Saturday, July 14, 2007

But the Smurfs are Blue!

There's lot's of good stuff to be found at the first People of Color SF Carnival.

Lots of stuff to make you cry and lots of stuff to make you mad at the world and even some stuff to make you smile. Pam Noles essay about about diversity of skintone and the Earthsea Trilogy is especially moving, and some of the reactions to it make me want to pull me hear out.

But it's equally depressing that there are parents like Pam Noles' who claim they have their kids' best interests at heart while encouraging them to identify only with fictional characters who look like themselves. Ye gods, what a crappy thing to do to a child.

I just...What?!?!?

Now, I don't mean to turn this into "well, at least I'm a good White Girl, not like those other white boys and girls" post. The simple fact that I've been keeping this blog for over a year now and have yet to write anything on the subject of racism shows that I have a long way to go. But still, sheesh people.

Having parents who care enough to point out the flaws in the media you consume is a good thing. It's a very hard thing to do and yet it's also very necessary in order to teach children to look at the media they consume critically. Noles' parents are to be commended for not discouraging her interests while also making sure that she is able to analyze them honestly.

In responding to people who think that the casting of the Earthsea miniseries really was colorblind, Pam has this to say:

A lot of white people - within the wide world and the narrow closet of genre - think that validation of Ethnic Self means exclusion or disparagement of Ethnic Other.

Which sounds to me a lot like when guys act like validation of women is invalidation of men. Neither is true.

There is a big difference between identifying with a single character just because they happen to have one thing in common with you, and identifying with the one character who isn't white, male, straight, etc. When I scoured the library and bookstores as a child for adventure stories featuring - or at least including - girls, I didn't do so because I couldn't identify with male characters. I did so because when you find yourself identifying with the boys all the time - while most of the characters that are girls annoy the shit out of you - you start to wonder if there is something wrong with you. I can't imagine how heartbreaking it must be to be pretty much completely invisible rather than just annoying. My heart goes out to that one black kid.

(An now we reach the point where I make a confession as to being even more of a racist ass than I am now.)

I read lots and lots of romance novels. I have yet to read one of the many where the heroine was not white. Several years ago I noticed this - to my discomfort - and then quickly dismissed such actions as only logical - after all, how could I really identify with black characters, etc. when it comes to something as intimate as sex and relationships? Which is just mean and dumb and wrong in so many ways.

I don't know what changed to make me openly admit how dumb and destructive this attitude was, but I think it was some combination of immersing myself in the feminist blogosphere and occasionaly bothering to read the excellent and illuminating rants of such women as Angry Black Woman and many other people not-like-me. I was still too stupid to figure out of lot of this on my own, but my experiences in dissecting anti-feminist arguments helped me recognize the truth in what people not-like-me had to say on various -isms - even when it made me uncomfortable.

So "thanks!" and "good job!" to Willow and everyone else who made the carnival possible. We all need to be talking about this more.

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