Tag Archives: institutional racism

Firefly Asian Dream Cast

"For a universe that's supposed to be half Chinese, Firefly sure doesn't have any Asians."

Part of xkcd comic http://xkcd.com/561/. CC-BY-NC.

I love Firefly.

It’s is a brilliant show, and one of the parts I love most is worldbuilding that mixes the U.S. and China as the dominant cultures in a far-flung space-faring future.  The characters are all fluent in Chinese, wear Chinese-inspired clothing, eat with chopsticks, and wear white to funerals.

Therefore, the fact that the show has no Asian actors in leading roles is a very troubling and uncomfortable thing.  It’s hard enough for Asian actors to succeed in Hollywood; it’s even more depressing when a work of media steals the shiny bits of our culture and then gives no opportunities to Asian-American actors.

“Maybe there weren’t any Asian actors up to the job,” people say, every time this comes up.

Bullshit, says I.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore Firefly’s cast.  But . . . just for fun, behold my Asian Dream Cast!  The rules were as follows:

  1. The actors had to be of East Asian descent and work in the U.S.,
  2. The actors had to be actively doing television (as opposed to purely film actors),
  3. As much as possible (just for my sake), I wanted actors I was familiar with,
  4. To avoid driving myself crazy, I did this as if we were casting in 2014, rather than trying to figure out how old people were ten years ago.  Scanning the list, it looks like most of these actors could have played the same roles I’ve cast them in in 2002 anyway, and the ones who couldn’t would have been easy to cast with actors currently ten years older than the role (as noted below, River would have been far easier to cast older, and I had a list as long as my arm of possibilities for Kaylee).

I imposed rules #1 and #2 because I wanted to prove that it is just not true that there isn’t a fantastic slate of talented East Asian-descent actors doing American television.  #3 was just because it’s more fun for me if I’m familiar with the actors I’m talking about!  (#3 was the most limiting.  I’m famous among my friends for not having seen enough movies and never knowing who any of the actors are.)

Now, drum roll, please . . .

Firefly East Asian Dream Cast

(cut because of lots of video embeds)

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Who Chooses SF Classics? Who Chooses Our Required Reading?

The Book Smugglers started a very interesting discussion on Twitter today, about what makes something a “classic” of science fiction.

I have many Thoughts on this stuff.  In particular, the “You haven’t read HEINLEIN?  You’re not a true fan!” attitude bothers me for many, many reasons, starting with my discomfort with defining “true fans,” and running through my own particular opinion that Heinlein, however influential, is certainly not the be-all end-all of the genre, my discomfort with making anything “required reading” in a genre this large and diverse, and my own personal feelings on Heinlein’s writing, which are somewhere between “eh” and “not all he’s cracked up to be.”

I feel similarly about any of the other “classic” writers who were repeatedly recommended to me in one breath in my youth, except with variations on my personal taste for them (I’m an Asimov and Bradbury nut but could never get into Dune or Snow Crash, but all that’s neither here nor there).  The point I’m getting around to is, if you’ve been a SF fan as long as I have, you feel like you’ve at least tried all the “classics” (or you’re aware of your “blasphemy” in not having read them yet).  That even before the days of the Internet, you’d be assured of eventually having a conversation along the lines of, “You’ve never read [Classic Author]???  Where have you BEEN?!  Read [Classic Title] right now!” so by the time you were a seasoned SF fan you at least felt like you knew all the Important Names.

All this is a backdrop to what I really want to talk about here, which is possibly a very small piece of all this, but also possibly representative, and the only part of my relevant thoughts that feels remotely coherent.  Namely: my reaction the first time I read Octavia Butler.

It was relatively recently.  After college.  Long after I had foolishly presumed I knew of every Big Name in the genre.  I started to diversify my reading because Reasons, and the first name on every single list of SF authors of color was Octavia Butler.  The first recommendation on everyone’s lips, if we conditioned first for diversity.

So I picked up Bloodchild.

And I remember being shocked.  Mind-numbingly shocked.  Because I didn’t get this — I didn’t get how I could have been a fan for so long, had had the luminaries of the genre recommended to me time and time again in a myriad of different contexts, and no one had ever told me to read Butler.  The only places I’d seen her were on lists regarding diversity and authors of color, the lists I’d only just sought out.

