Here we go again (race and scifi part ???)Posted: March 27, 2006
Thanks to this post from Nalo I just found a comment on my Octavia Butler obituary that I must have missed the first time. I guess that’s what happens when I get lazy and start occasionally skipping my daily blog reading.
Since that quote was attributed to Nalo, she went ahead and answered it here and covered the topic pretty well. I still felt the need to address it though. I guess something in my ego just keeps me from just letting this slide.
Of course, the really amusing thing about that blog entry is how generic it was. Generally speaking, as Pam noted, there seems to be a generic white response to these kinds of complaints about genre writing. Namely, the assumption that any mention of the whitewashed nature of the genre most imply some sort of automatic dislike of white people. Usually this is just followed by some kind of MLK-lite suggestion that we judge the writers by the content of their works instead of the color of their skin. I have seen it over and over again in discussions of race and science fiction and comics. At this point I can pretty much see them coming.
What is really amusing about these statements is that they tend to reveal how little critical thought the person making them has really put into the issue.
Why do I say this? Simple. How exactly would a black person who hated white people get into a whitewashed genre to begin with? Who would they be reading?
Personally, I’ve been a science fiction fan for the better part of two decades. I already made a post about the books that most influenced me as a child. Long before I’d ever heard of Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, Steven Barnes, Nalo Hopkinson etc. I was reading Asimov, Heinlen, Ben Bova, Andre Norton, John Brunner…. Obviously I have absolutely no idea what it means to relate to someone who does not look like me. Ok, bad sarcasm aside, the truth is that every genre fan of color must by definition be able to relate to people who are different from them. There is no other way to get into the genre. There just aren’t that many non-white people in it. The chances of there existing a black science fiction fan who has only read black authors and/or characters is so small I’d rather lay odds on that snowball in hell first. On the other hand, it would be remarkably easy to find white fans who have almost never read a science fiction book which didn’t have a white writer and/or character.
Hell, as far as I know there isn’t a stigma against putting white faces on a book because they might not sell as well. Which makes it remarkably interesting that the question being asked is why people who have to make a special effort to *not* read a genre story which requires them to identify with someone who doesn’t look like them are prejudiced. If anything, the question should be reversed.
Why is it that putting a black face on the cover of a book is automatically a bad thing?
Why are non-white authors such a rare thing?
Where are the non-white fans?
What keeps them out of a supposedly universal genre?
And why is it that those who do exist tend to cluster into their own communities?
What is the cause of this defensiveness that shows up chiefly among white fans whenever the racial makeup of the genre is discussed?
Like I said, that piece displayed an all too common lack of critical thinking about the issue. I understand its probably due to long standing unquestioned assumptions that people are not even aware they hold. Still, since cornute was kind enough to ask…..