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Race and Romance

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message 1: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian This discussion is about problematic representations of race within romance.

I'm amazed that the reason why people are upset about this book is not obvious. So, I started this discussion thread to help explain the viewpoints of why this story is not acceptable. The explanations and links included here are a combined effort of interested parties.

Here's an example to illustrate the point:

Do you think these are all right?



Your response:

NO?
Well that's why people are upset.

If your response is to say something like "What's wrong with those people?", "They're always so sensitive. ___ has issues too and you don't hear them/us complaining!" or "It's been hundreds of years since ___ happened, why aren't they over it?", this is also why people are upset.

Confused and need more information on Black Face?
. Click the link.

Watch this video on everyday racism, its effects on people today, and what we should do about it. This video is 100% true and features things I, as a black woman, think about and experience daily.

http://youtu.be/uZUvjAJGFkM

Need further info on African slavery and why it's effects are still felt in America? Check these links out:

The Crippling Legacy of Slavery and How America's Original Sin
Still Affects Us Today:
http://lessgovisthebestgov.com/crippl...

A historical overview of slavery in America:
http://www.africanholocaust.net/news_...

Where Slavery Thrived, Inequality Rules Today:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/201...



This story takes actual historical events and romanticizes it. It makes a mockery of it. It takes a brutal time in American history and rewrites it to meet the needs of people to feel better about it. (SEE wish fulfillment and denial)

You're not suppose to feel better about it. Every time you look back on it you should have a visceral reaction of horror and pain, not one of sexual arousal.

This is whitewashing.

Yes, whitewashing means exactly what you're thinking. IF you have no clue what that means look it up, you're on the internet right now. IF you're too lazy to do that, then you're too lazy to think and this will never work.

This thread is for serious discussions about race and romance. Please remain on topic. If your comment contains the following, it is off-topic:

I spoke to a black person and...

I've seen this theme written about before... And it was just as offensive.

Censorship...



message 2: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Which representation do you think does more harm?

The Benevolent Slave Owner or the Happy Slave


message 3: by MzBond (last edited Nov 01, 2015 04:58PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MzBond Can it be possible that benevolent slave owners could have existed? Sure, but I don't believe they could have been the completely naive, emotional toddler that was Henry in The Garçonnière. I think it takes someone completely aware of the harsh realities of the way things were to develop compassion. The idea of the happy slave is so unreal to me. Slaves were considered chattel, but I hate when we get caught up in labels that allow people to erase what they really meant. So when we say chattel we should understand that slaves in America were considered 3/5 of a human; they were considered to be soulless. So when you say slaves were chattel, it's not the same as how we recognize white women to be chattel in the historic American south. I'm not saying they weren't victims of patriarchy but slaves were even beneath that. However, that's getting away from the point. This book is offensive. It's offensive in the way it deals (or doesn't deal) with the psychology of enslavement.

When you only highlight aspects of slavery such as beating, language and selling of family members but you barely tackle the deep psychological damage that it causes, that smacks of disingenuousness. It smacks of a gross lack of understanding/empathy at best; at worst it smacks of cowardice. As a PoC all I come away with is, "Well, that was... Um, something? Did she just want an excuse to use the N word or what? How come I didn't see any anger, hatred or disgust in Joseph? Why was this ignored and treated as just having a bad few days?" I can only speak as a person of color and for me the idea of the happy slave is more damaging. It allows all ready insensitive and dismissive people to erase things that really happened.


message 4: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa North I thought that Jenn Burke wrote a really great blog post about this subject here:
https://jrlburke.wordpress.com/2015/1...

and the part of her post that resonates with me the most is this part here:


"Because as soon as you put that romanticized notion in a book—that not all Nazis were bad, or not all slave owners were bad—you erase the pain and horror these Jewish people or black people experienced.

You erase the fact that these marginalized groups STILL experience oppression every single day.

You ignore the fact that these groups are SCREAMING for people to stop and think. Rethink. Understand what privilege is. Acknowledge that it exists.

You are saying:

No, my desire to tell a love story trumps the depravity your ancestors experienced. Oh, and it’s more important than pain you still experience today."


As a white person living a pretty privileged life, I don't have to face being on the brunt of racism daily. However, I live in a part of the country where the rebel flag is frequently displayed with hostile intent. I see racism from my front porch. This is not theoretical. This is not in the past.

This is modern life in the South--where nine black people can be gunned down in church while the rebel flag waves on the state capitol.

Rewriting history in a way that makes white people feel warm and fuzzy about the atrocities we still commit against black people is wrong.


message 5: by Aislinn (last edited Nov 01, 2015 05:40PM) (new)

Aislinn There's been a discussion happening around another book, this time a children's story, which also included a depiction of slavery. A Fine Dessert is a story that crosses four centuries, with four families enjoying a particular dessert. There is a slave family preparing and serving this dessert to their white owners as one of the four families, with a slave girl smiling while picking the berries for the dessert, and later hiding in a cupboard to sneak some of the leftovers with her mother.


