International Blog Against Racism Week (IBARW) originated in an email discussion among coffeeandink, liviapenn, minnow1212, rachelmanija, rilina and me, but for me, the origins go back to the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate of DOOM. The debate started from a Wiscon 30 panel, but it was the aftermath on LJ that made me stop and think about racism for the first time. More specifically, it was after I requested the conversation to stay on white appropriation of POC culture just in the comments to that post and got comment after comment protesting the exclusion of white culture. My later post on racism in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was another eye-opener, with comments ranging from "white people are stereotyped too" to "you are being paranoid!"
As you may have noticed from the above, I came into anti-racism late after struggling for years with wanting to be "the good Chinese girl" who blended in and didn't rock the boat, who took it upon herself to make other people comfortable, no matter how she felt.
All six of us were still finding our feet with anti-racism when we began to email each other. We then tossed around a few ideas, some being a community we could post to, or all of us posting something on our LJs. We debated a lot about tone and how to present things; most of us were afraid of alienating people by being "too angry." In the end, we decided to do something meme-like that would be on all our LJs at the same time out of practicality: if six of us were blogging at the same time, there would be a much smaller chance of one person getting bombed with 100+ nasty comments (I have to admit, this was my main concern, having been the person whose LJ had just exploded). Rachel ended up suggesting doing something like International Saiyuki Week, an informal celebration of a manga series that had sprung up entirely unorganized.
And so, we ended up picking the next Monday as a date, I pre-announced behind a filtered post in my LiveJournal, and that was IBARW1.
I wanted to give you all a sense of where IBARW came from. Looking back, I see a well-intentioned, clueless me, and both Mely and Minnow have commented on how we were too conciliatory. IBARW1 reflected that. Many people posted on how they never really thought about racism, or stories of "How I met my first black person and realized racism was bad," neither of which furthered the discussion of institutional racism and how to combat it.
This year, I debated on and off whether or not to have IBARW2. I wanted one so that IBARW1 wouldn't just be a blip in the blogosphere, but I also wasn't sure if I wanted to organize the entire thing. In the end, I did, though I couldn't have done it without the help of ladyjax, jinian, or poilass, or without the posters' participation.
I believe blogging against racism is important. Blogging won't save the world or miraculously end racism, but it's also not without effect. I have a remarkably short-sighted view of trends, as I've only been noticing racism consciously for about a year, but it feels to me that things have changed this year, both in my online fandoms and at Wiscon. I do not think IBARW is solely responsible for these changes, though it may have had some part, but I do think that the cumulative effect in my areas of fandom has been an increased dialogue on race and racism and an increasingly nuanced understanding of racism. And a large part of that is because people have been talking and linking and posting, not just one week of the year, but all year.
Because of this, I hope it's become somewhat safer to post about race and racism in fandom, though it's clear just from the HP DD mod debate and the current anti-Semitism debate that there's still a long way to go. And this is just my small corner of the internet.
It's not saving the world, but it is a change.
While there's no official definition of racism or "blogging against racism" for IBARW -- anyone can post anything they want -- it'd be disingenuous for me to say that there isn't a definition that I work with, particularly given the selection criteria that goes into posts like this and the IBARW recommended reading list.
So with all that in mind, this is what I want IBARW to be:
- IBARW should be international. It should look at global trends of racial oppression as well as country-specific trends, and the default should not be American. While the default so far has been American, I've been heartened by posts from people in Ireland, Germany, and Australia. One of my goals for next year is to get people from other continents to join in.
- IBARW should push limits. Some of the posts in IBARW should make people uncomfortable, me included. Talking about privilege and oppression isn't a fuzzy, happy topic a lot of the time.
- IBARW should talk about intersectionality -- how racism intersects with other oppressions and how those intersections are more than the sum of their parts. As Audre Lorde says, "There is no hierarchy of oppressions." We should be talking about black lesbians and lower-class Asians, American Indian women and Latino immigrants, people who suffer from the effects of ablism and homophobia and sexism and classism along with racism.
