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It can happen! Mar. 24th, 2017 @ 05:20 pm
I had an interesting discussion today. I was talking to a person who loves and respects me, and the subject of the Federal Government wanting to make changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act came up.

And this person was of the view that it totally needed changing, and among the examples of ridiculous things they brought up was an incident where many people were offended by a political cartoon that depicted indigenous Australian fathers as absent/uncaring/terrible.

A discussion ensued. I argued that that was offensive; I reviewed the notion of punching down and its applicability to satire, and pointed out that while there are real problems with child neglect in some parts of the indigenous community, a) they know that and don't need some white guy to tell them, b) reinforcing negative stereotypes to the broader white community isn't helping, and c) most importantly, it's inappropriate for a white Australian cartoonist to treat that subject cavalierly, considering the incredible damage done to indigenous families by having two to three generations of stolen children rupturing the bonds of family and community, even apart from the effects of all the other racist structural damage of the last two hundred years.

The conversation concluded with: "... Okay. Yes. Good point."

I was... surprised.

America's ongoing return to racism, or: Where did all the TV black people go? Aug. 8th, 2015 @ 12:35 pm
So I was thinking about something last night.

From the perspective of an outsider, it kinda seems like America has become more racist over the last few years.

It *really* seems like American television has. And that's odd, and problematic.

See, one of the causes often cited for the rise in the general acceptability of gay people in America is "the Will and Grace effect" - basically, TV representation equals familiarity equals acceptability, kind of thing.

But at the same time, black people have become so much *less* visible, and I wonder if that increases the "othering" effect.

When I was a kid, there were lots of American black people on TV. I have vague memories of loving a show called Good Times, and of course, although now problematically, there was the Cosby Show. At some point there was Family Matters, and into the 90s there was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. There were no doubt others, but those are the ones I recall from Australian TV.

Meanwhile, not for nothing, but back in the freakin' 70s, there was M*A*S*H, which despite a white regular cast quite frequently featured black (and other POC) secondary characters, minor characters, and extras, with regards to whom their skin colour was not their defining factor, even in episodes that were definitely About Racism.

There was an episode where the doctors determine that a field officer is assigning the most dangerous duty to black soldiers, because he's a horrible racist and he doesn't like a desegregated Army and he wants them out of his unit.

For extended scenes involving dialogue, the main black characters in that episode are one of the soldiers, who nonetheless gets some chat about where he's from and is also shown having been spending time playing board games with Father Mulcahy and other things to suggest that he's actually a person, and an officer, who joins the doctors in exposing the racist commander and forcing him to resign his commission. (Who is also a dentist, and gets to tie the episode's main and sub-plots together and have one of the episode's best lines.)

In another episode, there's a field medic named Moody, who is respected and liked, but at one point turns up being treated for minor injuries to his hands after he's apparently been in a fight at Rosie's Bar. When I was a kid, I never fully understood why he'd been fighting - what he tells Hawkeye is that, "Some guys wanted to know if I could tap dance."

I understand that now, but at the time, all I knew was that this clearly bothered him, because Moody is annoyed that he let them get to him - he knows better, because he'll have something guys like that will never have: self-respect.

In another, meanwhile, there's a wounded black soldier being treated under local anaesthetic for a shoulder injury, so he's sitting on a gurney with no shirt, but some dressings visible. He's a well-built, broad-shouldered sort of fellow, and gets an admiring look from one or two nurses; when he asks if his shoulder is bad, Hawkeye tells him something like, "Are you kidding? I wish I had shoulders like yours. Compared to you I have no shoulders at all, my neck goes straight on down to my hips."

Then he says something like it's going to be fine, don't worry, I think, but... that's that.

Why is it that, forty odd years later, I find it a lot harder to think of characters on broadly popular TV shows whose characterisation is informed by their race, but not defined by it?

Why don't I know of any current all-or-almost-all-black sitcoms? I know I don't really keep up with sitcoms, generally, but you know, there's usually at least one on that it's impossible not to know is there. Currently it's The Big Bang Theory, which seems to include an Indian guy but no black people, from what I know, and for a number of years it was Friends, which managed to exist in some kind of parallel universe New York where there were no black people in New goddamn York.

But back in the day it WAS The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The Cosby Show was huge. Good Times, Family Matters, The Jeffersons - which I don't think I ever even saw, but it was famous enough that I've heard of it in the same way I've heard of Three's Company.

