If you read almost any blog in the science fiction fandom community, you will be vaguely aware of the debate that has been raging around called RaceFAIL. To me, the debate has gotten incredibly toxic, on both sides of the argument, and I am not going to recap it for you. Google has wonderful search features for this reason. In fact, people on both sides of the argument--people I respect--have started doing such hateful things in defense of their position that I feel that their arguments undermine their positions. Hence, my name, PeopleFAIL.
In brief summary, RaceFAIL revolves around whether people of color are marginalized in science fiction fandom, as well as in fantasy and science fiction literature.
I have not wanted to speak out because at this point, I feel that my voice will never even be heard. I am a white female. What does my opinion count for?
But a friend of mine said that she would like to hear what I have to say... so here it is.
I have no personal experience with being marginalized due to race. As I said, I am white. I cannot help what genes I have, or who my ancestors were. I do not doubt that people of color have felt that they are marginalized; with all due respect, they are probably still marginalized, and this is something that everyone should work to combat.
But because the color of my skin is white, it is often assumed that I have no experience with prejudice of any sort. And that's when I feel incredibly uncomfortable piping up and saying, "Um, hello, I'm Jewish. Have been Jewish my entire life. Would you like me to list the immediate history of my prejudice?" Because I do not like having to play the religion card to get my opinion listened to.
I do not want to be treated as special because I am Jewish. I want to be treated as *me*. I do not want to walk around wearing a sign that says, "Look, I'm part of a marginalized religion!." I do not want to have to tell you about what abuses my personal family has suffered, in a ploy to get your respect. For the record, I have lost 53 immediate relatives in the Holocaust; many more in pogroms; have a pair of cousins who watched their parents and younger brother get executed by the Nazis in front of them when they were hiding in a barn, who my grandparents later were able to bring over to the United States in 1946; and oh yeah, there's the 2000 year history of the Jewish diaspora.
So I have very little sympathy for people who play the race card, the way that has been happening in this debate. I do not tell you my personal family history to garner your sympathy; I tell it to you because it is part of what forms my personal opinion.
I hold the personal view that the color of a person's skin does not determine their worth. Their sexual orientation does not determine their worth. Their religion does not determine their worth. The content of their character is the only thing that matters to me.
We live in a society that will never be free of prejudice in any form. We live in a world where there is constant prejudice against people of all groups and types. We live in a community where minorities of any type are underrepresented in fiction of any type.
So change that, if you feel that you are mistreated that way. Teach me about how to write about your particular culture or group or race; teach me how to write about them, so that I am doing them justice. Teach me how to be a better person and a better writer by including characters of any type of diversity in my own work. Teach me about how I can change this, so your children will not feel marginalized.
But do not beat me over the head with how marginalized you are, since you instantly lose my respect that way. Talk to me. Teach me. Reach out your hand and show me kindly how I can do something different.
Comments to this post are moderated, as usual, and if they are in any way toxic, I will close them. I do not have the energy to expend on toxic behavior.