Category Archives: aversive racism

Heroes – I Don’t Even Watch You And I’m Sick Of You

Okay geek confession time – I don’t watch Heroes.

I know, I know *wrist slap* bad sci-fi comic geek.

I tried during the first season and got about 11 episodes in mostly carried by my interest in the Nikki/Jessica and Claire characters – I like crazy, homicidal women and women who will put a man through a car windshield. But I’ll be honest my interest was simply not enough to carry me through the winter hiatus/re-runs. Plus the race politics from the jump were sketchy as hell. We had the silent Haitian – who I’m pretty sure still doesn’t have a name, the drug addict Latino Issac and the criminal black man DL. Sure we had Simone but she had no powers and look how she ended up. Then there are Hiro and Mohinder who are based on the “overachieving Asian” stereotype.

Now some of you are sitting back there thinking “How can this guy critique the show when he’s only seen 11 episodes?” and I agree that I can’t do an in depth critique but the fact of the matter is that being in geek circles I know the basic story lines of what has gone down on the show and really it sounds like its gone down the toilet hardcore.

I watched parts of the third season opener with my housemates and as K. Tempest Bradford says in her awesome column on the premiere Unbreakable Habits: Heroes Returns (which y’all should check out) it was “Two hours I will never get back.”

It was simply train-wreck after train-wreck and as one of my friends said (can’t quite remember who) “Heroes never met a stereotype it didn’t like.” and that’s one of its main problems right there. Every brown and female character on the show starts as a stereotype and I have yet to see them grow beyond that or disrupt that even a little bit (of course most don’t live long enough to get the chance). Mohinder and Maya engage in the out of nowhere rough brown people sex after he injects himself with the serum. The literalmagical negro in Africa – who again I don’t think we have a name for as of yet - helping out white boy Matt Parkman. The friendship between Hiro and Ando being broken apart by Hiro’s continued naivete and obsession with the truth of comic books – at this point it’s just annoying because he makes stupid ass decisions over and over again. You think that after the first two seasons he would have learned something. And there’s … have any of the other brown characters been featured as of yet? Micah? Monica? Are they just gone into the ether never to be mentioned again? 

There are basically no strong female characters on the show who are not evil in some way – the only two I noticed were crazypants sociopath Elle and manipulative Angela Petrelli. The other women have been crippled or broken in ways where they basically have nothing left of the fire that attracted me to the show for even that short while.  And can we talk about the lack of diversity in the female characters? I’m not just talking race here but size and hair color as well – there’s a preponderance of the the skinny white blond girl that Ijust find confusing and odd – Daphne, Elle, Claire, Nikki/Jessica, Tracey I mean damn is there some linkage between blondness, skinniness and the gene that gives these folks powers? Also don’t even get me started on Niki/Jessica’s death and the whole any sexually free or confident woman must die trope and the whole Tracey vs. Niki/Jessica thing they’re trying to do – show how different they are which stinks of  and plays on the Virgin/Whore dichotomy women are constantly subjected to in our society.

The other part of Heroes that works my last nerve is that its comic in visual form which I normally would be down with but all their are doing is taking X-men and Justice League swallowing it down and regurgitating it onto the screen. There is almost nothing new or original in what they are doing. Every snippet I watch just reminds me of a comic I watched as a child. Sylar as the third Petrelli brother = the search and mystery surrounding the third Summers brother. The Shanti virus = the Legacy virus. The future “league of villains” thing = something we’ve seen dozens of time. And as my housemate Jackie pointed out the whole third “book” Villains is just a rehash of Kingdom Come …but y’know bad.

They say there are only seven original stories and everything after is simply a copy of those. Yeah that’s all well and good but if you’re going to rehash a bunch of things I read growing up then you need to add something, make it your own in some way otherwise it’s just seems like boring adaptations of old favorite but without the characters and twists that made it great.

White Privilege & The Republican Ticket

Yes I’ve been gone for a couple weeks school and work have combined into a maelstrom of kicking my ass. I’m gonna try and get back on the horse of posting even if it’s just links and not original posts – although I want to try and do at least one  original post a week. Now these are two links about the way that white privilege is affecting the election and especially the republican ticket.

The first one is the much linked “This Is Your Nation On White Privilege” by Tim Wise. I’ve always had an political crush on Tim Wise and this just solidified it.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

Read the rest of the essay at Tim Wise’s blog!