Current Mood: tired

Some thinky thoughts May. 28th, 2014 @ 12:01 pm
I may be a bit running late on particularly thoughtful commentary, but I still want to rant slightly on something that's annoyed me recently: to wit, people calling out Mark Cuban as a bigot for saying he'd cross the street to avoid a black youth in a hoodie or a white skinhead.

Primarily because: yes that's bigoted and that was his entire point. Essentially, it could be boiled down like this:

Mark Cuban: I think everyone has prejudices. I, for example, have these reactions in certain circumstances, which is totally bigoted of me, but what's important is what we say and do, not what we think.


Me: What is wrong with you?

Because he actually made a very good and true point. You can't help your prejudices, at least not in the short term. But you *can* decide how you're going to act, and what you're going to say.

Having racist thoughts doesn't make you a bad person, doing racist things does.

I'm now going to talk about my parents in a way that they might not like, but this is an important thing to me.

My parents both grew up in South Africa. Obviously there was pervasive, thoroughly institutionalised racism in all sorts of areas and ways all around them. Neither of them liked it, enough that they decided they didn't want to raise their children in South Africa the way it was or was becoming, and in 1982 they left their homeland and their extended families to move to a foreign country they had never even seen, for the sake of a better life for me and my sister.

I am in awe of the courage of that decision, the sacrifice they made.

However, as I've grown older and watched *them* grow older too, I've become more and more aware of another, ongoing campaign they've been fighting against the influence of the Old South Africa, all my life and possibly all of theirs.

See, my parents are both firmly agreed that Racism Is Bad. But they hail from a society that was deeply, insidiously racist, and a certain amount of prejudice seeped into them nonetheless.

And from what I can tell, they've spent their whole lives fighting it, and fighting even more not to pass those attitudes to their children.

With an adult's perspective, I can recognise the way my parents have, in defiance of average behaviour, become more liberal as they get older, generally speaking. But I can also, thinking back, recall the times when my parents would freeze, just for a fraction of a second, and then be firmly positive in their totally-not-racist reaction to something.

The impression I'm left with is that sometimes my parents' instinctive reactions to things are racist, but my parents are better people than that, and have made the deliberate decision that those thoughts will not decide their actions.

And I admire that. I think it shows tremendous strength of character, I really do. Throughout my childhood I was taught that people of other races are sometimes different, but never lesser. That differences should be respected - you should pronounce people's names properly, even if they're foreign to you, that you should respect their customs when you are their guest, and try to make them feel comfortable when they are yours.

It was my mother, I'm fairly certain, who told me the story of the great society lady hosting a dinner in honour of a foreign ambassador - the kind of dinner where there are a dozen different forks, with "correct" cutlery for every course. When the soup was served, the ambassador, to the shock of many guests, picked up his bowl and drank from it directly, rather than using the soup spoon, tipping it only away from him, and slurping decorously.

Whereupon the hostess, with utmost poise, lifted her own soup bowl and drank from it, then continued her conversation as if nothing was amiss. Some guests followed suit, others did not, but the ambassador was not embarrassed by his error at all.

I have, on occasion, become the instant favourite of friends' foreign relatives simply because, when introduced to them, I listen closely to their names and make sure I'm pronouncing them correctly. To me, this is the most basic of politeness, because if you're casually mispronouncing their name, how are you doing anything but casually disregarding everything about them that doesn't fit your own cultural preconceptions?

... post locked because it's very rambly and off-the-cuff trying to think through things.
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Conclusion Sep. 24th, 2013 @ 04:25 pm
I think I am going to declare reading list bankruptcy. Four months is just not feasible to catch up on. This means that all of you are new and exciting to me in certain ways.

I'm reading a lot of GK Chesterton at the moment. It's interesting and fun and lovely, but also fascinating in a way I hadn't expected: the racism.

More to the point, the part where most of the time, it's the lack of racism, given the era in which he wrote. (Note: This is not flawless, unless you're taking into account quite a bit of nuance in the writing, at certain points, and if your familiarity with a century-old dialect of English is imperfect, some of that nuance is going to burn. Plus, though it's never attributed as any kind of worthy sentiment, very occasionally certain words and phrases occur which some would deservedly find offensive and painful. The fact that Chesterton uses certain vile epithets in an ironic, "are you noticing how stupid these people are, here" sort of way doesn't mean it won't retain the capacity to hurt.)