There's been blogs and articles written about the story and some of the problematic issues of the Happy Slave theme, with people more articulate than I outlining those problematic issues. Some of the things that struck me as I read through the discussions were:
1. Intent is not always enough when we are immersed in a society steeped in white privilege
2. These issues are nuanced. The fact that there is problematic content does not mean that the entire book or its illustrations are trash - there is much positive within the book. The problematic content doesn't erase that, just like the good content doesn't erase the problematic.
3. There are very different ways for people to respond when problematic content like this is pointed out to them. The illustrator of the book, Sophie Blackall, responded with lengthy explanations which sound like reasons people who see the illustrations as depicting the Happy Slave are wrong. The author, Emily Jenkins, by contrast wrote a heartfelt and thoughtful apology in the comments section of the blog Reading while White. It says, in part:
I have come to understand that my book, while intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive. I own that and am very sorry. For lack of a better way to make reparations, I donated the fee I earned for writing the book to We Need Diverse Books.


I admire Emily Jenkins for this response. It's an excellent example of someone with good intent realizing the unintended consequences of her work, and owning that completely.

We all see things through the filters of our own life experiences. Those of us who live with white privilege may not immediately recognize the effect our actions have on others - you can't know what you don't know. I believe that what's important is what you do with that information when you discover it or have it pointed out to you.

eta: And I think it's our responsibility to work at becoming more aware of the effects of white privilege, especially if we're going to write about subjects like this. There are lots of resources on the web, like the already mentioned Reading While White.


message 6: by Aislinn (new)

Aislinn MzBond wrote: "Can it be possible that benevolent slave owners could have existed? Sure, but I don't believe they could have been the completely naive, emotional toddler that was Henry in The Garçonnière. I think..."

I can see where the Happy Slave idea negates and erases the very real traumas of being owned and having no agency. I'm also really troubled by the Benevolent Slave Owner idea. It allows whites to rewrite history in a way that excuses and minimizes past wrongs, turning reality on its head and making the benevolent owner out to be some kind of savior. We whites can feel better about ourselves if we can just convince ourselves of that #notallslaveowners evasion.


message 7: by Vivian (last edited Nov 01, 2015 09:39PM) (new) - added it

Vivian Exactly, which is more damaging. Rewriting someone else's history or your own?

Frankly, I think the erasure is present in both, but, speaking as a white person, rewriting someone else is the greater wrong.


message 8: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Vanessa wrote: "I thought that Jenn Burke wrote a really great blog post about this subject here:
https://jrlburke.wordpress.com/2015/1...

and the part of her post th..."


Great blog post, Vanessa. Thank you for sharing it. I agree with the passage you pulled. The failure to acknowledge the privilege is a serious stumbling block to the collective "us" moving forward.


message 9: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Fridge This topic makes me think of Gone with the Wind and how it's considered a timeless classic even as it romanticizes slavery.

"The crimes of Gone with the Wind all spring from that original sin: the failure to recognize that there's a problem at all. That willful blindness remains the primary source of the stereotypes that still afflict the representation of race on American screens." (Esquire)


message 10: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian And where there's willful blindness, there's also perpetuating racist stereotypes or erasure. This continuation and reaffirming is problematic. People begin to think it's okay or they forget that it is hurtful.

Not to pick on these two movies in particular, but I happened to run across them or their franchises recently and I thought about it.

Racial Stereotypying:

Star Wars franchise with episode 1 featuring three of the most egregious representation.

Jar Jar Binks-- AfroCaribbean blackface
Nute Gunray--Asian
Tusken raiders--Arab
Nien Nub--Filipino/Asian/Mexican
Watto--Jewish

Erasure: The things we do that negate a person or persons' contribution by either ignoring it or giving attribution to another. Obliterating it from records.

Back to the Future movie: Unintentional, but it still hurts

Marty MacFly takes over playing guitar at his parents' Enchantment Under the Sea dance so they can have their first kiss. He then does an homage to Chuck Berry by playing "Jonny B. Goode". The injured guitarist hears the new song and calls his brother a musician and producer, saying I found that new sound your looking for--the man was Chuck Berry.

That single-handedly reattributes a development in burgeoning rock n' roll music to a white guy from the future. Chuck Berry didn't actually come up with it, he was given it.

This is subtle, and because of it, insidious.

I've listened to the directors' commentary on the movie and I can tell you they thought it was just a joke. But at whose expense?

The rules of comedy are very simple. One of the primary ones being that a majority power cannot make fun of a minority. Humor plays to disrupt the status quo and hierarchy.

