What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Phone A Friend of Color

Did you know that on Twitter and Tumblr, there’s a thing folks do where they literally tag in another person of color to take over shouting at a person of color talking about race and racism in fandom or media?

Folks will see a fan of color say anything critical of a piece of media or in a particular fandom and if they disagree hard enough or they’re bored and want to start shit, they’ll tag a user they know disagrees publicly on Tumblr or Twitter, effectively turning them into an attack dog in the name of that specific thing.

And friends, I am here to tell you how that’s racist as hell.

I’m going to let y’all know right off the jump that this behavior actually isn’t good for either the fan of color being used as a Social Justice Pokémon or the fan of color who now has to deal with another person of color that will go “I’m [identity] and I don’t think that was racist” – but then accuse them of using their shared ethnicity to gain some kind of clout in fandom. (Even though the Social Justice Pokemon of color actually is doing that!)

It really isn’t a secret, but in case you’re new here, I don’t like fans of color who allow their identity as people of color to be used to shut down criticism of a fandom space they’re in or a piece of media they like. I deeply despise PickMe POC no matter what they’re into.

Whether that’s Black Rey/Kylo fans denying that their fandom is racist to Black people in and out of their fandom or Korean idol fans leaping in to deny that there’s an issue with their fave’s cultural appropriation, I refuse to actually make time for these sorts of fans.

That being said, these fans still deserve better than the “Phone a Friend of Color” approach.

The “Phone A Friend of Color” approach is racist because it sets up these fans of color to push aside their actual experience in fandom to serve whiteness.

Instead of getting to “just” be a fan vibing in their own space, these fans of color are essentially conscripted to serve as a bouncer to protect white fans’ experiences within fandom. That habit of calling fans of color to “handle” each other creates and continues the expectation that fans of color who literally just want to do their own thing can’t possibly have anything better to do with their time than do battle with a random fan –

You know, like… having fun in fandom?

Tagging your uncritical friends of color in to fight another person of color can’t be fun for them. It can’t be fun to be basically told that your value boils down to how willing you are as a person of color to essentially uphold whiteness in fandom and protect your white co-fans’ feelings.

(Because that’s what you tell people of color when you constantly tap them to go “handle” a loud fan of color that you don’t like because they talk about racism in fandom where you can see.

You tell them that they’re only here to do what you can’t – because white fans have long-since realized that they can’t get away with treating fans of color they dislike in certain ways… but that there’s nothing stopping them from supporting fans of color who do.)

Here’s the thing: fans of color who write and talk about racism already know that there are other people within our communities who disagree with us.

We already know that there are Black Rey/Kylo fans who approve of their fandom’s treatment of John Boyega and who have supported his ongoing harassment. We already know that there are Natives who do not see anything wrong with how Korean celebrities appropriate and mock sacred myths and imagery in their work and on their variety show appearances. We already know that there are undocumented fans of color who see nothing wrong with how immigration narratives in fandom and in media – especially science fiction ones – coopt their experiences for white characters.

Long before the first white person in fandom ever acted like they were doing something by tagging in a friend to do their dirty work, we already had to deal with the fans of color who essentially weaponized themselves in order to protect the thing they like for themselves

We’ve always known that there’s no such thing as a monolith here –

Better than most people do, I realize.

But when folks decide to tag in a conveniently uncritical fan of color to take one of us on or validate their racism, what they’re saying is that there should be a dominant point of view that wins and it’s not the one that pushes back against the fandom status quo.

What they’re saying is that there should be a monolithic mindset among people of color in fandom, one that literally privileges white fans and their experiences, desires, and petty beef above us and ours.

And that’s not right –

Not every fan of color will agree on something. There have been pieces and posts from other folks criticizing fandom that I’ve thought were too harsh or that I felt didn’t use their arguments effectively enough. I’m sure I have friends who feel the same way about things I’ve written or recorded.

But at the end of the day, we get to disagree.

The issue is when fans of color are expected to perform for folks who want to force fandom to be extra uncritical. It’s an issue that folks see nothing wrong with tagging in one person of color to do battle with another over fandom as if it’s their job to take out the assumed outsider… especially when that “outsider” is another fan of color.

One thing I’ve clocked about racism in fandom across the years is that there’s this unstated expectation that people of color know and stay in our places. Whether it’s that Black women aren’t supposed to be viable love interests for a white hero (The Flash fandom) or that the only Fandom Elders worth listening to appear to be white women in their thirties –

It’s all about reinforcing a status quo that doesn’t recognize fans of color as real and welcome members of fandom unless we perform for the benefit of fandom – namely in telling white fans “hey it’s fine, that’s not racist” and talking down to or dismissing fans of color with critical thoughts on racism in fandom because “you’re not the only POC with opinions in fandom”.

Either way, whiteness wins.

If you actually care about people of color in fandom and our diverse experiences, stop tagging the ones you know in to do battle with fans of color like me. Stop DM-ing them our posts and tweets about our experiences and slyly pressuring them to interfere and get frustrated on your behalf because you don’t think fandom is racist.

Stop making it clear that their presence in “your” fandom spaces is contingent on their willingness to be a Pick Me POC and dismiss racism for your comfort.


2 thoughts on “What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Phone A Friend of Color

  1. Yeah, you’ve mentioned this before, and I totally agree, but had no idea it was this bad. I have no words for Pick Me PoC, either, except for them to get some shame!

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