Possibly slightly incoherent, definitely mildly spoilery, might as well cut. )

Father Brown is also the first fictional quasi-detective I've found in fiction since Lord Peter who is actually, genuinely likable. He's not smug or superior about things, and he's not out to be right or to get into other people's business for his own sake; he cares about people, and is often called in to their personal business by reason of his being a priest.

And he's not too perfect, even in his general tendency to be nice to people and try to think the best of them and be friendly. You get lines like: "But Father Brown had to tell himself sharply that one should be in charity even with those who wax their pointed beards, who have small gloved hands, and who speak with perfectly modulated voices." Just a little reminder that thinking kindly of people is not necessarily purely a native gift, so much as an attitude one can hold deliberately.

Oh, actually, there's also the lack of sexism, in curious ways. For example, in one of the first stories I read, there's a male character who is compared, at a number of points, to an old maid, and aspects of his behaviour and personality are referred to in terms of being "feminine"...

... and these are positive attributes, of a man who, in the story, is a VC and an unquestionable, absolute hero. He's just not a glory-seeking hero. His is the heroism of: "Someone needs to do this dangerous and frightening thing. I guess that someone should be me."

He even ends up marrying the beautiful woman who features in the story.

Most of the significant characters in the stories are still men, but in an odd way, it tends to seem like the women aren't involved as much as they might be because they're not silly enough for such foolishness.

Sometimes you have to run back, not walk back May. 30th, 2013 @ 07:37 am
I've never liked Eddie McGuire. He annoys me and I say that to acknowledge a bias in my view of this story. Also, I have disliked Collingwood for some years, to the extent that my team allegiance in the AFL is generally: "The Eagles, and whoever's playing against Collingwood."


So, last Friday a Sydney Swans player named Adam Goodes was subject to a racist slur.

Background: Adam Goodes is an Australian Rules Football player at the national level, a star of the Sydney Swans team, and I have never heard anything to suggest he's not an entirely decent young man. He's won the Brownlow Medal twice - the "best and fairest" award, given annually to the player who has performed best that year who has no disciplinary infractions - and is a four-time All-Australian.

For team partisan reasons I have a mild grudge against the Sydney Swans, and Barry Hall in particular, but the only thing I have against Adam Goodes is that he has been known to play really well against my

He's also an Indigenous Australian.

Last Friday, at a match, a Collingwood supporter called him an "ape". Goodes was shattered.

Side note on Goodes being so very upset about it. )

The initial public reactions of various figures were good. Collingwood club president Eddie McGuire spoke up in support of Goodes, as did many others.

There was a lot of national criticism of the thirteen-year-old girl who launched the slur. AFL president Andrew Demetriou struck a careful line, condemning the use of racist slurs while still criticising the media for hounding a child and her family over it. (Fair, I thought.)

General consensus: What the girl said was horrible, Adam Goodes deserves sympathy for his pain and admiration for the class he showed in response. All the high-profile people in the sport have publically agreed that it was racial vilification, and that that is bad, and that would probably have been that. The comment wasn't made by someone who's in any way a public figure, and all the public figures have responded reasonably appropriately.

Aaand then came Monday. Eddie McGuire, he who has been called Eddie Everywhere because he's all over the media hosting game shows and footy shows and award shows and who therefore is more than accustomed to talking into microphones that are broadcasting to public audiences, appearing on his own regular program, said in response to the topic of a stage production of King Kong... that they should get Adam Goodes for the promotion. Explicitly referencing "the ape thing".

McGuire's explanation so far is that it was "a slip of the tongue". Which is not enough. (Especially since the transcript shows that when he first brought up Adam Goodes's name, his co-host replied, "No, I wouldn't have thought so, absolutely not," which, Eddie, should have been a hint, and McGuire continued the theme after that.)

The AFL's racial vilification process requires the parties involved to speak, either directly or through mediation. Displaying what has happily been acknowledged as far more class and grace than the situation warrants, Adam Goodes took McGuire's phone call; the Swans as a club have shown undisguised disgust. Criticism of McGuire is even coming from within the Collingwood team. There may yet be significant consequences for Eddie McGuire's career.

We can only hope.

Sometimes, there are times when the correct public response to something you've done is to grovel.

