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Yet Another WisCon post or Why This Black Woman Isn't Your Friend

Yet Another WisCon post or Why This Black Woman Isn’t Your Friend

I’m probably not going to be willing to talk about this much after today. Because I have a life and responsibilities outside of fandom. Ones that are frankly much more likely to yield good results from time investment than arguing with dumb motherfuckers about basic civics lessons (the next person to make a free speech argument at me about uninviting Moon will get laughed at very loudly), or explaining for the 10,000th time why the framing of terrorist as Muslim by default is ignorant, racist, offensive, and dumb as hell. Both of those conversations are remedial, and if you think I have no patience for 101 conversations I’ll let you figure out I feel about 098 discussions at this stage of the game.

So, here’s the thing about WisCon. The ideal and the reality are in two different rooms. Case in point, my first trip to WisCon was by turns awesome and awful. I spent the first day I was there in 2009 doing panels and hanging out with friends. For some reason I thought that I needed to branch out and meet some new people my second day. This was one of my stupidest ideas to date, and a mistake I won’t repeat. Why? Because wandering around on my own as one of the new black faces in the crowd I discovered that lots of people felt entitled to walk up to me and demand my time. Someone actually asked me to teach them about race within two seconds of reading my badge. Just came right out, and very earnestly requested that I spend my afternoon teaching them. That…did not end well. Then there were the people who just stared into the POC safe space room like it was a particularly interesting zoo exhibit complete with pointing. And the infamous panel on Rape in Sci-Fi, and some other less than stellar interactions with random folks who clearly had thoughts about me, but lacked the stones to express them directly. Yeah, thinking back to that weekend I can’t remember what possessed me to want to go back to WisCon this year.

But I did. And I stuck to friends and friends of friends who I knew would not harsh my squee. And it was awesome. I got to talk about fannish things with people who got it, eat tasty foods at new places, and drink some very creative drinks that left me quite bubbly. It was exactly what a trip to a con should be for someone like me. Because I don’t go to WisCon to be an example of my race, a teaching tool, a teacher, or even to prove that I’m not secretly someone else (at last count I was a white woman, a white man, and an internet construct), I go to WisCon to have the closest thing to a good time that I can at a con. And I say it that way because in general I hate conventions. I’m claustrophobic (on my very best day it is all I can do to share an elevator with more than three people), and large crowds are a particular kind of hell for me. So, I don’t (regardless of how much the subject matter might interest me) go to many things where there are lots of people in small spaces. In fact, if it weren’t for the need to get my name out there as a writer and for Verb Noire (which is currently defunct for a lot of reasons) I probably wouldn’t go to any conventions. Ever.

And so, when I volunteered to help out at WisCon it had a lot to do with the fact that it is a feminist con. One that is ostensibly progressive and anti-racist. After all if I’m going to attend something that requires me to go against all of my instincts I should at least believe in its mission right? Right. And I do believe that WisCon wants to be a progressive anti-racist space. Is that always happening? Well no. There are humans involved after all, and we do tend to screw things up despite our best intentions. But for the most part there is a sense that WisCon is trying to get it right. Or at least for me there was that sense until Moon posted her screed and then refused to listen or engage in any real discussion. And after it became clear that she should not be honored by a progressive anti-racist feminist organization it was especially to see people advocating keeping her as a GOH anyway. Because apparently even though her words were directly antithetical to WisCon’s ideals it was more important to try to educate her/support her as a woman than it was to support the people she’d just insulted. And lots of those people admit they have no idea what was said beyond her post because she deleted all the comments. Well this is the internet and by the magic of screencaps you can see exactly why people did not want WisCon to honor her.

And yes, I am well aware that WisCon has probably unknowingly honored some bigots in the past. Because feminism is fraught with all kinds of issues around race, class, religion, and gender and those things don’t magically go away because someone writes SF/F. However, once someone shares their bigotry publicly and makes it clear that they are not interested in hearing any dissenting opinions, then what is an organization with WisCon’s ideals supposed to do about honoring them? You cannot say “Well we’re supposed to be supporting women, and how can we support them by not honoring Moon?” and call yourself a feminist in my book. Well, you can, but then that intimates to me that you’ve decided that Muslim women don’t deserve support. Or maybe you’re saying that they don’t deserve support as long as they keep their faith. One that you know nothing about, and much like Moon aren’t interested in learning anything about since that might mean confronting your own prejudices.

