor does it address those cases that fall out of the supposed class dynamic, like the racism faced by middle and upper-middle class people of color, irrespective of income or social position.
We could have an interesting discussion about whether the effect of racism on middle and upper-middle (and upper!) class people of color has nothing to do with class. My quick answer? Race affects the US class system, but it does not trump it. That's always been true:

1. Before the Civil War, a black female slaveowner's life was more comfortable than a poor white man's life.

2. A middle-class person of color faces racism because of the historical role of race, which is still a means to divide the working class for the benefit of the ruling class.
Shetterly has a position that he’s clinging to like a barnacle, and despite his recent head nods to POC who agree with him, he’s heretofore been quite dismissive and disrespectful to the fans and fellow writers of color who dared to call out him and his compatriots on their privilege and cluelessness.
Recent? I've been referring to "POC who agree" with me since at least 2005, and maybe earlier. (My oldest blog posts are no longer on the web.)
Thank you for respecting that we need spaces free from the kind of self-satisfied and paternalistic arrogance that has permeated Shetterly’s writings on the subject. A refuge for POC is exactly what Racialicious is, and that concept is something Shetterly could never understand. His response to the fact that his comments were disallowed revealed that he understood very little about your reasons for doing so, despite his magnamity in reposting a portion of your mod note.
Actually, I posted all of her note. I'm obsessed with truth, as you may've noticed by now.

As for her reasons, censorship does not allow others to speak, but it speaks for itself.
The fact that he couldn’t even relate to what was a principled stance of a community moderator mixed with the anguish of a long-time fan…you may not have sorted out your feelings yet, but I certainly have.
I am sorry for any anguish she may feel. But she made her choice, and that choice has nothing to do with my work. Artists have a choice: Do we give people what's comforting or what's challenging? Commercial artists choose the first. Artists who value art for its own sake choose the second.

When I was googling for info about the Basic Income Guarantee, I came across this video of Desmond Tutu, which has this in the comments from bluesunshine:
The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. The philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king, saw him.

Said Aristippus, If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.

Said Diogenes, Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to cultivate the king.
That's the artist's choice, too. I'm sorry there are people who are not willing to look deeply into the roots of racism, but I can't let their reluctance stop me from speaking out. (Regarding their reluctance to grasp the primacy of class in the USA, here's my favorite Upton Sinclair quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!")