How America dodged a fascist uprising, part one: the Alien Other, and its absence Feb. 7th, 2013 @ 11:23 am
Despite the histrionic claims in right-wing tantrums, now, or left-wing tantrums, circa the Bush era, the United States of America is not now, and has not yet ever been, a fascist state, and it's not becoming one.

But, in the last few years, it's come amazingly close to following the historical precedents for one. Actual fascist states have only happened a few times, and while no two fascisms are identical (being that fascism is characterised by ultra-nationalism, and no two nations are identical), there are general categories of circumstances that make them a possibility.

In no particular order (seriously, this is not in order of importance at all, because I'm basically thinking into a DW update window), I shall endeavour to go through them, starting with:

The Alien Within (Usually Jews)
In which I explain anti-Jewish sentiment as part of fascism. )

In summary: a people who are not like us, but are among us, and they are harmful to society, zomg!

[1] Fascism, as a term, was coined by Mussolini. However, the Alliance Francaise, despite predating Mussolini's rise by decades, qualifies as a fascist movement if anything does, not least because a lot of Mussolini's philosophy was inspired or taken directly from the writings of the idealogue behind the AF.

Why This Didn't Happen In America

Well, the Jews wouldn't work, because for a bunch of reasons, some of them sensible, some of them kind of insane (e.g. "Israel is a prerequisite for the Rapture"), the American far-right is hard-line Zionist. And you can't really make a coherent anti-Semitic narrative without also going anti-Zionist, so even the most ardent anti-Semites on the American right have to be kind of covert about it.

Communists lost their power as a serious threat with the collapse of the USSR. Some American right-wingers have picked up a narrative that places "the gays" in that category, but the problem with gay people as an ideological hate fixture is that people will, inevitably, have gay family members, or meet people who are "one of us" and then find out that they're also gay, and basically, gay isn't an ethnic group.

A number of right-wing groups and politicians have made something of an attempt with Latinos, and, in localised areas, have succeeded to a terrifying degree. (See: Sheriff Arpaio, who I had a piece about posted on Shakesville before I broke up with Shakesville hard enough that it just took me ten minutes of going through my tags for old posts to remember what the site was even called.)

However, while localised fascism has absolutely taken hold in parts of America, this hasn't worked on a widespread basis. I think the reason is basically geography. America is huge, and immigration is a progression. You can't make the anti-immigrant fervour take hold in the same way in Ohio or Wyoming, because the immigrants aren't a presence there, certainly not sufficient to make people flip out. At the same time, in states like Texas, there are too many *legal* Mexican and Central American immigrants for an overwhelming consensus of hate. There are too many people for whom they *aren't* Other.

Mostly. You still have, you know, Arizona.

Sami's still sick: Things which puzzle me edition (Song of the South) Jul. 27th, 2012 @ 07:55 am
So, the Disney movie Song of the South has never been released on home video.

I have no idea, therefore, why I have clear, if distant, memories of watching it, since I wasn't born until 1980 and therefore definitely couldn't have seen it in the cinema. (Also I remember that I was sitting on the floor for at least some of it.)

I know, now, that that movie is horribly racist and everything, but as a small child, I had never heard of the American Civil War, or a plantation, or any of the context that explains why it's racist. What I remembered of it was mostly Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, with the bluebird, and Uncle Remus seemins so nice, and Br'er Rabbit stories.

How did this happen?

(Oh, hey, my mother intermittently reads this now. Mum? How did I see Song of the South? We lived in Australia! In the 80s! (I refuse to think that I saw it in South Africa, and my sole memory of pre-emigration life is a Disney movie.))
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A pet peeve... May. 1st, 2012 @ 09:18 am
So, there's a certain subset of fandom that seems to make a habit of protesting that Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto, is totally JEWISH NOT GERMAN. (XMFC movieverse particularly.)

It irritates me. He is Jewish AND German.

Not for nothing, morons, but the argument that because a man is Jewish, he is therefore not German?

Is the one the Nazis were making. It's not impossible that Erik would stab you in the face for saying he isn't German, because that's the attitude that killed his family.

Dude is German. Dude is Jewish. These things are not mutually exclusive.

The White Person's Guide To Working Out If They're Racist Apr. 10th, 2011 @ 03:39 pm
If you're reading this, you're probably a person. Which means that you probably have skin, which will have a melanin component, in most cases. Despite this, some of you will nonetheless qualify as "white", perhaps because "pinky-beigey-tan-sort-of-thing" looks bad on forms.

Many white people struggle with the notion of "being a racist". Because just about everyone agrees that being a racist is bad, but sometimes, it's so hard to tell, right? What if you're a racist and you don't even know it? What if you're sure you're definitely not one but the question keeps coming up again?

Well, have no fear. Auntie Sami is here to help. Here are some tips on working through this dilemma. And we're not, here, going off that ridiculous assertion that "everyone's a little bit racist" - one, because I don't think that's true, actually, and two, because it implies that that means being racist - if just "a little bit" - is somehow, therefore, okay. Which it isn't. So here goes.

"Racist" has a clear definition, and I don't fit it!

I looked at a webpage today. The webpage's author was totally a racist, and she denies it on the basis that "this is the definition of racism":

"a belief in the innate superiority of a particular race; antagonism towards members of a different race based on this belief."

Well, not exactly. Certainly that's a reasonable definition of racial supremacist attitudes, and it's a reasonable definition of one form of racism, but it's more-or-less equivalent to defining Christianity as adherence to Catholicism, and... not so much. Like Christian denominations, there are many forms of racism, and while some are hard-line evangelicals or rigid Roman Catholics, others are mild-mannered sorts who think overt displays of their faith are rather tacky.

Racism encompasses a lot of other things, many of them subtle and unconscious, some of them not involving antagonism at all.

Real-World Extreme Example: It was once, and for many years, standard practice to take the children of indigenous Australian families away and foster them with white families. It was felt that this would provide the children with much better lives. There wasn't antagonism involved - it was a sincere conviction that the black children would be better off living with white strangers than their own families.

This was, however, incredibly racist.

If you find yourself quoting a definition like the one above to prove why something you're doing is totally not racist, it's probably quite racist indeed, and you're probably a racist.

But I have black friends!

No-one cares.

Whether or not you are racist is not determined by how you treat, or even whether you have, black friends. It's determined by how you treat, think about, and react to strangers. Of course you're nice to your friends - everyone is. And being a racist won't stop you having friends of a different race, because that person will, in your mind, be either an exception, or possibly a token trophy of your non-racism.

Because racism isn't about individuals, not really. One racist isn't even a problem - the problem with racism is the systemic toxicity it causes.

Sure, that person called me a racist, but that happens to everyone sometimes!

Have you noticed that that statement sort of assumes "everyone" is white?

But that's a side-issue. The actual thing of this is: no it doesn't. Getting called racist is sort of like the Ian Fleming count. Once is miscommunication, twice is time to do some careful thinking, three times is you're a racist and you need to shut up until you've done some serious reading on Racism 101.

Still not dead... Jan. 5th, 2011 @ 10:41 am
Hmm, I've been quiet again, lately.

I have posts vaguely percolating in my head. About beauty, about people, about thinking, about travel shows and Top Gear. Note to self, write them.

Oddly, my impulse to post right now is mostly to do with wanting to do *something* to offset the discomfort I felt, because there are certain words with which I am not comfortable, at all, even when I know why I'm using them.

For example, entering Nigger as a search term makes my skin crawl a tiny bit, even though what I was actually doing was looking up Dick Gregory's autobiography on Amazon. I want to read it, I'm thinking I might order it, and yet, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable having that on a shelf where people could see it or reading it in public, even though it's the autobiography of a civil rights campaigner.

Twitch. And yet. But. Twitch.

That's words for you.

Especially since that isn't even a racist word of my own socio-cultural background. That's an American racist word. Neither where I was born nor where I grew up did I ever come across someone who would use nigger as a racist slur, that I know of.

(And yet, a word that has similar degrees of racist baggage in my socio-cultural background turns up in plant nurseries here - as the "kaffir lime" tree. Which also makes me twitch really a lot. Because in my socio-cultural background nice people don't use that word.)

Then again, in the eastern states there's a chain of Indian restaurants called "Curry Munchers". When I worked at directory assistance I nearly hung up on a customer who said that, until she - understanding my shocked and horrified reaction - explained hurriedly that no, it really was called that...

Oh my. Dec. 21st, 2010 @ 09:10 am
You know what's hilarious?

Racists like the "Council of Conservative Citizens" and a web-group called are having a collective meltdown over the casting of a black dude to play Heimdall in the Thor movie.


(I think Penny Arcade's summary works.)

The reason this is funny: If they weren't reactionary racist morons, they might have done some basic research, and could make a case for miscasting rather better on the grounds that Heimdall was called "the whitest of the Aesir". Therefore, arguably, making him the black Aesir is a little contra-mythological.

The thing is, you know what?

None of the Aesir were Marvel superheroes, and actual Norse mythology is more-or-less totally incompatable with the Marvelverse.

So get over it. If dude is awesome enough to be Heimdall, which I don't know because I've never seen him in anything but Kenneth Branagh apparently cast him and Kenneth Branagh is pretty damn good so I'm assuming he is awesome enough to be Heimdall, then dude is awesome enough to be Heimdall and therefore shut up, you racist morons. You missed your chance to have the faintest shred of non-racist credibility when you didn't actually do any research on this first.
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Breaking the Cycles Jul. 12th, 2010 @ 11:06 am
I only just learned of Yetta Dhinnakal Correctional Centre. It's out in western New South Wales, 70km from Brewarrina. Link goes to an ABC news article that's well worth reading.

The summary: Ten years ago, the chief commissioner of the NSW Department of Correctional Services read the report from the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody and actually thought about it, and came up with this place. The name means "right pathway" in the local Djemba language.

It takes young Indigenous men who've committed non-serious crimes, like burglary and drug offences, and, instead of throwing them into the prison system where nothing good will happen, sets about breaking the cycle of crime and incarceration, instead teaching the young men trades, skills, and self-respect.

It's working, too.

I almost cried reading the article, because it's one of those things - and there are a few dotted around Australia, but not nearly enough - where you can actually see that even the government is learning. The Indigenous population of this country is in a terrible state, and they need help... but at Yetta Dhinnakal, like all the other genuinely successful programs I know of that are attempting to get the communities out of the cycle of misery that is the legacy of colonisation and institutional racism, the way it's being done is that the government provides infrastructure and support for the Indigenous elders to get the younger generation in line.

What so many people don't even seem to want to see is that this problem was created by whites, but we can't fix it. It just maintains the structures of paternalism and oppression. It doesn't work. But their are Indigenous elders out there, who have the authority within Indigenous culture to bring the younger generations into line, and the will to do it... if given the chance. If the young black men who commit crimes because they never got the chance to know a better path in life are given over to their care instead of locked away.

In an ideal world, programs like this would be there for everyone who commits these kinds of crimes (although the prison industrial complex in the USA would struggle, but that's another, far more depressing post), but as it is, it just gives me such hope to know that it's happening anywhere at all, because these things have knock-on effects of their own; the young men who go to Yetta Dhinnakal will have a positive effect on their own children, and on their communities, and the success of the program will make it more likely that others like it can be set up.

A related example, to explain what I was alluding to above: the problem with endemic alcoholism in some Indigenous communities in northern Western Australia is being improved by "grog bans", where mid- and full-strength alcoholic drinks are banned from takeaway sale. Allegedly this has been bad for some local businesses, but the local communities have found it very helpful; bans are made at the request of the communities.

There's just a profound difference between "you can't have strong alcohol because the white man says you can't be trusted with it, because you're an irresponsible child even if you are old enough by law" and "you can't have strong alcohol because the elders disapprove of it, and forty thousand years of tradition says they're in charge, son, so suck it up and learn to like it".

Oh, SPN fandom... There's something wrong with you. Jun. 18th, 2010 @ 10:10 am
At some point soon I need to write a squee post about Leverage, because at least some shows are actually awesome.

The latest round of fail has hit. Many people have commented, in detail and with eloquence; I don't have much to add that will be particularly new, I think, but... you know. If nothing else, I think the more voices in opposition to this kind of thing, the better.

I am bemused by this one, though. There's a mindset in play that I just don't understand - seeing tragedy, real tragedy, unfold and reacting with the thought that it's just an irresistably good background for a fanfic. The lack of empathy is astounding. The arrogance - thinking that she could do that, and do it in good taste, or is it just that it didn't occur to her to tread carefully at all? I don't understand.

Or does suffering just not count unless it happens to people like her?