Really fantastic – go read it now.

And be sure to check out his follow-up “Explaining White Privilege to the Deniers and the Haters”

The second link is to a blog called Raving Black Lunatic and the post “Just A Reminder” where he name checks the Wise article above and discusses the linguistic racism at work with Sarah Palin.

Every time she said “doggone it,” or “darn it” or “aw shucks” I got a little more angry and frustrated. And it wasn’t just because her voice reminds me of a Minnesotan on crack.

Listening to her spew colloquialisms, I wondered if a “plain-speaking” black person would be considered a legitimate presidential candidate. You know, a black person who said stuff like “fo’ sho,” or “girl, please” or “that ain’t right.”

Really good stuff, check out the whole article.

That’s all for today but hopefully I’ll have an original post for y’all pretty soon.

Magical Realism

I know that being in Grad School and writing SF/F my stuff will continually be labeled as Magic Realism and it irks me. I’ve always had issues with the genre of magical realism, not because I don’t like the genre or writers but because I think there’s a large tendency in the literary community to lump any People of Color who write Sci-Fiinto Magical Realism. The line between the two genres is more arbitrary and personal I think than anything else. For me it’s where the magic is incorporated into the story and not remarked on as something extraordinary, when the focus of the story is more personal than global and it often revolvesaround family (both of blood and the families you create on your own) but again that’s my personal definition.

But the idea that pisses me off is that if a POC is writing a fantasy at alls then it must be Magical Realism whereas you rarely see white authors treated the same. One example I’ll bring up is Nina Kiriki Hoffman who is one of my favorite authors, her works have many of the hallmarks of magical realism, the subtle magic weaved into an ordinary world but you’ll rarely if ever see her lumped into that category, most of her work is considered urban fantasy. Then you have authors like Nalo Hopkinson – also one of my favorite authors – whose “Brown Girl In The Ring” I see lots of folks terming Magical Realism which I don’t consider it to be because it’s about something that affects a lot of folks in the area and is the hero story of Ti-Jeanne as far as I’m concerned.

Now of course there are pluses and minuses to being considered a Magical Realism writer. The big plus being that you will automatically be given a higher degree of respect and authority within the literary community. The big negative for me is the why POC are automatically Magical Realists. It goes back to the “of the earth” stereotype – that brown folks are somehow closer to the earth and magic than white folks. Which is really a dehumanizing thing because along with this idea is the attitude that magic is something completely disconnected from “civilization” – it’s considered something connected to the primitive and when you look at it that way the fact that any fantastical work by a POC is considered Magical Realism becomes a little insulting because the idea is that if a POC writes about magic they are connecting with some primal force etc…

Magical Realism versus Fantasy is a tricky thing but this goes back to the idea that anything written by an African-American author is automatically shelved in the Af-Am literature section as opposed to its genre. It’s a form of segregation of the books and that’s the same feeling I get when folks divide books that deal with magic into Magical Realism and Fantasy, almost all the POC end up on the MR side and most of the folks on the Fantasy side are white.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not dissing Magical Realism I think it’s an awesome genre and some of my stuff does fit into the category. What I’m angry about is the automatic assumption of any POC who writes SF/F is actually writing Magical Realism. And then of course comes the hand-wringing and wailing over there not being enough POCin SF/F when those who try to break in are often shunted off into Magical Realism.

So yes, that’s my rant for the day.

P.S. – Grad School is totally kicking my ass but I’ve got it all under control…for now.

Terminology – Metrosexual

I heard someone called a metrosexual on the street yesterday, in a joking laughing matter and remembered why I hate the term so much. Metrosexual is a supremely gendered term that just goes to reinforce gender roles.

A “metrosexual” is what exactly?

You might be “metrosexual” if:
1. You just can’t walk past a Banana Republic store without making a purchase.
2. You own 20 pairs of shoes, half a dozen pairs of sunglasses, just as many watches and you carry a man-purse.
3. You see a stylist instead of a barber, because barbers don’t do highlights.
4. You can make her lamb shanks and risotto for dinner and Eggs Benedict for breakfast… all from scratch.
5. You only wear Calvin Klein boxer-briefs.
6. You shave more than just your face. You also exfoliate and moisturize.
7. You would never, ever own a pickup truck.
8. You can’t imagine a day without hair styling products.
9. You’d rather drink wine than beer… but you’ll find out what estate and vintage first.
10. Despite being flattered (even proud) that gay guys hit on you, you still find the thought of actually getting intimate with another man truly repulsive.
“Some people think he’s gay, but he’s actually metrosexual.”
-via Urban Dictionary.com

Okay let’s unpack this a little bit. It’s a vile mix of enforcing gender roles, sexism and queerism. And a lot of this ties into the fact that for a lot of men the term metrosexual has taken the form of an attack on their masculinity.