I’d never seen her name unfurled in the litanies of classics in the same breath as Asimov or Bradbury.  And I couldn’t understand why.  Octavia Butler is not a great SF writer of color, or a great female SF writer. She’s a great SF writer.

And in her case there is no question that this could be only my own subjective her-work-touched-me opinion.  If you look her up, she’s widely acknowledged in every biographical piece as a master of SFF.  Award winning.  Massively respected.  And if we’re measuring influence and groundbreaking in the field as metrics of what makes a classic, it’s hard for me to fathom the idea that Octavia Butler wouldn’t fit that definition.

If I name her as a classic SF author, I never expect anyone to argue with me.

And yet, nearly every time I see someone else recommend her, it’s segregated. Qualified.  A recommendation given if you want writers of color.

I don’t understand how we can have a genre where “You haven’t read HEINLEIN (/Asimov/Clarke/Bradbury/Dick/etc.)??” are common and accepted refrains, and “You haven’t read BUTLER??” is almost unheard.  Why aren’t we saying it?  Why isn’t Octavia Butler considered “required reading” of the classics in order to consider oneself a True SF Fan?  Why don’t people feel left out and incomplete if they haven’t read her?[1]

I don’t really know what defines a classic, or who should get to say what one is.  But I do know I find myself feeling deeply uncomfortable with any popular mentality that shames people for not reading influential white men while giving a pass to those who skip the influential black women.

Edited to add: Ana of The Book Smugglers turned her thoughts into a thought-provoking essay here.  I highly recommend both that and the Storify for a broader articulation of the issues surrounding this point.

  1. Sarcasm intended here; as noted I think there’s something problematic about these attitudes in general, though my thoughts on them are not quite articulate enough to form a post from.

My Thoughts on Movies I Saw for Free

I wrote this last year but kept delaying posting it because I kept thinking I would watch Lincoln. Since I was starting to write one up for THIS year, I figured, what the heck, I’ll post it a year late.

So, because I work in Hollywood, I get screener DVDs sent to my house of some of the movies that are up for awards every year.  (And if they don’t send DVDs, they often give me downloads or free movie tickets.)  Here are my brief thoughts on a subset of this year’s free movies:

(mild spoilers for Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Hitchcock, Les Miserables, and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Silver Linings Playbook:  Well-written, well-directed, well-acted, and their screw-up of the “big move” was one of the best-crafted actions in a movie scene I’ve seen in a long time.  But I have a bone to pick with Silver Linings Playbook, which is . . . how did nobody tell me this was a ROMANCE???  I’m watching, and watching, and watching, and suddenly, BANG, in the last ten minutes, I realize the entire plot structure was a ROMANCE PLOT STRUCTURE!  I thought it was a drama that was going to end unhappily with everyone miserable or dying, dammit.  I felt very duped!

Argo:  First half: Awesome.  And I was rolling on the floor at the (all too true!) portrayal of Hollywood.  Second half?  Eh.  Way too many exactly timed close calls that were Hollywoodized in just for the DRAMA of it.  Plus, I didn’t think any of the hostage characters were very well-developed, which means I couldn’t bring myself to care as much as I wanted to about their eventual escape.  I would have much preferred to see more antics of the producer and the SPX make-up artist.  (Also: The whitewashing, of course, pissed me off.  We’re at a time when Hispanic people are systemically being painted as non-patriotic, non-real Americans, and here was a golden opportunity to show a Latino as an American hero . . . not.)

Hitchcock: The cast was spectacular.  The story of making Psycho was fascinating.  Alas, if only they could have stuck to that story.  The forays into Hitchcock’s strange daydreams/night dreams messed up the pacing and confused what would have been an excellent film otherwise.  (Also: I want to marry Helen Mirren.)

Lincoln: Didn’t watch it at first because they didn’t send a DVD.  Then they sent one and I . . . still didn’t.  Sounded heavy, so we kept procrastinating on watching it.  I’ve heard it’s narratively pretty problematic (i.e. racist), so I’m not too bothered.  Maybe I’ll watch it eventually.

Les Miserables: . . . no comment.  (We tried to watch it with copious amounts of alcohol; we really did.  We started the fast-forwarding about five scenes in and still couldn’t even make it to the halfway point.)

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Expected it to be a bunch of awesome elderly British actors getting up to hijinks, and it was completely as advertised.  I’m generally not a fan of the Exotic Location Teaches White People a Very Important Lesson stories, but I was too busy watching Judi Dench being adorable to worry about it much, and from what I can tell (not being Indian) they did have a diversity of reasonably well-developed Indian characters.  (Also: I tend to like movies that don’t focus on young twenty-somethings.)  Other thoughts: Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are both near eighty, what?, and I desperately wanted Penelope Wilton to whip out a badge and say, “Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister!”  (Yes, we know who you are.)

The Impossible: After reading this review, I refused to watch it, even for free.

The Tiresome Fringe of SFWA: the Gift That Keeps On Giving

I was offline most of today because I was working on a book.  (Well, there was also a six-mile hike in there, but I consider that productive also.)  So I didn’t see the shit hit the fan until tonight.

And you know what?  I’m tired.  I’m really fucking tired of this.  I’d much rather be working on my fucking book.  My book has gunfights in it.  And explosions.  And complexity theory.  COMPLEXITY THEORY, PEOPLE.  I don’t want to be blogging about some fucking asshole who wrote some fucking petition claiming that SFWA deciding to have more editorial oversight over the professional publication of the organization after massive member complaints last year is somehow “censorship.”

That’s so fucked-up I don’t know where to begin.  You know what, maybe I won’t.  Maybe I’ll just direct you to Natalie Luhrs’ excellently articulate rundown of the situation (it includes links to the full text of the petitions, both the original horribly-racist-and-sexist one and the we’re-going-to-be-slightly-less-inflammatory-here-even-though-we-claim-to-be-against-any-editorial-oversight one, and many of the comments are also well worth reading).  Or Rachael Acks’ brilliantly incisive points about how SFWA is supposed to be a professional organization. And then I’ll go back to writing my book, because there’s only so much of this I can take.

But no, there’s one other thing I want to say.  What should be angering me here is the same old tired racist/sexist bullshit, these people’s insistence, their fucking entitlement, about their “right” to maintain a toxic environment within a professional organization.  But I’m just too tired.  Can’t muster the ire.

Instead, you know what’s really sticking in my craw on this one?  How fucking stupid the petition is.

It’s an illogical, fallacious, badly-written disgrace.

Look, I’m not even talking about the fact that I disagree with it.  There’s plenty of nuance to be had in conversations about free discourse and editorial direction.  I’ve had many a civilized debate about that sort of thing, and sometimes I disagreed, vehemently, with the people I was talking to, but they still made sense, they thought things through, they articulated arguments that made me have to think about what they said.  There’s value in that sort of debate.  A lot of value.

What makes me really disgruntled tonight is that I see the names of people who have signed onto this mess of a petition and I say, “Really?  REALLY?  You thought it was a good idea to put your name on that?  That godawful excuse for an argument that makes no fucking sense?

We’re science fiction and fantasy!  We’re the people who try to build worlds so complicated and consistent that they violate Goedel!  We’re the people who interpolate and extrapolate, into the heart of the human condition and into the future, who revel in science and logic and rational thought!  Aren’t we supposed to have some understanding of logic?  Of what a fallacy looks like?  Couldn’t one of those signatories have looked at this stupid-ass excuse for an opinion, found the kernel of truth he or she agreed with, and written something that wouldn’t have gotten a failing grade in a high school English class?[1]  You’re supposed to be writers, for crying out loud!

Disagree with me all you want.  But for god’s sake, at least have the courtesy to do it intelligently.

(p.s. — I’ve updated the timeline with this.  Why oh why are there still things happening to update it with?)

  1. To be fair, I can’t really find anything in the petition’s arguments that isn’t logically fallacious, so maybe the reason nobody wrote a better one is that it’s not possible.  But that should really tell you guys something, shouldn’t it . . .

A Call to Stop Politicizing People’s Existence

There’s been this thing happening online the past few days.

First, Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote a column for Tor exhorting SFF authors to stop thinking of binary gender as the default.

Then this happened.

There’s been a lot of chatter all over the Internets since, of course.  Too much for me to address, even if I wanted to engage with it all.  But there’s one thing I do want to speak up about: I’m downright sick of people labeling the inclusion of PoC, women, genderqueer, or other QUILTBAG people as a political agenda.  As leftist.  As “liberal.”

People with non-binary genders aren’t an agenda. They exist. They’re reality. Same with people of nonwhite races and non-Western ethnicities and queer orientations. I don’t consider my existence to be part of some “liberal agenda”—in fact, my personal political ideology might be considered quite conservative in many respects, but my existence is neither conservative nor liberal.  And neither is anyone else’s.

(Goddammit, now I’m tempted to write some excessively message-heavy CONSERVATIVE science fiction in which all the characters are gun nut libertarians but also just happen to be non-binary gendered or PoC or women or queer, because, dammit, we exist.)

Like MacFarlane, I want an end to defaults. I want to read fiction where diversity is just part of the landscape, where there doesn’t have to be a “story reason,” where people just are different races/gender identities/orientations because people in the real world just are. We don’t have “plot reasons” in our lives that make us nonwhite or QUILTBAG or whatever—why is it somehow a “liberal agenda” if we argue that this reality should be reflected in fiction?

I don’t see why advocating a lack of default is so controversial.  After all, fiction doesn’t even come close to reflecting reality—come talk to me about “political agendas” when half of SFF main characters are women and we regularly get 60-percent-Asian casts in humanity-to-the-stars space operas.  Come talk to me when I see as many gay people in media as I interact with in daily life.

And yeah, I think it would be great if science fiction worldbuilding didn’t automatically assume two genders, if authors made the decision to invent binary-gender worlds rather than defaulting to them.  If authors regularly considered making characters genderqueer for no reason at all even if they ultimately decided against it, in the same way they might consider what hair color to choose.

SFF has always identified itself as a genre where anything is possible.  Yet as a genre, we so often automatically fall into assuming narrow representations of humanity before we even begin writing.  I would like to see SFF be a proper superset: to encompass all of humanity, and go beyond.

But first, for the love of God, can we stop calling the existence of actual, real-life people a political agenda?

Why I Chose an “Ethnic” Pen Name

I work under two different professional names that are not my own (one for film, and SL Huang for writing).  In both cases I chose surnames closely linked to my heritage, despite having, in both cases, extremely sound marketing reasons not to.

Institutional racism is a thing that exists.  I was making up my own name, my own brand.  Why wouldn’t I choose a name to be more . . . generic?  Less ethnic?

It’s a good question.  After all, I’ve deliberately chosen a genderless pen name for writing, and I like having my gender not immediately and obviously available.  Because of what I write about and what issues I care about, I’m misgendered online just about half the time, and it amuses me.

So why was it extremely important for me to choose professional names that tell people where I’m from and that I’m a person of color?  Why did choosing a name contrary to my heritage, or a name I felt belied my race, or even a made-up combination of syllables feel so wrong to me when I considered it?[1]

Revisiting my thought processes, I think I know the answer:

Because just like choosing to make a character white is a choice, whatever name I chose would be a choice.  There is no generic.  There is no default.  If I chose an Anglo-Saxon surname, that wouldn’t be saying nothing about me; it would be saying something about me.  It would be choosing to identify myself with a heritage I don’t identify with.  One that doesn’t feel like me.

Even if I made up a name, I’d be choosing phonemes that come out of language.  There would be an origin.  The sounds I chose would say something about my linguistic identity.  And I don’t think I can express even my linguistic identity without referencing the tongues of my ancestors, the tongues that I’ve lost.  The holes in that identity feel as much a part of me as my love for the English language and its Germanic and Latin roots.

So, why did I choose an “ethnic” pen name?  The answer: Because all pen names are ethnic.

There is no name that says nothing, no blank space I can put on a book to leave a question mark as to my identity.  I might be fine with leaving a mystery that people might make mistaken assumptions about, but I’m not fine with supporting the idea of a certain default kind of person.  I’m not fine with being someone else’s idea of that default.  Why is Huang any less of a generic blank of a name than Johnson or Williams or Miller?  Why should it be?  It makes me angry that it isn’t, and when I’m angry I get stubborn.  Maybe my choice of pen name is more about my own contrariness than anything else.

So, what about institutional racism?  People do judge based on names, and may pre-judge my books.  But there’s another side of that: maybe, just maybe, if my books are good enough and fun enough and enough people like them, I can be one tiny drop in the pushback against stereotyping Huangs and Wangs and Chens everywhere.[2]  For me personally, that possibility makes up for whatever initial handicap the name might give me.

Because after all, my main reason for choosing the pen name I did wasn’t a political reason in the first place: it was that I had to feel my pen name matched my identity.  And since whatever name I chose would be some ethnic choice, I chose one that fit.

(As I said in the footnotes, this blog post is about how I feel personally with regard to my own feelings on my identity only, and I completely understand why others would make a different decision.  I’d love to hear other thoughts in comments from people who have made these choices.)

  1. I want to make it clear that I’m only talking personally in this post, about my own feelings about my identity and what felt right to me.  I make no judgments against people who do choose pen names that sound less “ethnic” to American ears or ones that outright reverse gender for marketing reasons.  As I said, I did consider it myself . . . it’s a personal decision, and it’s complicated, and I’d never look down on anyone else for their choices.  This blog post is just about my own personal feelings about my pen name only. :)
  2. Yes, yes, I KNOW I’m writing a book with lots of math in it.  Cue the Asian stereotype joke here . . . (It also has lots of guns, though!)

It’s Okay, He Wasn’t a Main Character. (Or White.)

So I watched the pilot episode of Killer Women, and I’ll probably start watching the show.  (This doesn’t say much, as I have a very low bar for cop and lawyer shows, but yeah, it’s a fun show so far.)

Buuuuuut there’s one thing about the pilot that really annoyed me . . .

(spoilers follow)

Tricia Helfer, aka Molly Parker (whom I’ll hereafter refer to as Six) is talking to her DEA love interest and trying to convince him to go into Mexico after a mother and child who were kidnapped by a drug cartel.  DEA love interest at first says no, then, after Six’s intense, er, persuasion, he says okay, but it’ll just be the two of them, and he’ll only use one of his Mexican contacts.  “We’ll probably die,” he warns her as he walks off.

(We know already that they’re not gonna die.  Right?  Right.)

So they infiltrate Mexico along with DEA LI’s one Mexican contact, who gets them in.  Naturally, there’s a shootout as they try to get the mother and little girl out.

Naturally, LI’s Mexican contact gets shot and killed in the shootout and our two main characters get away.

(And by the way, both our main characters are attractive and white.  Just to add to the picturesque contrast here.)

Six and her LI get out of Mexico with the female plot devices kidnap victims and have heroically saved the day.  In the final scene, they’re all smiling and relieved and all is wonderful because the daring and break-the-rules Texas Ranger Six has brazenly rescued her plot devices and she and the LI have emerged unscathed as heroes.  There’s a palpable sense of relief and heroism and all-American patriotism and the good guys winning the day.

Nothing is ever said of the poor Mexican dude whose bullet-riddled body was left in the drug cartel’s compound.

Which.  Okay.  Seriously?

They got LI’s contact killed—they got someone killed—and the narrative’s going to play that as an Awesomesauce Win, no second thoughts, not even a drunken toast in his name in the bar afterwards?  Unless the writers are trying to frame their MCs as having some level of sociopathy or dissociation from other people’s deaths, there’s something seriously wrong with that in a narrative.  If you want your heroes to be, y’know, heroic, playing off the death of someone who helps them as unimportant, as something that does not impinge an unsullied victory, is a rather poor writing decision.

Visibility Matters: Why POC In Books Must Be *Described* As POC

There’s this thing some people say when folks complain about a lack of diversity in literature—they claim that if characters are not described, then any racism is in the mind of the reader.  That we shouldn’t complain, because it’s our own fault if we imagine the characters as white.

People have thrown this argument out during pretty much every sufficiently long discussion of race in fiction that I’ve had, from when I criticized the lack of diversity in Redshirts or The Dresden Files to when I’ve spoken about it more generally.  It’s almost a sure bet.  In fact, someone brought it up on Twitter today in one of the discussions sparked by the excellent #DiversityInSFF hashtag.

Whenever people use this argument, they treat it as clever, a slick turnaround—”it’s not the author who’s racist, it’s YOU!  You’re the one who’s imagining everyone as white!”  And I want to put my head through a wall, because there is so much wrong with this argument I can’t even.

First of all, let’s talk about why diversity in media is important.  Part of it is so that people, particularly young children, can see characters who look like them in heroic roles—but even supposing children in marginalized demographics haven’t been inculcated enough into the cult of our dominant media to imagine undescribed characters as looking like them (and I dare you to tell me it’s their fault if they don’t; I dare you), that is not the only reason for including POC in literature.

Media is important.  Books are important.  What we read, imagine, absorb—this is culture in its most potent form, and it affects us.  It shapes our perceptions, it pushes at our worldviews.  Can anyone honestly tell me the written word has no power?