- IBARW should not obscure the efforts of those who fight against racism via other means or those who blog against racism every day; rather, it should call more attention to the people working against racism.
- IBARW should not just be a week. And this is the point that is most important to me. It shouldn't just be the anti-racist blogosphere raising awareness every day. If people who don't normally blog or think about racism participate and then drop out the other 51 weeks, I've failed. I've said this elsewhere, but that is because I firmly believe it: every week should be International Blog Against Racism week. And I would love nothing more than to see IBARW become obsolete because talking about racism is normal and everyday for everyone, not just for POC and allies.
My goals for IBARW3 are to get more participation from other areas of the blogsphere (fandom and non-fandom), more international participation, and more POC participation. Brainstorming post here; comments, suggestions and critique highly welcome!
And now, massive linkage!
Please note that these were taken out of IBARW1 and IBARW2; there are about 700+ posts for both of them combined, and I encourage looking through the whole list, because there is no way I could cover everything. I've also kept all of my own posts out, though I am not above giving you all a link to them.
POC voices on POC experiences
I especially want to highlight POC voices because we are so often silenced, drowned out, and ignored. The disclaimer is as always: there is no singular POC experience, no one Asian or black or Native or Latin@ or multiracial experience. Not all written-by-POC posts are here; these are ones that focus specifically on being a POC, and they range from the very personal to the academic to every shade in between. I'm roughly grouping these by axes of affiliation. While there was relatively good representation of black and Asian posters, I still want more representation of POC, particularly of POC outside the US, indigenous people and Natives, and Latino@s.
- gal_montag notes that sometimes, it's the small things that remind you of being a POC.
- maiteoida writes about that hazy notion of "The Black Experience" and the fear of not being authentically black
- Nora with thoughts, more thoughts, and even more thoughts on colorism
- sixersfan on his experiences with racism in college, on being THE black guy, and on the Other America:
A Black person who identifies with Black culture is very often an outsider to American culture and, thusly, seems odd and strange to his/her White colleagues. Foreign. [...] But this is our America. It's just not the same as theirs.
- Tempest on being the "safe" black person
- delux_vivens links to an older post on slavery and ignorance
- I recommend all of jlh's IBARW posts, which are based on the "This is for that one black kid" comic
- Naamen on how the audience changes the message
- kittikattie has a great series of posts for IBARW2, from covert and overt racism to positive stereotypes and how they still hurt to "the only black kid" and more.
- Nora again on racism in black and yellow
- Yoon writes about the damaging myth of the "model minority" and about writing and race
- I've had several people tell me that they see Asians as white. I bet Jo and Viv Wiley would disagree, as would many of the following posters.
- joannindiw on being a perpetual foreigner
- mercuriosity on From Yellow Peril to Model Minority
- kate_nepveu tells people don't ask me about my nationality
- minisinoo celebrates Native jokes
- Victor Raymond on double consciousness and being multiracial
- Johanna writes How I became (half-)Asian
- Amelia on Me, myself, and my skin colour
- sageness on Miscegenation and me (and you -- yes, really):
Let's start with the fundamental basis of human history: migration and genetic dispersion; in other words, people move around and make babies. This is also the story of my family, my childhood, and where I live now. This is how the history of miscegenation pervades my life. And yours, too.
- katesnotes on Anglo-Indian representation
Because race isn't the only thing some of us worry about, and because it's not as simple as saying "This is just race, this is just gender, and this is just sexuality."
- TransGriot writes about the (lack of) African-American presence in the transgender community, despite the attempts to focus on POC.
- vom_marlowe on racism and classism and how they are not the same thing
- cimmerians on intersectionality
- fickle_goddess on angry Asian women
- Raheema Begum on post-colonial women, bodies, and the body:
So to form a contemporary consciousness that is independent and capable of forming agency within itself, an individual who is a post-colonial minority woman would need to overcome and redefine herself as independent of oppression at the domestic, local, national and global level. That means overcoming patriarchal and majority consciousness, and transcribing a self that draws from a painful historical legacy but is not bound by it.
