Saturday, January 31, 2009

Racism, Cultural Appropriation, and Writing The 'Other'.

I'm copying this straight from my private blog (with minor edits), because it's an interesting subject, and up until recently I was ignorant unaware of the magnitude of the debate surrounding racism, white privilege, and specifically how it all ties into what authors - novice or pro, fanfiction or original - write and create. I don't pretend to have had a lot of personal experience with cultural appropriation, which is why I thought I'd open this up for all to read.


I know I said I have nothing to say, and I still mostly don't, but there's a debate that's been raging for some time on teh intrawebz that I've somehow managed to only barely see. Until yesterday.

I have my opinions, of course, but I don't think it would add anything to the whole situation if I stated them at the moment. Opinions are completely personal and subjective and neither right nor wrong (though they may be mis- or uninformed), so I'll just leave that alone.

But I wanted to post this for any of you who haven't read anything about the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM, a.k.a. RaceFail 2009 posts/conversations/debates/flame wars/dialogues that have been taking place on LiveJournal, here at Blogger, and all over the place. (There are also an intimidating list of links to various offshoots of the discussions in Rydra-Wong's LJ. CoffeeAndInk's journal is worth a look, too.) And I'm interested in your thoughts. Liberal White Guilt (and white privilege - that link is a very interesting primer for the completely uninitiated) has always been a sort of hard-to-pin-down subject for me, NOT because I don't realize it exists and is very real, but because I can never quite verbalize how I feel or what I mean (which may very well be the point, actually), but you guys are all very intelligent, educated, open-minded people, so I'm curious about what you think.

Is it ever okay for someone to write the Other? Where does the issue of cultural appropriation begin and end? Is it okay for a white male author to give his character a Person of Colour's voice and feel justified in saying he got it right? Is it understandable for PoCs to be offended by that attitude? (Neil Gaiman is an example I could use here; he has written black protagonists, and I never heard about any fallout from it, but then, he has never played the "I nailed it!" race card.) If someone "fully-abled" was to write a story about someone like me - someone who has certain disabilities - would I be offended by their assumption that they know what life is like for me? Can that comparison even be made? Are these things offensive in the reverse? (As in, if a black female author writes a white male character, or a gay man writes a straight woman [i.e. Chuck Palahniuk - he does so in every book he's written, and IMO he does it exceptionally well], or a disabled person writes an "average" and "able" character...are these things fair game, too, for being considered possibly ignorant and hurtful? Or is it just the white privilege that causes such a furor?) Is it perhaps less about what's written and more about the attitude that sometimes accompanies it?

Do straight white people have to be more careful than other societal groups? Are apologies owed for things people never realized before?

Is everyone, no matter how much they deny it to themselves and others, racist??

Courtesy of LJ user Emiweebee via my friend C., I'll give you a good place to start, for those who are interested in discussing this very delicate and complex issue. All I ask (and I doubt I even need to, with you lot) is that we all remain respectful and open-minded with one another.

Start here.

Tell me what you think. Comments here are wide open, though anything I deem deliberately offensive or hurtful will be deleted without warning. I'm just interested to hear as many civilized points of view on the subject as possible.

Disclaimer: The links and the journals of the above-mentioned people do not necessarily reflect my opinions on some, any or all of the issues being discussed. I'm not promoting anyone's agenda, nor am I singling them out as scapegoats; I'm simply choosing LJs/blogs that contain worthwhile links which can help show the big picture of what's been going on, back and forth. The only person mentioned in this entry with whom I am associated - and who I adore! - is my friend C. I can't vouch for anyone else or what is in their posts. Just wanted to clarify that.

(The above image links to another appropriation issue, involving Native rights and respect for their culture.)

No comments: