What Shipping Says About Fandom Antiblackness

Note: I originally did this as a thread in like… 2018 but I think it’s still extremely relevant and so… it’s a blog post now! (If it was a blog post before this, pretend it wasn’t. Mkay?)


I love seeing folks who ship ships that came about as a way to distance a Black character from their white faves be like:

“The only reason antis are mad are because they think [Black character] is nothing without [white character]”

Meanwhile

  1. Ships like The Flash‘s Snowbarry literally came about once Panabaker was cast in the show because she was a white brunet and was a “better match” for Barry than Candice Patton’s Iris West.
  2. A shit ton of Rey/Kylo meta and shipping material from that corner of the Star Wars fandom actually came about from the fans rewriting Finn as somehow “unworthy” of Rey, a beta male compared to a Skywalker like ~Ben~.
  3. And the Supergirl fandom… Makes a point of crapping on James because he’s not a nerdy redhead and gravitated towards shipping Kara with her sister or her boss in S1 (and now that James is sort of with Lena, are doing their best to shut that ship down)

Look, it doesn’t matter if “not everyone that got into [ship] instead of [interracial ship with a Black character] is racist”.

What matters is that fandom is uninterested in knowing the history behind their ships and when someone (like me) talks about fandom racism, they dismiss it. It doesn’t matter if you think you personally aren’t racist or antiblack (and even as people of color we can mess up so…).

What matters is that because of the way a majority shippers straight up write Black characters off as unshippable unless they like to objectify them, Black characters aren’t just under-represented in content that’s actually kind of about us –

But these characters are often frequently mistreated by fandoms on top of that.

Maybe not all people who ship pairings like the three I mentioned up there do it because they’re consciously and actively racist towards Black people but man…Why are y’all so uninterested in analyzing why fandom tends to take a “white is right” approach to shipping, especially when Black characters are present?

I’ve seen multiple people be like “oh you’re centering whiteness by wanting a black character in a relationship with a white one” in response to Black people pointing out shipping discrepancies and how Black characters aren’t massively shipped with the white main character they’re close with and let me tell you…

 That’s bullshit. It’d be bullshit in general, but it’s extra stinky considering the people who’ll be like “Finn?/Rey shippers just are objectifying interracial relationships and centering white women”… tend to be diehard Kylo/Rey shippers who wouldn’t know intersectional feminism if the creator herself smacked them with her work on it.

At the end of the day, I want Black characters to be respected in fandom and in their (canon OR fanon) ships and they aren’t.

Too many times, if you see a show/film/book with a main character of color, the fandom centers white dudes or white relationships (look at the Teen Wolf fandom and the focus on Sterek) in their fanworks and claims that they have a (supposedly sacred) preference.

Shipping shows what the fandom is interested in.

Even the nonshippers, sometimes.

And what fandom is really uninterested in just tends to be… Black people.

If you really have made it to adulthood in fandom without noticing that Black characters are rarely treated the way white ones are in terms of respect and fanworks… Yikes on big ole bikes.

It’s wild to me because I make some variation of this tweet thread every couple of weeks (not months, weeks). I do this because people in fandom continue to miss the point:

It’s not about whether you are racist as a Rey/Kylo shipper. It’s about how people in that corner fandom have continuously been racist to Black people and about John Boyega and/or Finn – typically in relation to the ship.

It’s not about how you think Iris doesn’t have as much chemistry with Barry as Caitlin does, but that the fandom literally decided to ship Snowbarry  because Candice Patton didn’t look enough like Iris (because she’s Black).

It’s not about your preference for pasty white dudes –

But about the fact that fandom’s preference literally precludes giving a shit about Black and Brown people in the same way that it does white dudes.

Many people of color ship the ships I’ve mentioned in this little piece.

Some of them are Black.

 (We know that they’re out here because they can’t stop themselves from being Peak PickMe POC and using their Blackness to shut down criticism of their ships or the shippers’ behavior.)

The presence of Black shippers doesn’t change the fact that fandom as an institution, as a space of being, is racist as hell and that evidence of antiblackness shows in the ships/characters that get popular. It shows in the way people talk about (or don’t talk about) black characters aside from token “yeah he’s my fave” posts against a backdrop of white characters.

This antiblackness shows in the racism that is present in “anti” tags for ships centering a black characters – and even some Black actors.

Maybe you don’t see it.

Maybe you can’t imagine your fellow shippers being antiblack.

Maybe they aren’t actively performing antiblackness.

However, y’all need to look at the way ships develop and how Black characters are treated across fandom spaces (mainstream, transformative) so maybe change can happen.

 Because fandom (as a whole) is racist about Black characters and to Black people and the best example of that is in shipping and conversations about shipping.

Observe.

Do better.

Think about how fandom is supposed to be fun for everyone.

And make that crap happen, yo.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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1 Response to What Shipping Says About Fandom Antiblackness

  1. Lee Jones says:

    Why are y’all so uninterested in analyzing why fandom tends to take a “white is right” approach to shipping, especially when Black characters are present?

    It’s not just in dealing with shipping that this happens, but in all aspects of geek fandom. I can recall checking out a fanfiction site in order to find out how many stories are written for each major character from “Star Trek Deep Space Nine”. I was surprised at the low number of stories written about the series’ main character, Benjamin Sisko. Mind you, that was nearly fifteen years ago when I did this. But matters have not changed one bit.

    Like

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