- CK Kelly Martin on violence against Native women
I wasn't sure what to title this. I don't want "international" to imply that the US is above nationhood, but I also didn't want to define the section by a negative. So really, it should be something like "the US is not actually the center of the world." Most of these are written about other English-speaking countries; I suspect this may always end up dominating given that IBARW started in English, but I really want to include more countries and continents going forward.
- Racism in Ireland and Germany
- oursin's series of links to more information on racism in the UK
- ratcreature writes that slavery is not just a US issue
- emma_in_oz on Australia's lost generation:
In response to Howard's statement that we '"should not be required to accept guilt and blame for past actions and policies", I say that we, as a nation, are responsible. We enacted the stolen generation - and not so very long ago either, ending in the late 70s. We continue to live in a racist society in which Aboriginal people suffer disproportionately.
- Rydra's international book recs
- jennifergearing on Racism, Indigenous Australians, and Government Policy
- puritybrown has the best single sentence ever on racism and colonialism
Discourse on racism
A lot of what I've seen becoming more "mainstreamed" the past year has been talk on how we talk about racism. I use "mainstreamed" ironically, since a) the space I've been immersed in isn't really mainstream (media fandom), b) using that term completely ignores how this has been in international discourse for a very long time, and c) completely ignores the thriving anti-racist blogosphere.
- IBARW1 started as a discussion on how to post what would eventually become Mely's How to Suppress Discussions of Racism (with addendum). Plus, it's illustrated with stick figures!
Tired of discussions of racism in literature, television, and film? Worn out from the unexpected criticism of your leisure pursuits? Exhausted by the effort of having to respond to each new argument carefully and conscientiously?
We can help!
We'll teach you how to suppress discussion of racism in six easy steps. Soon suppressing dissent will be so easy you can do it in your sleep!
- rilina on racism and intent, or "I don't care as much about intentions as these people think I should."
- ciderpress on language and race and tone
- truepenny on voices, shrillness and loudness
White privilege, the flip side of racism.
- Teratologist on rioting and the privilege of being able to write history
- Szzzt on living abroad and temporarily not being the majority
- slammerkinbabe on white privilege and defensiveness:
The next time a discussion on racism comes up, on LJ or anywhere else, think carefully about what you are saying and what the other person is saying. Try to remember that if you are white, the power structure in this country is in your favor.
- jlh on racialized ignorance and racism
- cryptoxin on various types of ignorance
- shewhohashope's last word on colourblindness, ever
- coffeeandink on four cabs
- ethrosdemon on how post-industrial society still profits from the slave trade
- brown_betty's primer on privilege
- cacophonesque has an enlightening poll taken from "Unpacking the Knapsack."
- morgan_dhu on the uses of anger and the resistance of the privileged
I had originally titled this "for allies," as some of the posts are specifically on being a white ally. But some are for people who just started thinking about racism and don't know what to do, and I am always aware that I can do more as well.
- Misia gives some pointers on how to interact with people of other cultures and races without being a jackass
- hesychasm on Meeting My First Black Person And How That Made Me Feel, or going beyond privileged guilt:
So, yeah, I appreciate the soul-searching blog entries about how you learned you might be racist and that racism is bad, but to me the important questions are: What are you going to do when you log off? Can you do anything when you log off? All well and good to explore uncomfortable mental spaces, but what will you do when next confronted with the physical reality of someone you just can't relate to at all?
- coffeeandink on four ways to unlearn racism
- The Angry Black Woman on doing something about racism
- cimmerians has some thoughts on being a non-academic ally
Race and Racism and ____
Tthese are posts that look deeper into a specific topic and show how race and racism works there.