Honestly, if you’ve bought into conflating a religion with the politics of some people in power in some places that ascribe to that religion then I’m going to doubt your critical thinking skills. Because some of America’s best known domestic terrorists have been white Christian men. Yet no one is advocating insulting and oppressing all the white Christian men as a result of the Oklahoma City bombings, the KKK, the Aryan Nation, or any of those abortion clinic bombings and assassinations. In fact last I checked they’re still being held up as the good guys by a lot of people. Which makes sense since many white Christian men are good people. But no one expects them to wade in and change the minds of everyone that looks like them. It’s only when the conversation turns away from them that the expectation of one representing all starts to appear. Because othering and placing the onus on the other to prove their worth is a very popular tactic with people who want to pretend they are not bigots.

So, if you’re planning on skipping WisCon to protest Moon’s invite being retracted? Go for it. That’s your right. After all there’s a reason Moon’s arguments are very similar to others that have been published over the years. Oh sometimes the subject matter was slightly different, but if you substitute any other ethnic group you can probably find a version addressing blacks, Asians, Jews, and even the Irish somewhere. Because these attitudes are nothing new, and they’re widespread, and frankly if you ascribe to them I’d rather you not come to WisCon and mess with our good time. I want to squee over Nisi Shawl and talk to my friends and not have to worry about sitting in a room full of bigots who think any of us are beholden to prove to them why their prejudices are wrong. Stay home, and let WisCon take another step toward being progressive, feminist, and anti-racist.

22 comments to Yet Another WisCon post or Why This Black Woman Isn’t Your Friend

  • Chuck B.

    I wish I could attend Wiscon, just to shake your hand.

    Well said. Very Well said.

  • Hazel Stone

    I was a bit scared of WisCon after the fat-shaming blogger scandal a while back. Her dis-inviting heartens me a lot. It makes me want to attend!

    Thank you for your constant advocacy and your great writing.

  • John Macadam

    I’m not really sure I understand your argument. Are you saying you can only be a feminist icon if you are the kind of person who loves everybody limitlessly ( or holds left wing view points). What about feminists who hold right wing view points? Or for that matter feminists who think left wing views are wrong.

    Do you reject feminists who support the death penalty? What about ones who deny global warming, or support the invasion of Iraq and war in afganistan?

    Everybody says or does something offensive eventually. What do you do when people you admire or respect turn out not to be perfect? JFK and martin Luther King cheated on their wives, does that mean you reject them as great individuals. Gandhi held some very inappropriate views, when you break everyone down, they are never perfect.

    • Witchsistah

      Aaaaaaannnnddd…STRAWMAN!

      • john macadam

        who or what is strawman?

          • john macadam

            so my argument is the strawman?

            Are you indicating that you think I’ve misinterpreted karnythia argument and answered a different one?

            Please explain, if you wouldn’t mind that is.

            • Witchsistah

              so my argument is the strawman?

              Are you indicating that you think I’ve misinterpreted karnythia argument and answered a different one?

              Yup.

              Please explain, if you wouldn’t mind that is.

              All you need to do is reread what she actually wrote and reread what you actually wrote. If you can’t figure it out on your own then it’s no wonder you thought your comment was on point and there’s no point in even trying.

              Plus, I don’t educate for free.

    • Leigh-Andrea Fernandes

      I have to say that I’m asking myself the same questions as you John. Why does an icon have to be “perfect”? As has already been mentioned, many leaders were not without flaws. In fact, I don’t know ANYONE who isn’t prejudiced or flawed in some way. What does it mean to be “flawed” anyway? Is somebody no long worthy the minute they hold a view that you don’t approve of? If somebody has been exceptional as a feminist, I see no reason for uninviting her. It would be like univiting a brilliant doctor who was supposed to be the guest of honour at a conference, just because you find out that maybe he doesn’t like Indians (for example). Not everyone wants to be “tolerant” and subscribe to your world view; there are aspects of Islam that can be intolerable to some for their intolerance (They believe that there is only one God, Allah – and that non-worshipper are infidels. How tolerant does this sound? Why isn’t this a valid reason for someone to dislike muslims?). The problem with withdrawing the invitation is that it implies that to be good at what you do (being a feminist, a lawyer, a writer, etc), you need to have a specific, inflexible set of values and opinions. It suggests that anyone who doesn’t agree with the majority should be shunned, and that they can’t possibly have contributed anything meaningful because *shriek* “they’re racist!!!”