Because try as I might to think the best of this, because I always want to think the best of people, I can't. Someone said, "Racism aside, it's just tacky." Which, it is, it is tacky as half-dried superglue but this racism is a stain that just won't come out. It seeps through the text - I looked - and it's woven too deep in the premise, because at the bottom of it all is that to her, the Haitians aren't people. They're props.

If they were people, this story couldn't exist, because it would be too riven with pain for the bright, shiny romance to come through at all.

There's just no excuse for that.
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Connected Ideas: Libertarianism, Rand Paul, Racism, Rome, and EVE Online Jun. 1st, 2010 @ 10:54 am
So, Rachel Maddow asked Rand Paul about his view on the Civil Rights Act and his belief that it should not have desegregated private businesses such as restaurants by law.

An aside: Rachel Maddow is, in some respects, a vastly better woman than I, because in interviews such as this, I would very quickly reach the point of saying: "That's not what I asked you. I asked you [question]. Can you answer that question, please?" "Uh-huh. And [question]?" *interrupts* "Yes or no. [QUESTION]?" Which would probably make me come off as kind of a jerk.

I won't go into the ramifications of how wrong he is. I'm pretty sure anyone reading this is likely to be aware of the ways in which racism is perpetuated by allowing its open propagation.

I just finished reading a book called The Day of the Barbarians, by Alessandro Barbero. It's an account of the circumstances surrounding a battle in the late fourth century, which was both the culmination of a barbarian uprising and a turning point in the history of the Roman Empire. (I recommend the book, by the way - I might make a separate post on it at some point.)

The Roman Empire, at that point, prided itself somewhat on its integration of many, many ethnic groups into the Empire. By the fourth century religious tensions were causing more trouble than racial ones, as far as I can tell - Catholics vs Arian Christians (which is a whole 'nother post in itself), and the pagans were still around - but there was still some genuine and serious racism around. If you were tall and blonde, you were inferior, because tall and blonde meant barbarian. Real people were short and dark. (This was, after all, an empire with its roots in the Mediterranean.)

This isn't my expert area of history, by the way, and the book I just read was focussed on conflicts between the Roman Empire and the Goths, so I'm not sure where Africans stood in the racist hierarchy of the Empire; I suspect that may somewhat have varied by region. In Egypt, for example, it was probably a lot higher where many black people would have been traders or immigrants than in Constantinople, where most of them would have been slaves. People didn't seem to travel that much, but slaves went *everywhere*.

Possibly this was safer than keeping them local, mind you. The barbarian uprising the book is about received no small amount of assistance from the fact that *everyone* in the region, pretty much, had Gothic slaves. As a source of both manpower and intel, this was invaluable.

On the subject of slavery, if only because I sometimes struggle to remember that no, really, slavery is recent, I recommend the excellent Ta-Nehisi Coates's recent post: Sacrifice. No, seriously, read it.

Anyway, the thing is, there were a lot of ostentatious speeches and so on touting the wonder of immigration, of how Romanised the barbarians became, and how they strengthened the Empire as soldiers and as farmers and workers. Racism was in some ways a threat to the success of the state and they deliberately worked against it.

Nothing changes. And yet, progress does happen. I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, the issue of libertarianism is involved in all this.

Libertarianism is bad. I've written three chapters of a novel I really should finish at some point partly on that topic, but if you really want to see why libertarianism is bad, you should look into EVE Online.

EVE Online is internet spaceships, but it's more than that. It's essentially the universe libertarians want - it's the free market, unrestrained capitalism, and personal liberty unrestrained.

And you know what?

It's a fun game, but the universe itself is a dystopian hell where money is power, life is cheap, ordinary people don't matter (player characters are not ordinary people, but they ruin - or take - the lives of many of them), and might makes right. Got a problem with someone else? The only way to settle it is often violence, and there's always collateral damage. One of the Empire factions, the Amarr, is pro-slavery, whereas another, the Minmatar, is founded by former slaves. They're at war. Player characters on both sides fight over slavery, too... and the collateral damage is significant there too.

I saw an argument erupt at the Intergalactic Summit after ships from Ushra'Khan, an alliance of mostly-Minmatar player pilots who are vehemently anti-slavery (motto: "We come for our people.") destroyed a ship which turned out to be carrying a cargo of slaves, for example.

I think one of the things I love about EVE is that it's basically an ongoing counter-argument to libertarianism.