Metrosexuals care about their looks, care about style, have taste and are refined in a general sense. These are trait societally expectedof women. I have many a female friend who can tell you of the horrible interactions they’ve had because they don’t practice hair removal or prefer Pabst to white wine or dress in a casual style all the time. The contempt for men who do these things not only reveals the contempt for these practices in general, practices more associated with women but also attempts to reinforce gender roles by strictly defining certain acts as “womanly” and “manly”. So there’s that. 

The contempt for metrosexuals and use of the term as an insult is a large scale version of schoolyard bullying. “These are things that men don’t do! If you do them you’re weird, not normal.”  The term itself is problematic because it exists at all, it’s main purpose seems to be to create a division between metrosexuals and “real men” who would never think of doing any of that “girly shit”. In addition to this it also acts as a form of protection for metrosexuals. It’s a defense mechanism that can be called in when they are accused of homosexuality, because any deviation from the strict male gender roles obviously must be a symptom of homosexuality but metrosexuality is still better than homosexuality. You can see this clearly in the definition above (#10). In fact almost all the definitions of Metrosexuality at Urban Dictionary contain a reference to homosexuality, usually an insult.

The discussion becomes even more complex when you bring race into it and point out that I’ve never seen anyone not white termed metrosexual, no matter how dressed up, refined or dapper they were. Because on the rare occasions we do get to see a Man of Color dressed up in any way 99.99% of times what is his role? He’s a mobster/gangster/defendant/crooked businessman/yakuza/drug dealer/pimp…you get the point.

So… in one term we have a confusing and intersecting web of misogyny, strict gender roles, queerism and racism. Is it any wonder I hate the term?

IBARW3, Debunking White Fantasy, Top 25 Black Superheroes & Shopping

A few links for the day

#1International Blog Against Racism Week 3 (IBARW3) is set to go from Aug. 4 – 10.  Here’s the call for submissions:

This year’s IBARW will take place between August 4 through August 10 (although please let me know if the dates conflict with important holidays). The theme (completely optional) is “Intersectionality,” as in, the intersections of various oppressions (ex. racism + sexism, racism + ablism). Suggestions and critique welcome here.

How Can You Help?

1. I need people to help compile links to posts. Last year, there were four of us and about 500 posts; I’m hoping this year will be bigger. Each person will basically take a day, put up a post in the ibarw comm, then tag links in the IBARW del.icio.us. If there aren’t enough people to do one day/week, we’ll rotate. We’ll also keep track of requests to retag posts in case something is tagged wrong. Also, if you can read a language that isn’t English, that would also be really useful for tagging non-English posts.

2. Volunteer to make icons! Examples from last year.

3. If you’re not American by self-definition, I would really, really, really appreciate a post or posts from you, as the “international” part of IBARW is very important. Extra love and appreciation if you aren’t from an English-speaking country/nationality. Posts in non-English languages are also very welcome!

4. Spread the word!

5. Post! If you’re white and don’t want to take attention away from POC bloggers, I respect that. But if you still want to contribute without taking attention away, you can also links to posts by POC or drive traffic or search for IBARW links for the compilers.

#2 Bankuei breaks a lot of shit down in his post - Debunking White Fantasy:

Well, why is that? All these weird species either boil down to alien non-human species or white people that look a little different and act funny. In other words, neither type threatens to dislodge the white normative. (Remember, human is synonymous with white!).

When and where we do see characters of color, they’re carefully shown with heavy stereotypical markers- asian people dress and act like this, african people dress and act like this, etc., because in that way, they’re not complex and full humans and threatening to the fantasy itself

Check the post out, you won’t be sorry.