Chuck Berry interview with Rolling Stones:
"The original words [were], of course, 'That little colored boy could play.' I changed it to 'country boy' — or else it wouldn't get on the radio."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lis...


message 11: by Steelwhisper (last edited Nov 01, 2015 11:26PM) (new) - added it

Steelwhisper Vivian wrote: "Which representation do you think does more harm? The Benevolent Slave Owner or the Happy Slave"

Either are.

I might add something I have been considering lately, in relation to this book, but also in relation to quite many romance books as well. I think part of the problem is that romance readers, as a mass, have been trained to overlook (or not even recognise) consent issues, and to believe that love/sex trumps just about everything.

I think this is at least partly responsible for not just the marked lack of recognition that this is a very problematic story, but also for the continued defence of it. There are loads of reviews stating that because the two of them love each other "in the face of this awful situation", well, love can be found in the worst of all cases. Somehow that is supposed to excuse not just the situation, but tacitly also the lack of reaction.

So anyone who calls this out for what it is not only points at a lack of awareness regarding inherent racism, they also sort of heap on the insult by showing that - even without a close look at ethnicity - people fail to see a complete lack of agency and consent per se.

None of this is helped by the in general reluctant reaction of the romance audience to address issues within romance narratives and tropes. If that was more of a topic, maybe people at various stages of this story, from prompt to fully edited, might have reacted appropriately?


message 12: by Dani (last edited Nov 02, 2015 02:06AM) (new)

Dani MzBond wrote: "When you only highlight aspects of slavery such as beating, language and selling of family members but you barely tackle the deep psychological damage that it causes, that smacks of disingenuousness. It smacks of a gross lack of understanding/empathy at best; at worst it smacks of cowardice. As a PoC all I come away with is, "Well, that was... Um, something? Did she just want an excuse to use the N word or what? How come I didn't see any anger, hatred or disgust in Joseph? Why was this ignored and treated as just having a bad few days?" "

MzBond, you nail it. You also outlined this perfectly in your review of the story. For me it all comes down to psychological plausibility.

IF an author really understands and respects both the deeper psychological aspects of the insidious, abusive dynamic AND the inherent horrors of the setting (whether it be institutionalized slavery or the actual reality of a concentration camp like Auschwitz), then two things are all but impossible:
(1) romantizising the relationship in any way
(2) sending the perpetrator MC on a cheap redemptive arc

Regarding (1): Of course an author can depict a sick, twisted form of traumatic bonding and conditioning while deeply buried in the POV of either the victim or the perpetrator - and many acclaimed authors have done that successfully. But to pull that off one needs a lot of awareness and skill - and if done right the book will leave the attentive reader profoundly unsettled, AS IT SHOULD. There will be nothing sweet or hopeful about that.

Regarding (2): If an author sets out to paint the perpetrator MC in this kind of story as good and morally completely unambiguous, there are only two options:
Either the MC has an IQ so much below the norm that he could be considered mentally challenged (that would be the Forrest-Gump-approach)
OR
the MC has either none or such a cheap, unrealistic, psychologically implausible redemptive arc that he and the victim MC end up as caricatures with no resemblence with how actual human beings would feel/act in these circumstances.

And then we are automatically firmly in the Happy Slave/Benevolent-Slave-Owner territory. This is a cheap cop-out, and cop-outs in this kind of context can rightly be considered offensive. Either you take this setting seriously and really play out the incredibly painful complexity of this dynamic - and that will not be pretty and sweet, and it will most definitely not be a standard romance.
Or, if you're not interested in that, you're better off not touching the topic.

And I think, Steelwhisper, that this also is related to your observation that there seems to be a less than firm grasp on what can be considered valid consent. Part of that is a reluctance to deal with the consequences of violated consent/nonexistent consent realistically. Quite often books who treat the damage and trauma caused by violated consent/nonexistent consent realistically are chided as "melodramatic" and "depressing", along the lines of "why don't they get over it already?".

It is expected that there will be a "healing cock" along with the healing love, and anything other than that will not be experienced as a satisfying read.


message 13: by Sofia (new)

Sofia A point that has to be kept in mind is that not everybody is seeing the matter being discussed here from the same point of view. Let me explain, in my daily life it is rare for me to meet a person of colour. This rarity is decreasing as more African migrants reach Malta on their way to Europe but it is still rare enough for me to say that I speak to more persons of colour here on GR than in my daily life.

This means that my experience is majorly formed by hearsay of which stereotypes form a part (likewise with any other ethnicity really). So for me to get a ‘real’ picture, my fight has to be against stereotypes not necessarily built by my own culture but rather imported stereotypes from books, films etc. So here the availability of different portrayals of people of colour is of utmost importance for me. In a global culture where ‘Gone with the Wind’ is considered a good film, I definitely need other perspectives to help me form a picture nearer to the truth being that I do not have personal experience to help me. If I have different perspectives available I can compare one against the other and say “Ah this makes more sense” and off I go to research.