When you put something out into the world, when you write a book and you offer it for people to read, you are impacting the culture.

If your book erases the existence of POC in favor of a white land of white heroes, what impact are you having?

If instead your book omits description and the vast majority of your audience defaults to imagining your characters as white anyway—which they will—the difference is academic.  The images in your readers’ minds are the same as if you specified your characters’ monochrome paleness.  Your impact on culture is the same.  And make no mistake, it is an impact.  White characters (or undescribed characters who default to white) are a choice, just as POC characters are a choice, and you are pushing the culture in one particular direction, just as a more colorful cast would push it in another.

But you know what?  There’s another very good reason the “it’s the reader’s fault!” argument is just ridiculously silly, and that’s that it DOESN’T WORK.

You know how I know?  I tried it. I thought, yeah, that argument is bunk, but there might be something to a tweaked version of it—that it might be be a Good Thing if I challenged my own default perceptions, if I made an additional conscious effort to imagine sparsely-described characters with more melanin in their skin, even in books that didn’t take place in strongly minority environments.[1]

And what happened?  I got smacked in the face for it, every single time.  Because somewhere along the way, two chapters or twenty chapters or whatever later, the author would make a reference to the character’s milky skin, to paleness, to a reaction to the appearance of a darker-skinned character . . . and it was so totally clear that this character was meant to be white all along.  That I had been meant to imagine the character as white.  That the author had assumed I had been doing so.[2]

The cognitive dissonance started ruining the reading experience.  Books forced me to white as the default perception.  And they’re doing it to everyone who isn’t trying such an experiment as well, even when we don’t realize it consciously, because any deviation from this happy equilibrium of white-as-the-default is so inevitably punished by the narratives when one so much as pokes one’s nose outside it.

I still try quite hard to imagine more characters of color where I can, because I’m stubborn, and I think it’s valuable for me to do it.  The result of this is that I’ve found myself more and more drawn to authors of color and books with minority milieux,[3] because then I can happily imagine every undescribed character as a POC and not be knocked down a few chapters later by the author’s assumption that I didn’t.

  1. When reading books with a dominant culture that’s nonwhite, this works out just fine, but that’s not what I’m addressing here.
  2. The most hilariously extreme example of this—though with sex rather than race—was when I was reading War of the Worlds, and, perhaps overly influenced by Warehouse 13, decided to imagine the first-person narrator as a woman.  I knew that wasn’t going to be what was intended, but I thought I’d see if I could read the text that way.  I remained undeterred when she spoke of her wife (and hey, Warehouse 13’s female H.G. Wells is bisexual anyway, so it fit!), or of men’s clothing, but was only a few chapters in when the narrator referred to himself as a man.  Shot down.  Now, before anyone jumps up and says, of course you can’t do that with H.G. Wells as he’s ancient!, the vast majority of the books I tried this experiment with were much more modern.  This was just the funniest example.
  3. Which I try to read more and more of anyway.

Fighting Ingrained Assumptions, Or: In Which I May Be a Racist, Classist Asshole

Twitter seemed a better medium for my disorganized thoughts on this matter.  I posted the following this morning:

 

 

 

It’s hard for me to sort it all out.  Because obviously, my safety and the safety of the people I’m going to be living with is of paramount importance to me.  But when does wanting to be “safe” cross over into being bigoted?

Another thing I didn’t mention in the tweets is how . . . out of place I felt walking around the new neighborhood.  The demographic was literally 100 percent Hispanic as far as I could tell.  I was acutely aware of how different I looked, how differently I presented myself.  It was an uncomfortable feeling.

Which, HOO boy, privilege check.  I’m a POC, but I benefit from a great number of the trappings of what we usually consider white privilege.  Moving to this neighborhood would be signing up to give up a very small part of those trappings: being able to walk around my neighborhood without anyone looking at me suspiciously or considering me an outsider, being able to communicate fluently in the dominant language (Spanish) or with the dominant speech patterns in English, having the closest grocery store stock foods that are familiar to me . . .

