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So, about RaceFail 2009. I haven't posted about this before, although I followed it pretty much from the beginning since I'm something of a creepy-compulsive fandom lurker; mostly because I wasn't directly involved, didn't personally know anyone on either side of the debate, didn't think I had anything intelligent to contribute, and not the least because my friendslist is so small and moreover only partly involved in fandom that no one would be interested anyway.

If I says that it's been an education for me (and it was), this includes regretting that it was at the expense of people getting badly hurt.

There are a couple of things I do want to say now, but I'm still hesitant to say them, even if no one of the people involved is going to read it, because I'm going to break Godwin's law like whoa now a couple of times. So here's the disclaimer. No, I'm not calling anyone a nazi, accusing anyone of being a nazi, sympathising with nazis, or comparing them to nazis. Really, really not. I'm simply using a frame of reference more familiar to me because of where I live, since I did notice that the defence mechanisms are very similar.

What matociquala wrote - [...] and in internet debates of this sort, at least against well-meaning white folk who really do want to help, the persons of color do have privilege. It is not systemic, like white privilege, and it is not as toxic as white privilege. But it is perfectly capable of turning any internet debate on race into a slaughterhouse, because the white progressives will generally either back down from or react with defensive panic to any accusation of racism, which makes it a nuclear option and an I Win card - when she essentially accuses POC of silencing her - it sounded familiar.

I've heard, or more precisely read, the gist of that before, and followed the ensuing debate. But the context wasn't fandom. The prose was more convoluted, more abstract and intellectual, because as a writer Martin Walser plays in a different league, but this is essentially what he said in his (in)famous speech where he insinuated in a careful passive voice construction that unnamed people were using the holocaust to threaten and intimidate (implied: him): Das fällt mir ein, weil ich jetzt wieder vor Kühnheit zittere, wenn ich sage: Auschwitz eignet sich nicht, dafür Drohroutine zu werden, jederzeit einsetzbares Einschüchterungsmittel oder Moralkeule oder auch nur Pflichtübung. And he, too, is feeling brave, saying this.

Or Rudolf Burger, who like Walser apparently felt personally inconvenienced and therefore demanded that we finally stop to remember and start to forget, which IMO is nothing less than indecent, when there are still people living who can't escape their memories.

A lot of what Ruth Klüger says in her critical review of Walser's Tod eines Kritikers is also spot-on in this and every debate debate about racism in fandom ever, indeed much of it has been said in different words.

And here's the other thing. Maybe that's something having studied history makes easier to notice, or maybe it's because I have the luxury of not being actually, personally, emotionally involved in all this. History is important. Cause and effect are always important. There are reasons why people get angry, why people's patience finally snaps after a certain amount of provocation and things get ugly all round. To ignore the history and just say everyone's behaving badly is disingenuous and counter-productive, if not downright harmful - to people, to the discussion itself. Obviously this is on a whole different scale, but this essential refusal to acknowledge cause and effect is how in certain circles the Dresden bombings have become a code for downplaying nazi crimes, because, see, it was a war, everyone was committing war crimes. Hitler, Churchill, same difference. Everyone was a victim. And believe me when I say that way too many people accept this kind of reasoning, normal people who'd never self-identify as neonazis. We were bombed, too. We suffered, too. I hear that kind of thing much too often at work, and these are normal people. Educated people. Nice people, even.

To reiterate, the scale is of course not comparable, but when I read these kind of sweeping statements about how everyone has been behaving badly, everyone's a victim, the same kind of victim, or how people should shut up about something they can't escape from because they inconvenience someone who can, what I'm hearing is echoes of all of the above, and it makes me very uncomfortable.


solitary summer

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