Considering the above I’d say that I understand why some of us are not immediately aware of how this was hurtful, like outsiders to my own culture would not understand what cuts me to the quick. This is also why I consider such discussions very important as they open my eyes and help me understand the paths that others walk.


message 14: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Sofia wrote: "A point that has to be kept in mind is that not everybody is seeing the matter being discussed here from the same point of view."

And this is why we're having this discussion, because it is important. We can only improve something when we recognize what we're doing wrong.

Yes, there have been varying degrees of frustration expressed by different people or at different times because it is glaringly obvious to some and honestly, speaking for myself, the unwillingness and hostility to discuss the real issue, and the derision displayed to participants is what upset me most.


message 15: by Sofia (new)

Sofia And I am sorry for that Vivian, unrecognised hurt, hurts doubly.


Charming Sofia wrote: "A point that has to be kept in mind is that not everybody is seeing the matter being discussed here from the same point of view. Let me explain, in my daily life it is rare for me to meet a person ..."

I grew up in the U.S. in a liberal area with good schools, and I still have stupid knee-jerk reactions and make dumb mistakes (usually in my head where I can rethink, but occasionally out in public for everyone to admire). What I have noticed is that most people are really cool if you just listen without being defensive and stop doing the thing. Contrary to some comments I have seen recently, very few people are over-sensitive or looking to be offended.


MzBond Sofia wrote: "Considering the above I’d say that I understand why some of us are not immediately aware of how this was hurtful, like outsiders to my own culture would not understand what cuts me to the quick. This is also why I consider such discussions very important as they open my eyes and help me understand the paths that others walk. ..."

Thank you for expressing this Sofia. It is important to hear the perspective of someone who has had limited exposure to how slavery has impacted the black American experience.


message 18: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Henry I agree that for an outsider it's sometimes difficult to grasp the intricacies of the issues being presented here. That's why it's important to have these conversations, and to be open to listening to what others have to say.


message 19: by Sofia (new)

Sofia MzBond although I knew of slavery and how it worked in American when it comes to present day effects, it surprises me how much I do not see. I noticed this when I was reading Another Country where I struggled to understand Ada's anger and now during the discussion generated by this book.


message 20: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa North Sofia wrote: "MzBond although I knew of slavery and how it worked in American when it comes to present day effects, it surprises me how much I do not see. I noticed this when I was reading [book:Another Country|..."

even here in the United States, it's different from region to region. Here in the South, there is a lot of wanting to re-write history to say that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Also there are factions who want to paint slavery as similar to working a low paying job where board is included.

I wish I were joking.

Works of fiction that play into these revisionist ideas prop up these arguments that slavery was okay, that it was not a horrible crime against humanity.


message 21: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Hey, as a person who's family is from the north and fought on the Yankee side I want to state that both sides contributed to slavery. Northerners like to shift the blame, but honestly, where do you think all those mills in the New England states were getting their fibers from?

So, you got people saying one thing and profiting from that same thing they are condemning.

Slavery. This was an argument the Founding Fathers delayed resolving deliberately to get the Articles of Confederation signed. In order for the states to make the union we call the United States.


message 22: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa North Vivian wrote: "Hey, as a person who's family is from the north and fought on the Yankee side I want to state that both sides contributed to slavery. Northerners like to shift the blame, but honestly, where do you..."

Much of the United States economy was built on slave labor, and a lot of our economic policy conversations regurgitate the rationales used to justify slavery. If you really examine "trickle down economics" and compare to "benevolent slave owner"? It's kind of scary how invested we STILL are in these narratives.


message 23: by Vivian (last edited Nov 02, 2015 04:13PM) (new) - added it

Vivian I just want to highlight the importance and informational benefit of this one link:

Watch this video on everyday racism, its effects on people today, and what we should do about it. This video is 100% true and features things I, as a black woman, think about and experience daily.

http://youtu.be/uZUvjAJGFkM


If you passed over it in the original post, I highly recommend you view it. It is honest, lacks hyperbole, and explains so much of what is the issue of racism today. Clearly, I did not write this, but I kept the original voice of the contributor when posting it. Considering the topic, I thought it was important.


Linda ~ chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny ~ Vivian wrote: "I just want to highlight the importance and informational benefit of this one link:

Watch this video on everyday racism, its effects on people today, and what we should do about it. This video is ..."


I didn't even know skin bleaching was a thing. I know blacks used to conk and bleach their hair to look more like white people hair. But your skin? That has to have long-term health effects.

Anyway, that's a great video. Thanks for sharing it.

Speaking of images in the media, I'm currently watching the pilot for Daredevil on Netflix, and before we even get to the title card, he's saving a bunch of white women from a black man wanting to sell them. Comics, as well as video games, are other examples of the white savior, since the heroes are predominately white men - and a few white women. Hell, even in the X-Men, which was created as a minority narrative, the majority of the mutants are white. I think I've seen only one movie with a black superhero and it was a comedy.