Now, I am fully aware that these things are such a tiny percentage of the overall privilege I do enjoy.  It’s not like moving will make people less likely to employ me, or make employers pay me less, or make cops more likely to stop me, or make security guards more likely to follow me around at the mall.  I’m not going to be less likely to get a bank loan or more likely to be prosecuted for a crime I didn’t commit.  But I still felt acutely conscious of the privilege I would be giving up by moving . . . and part of me was nervous. Another part of me thought it might make me a better person.  And the largest part of me was almost angry at myself, because the biggest manifestation of my own privilege is that I have the choice here to give it up or not, and I can make this decision all about me and my comfort level if I so choose, and I was so, so, so aware of that and how much thinking about this at all felt very much like #PrivilegedPeopleProblems.  So to speak.

I also worried that moving into a dominant-Hispanic community is invasive, offensive to the community by intruding on a safe space people have carved out for themselves from the majority society.  That my new neighbors might be unhappy about me moving in, and with good reason.  (To be clear, everyone I spoke to in the neighborhood was very friendly, but I still worried.)

We didn’t end up going for that house for other, unrelated reasons (too bad, too, as it was a beautiful house), but we may still end up moving to a similar neighborhood.  I’m still trying to sort through what I think of my reactions here, but at least on the matter of crime rates and safety, I’m going to go only with statistics and talking to the people in the neighborhood—and I’m going to ignore rumor, “what everyone knows,” and the average melanin content of people’s skin in the area.  It’s the least I can do—and I do mean the least—to combat my institutionalized assumptions in this case.

Thoughts?  Has anyone else come up against this?  What did you do?

Links and Such Like

Freedom of Information, Intellectual Property, and Such Like

What It’s Like to Get a National Security Letter, from one of the only people in the country able to talk about it: “Again, they advised me to not even ask my board whether or not I can do this. So this is, in some sense, really putting myself at risk personally. Here I am, trying to make a decision as to whether or not we should sue the United States government over a secret demand for information, on my own.”

Buffy vs. Edward Remix Unfairly Removed by Lionsgate: It’s fair use.  Everyone agrees it’s fair use.  Lionsgate even agreed it was fair use . . . initially.  But they’ve still managed to make this remix artist’s life an exhausting mash of court cases.  This is a very good example of how broken copyright law is in the United States.

Science, Math, and Such Like

Why the Internet should STOP saying dolphins rape each other.  It’s scientifically incorrect and trivializes rape.  Excellent read.

Crazy Living Rock.  Go home, Evolution, you’re drunk.

The caterpillar with a stack of heads.  Seriously, Evolution, go home.  And don’t drive.

A scientific paper published as a 38-stanza poem.

What happens when the media and blogosphere start picking up an academic article. Fascinating.

The math on whether Superman could punch someone into space.

And Superman’s ability to inflict people with prosopagnosia.  Since I’m faceblind myself, I got a kick out of this.

A Category 5 Kaiju would only need to eat 18 humans per day.  The math on Kaiju biology!

More math on Pacific Rim: How can they helicopter-lift the GIANT ROBOTS?  I love math on popular media!

A researcher tastes one-billion-year-old water.  For science.

The fallacious ways people weigh medical risk.

HPV rates have dropped by more than half thanks to the vaccine.  FUCK YEAH SCIENCE.

Writing, Blogging, and Such Like

The stats on how much of an article people are likely to read online.  I am totally guilty of most of this, except for the inverse relationship between reading and sharing—generally the articles I share are the ones I was interested enough in to read all the way through!

Why typing two spaces after a period is WRONG.  (Unfortunately, I cannot break myself of the habit, though Twitter is having a good go at it.)

Don’t tell the audience what you’re about to tell them.  Just tell them.

 Sexism, Racism, Homophobia, and Such Like

A tumblr of medieval European art showing that POC, y’know, existed there.  So quit it with the “historical accuracy!” argument.

Fat Nutritionist on beauty as a mask.  Fascinating, thought-provoking, wonderful read.

Real Women Have Carbon-Based Molecules.  Strikes back at the idea that “real women” need to look any particular way.

The Bad Touch.  About the Kickstarter thing.

A 17-year-old girl started a feminist society at school.  What happened next will make you sick.  These girls are high schoolers.

Twitter Trolls Turn Anime Convention Into “Paranoid Nightmare.”  My god . . . the hashtag “#gropecrew” . . . TRIGGER WARNINGS LOTS AND LOTS OF TRIGGER WARNINGS.

Just Because He Breathes: Learning to Truly Love Our Gay Son.

 I Have Met George Zimmerman.  One of the many, many moving responses to the Zimmerman verdict.

Game On Ladies: A man discovers what female gamers face when he plays as his wife’s character.