(Full disclosure: My character in EVE Online has a not-insignificant number of slaves - and other people, actually - in her hangar at a space station. This is because I've occasionally found them, one way or another, while running missions and so on. I couldn't bring myself to let them die in space, so I took them back to the station, where - and I swear to you this is true - I made sure they also had large quantities of food, water, soft drinks, consumer electronics, and any other trade good I could find that I thought would improve their lives. If CCP ever put in place - as some players frequently ask - a mechanic whereby slaves can be freed, I am so doing that.)

Derailment Redux: Lois McMaster Bujold Hypocrisy Special Edition May. 10th, 2009 @ 08:06 am
The qualitative differences in my thought processes between ADHD-medicated and unmedicated is:

a) whoa, profound

b) hard for me to remember/believe/recognise when unmedicated.

Today I can tell because I've been reading/thinking about the same stuff since before I took my meds, and I can remember what I was thinking about, trying to put into words earlier, as opposed to now, and... yeah. I'm not sure words can describe the difference in experience between my unmedicated, off-the-charts-how-did-you-get-to-28-before-diagnosis self and my medicated self.

Anyway, on to the topic, in which I pick up Someone Is Wrong On The Internet, in the category of RaceFail '09 Version 2.0, The New Failbatch. ([personal profile] naraht is taking the turn as Archivist of the Revolution this time.)

The thread of derailment I wish to cut today: Man, these people are totally over-reacting on the basis of one sentence in a review!
Cut for length. )

Current Music: This Is Ivy League - A Summer Chill

Team Windschuttle And The Really Bad Rhetoric Mar. 25th, 2006 @ 11:38 pm
So, this evening I was reading Keith Windschuttle's article in the current issue of Quadrant: Why Australia Is Not A Racist Country.

And if I were having less success at being amused by it, I'd be absolutely outraged.

His argument is not only that Australia is not racist now (his assertion of a happy, multicultural nation fails to take into account the success of One Nation, such as it was, or the race riots in Cronulla, but then he seems to be very good at selective attentiveness), it never was.  While a critical reading of the article by anyone interested will, of course, provide many examples of why he sucks, and unless you care enough to read the article itself you probably won't care for an exhaustive breakdown written by me, there are a couple of particularly good examples I can't resist.

1) He cites as a reason for the non-racist nature of Australia society the fact that... Rudyard Kipling was popular.

Apparently in his world there was no racist content in Kipling.

Note that I think very highly of Kipling, and am a huge fan of such of his work as I have read.  However:

But despite his dirty 'ide, 'e was white, clear white, inside...

Nooo, that's not racist.  The fact that Gunga Din concludes: "Though I've beated you and flayed you, by the livin' gawd that made you, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din." does not mean there is no racist content.  (I may have the variant spelling and punctuation wrong, I'm quoting from memory.)

2) Where there is clear evidence of popular racist sentiment, he dismisses it; e.g. when referring to the strong concern of the governments dismantling the White Australia Policy that incautiously fast progress on that matter would cause them to lose office by provoking racist outcry by the public, he says that this fear was simply, "in [his] opinion, unwarranted."


3) "After the early gold rushes, the Chinese were largely excluded by the organised labour movement from the traditional skilled trades, as well as other unionised occupations such as shearing and wharf labouring.  Nonetheless, they found their own economic roles.  They came to dominate market gardening and eventually had an effective monopoly, growing no less than 75 per cent of the vegetables in the whole country.  This led them to become the principal hawkers of vegetables and to control about one fifth of Australia's fruit trade.  Chinese also found ready employment in the hospitality industry, especially as cooks.  Half the cooks in Australian hotels in the late nineteenth century were Chinese.  In the 1880s they dominated the low-cost furniture manufacturing industry, leaving the high-quality end of the market to European tradesmen."

Seriously, to me that reads as an argument in favour of the notion of widespread racism in Australia.  Discuss.

4) Windschuttle is a windbag, I suspect a racist, certainly a revisionist (worst of all), and something of an idiot, but he's also a hilarious elitist; more than once in the article he uses the phrase "the lower orders"; what he totally, totally means is, "the lower classes".  (But of course, Australia is supposed to be a classless society.  The obvious joke about how of course Australians have no class is hereby acknowledged.)  Because of course, only shabby proletarians are racist, the intelligentsia could never be so crude.

He's so bourgeois it's wonderful.
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