The Flash did cast black actors for the roles of Joe and Iris West, and the new Supergirl cast black actors for Jimmy Olsen and Hank Henshaw. It's a step in the right direction (though Hank is a villain so that's a minus), adding diversity where originally there was none, but it's not nearly enough.


message 25: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Glad you enjoyed the video, Linda. When someone shared it with me, I was floored. I kept nodding and go, uh-huh.

Speaking of comics, they have always been problematic. I think the first reoccurring black superhero was Falcon in the 1970s. He was teamed with Captain America and there were issues. I actually read a whole book on Capt. America and masculinity earlier this year and it pointed out something key in comics and films, especially.

The concept of the American monomyth. The American monomyth premise: Helpless communities are redeemed by lone savior figures who are never integrated into their societies and never marry at the story's end.

And when you think of films, more often than not you have a white character as the savior. One of the few movies that immediately comes to mind that reworked this with a black character was "I Am Legend". Unfortunately, (view spoiler) had to spoiler that if you haven't seen the movie and I recommend it. It had a rocky road getting to the big screen with other white, big box office stars slated in the 90s. It's also critical to realize that the original 1950s book was based on a white character.

Honestly, I loved Will Smith's portrayal that I can't even imagine another actor doing it. Stronger, more positive media representations can be done. And we need to see more.


message 26: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Steelwhisper wrote: "So anyone who calls this out for what it is not only points at a lack of awareness regarding inherent racism, they also sort of heap on the insult by showing that - even without a close look at ethnicity - people fail to see a complete lack of agency and consent per se."

It is a double whammy.

So, this opened the issue of slave fics, and why others were acceptable and this one was not.

It stunned me that people did not see the inherent problem with fantasizing real life horror, in which the repercussions are still felt today, was not the same thing as AU and scifi/fantasy.


Linda ~ chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny ~ I haven't seen this addressed yet. If it has been, then I've missed it.

I think one thing that caused the discussion of this book to blow up the way it did is that people equate racist and racism with images of the KKK or other white supremacist groups - and nobody wants to be compared to them. The truth is, you could be the nicest person in the world and still have racist tendencies, and that's where white privilege comes in. Calling a book racist is not the same as calling the person who wrote it racist, or the person who reads it and enjoys it racist. Even when actively trying to be anti-racist, your white privilege can still blind you to racist narratives, tropes and stereotypes. That doesn't make you an evil person, or mean that you hate POC or you're going to hell or what have you. It just means you're not seeing the full picture. And there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you're willing to listen and learn and try to do better in the future.

Look at Star Trek, for instance. (Lots of spoilers ahead, beware.) There is absolutely no doubt that Gene Roddenberry wanted to be inclusive and wanted to believe in a future where people could put aside all their bigotry and hate to treat each other as equals. He put POC and women on the bridge and made them important to the story. That was monumental back then - and sadly, still pretty rare now. There is absolutely no doubt that this show broke barriers and meant something special to POC who were seeing themselves portrayed positively on TV for the first time. But it was still a product of it's time and far from perfect. Uhura and Sulu were never the focus of an episode like Spock, McCoy or Kirk were. Spock, as a half-Vulcan, stood in for the "other" and he was played by a white man. (All hail, Leonard Nimoy.) Pretty much any episode that deals with racism in TOS was cringe-worthy at best. You had Abraham Lincoln calling Uhura a "negress" and having her blow it off because words like that have no meaning. That's awesome for the utopian future, but we live in the now and messages like that are harmful, especially in the 60s when this first aired and POC were fighting for their civil rights. You had Capt. Kirk becoming a literal white savior to a group of Native Americans. You had that ridiculous episode with a species of humanoids who are literally half-black and half-white, a metaphor that both hits you over the head while being incredibly inadequate at the same time. Then you get to TNG, which is undoubtedly a more nuanced show and actually gives us episodes that focus on their characters of color, but still gave us episodes like "Code of Honor" and still has white actors in black face for the Klingons. TNG is from the late 80s/early 90s. That's less than 30 years ago and still using black face. Let that sink in for a bit. (I'm still making my way through Trek, so I can't say how Voyager or DS9 handled these issues.)

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that it's very easy to overlook white privilege. That doesn't make someone a bad person. It makes them uninformed. What they choose to do when confronted with their privilege, that's when they'll show you who they really are. Going back to the writer of the children's book that was mentioned up-thread, her response shows that she truly didn't mean any harm, wasn't aware of the implications and will be more careful of in the future.


♣ Irish Smurfétté ♣ Vivian wrote: "I just want to highlight the importance and informational benefit of this one link:

Watch this video on everyday racism, its effects on people today, and what we should do about it. This video is ..."


Every word of that is truth. Every word.
Perfect example of his points? Skin bleaching has been around for SO long that when he stated the statistics, I didn't even bat an eye.