#3 Black Voices has their list of the Top 25 Black Superheroes of All Time. Of course going through the list you see a lot of stereotypes and caricatures, non-humans and very few women. That’s not Black Voices fault at all but I would have liked a little more criticism on how these heroes were often bastions of racism and dehumanization on a really large scale but I realize that’s not what the list is about. I didn’t agree with a lot of the characters on the list or their placement but I can’t disagree with their number one, who despite his problems is one of my favorite superheroes.  

#4 Last for the Sci-Fi shopping geek in all of us, Best Buy is having a sale on DVD TV seasons from Fox including Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, X-Files, Dark Angel and more. Head over and shop until you’re overdrawn, it’s what I intend to do ;).

What’s In a Name? – A Hell of a Lot

Okay, what is wrong with people?

My name is simple. It’s only two syllables both of which are used easily in everyday conversation, so why do Americans have such an issue pronouncing my name. I even use an anglicized pronunciation of my name, I have since I was a child.

My name is Naamen. Traditionally it should be spelled NeAmen but on my birth certificate and in everyday life it’s spelled Naamen. Traditionally with either spelling it should be pronounced “Na-ah-men” (side note: my Hawaiian friends and acquaintances consistently pronounce it the correct way and spell it Na’amen, whcih I’m fine with). As it is I don’t even ask for that, only my father’s side of the family uses the correct pronunciation. For most folks it’s “Nah-men” and I think we can all agree this is not a “hard” name to pronounce or remember. But ever since I can remember people have been re-naming me and I’ve allowed it.

I’ve been called Norman, more times than I can count. I’ve also been called Naw-man, Nay-man, Day-men, De-ah-men, and the list goes on. I used to hate my name, to blame it for me not fitting in, for being different. When I played games with childhood friends I insisted on being called Alex or Adam. Even in high-school and my first few years of college whenever a teacher asked if there was a namewe preferred to be called I always instituted a nickname of Adam or Alex. When I dreamed of being a huge science-fiction writer I knew what pseudonym I would use, Saturn Walker, because I hated my name so much (although I actualy do use a pseudonym when submitting fiction it’s no longer because I hate my name).

None of these things ever stuck I was still Norman, Nay-man, Nay-men, etc. Maybe it was because I wasn’t so stringent in enforcing my nicknames or maybe it was because I didn’t do it as completely as possible, still allowing old friends to call me by my real name etc. Whatever it was I’m glad now that I didn’t allow the ignorance of people to rename me.

I’ve known so many folks who like me are first generation, their parents being immigrants, who never go by their birth name. They have an “American Name” that often has absolutely no connection to their actual birth name. Example, one of my best friends in middle-school who everyone knew as Sue, well her real name was Thuy. It was all over, a lot of my friends in high school and college were called Vincent, Phoebe, Alice, Jeanie, Linda, Chris, Pamela, Jennifer, Esther but their real names were nothing similar to those – their real names were from China and Taiwan, Japan and Nigeria, Ghana and Vietnam, Iran and Ethiopia, Guatemala and UAE. They or their parents had decided that those names were secret, hidden, only to be used among friends and family.

I know so many of these folks who are now angry and trying to reclaim their name, have people stop calling them by their “American Name”.

The history of re-naming people who are different and especially POC is dark and ominous in America. We know what happened to all those Africans who lost their names, and fought to keep some of their culture alive. So why have been so ready to give up our names for something more “All-American”?

I’ve actually had folks say “I’m just gonna call you _____” which when I was younger I agreed to, this gave me a large smattering of nicknames in high school all connected to some mangling of my name but nowadays I simply say “Actually I would prefer to keep my birth name if it’s all the same to you.” If any one of us had trouble pronouncing David or Solomon, would there be the audacity to ask to call them something else? No. Because they’re names are normative and ours are “weird” or “foreign”. So we give up our identity or names to be more like everyone else.  (I could get into the theft of “foreign” names for Fantasy novels and such and they way everything should be exotic and magical and the way that ties into this but that’s a separate post altogether)

One of the reasons we do this is because all too often Americans act like they can’t pronounce our names. Often it’s not a conscious act, they’ve been told that all those foreign names are incomprehensible so why even try, right? The saddest part of this act is that for most it’s unconscious and that those of us with names outside the norm buy into it too. And so when we tell them our names  and they lean forward with that “huh?” and small smile inviting us to share in the joke of our own name, we smile back because we’ve been taught that yes our names are funny. We’re taught that our names are so different, so foreign with both of these being understood to mean “bad”, “strange”, “not one of us”.

