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Photo Exhibition: Fans at Worldcon 2009

Photos by Kyle Cassidy

On one level, lots of geeky people having a great time. I wish I had been able to go. On another level, although I needed more than one hand to count the number of geeky people of color whose portraits were captured, I did not need two.

(The fact that the number of fans of color is actually quite large has already been established, so yes, other mechanisms are at work here.)


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC)
This is epically cool.
I stayed my hand posting tho', as I'm very fair skinned, regardless of my mixed parentage.
Aug. 15th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Re: This is epically cool.
There's no paper-bag test or blood quantum checklist at the door, though; the unicorn roundup is all about asserting our own existence and cultural self-identification, despite geeky interests (and participation in a geeky online medium) where the prevailing assumptions are that the overwhelming majority of F&SF fannish sorts are white (and probably American, and except in certain female-dominated corners like LJ, largely male...)

Now, if you don't feel like that's your place because your cultural upbringing and sense of identity are primarily white, that's fine; but if you do identify as mixed/multiracial/etc., please don't feel like you shouldn't participate just because there have been people who assume you are white. There's are some insidiously subtle forms of racism that are directed at those of us who don't fit into the neat little pigeonholes of how POC are expected to look and talk and behave, and for me at least, refusal to allow myself to be pressured into being complicit with my own erasure is an important act of resistance, even if it's also deeply wearying.
Aug. 16th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
Re: This is epically cool.
Hey -- thank you for this.
Aug. 16th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
Re: This is epically cool.

And I need to thank both of you for reminding me, too, that there may have been more people of color in those pictures than I was able to realize.

Aug. 16th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Re: This is epically cool.
Well, it's something I'm obviously particularly attuned to, with my own history. I've never tried to pass, wasn't raised to pass, but I know from long experience that people will try to pass me anyway -- and some of them will get shirty when corrected, like they are entitled to have the final say on how I identify myself, or like there's something downright offensive and threatening about a person who is physically able to pass for white willingly refusing to do so. And I think this sort of fixation on phenotype is behind a lot of the well-meaning ignorant sorts who think "colorblindness" is the solution to racism; they forget that even when people may look more or less similar, there are still differences of culture, language, religion, familial and national history...

And yeah, this is one of the many factors that keeps me from wanting to go to things like book cons. I look passable enough that I don't have to fear being subjected to the "POC petting zoo" treatment -- but knowing that I can blend into the crowd doesn't do anything to alleviate my own sense of discomfort and not belonging in an overwhelmingly white space. Looking passable means that the folks who might have enough of a vestigial sense of shame or decorum will think it's probably safe to express racist or clueless sentiments around me that they might be ashamed to let slip in front of someone they thought wasn't white. Panels and speeches are going to be mostly white presenters presuming they're speaking to a mostly white crowd, assuming common national myths, cultural metaphors, that I don't share. And if I correct people on their assumptions that there are no Indians in the room, I know that the reactions this produces will follow a lot of very tired scripts that I've heard a million times before, and have less and less heart and patience to deal with each passing year.

And that's one of the less obvious things that I miss about Hawai'i, actually. People were just as likely to pass me there, too, and in a state with a non-white majority that comes with a whole extra layer of othering and assumptions about being an outsider -- but with local folks, there wasn't the resistance to having their assumptions corrected that I've seen time and time here on the mainland. It's the state with the highest percentage in the country of mixed marriages and residents identifying as multiracial, so people there are well aware from their own friends and families that people can have very diverse combinations of names, phenotypes, and cultural identifications; and when most of the folks you're talking to aren't white, you don't seem to run into the sort who take it as a personal affront that you "could" identify as white but don't want to...
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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