The "happy slave" and "kind, caring slave owner" have also been around, perpetrated, and still constantly used to falsely portray the reality of both then and now. Slavery was never happy. Slavery was death, disease, loss, families ripped apart forever, suicide, beatings, constant fear, and on and on. Did people try to grab happiness? Of course, because they were human and it's what we do. But the life of a slave, from the moment they were stolen, was not happy.

All of the tools used then to keep slaves in their place are used today to keep people down, just in different forms.

Like advertising. Like systemic inequality. It all feeds around on each other.

We have to keep talking about it.


message 29: by Sofia (new)

Sofia Great point Andrea "All of the tools used then to keep slaves in their place are used today to keep people down, just in different forms."

that's why the big ones control the media (news, films etc...) so that history can be rewritten. The little ones should definitely used the written word, books etc as otherwise it would be total brainwashing.


message 30: by Erika (last edited Nov 03, 2015 09:05AM) (new) - added it

Erika Sofia wrote: "A point that has to be kept in mind is that not everybody is seeing the matter being discussed here from the same point of view. Let me explain, in my daily life it is rare for me to meet a person ..."

This makes total sense, especially considering that most films play to the "black/brown people are funny/violent/good at sports/not smart" stereotypes and the white savior stereotype and that's it. I'm glad you're even taking the time to try to understand where we are coming from and to learn. That's the only way we will ever make a difference in this day and age.


message 31: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Fridge Linda ~ marzipan in your pie plate ~ wrote: "I think one thing that caused the discussion of this book to blow up the way it did is that people equate racist and racism with images of the KKK or other white supremacist groups - and nobody wants to be compared to them. The truth is, you could be the nicest person in the world and still have racist tendencies, and that's where white privilege comes in."

This is why articles like Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race need more emphasis:
"Racist is the new nigger," says Riz Rollins, the writer, DJ, and KEXP personality. "For white people, the only word that begins to approximate the emotional violence a person of color experiences being called a nigger from a white person is 'racist.' It's a trigger for white people that immediately conjures pain, anger, defensiveness—even for white people who are clearly racist. 'Racist' is now a conversation stopper almost like that device where you can skew a conversation by comparing someone to Hitler. It's an automatic slur. And only the sickest racists will own up to the description."

And...
"I had to stop talking to white people about race, because I kept getting retraumatized," an African American friend told me about her days as a diversity trainer. "They just wanted to talk about why they weren't racist."



message 32: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa North Talking about race gets a lot easier when we accept that we live in a racist society and therefore we are all operating at a racist baseline.


message 33: by Sofia (new)

Sofia Vanessa wrote: "Talking about race gets a lot easier when we accept that we live in a racist society and therefore we are all operating at a racist baseline."

Looking at other races with a side eye is part of our genetic make up. It ensure the survival of our tribe in the past. Probably we are still in that mode plus people or leaders, or businesses play with it for their gain. So we have to row against the current.


MzBond Adrian wrote: "Linda ~ marzipan in your pie plate ~ wrote: "I think one thing that caused the discussion of this book to blow up the way it did is that people equate racist and racism with images of the KKK or ot..."

To add to that, a piece was done by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the NY Times a couple of years ago, after Forrest Whitaker was frisked in a deli by one of its employees. It was called The Good, Racist People

In it he writes,
"In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs..."


Most people see themselves as good people and this definition of racist, is at the heart of why they balk at being told they did something racist or racially insensitive, or they need to check their privilege. It blinds them to the way they easily dismiss or take no notice of how they contribute to and benefit from institutionalized racism.


message 35: by Apeiron (last edited Nov 03, 2015 11:02AM) (new)

Apeiron What I find the most disappointing is that this discussion (a few weeks back when it started) turned out to be controversial at all.

I was astonished that when a group of people said:

"What you wrote is hurtful and damaging. Can you please try to not write this hurtful thing again?"

So many people responded with:

"No. I want us to keep writing this stuff, knowing it is damaging. If you don't want us to hurt you, you're a bully."

Because 'murica. This is what our ancestors fought for. Dehumanization of people of co-- uhh I mean freedom.

Representation of people of color in culture has made huge progress since the golden era of Hollywood. But it's still got a long way to go. Yes, the racism is getting more and more subtle, it's easy to commit it despite the best intentions. But if you accidentally elbow someone in the eye, they still have a bruise. Good intentions don't always prevent damage. Let's try to be more careful with our limbs instead of arguing whether someone now has a shiner.

Let's learn from old mistakes, not repeat them for the sake of nostalgia or turning tragedies into exploitative stories that give the oppressors feel-good closure. We can't fix the past, let's at least not fucking erase it or throw orgies on the graves of its victims.


message 36: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Fridge It's OK if we're all a little racist. It depends on how we act on those thoughts and urges that determines cultural norms.




message 37: by Erika (last edited Nov 03, 2015 03:09PM) (new) - added it

Erika Warning: super long comment ahead.