      Gandhi is another example of a leader who achieved much for his people. Should we discredit him because he held racial views that would be unpopular today? Is Tiger Woods not a golf hero because he cheated on his wife?

      His questions were in no way strawmen. The sad thing about this blog is that, despite all the interesting issues it brings forth, it suppresses any opposing views. The minute you disagree you are insulted. Now that’s tolerant! :-) I guess it’s fine to be tolerant of Islam (which preaches hate of non-muslims) but not OK to be tolerant of people who don’t believe everything you do. Political correctness pushed too far once more – say what you like about Whites and Asians, but insult a person who is a member of a protected group (blacks, mestizos, jews, muslims) and you’re serving a life sentence.

      • Barb

        Leigh-Andrea – you are so right. I had hoped that this would be a forum where people could discuss and not bash. But is appears to be another outlet to unleash on white people. There will never be dialogue between races while white people can’t discuss their true opinions and only can minic the politically correct statements that people want to hear. Everyone I’ve ever met is prejudiced in some way. Do people really want me to just say they’re right about everything and all whites are accountable while silently having another opinion? Do you really think that this will help your cause? Or do you want to have a discussion with me about the reasons that we both have the opinions that we hold and then maybe have some breakthroughs. Once I get to know you I may change my opinions. But that will never happen when all I can do is sit here and read about how awful I am. No wonder that nothing every changes.

  • Anne

    Your first paragraph hooked me and made me think back to not too long ago, during my formative years, in which the Oklahoma City Bombing, and the UNI-bomber, as well as other things, gave me the image of “terrorist” as a creepy-looking white man. Because I am not able to just forget things, when in my first year of high-school a group of terrorists carried out the attacks on 9/11/2001, I felt resistant towards the paradigm shift that was the anti-Muslim sentiment. It just made no sense to me that people had so quickly forgotten that in the USA, terrorists are white men, as well. Terrorists are college-aged students, both male and female, as in the Weather Underground, with white leaders. Terrorist shouldn’t ever ever ever be a word that implies something racial. And if we, as a country, are going to set the crimes of a few people who happen to share features or religion with a whole group, then perhaps we should be doing the same for all. We should be fearing white men who are social critics, and bar them from building centers anywhere near anything where white men have done harm.

  • calimeesh

    Leigh-Andrea, no, not everyone wants to be tolerant. Of those folks who also happen to be white/male, they may very well live the rest of their lives and never feel a persistent, systematic consequence of their intolerance. That is white privilege. Of those folks who are not born white/male will be called “angry” “irrational” or “emotional”.

    I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, but I get the impression that you resent the idea of someone from a minority race being “able” to call someone else a racist. Does the notion that someone could be racist, seem all that improbable to you? I’d encourage you to read some of articles listed under “required reading” on this blog.

    Barb, there is nothing holding you back from reading and educating yourself on these topics. I agree that respectful dialogue is important to advance racial equity. But if you are truly interested in learning something, why do you prefer a POC must teach it to you? ABW has taken considerable effort and time to write very excellent posts for the public benefit. I think this is above and beyond any personal responsibility for a cause. Do some heavy lifting, return the show of good faith and take advantage.

    Finally, Jon. It’s my opinion that some assumptions were made equating “what liberals think” to ABW’s post. This is why you got called out for attacking a strawman. She didn’t say liberalism was required at WisCon, she implied being open to dialoge was required– which it seems Moon was not open to. (paragraph 4)

    ABW, thanks for the excellent website.

    • Witchsistah

      That would require the above posters to do actual WORK. Why do that when you can just throw it all on the backs of PoC?

  • Barb

    calmeesh, You, ABW, and other posters are content to make broad assumptions and patronizing comments about white people and perpetuate them in this forum instead of having an honest dialogue. This makes me assume that you have no desire to get to know any white person in any depth and would rather hang on to your perceived stereotypes. I was totally wrong to interfere with this way of thinking. At some point, maybe honest dialogue between people of different races will be possible, but it isn’t at this time and in this forum.

  • Cinnamondiva

    Barb…I see your point in a way. When people come at you like that, your response is to react defensively and shut down. But your defensive attitude isn’t helping. No one is saying that ALL white people are bad or racist. Some of the posters here are people of color with white spouses. Some of us (like me) are half-white ourselves.

    I know it feels like people are attacking you because you’re white. People aren’t trying to make you feel guilty or ashamed for being white. They are trying to open your eyes to the reality of white privilege and how it is connected with racism.