We often don’t stop to think about if on a simple linguistic level our names really are that hard. Most often it’s not that they can’t pronounce two, three or four simple syllables. It’s that societally they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge our lives and choices. We are a conscious reminder of change, of immigration and “the others” who are becoming more and more populous. Renaming us is a way to makes us less threatening, to change our identity and rob us of some agency by naming us as if we were a pet.

My own personal experiences bear this out if only because people who want to be friendly with me, new co-workers or friends of friends have very little trouble pronouncing my name. They may forget my name later, but that’s a completely different thing. Compare that to the security lady at my office building who has asked for my name over 5 times and still can not get it.   

Another huge reason we change our names or allow them to be changed is because of the way that “foreign” sounding names can count against us (I think with this reason it’s more often parents who create an “American Name” or change the family name to better fit in with American society) . Having a name that is so obviously not American can work against us in numerous ways in our everyday life.  A 2003 study saw that names that sounded white were 50% more likely to get a callback than names that sounded stereotypically African-American. Now in this day and age of immigration reform and a much more insular America having a name that marks you as not American affects your life every single day from people. trying to change it, to people making fun of you for it, to people assuming that you must be an illegal (which can land you in a detention center for months whether true or not).

That’s really the least of it, our name is our mark on the world, it’s a huge part of our identity to see it so easily tossed aside, mangled or chalked up as a negative is simply hurtful.

This is not to say that you may not mis-pronounce anyone’s name in your life. I do it too, except I try to never do it more than once. I repeat the name to myself or write it down or a million other methods used to remember things. So yes, there are some names that you might find are actually hard to pronounce and you might need some coaching to get through the first couple of times but re-naming someone…well this ain’t the south and my name ain’t Toby.   

Terminology – Savagification!

In my post last week about representation of Africa in the media I talked about the savagification that bleeds through in these articles. If you haven’t heard of “savagification” used in this way let me explain:

Savagification is the way in which countries/continents, not in the affluent West (This does of course have exceptions. It also happens in articles about Indigenous People located in the West, brown folks who live in the ghetto in the West, etc.) are dealt with in the press. Often the articles are written to be as inflammatory and “fear the brown invaders” as possible and very often include very little input from folks from that region except for small soundbites that bolster the reporter’s view that the people are just a bunch of savages. There are a couple of methods used to achieve this end.

Savagification means that the acts the people/country (because often the articles do not distinguish between individual acts and the country as a whole, so if Gambia has one serial killer all the people must be serial killers in the making) are accused of are described in loving gory detail. There will often be pictures that accompany the article that do their best to show the person in their “native dress” or poised with a machete or in some way that depicts them as savage and untameable. Those are often the only pictures that accompany the article unless there are to be some pictures that show the victims of these acts, often bloody mutilated and sitting on a filthy dirt floor with big tearful eyes staring up at the camera. This is a deliberate scare tactic used to bolster the West as some bastion of truth and civilization while painting the “others” as “savage uncivilized places” (and of course any people of the Diasporas of this country also carry that violent brown blood!). They won’t show the skyscraper cities with computers, cars, etc. because that would refute the “this whole country is just a backward savage place” notion they’re trying to promote. And of course they wouldn’t think to examine the colonialism that profits off of this view, the destabilization of the country and the continued subjagation of the people there.  

Another way savagification is achieved is by ignoring any history in the situation.  This is seen when the Rwandan genocide is discussed and there is no mention of the fact that colonialist policies are what instituted the original separation between the Hutu and Tutsi. When there are articles about witch-hunts in Africa that fail to point out the West’s own history with women accused of witches and the pagan-bashings that happen everyday in America. Because if they showed that horrible things happen in America too that would undermine the sensationalism of the article itself. Articles written about horrible things in the West are always carefully formed to present the atrocity as an isolated incident, actions by sick individuals but not part of the fabric of the country. (In a way you can zero this in to how POC are treated in the media versus White people, where anything that POC do is seen as representative of all POC whereas whiteness doesn’t hold that monolithic idea.)

There are other ways the people/countries in these articles are savagified having to do with word choice and the angle at which facts are presented but these were two of the big ways I wanted to touch on. So now you know what to look for in these articles and knowing is half the battle (I’m sorry, I’m a child of the 80′s I couldn’t help it).