I'm the person that originally shared that video about everyday racism and I have to say that the first time I saw it, I cried. To me this video highlights exactly why this story is (inadvertently?) racist and problematic, because the effects of slavery are still being felt today and they're not "happy" effects.


I feel them, and I feel them daily as I go about my life.

As Irish Smurfette and others have said above, you can see the effects of slavery in our advertising https://storify.com/jawuan/stereotype..., in political programs like "trickle down economics": https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick.... You can see the effects when people find it perfectly ok that a cop violently dragged and flipped a black girl out of her chair for not putting down her cell phone when her teacher asked her to: http://dailycaller.com/2015/11/02/fal... but were outraged when a teacher dragged a white girl into the pool because her hair had just been done and she didn't want to swim: http://gawker.com/gym-teacher-charged.... Both actions were equally fucked up but see the disparity in reactions? If you think I'm exaggerating just check the comments on any post about these two issues.

You can see it in this NY Post story about the way white people are trying to talk the government into waging a kinder and gentler war on drugs now that they realized that it's an even bigger issue in white areas. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/us/...


Here's a telling quote:

“When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white.

And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease.”


You can see it in this piece on how hundreds of cops are being kicked off their forces for committing sexual crimes against mostly poor non white women: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/h... and yet this number is severely underreported because many states don't fire these cops, they just let them resign quietly and move on to other jobs to limit liability. This number includes Daniel Holtzclaw, who is about to go to trial for allegedly sexually assaulting 8 black women, including a 57 year old grandma: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jtes/daniel-h.... Take note that he only got caught because he did it to the “wrong woman”, (the grandma) and not one of the poor women who were afraid to try to turn him in because they thought they would not be believed.

These are just a few recent examples. I could provide way more, but I won't. I'll just say that I feel these effects as a middle class, “well spoken”, (I hate that because it’s another (maybe unbeknownst to the person saying it) racist way of saying black people sound dumb when they speak) well dressed black woman with a good job who gets followed when I go into stores, or feels the need to make sure that my hands are always visible in stores so no one thinks I'm stealing something. Or who invariably gets asked questions by other random shoppers who automatically assume that I work in the store, no matter what I'm dressed like. Or who unconsciously walks farther away from or slower than a white person while walking home at night in case I “alarm or scare” them. Or who, while walking to the train station in my predominantly white and rich town dressed in business attire (along with countless other people), gets to have the lovely experience of having someone lock their car door while I'm walking next to it because I need to cross the street. Never mind that they didn't do that when the white person in front of me walked by their car. Or who feels the need to walk with her phone in her hand just in case a cop stops me because I'm walking while black in this predominantly white rich town.

I grew up in a very privileged predominantly white area and was oblivious to most not obvious racism. I used to make excuses for people, as in “Well maybe they didn't know that it's not cool to say ‘Well you're not really black though, you’re Hispanic so that's different’ (I'm Afro Carribean, aka Black) or ‘You act/speak white anyway/You're such an Oreo!’ or ‘Can I touch your hair? It's so different!’ (It's even worse if you touch it without asking, FYI)”. I used to not speak up when I experienced or heard someone being racist because I was "giving in to get along", as they say.

It's only as I get older and see these things happening around me more and more (or just getting filmed and reported on more and more) that I've cast off my self imposed blinders and started to get really super angry. I get more angry as each incident is reported and I see the reactions to these situations and the way they're handled by the media and law enforcement. I get more angry as I see white rioters called “revelers” and black protesters called “animals or thugs” in the media and elsewhere.

“Revelers" reveling after some sports team lost a game:



"Wild animal thugs" protesting Black people getting killed left and right:



See the difference? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-...

I get angry when I read articles about how “redlining”: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redli... or biased lending, a practice that was supposedly outlawed decades ago, is still a thing that's going strong in many states: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/31/nyr... .

There's a lot more to get angry about.

So please, when you're saying that “Slavery was such a long time ago though, you should totally be over it by now!”, understand that for me and many black people slavery ended, but didn't really end.

So perpetuating this #happyslave and #notallslaveowners mythos is wrong, because it wasn't true. While I'm sure there were some slave owners that were “nicer” than others, writing a story where the slave is happy because he met his white savior without completely illustrating the actual atrocities that happened during this time period (and I don't mean the obligatory
Denzel Washington getting flogged in Glory” moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD5DVx... with one tear trickling down, but the real everyday horrors that we as a people had to go through) and then ending on a happy note is, at best, disingenuous and at worst racist


message 38: by Emma Sea (new) - added it

Emma Sea you rock, Erika
support for your comment x 1000


message 39: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Adrian wrote: "This is why articles like Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race need more emphasis:"

I love this:
Every conversation about race is tortured—palpably awkward, loaded with triggers, marked by the blind spots of perception and presumption—but that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong or should stop doing it, says Scott Winn. That means you have to keep on.