    Yes, we all have prejudices on some level. But it is important to make a conscious decision to change that instead of simply accepting it. You don’t have to like everyone, but you should acknowledge the fact that they are human beings like yourself. Some people aren’t willing to see others as human because of their prejudice.

    If you want honest dialogue with people of color, then maybe it would be better to listen and try to understand where they are coming from.

    And I agree with those that said you bear the responsibility of educating yourself on some issues. An open mind is all that is required. There are plenty of resources available to you if you’re interested in learning more…but something tells me you aren’t.

    • Witchsistah

      Barb and the other posters here that are so miffed at what Karnythia wrote are mad that we lowly darkies won’t take time out of OUR lives to be their personal race mammies. We were supposed to take them to our great, bloated, Black bosums and cradle them and reassure them that they’ze good White peepulz and mutter “honeychile” to them every now and then. And it would help if we denigrated Blacks while we were doing that like saying that we’ze some ungrateful darkies fo’ not ‘preciatin’ nice White folk like them.

      But we didn’t, so they’re mad.

      • Barb

        Witchsistah, you appear to live up to all the stereotypes that people have regarding black women. Why in the world would I (or anyone) want to take the time to learn more about a person like you?

        • Witchsistah

          Barb,

          You don’t have to project or use figleaves or lame excuses to cover your anti-Black and anti-Black woman bigotry. You are free to hate Blacks and denigrate Black women all you want without any made-up justifications. But we also have the right to defend ourselves and not waste the time to live OUR lives (remember that? Black folks actually have lives of their OWN) dealing with people like you. You really want to dislike Blacks, because you already do, and are just looking for justification to quit even the semblance of bs, superificial, “colorblind” Kum-ba-ya-view of racial tolerance (which simply means you’ll put up with the existence of non-White folks).

          You wouldn’t and don’t like me because I’m an uppity nigger gal who has the nerve to “talk back” to you. Who believes she’s just as good as you and acts like it. Who won’t exhibit the proper deference behaviors you’re expecting as your due. Who won’t mammy your feelings or privilege them above her own like a good, cullud gal should. Who demands RECIPROCITY in all of her relationships and not just the BW-give/everyone else-takes dynamic that is seen as normal and just. Therefore, I don’t do free race tutoring unless I’m well in the mood and have enough spoons to deal with it.

          That means most of the time, I don’t even bother. I tried doing that much more often in my youth, but the return on that huge emotional and psychological investment was dismal. Nowadays, I believe Whites should use those allegedly superior, Bell Curve brains of theirs to figure all this race stuff out since they’re NOT going to listen to PoC, especially Blacks on the subject. But many of us are just plain, fekkin’ TIRED of all the bull.

    • Barb

      Thank you, Cinnamondiva, I appreciate your reply. I was sad that the last five words in your post negated everything you said. But I sincerely appreciate that you didn’t call me names, make fun of me, or try to publicly humiliate me.

      • I was sad that the last five words in your post negated everything you said.

        I wish I could say that I was sad that each one of your 343 words you posted negated everything you said, but then I’d bewen lying. Just as you’ve been lying on this entire thread:

        You said that you “had hoped that this would be a forum where people could discuss and not bash” when it’s pretty damn clear from your other comments, that you had no intention of learning and examing your own white privilege and stereotypes against Black people. And then you have the audacity to blame others for it? You say that you want an “honest dialogue” but your bullshit is doing nothing but stinking up ABW’s page. Do us all a favor: crawl back under your rock and go back to washing your little white hoods. Don’t need you. Don’t want you. Would hate to be you.

        ABW: Hey, Ms Lady! Long time no see! ;-)

        • Witchsistah

          Angel,

          THANK YOU!

          Barb and her ilk are just fishing for excuses to give up even the PRETENSE of working towards any sort of racial harmony that does not involve White supremacy and privilege still existing. They are looking for excuses to keep their bigoted stereotypes of Blacks and Black women intact. They’re basically going for the “eevul, nigrah wimminz iz meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen” meme. They had no intention of doing anything except what they managed to do, as you said so aptly, to stink up the joint with their concern trolling and their demands that we be nice, lil, cullud gals to them (and know our place) while they just run riot including accusing the PoC here of embodying some negative stereotype when they don’t get their way. To me, Barb embodies the stereotype of the childish, privileged, entitlement-filled WW who expects all and sundry to bow at her feet and acquiesce to her wishes no matter the effect upon us, especially lowly women of color. And she expects us to enter that bad-faith agreement of “honest dialog” SHE proposed?!