- jinian on racism and the Maasai Journey at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo
- This isn't a POC voice on POC, but cofax7 has An Introduction to American Indian Tribal Sovereignty that goes into legal history
- silveraspen on racism, health, and the health industry
- Rachel's posts on approaches to multicultural casting delve into how we end up with shows featuring the Asian geek, the sexy Latina and the black criminal and also how to avoid falling into certain pits
- Veejane writes about race and racism in baseball today
- paradox_dragon on race and our responsibilities as fannish consumers:
To what extent do we promote what we buy? How does one balance the good one wants to encourage (strong women!) with the bad one wants to eliminate (skanky race issues)? And, more tediously, how does one fucking avoid financially supporting racism (or sexism, or heterosexism, or what-have-you) in a culture saturated in it?
- Several people wrote up books with POC protagonists or authors or books about race and racism; you can browse through the links
- rydra_wong also started the characters of color meme and asked people to squee about their favorite COC.
Critique and support of IBARW
There's been critique of IBARW from various angles. Hawke thinks that it's just preaching to the choir and furthermore, an excuse to beat up on white people. Danielle questions if people are merely jumping on the IBARW wagon (or anti-racism wagon, or anti-Semitism wagon) just to gain popularity in fandom.
And now, I editorialize a bit and point you to jonquil's post on how it's not about you. I do advocate people examining their motives for blogging, particularly if it's to get their ghetto pass. On the other hand, blogging against racism as a means to win friends and influence people? Please excuse me while I go through some of my old posts and reread the comments, which still have the power to make me cry, shrivel up inside, raise my blood pressure, and feel completely alone even a year later. I don't think it's just me -- I know too many people who have locked down their posts or screened comments after things got out of hand, read too many posts talking about how scary it is to speak, how alone it feels, how terrifying it is to put yourself out there as a target.
There's also been critique of IBARW from others. Loomis writes that IBARW is generally a circle jerk of white people patting themselves on the back.
I've been wavering on how much responsibility to take for this; too much and I take away individual posters' agency, too little and I shift the blame.
I chose not to promote IBARW in the anti-racist communities I am in. Some of it was because I dislike promoting myself. A lot of it was because I didn't want the people who blog about racism all the time to feel obligated to do anything; they are already doing so much. I went back and forth between feeling like I was excluding people and feeling like I was pushing the burden back on to people. In the end, I made the wrong choice, and I very much regret it. I will try to do better next year.
The other critique that came out a month after IBARW was the discussion of racism and anti-Semitism. chopchica wants to know where her parade is, technosage writes about the intersection of racism and anti-Semitism and speaking against both, vaznetti writes about feeling invisible during IBARW, and kita0610 posts about token Jewish characters. Vaznetti's post in particular struck a chord with me, espeically her line about the fear of fracturing the anti-racism "we."
I wrote this to her: "[W]hat I believe here is along the lines of Audre Lorde talking about feminism and [how] feminists can never tear down patriarchy by using patriarchy's tools of racism and classism. That is to say, I do not think we can build an anti-racist space on a foundation of anti-Semitism (or, well, we do, but we shouldn't).
And part of me understands the feeling of fragility with anti-racism; I'm terrified to talk about anti-black racism among my Chinese community. And much of it is because I've seen how quickly it becomes a weapon to dismantle anti-racism. But. I also think the argument of "You shouldn't talk about [this issue] now because we are talking about [other issue]!" has been used multiple times to suppress discussion of [this issue] (be it [racism] in feminist discussions or anti-Semitism in anti-racist discussions).
And I don't think racism (or feminism or classism for that matter) is The Real Problem; they are all real problems but not to the exclusion of each other."
IBARW is flawed. But I believe the best response to that is to improve it rather than not have it. Here are two IBARW co-founders on why they participate, and they speak for me as well.
Finally, if you'd like to read more, check out the delicioused recommended reading or IBARW's race-related resources.
Thank you all for reading the special IBARW edition of the POC in SF Carnival! The fourth carnival will be hosted by sparkymonster at the end of October. Please see the main site on how to submit your links and articles next time.