And THIS, the closing statement is crucial.
"Awash in its racial conundrum, America has delightful people who are perfectly comfortable with widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality that often breaks along racial lines," Benjamin writes. "Let's call that a problem."



message 40: by Sofia (new)

Sofia Erika your long comment makes me wish I could wrap you up and keep you safe and happy, which I cannot of course, I don't have that kind of power and it would work any way even if I did because the whole situation needs to change rather than single savings. So this just leaves me angry and despairing.


message 41: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Apeiron wrote: "What I find the most disappointing is that this discussion (a few weeks back when it started) turned out to be controversial at all."

I was shocked and then appalled at the callousness, total disregard, and downright hostility displayed. Frankly, to say I was changed by the experience is an understatement.


message 42: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Erika wrote: "Warning: super long comment ahead.

I'm the person that originally shared
that video about everyday racism
and I have to say that the first time I saw it, I cried. To me this video highlights e..."


I loved that video. I've watched it a couple times already. Thank you for sharing it.


message 43: by Vivian (new) - added it

Vivian Erika wrote: "So perpetuating this #happyslave and #notallslaveowners mythos is wrong, because it wasn't true. While I'm sure there were some slave owners that were “nicer” than others, writing a story where the slave is happy because he met his white savior without completely illustrating the actual atrocities that happened during this time period (and I don't mean the obligatory ”Denzel Washington getting flogged in Glory” moment with one tear trickling down but the real everyday horrors that we as a people had to go through) and then ending on a happy note is, at best, disingenuous and at worst racist. "

Exactly. It's not just a "this isn't my cup of tea" situation. This is a trope that actively hurts society, and propagating it is damaging. And this begs the question: What is the artist's responsibility when creating something?

Whether it's film, a painting, or a story, they are communicating.

Aislinn's comment regarding "A Fine Dessert" and how one handles a mistake, acknowledges it, is what one hopes to see.


MzBond Well I'm a bit of a cynic on these things and I'm sorry to say I was neither surprised nor shocked at the way things were handled. Mainly, because one can look at the comments section of any news article involving people of color on the internet, and see how polarized we are as a society. What I did find a little surprising, is that the fact that the DRiTC event is so widely popular, didn't prompt them to take a more empathetic stance.


message 45: by Angelica (new) - added it

Angelica Erika, I can't agree more because I also live in a predominantly white community and I know what you're talking about. I'm considered a white hispanic, but where I come from everybody has black and white ancestors, no matter how black or white you look, and my kids are proof of that.

My oldest child was told by a friend that she couldn't have a picture taken with her and her group of friends because she's "tanned". My youngest was made fun of at school because she has "african hair". My youngest didn't have a problem with her hair until that moment. I've been in an uphill battle trying to explain to my children that being tanned and having african hair is not wrong, that it's only different, and that unfortunately, some people don't know how to deal with "different". It may seem disingenuous or naive, but I've been trying to raise them with the conviction that outside appearance is not important, and that people are just different one way or another (fat, skinny, white, black, brown, yellow, mentally challenged, differently able, etc), but now I recognize that by doing so I didn't give them weapons to defend themselves when they were the ones being attacked.

Every time something like that happens to one of my children I feel outrage, rage, but also sadness because we are talking about children who shouldn't be aware of such differences at such an early age, and we as parents sometimes don't realize that we have the capacity to hurt others through our children as well, and in the process we are hurting and denying opportunities to them too.

What I'm trying to say with my ramble is that we have to be more conscious. Like many people in this post have very eloquently said, it's OK to not know because you haven't been exposed or affected, but once you become aware, pass it on. Talk to your family, your children, but most importantly, act on it. As cliched as it may seem, children do learn by action so much more than by words.

Something I've also learned is that no matter how politically correct you think you are all the time, your children unmask you. That's something to think about.


Charming Erika wrote: "Warning: super long comment ahead.

I'm the person that originally shared
that video about everyday racism
and I have to say that the first time I saw it, I cried. To me this video highlights e..."


Erika, a bunch of your links aren't working for me. Is anyone else having this problem?


Charming Angelica wrote: "Something I've also learned is that no matter how politically correct you think you are all the time, your children unmask you. That's something to think about. "

So true. I tell my mom not to use "oriental" for people and my daughter gets me on cultural appropriation.


message 48: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika So weird. I went back and triple checked the links just now and I'm not sure what's up.


message 49: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Ok I fixed it. I had to put the links separately because apparently GR is being difficult today.


message 50: by Erika (new) - added it

Erika Fixed the links.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Garçonnière (other topics)
Another Country (other topics)
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat (other topics)
Midnight Riot (other topics)
Parable of the Sower (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Ben Aaronovitch (other topics)