Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is racism rising in fandom?

Annalee Newitz posted Fantasy Writer N.K. Jemisin Explains the Rise of Racism in Fandom at io9. Jemisin quotes an old essay of Delany's in which he said the genre was less racist than the world at large, but when the genre's racial mix reflects the US, so will its racism.

What Jemisin misses is that the US is less racist. Gallup found that 4% of Americans approved of marriage between blacks and whites in 1958, while 77% approved by 2007, and Obama won more of the white vote than any Democrat since Carter. To say that fandom has become more racist suggests the awards won by Octavia ButlerSamuel R. DelanyNalo HopkinsonNnedi Okorafor, and Jemisin's own nominations and Locus Award are irrelevant, or are tokenism, or indicate some sort of pandering to whites by those black writers. There is a clichéd response in these cases that the black person had to be twice as good as the white, but Butler, Delany, Hopkinson, Okorafor, and Jemisin all went to excellent schools, and how do you argue that Parable of the Talents is twice as good as A Deepness in the Sky, or Babel-17 and The Einstein Intersection are twice as good as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Lord of Light, or that The Kingdom of Gods fell a little short of being twice as good as Among Others?

Yet Jemisin claims the genre strangles the careers of black writers at birth, and black folks at Wiscon need their own version of the Underground Railway's secret rooms where they may hide from the whites who would harm them. If this seems silly to you, you need to brush up on your Critical Race Theory.

If you wonder about black people who want to be the voice of blackness for middle class white people, Adolph Reed Jr.'s "What are the drums saying, Booker?" is still relevant. Reed focuses on Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, and Henry Louis Gates, but he says a little about bell hooks, too. I quoted some of it at Adolph Reed on bell hooks, Cornell West, and other public black intellectuals.

Related:

Reclaiming Civility

Miscellaneous facts about the history of women in F&SF

Relevant to every discussion of sexism in f&sf

Damien Walter wants to be Neo