When I began the research for Last Night at the Telegraph Club in earnest, I knew that I needed to know more about those lesbians of color. More specifically, I needed to know what it was like to be a Chinese American lesbian in San Francisco in the 1950s, but they were nearly invisible in the historical record. The few times I came across references to Asian American lesbians, they were mentioned in passing or relegated to the footnotes.
It was enough to make one think that queer Asian Americans didn’t exist back then, but I knew that wasn’t true. What has happened is that our experiences have been erased or marginalized, deemed less important than the experiences of white LGBTQ people.
If you’re like me and you like learning more about queer histories of color, please check out this piece and get hyped for some awesome histories that you probably didn’t know before!
Do you like disaster gay babies, vampires, and a cast primarily made up of people of color? Growing Fangs is a Disney+ short by Ann Marie Pace. It’s such a cute and stressful short. There’s also some actually well-handled allegory for biracial human-ness here. It’s just a very cute and sweet film and I desperately want Val (the main character) to have good things. What a good short to come out during Pride, actually. This short has the potential to be a really good urban fantasy project if Disney chooses to run with it. It packs a ton into a tiny short and I would like someone to fight for more of this property!!!
As my hyper fixation on BTS waned, I branched out into the larger world of K-Pop and have discovered groups like TOMORROW X TOGETHER, ATEEZ, and ENHYPEN who make great music and do their best to remain as unproblematic as possible. I explored other groups as well, but as I conducted my deep dives there was always one great big elephant in the room: the blatant anti-Blackness coming from groups and individuals whose music, style, and entire aesthetics are based on hip hop and R&B culture.
I’m always super interested in reading about what other Black K-pop fans go through positively and negatively. I love these spaces and, outside of a relatively few iffy moments, people have been very nice to me. Being in any fandom is hard. Being in a fandom setting where every so often you’re reminded that your faves’ heroes – and sometimes their peers and their members in the group – have done things like blackface… is beyond hard.
I just came across The Jas Chronicles earlier this month and wanted to share her piece just for another POV of what it means to be a Black fan in these fan spaces especially as, unlike me, Jas has hopped from different fandoms where I’ve basically mained the group I started off being invested in and you know… again this is straight up the best fandom experience I’ve had so far.
The decades change; the fixation on maintaining a false idea of historic figures as pure founts of virtue remains. Today, the single contention in the 1619 Project that has drawn the most vociferous outrage is author Nikole Hannah-Jones’s assertion that “one of the primary reasons” colonists fought for independence was to preserve the institution of slavery. Hannah-Jones was denied tenure by the University of North Carolina’s board of trustees, which overruled the dean, faculty and university, reportedly due to political pressure from conservative critics of the 1619 Project.
I’m moderately obsessed with the way that we’re watching people fight for revisionist history in real time while also claiming that cancel culture and censorship are genuine threats to the US conservative. At the same time that people are going after The 1619 Project for simply telling an overlooked truth about this country and what it was built on/who it was built by, they’re also screeching because some social media platforms suspended open bigots or because an author didn’t get their bigoted book published. Anyway, this is also relevant to me as someone watching similar “remember your history [but only the histories I want you to remember]” going around in various communities or fields I’m in. People really are not hiding how hypocritical they are…
Being Asian in a predominantly Black genre, within a predominantly white music industry, Jin ended up leaning on his identity while also questioning how much of his success was due to being the token Asian. Would he be denied a chance at success because he’s Chinese, or would he only get that chance because he’s Chinese? Would anyone take him as he was? He’d think to himself, The most important thing is I’m here, you know? I got skills.
His first brush with fame made him hyperaware of how he was presenting himself. Jin had adopted fashion and speaking cues from hip-hop culture. He had to do a kind of “balancing act”; he was heavily influenced by a culture he deeply admired, but he was not trying to present himself as Black. Constantly reminding people he was Chinese in his music was one way he centered his racial identity. Profiling Jin for the New York Times in 2004, Ta-Nehisi Coates noted that his strategy of playing on “Asian-American stereotypes while trying to rebut them” put him in an unenviable position. “In emphasizing his ethnicity so blatantly, Jin risked turning himself into a oddity,” Coates wrote.
“If I don’t acknowledge I’m Asian or Chinese in some fashion, then it becomes, Look at this dude; he thinks he’s Black for real,” Jin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be Black. Do I admire Black culture and Black people? Absolutely. But I’ve only wanted to be Chinese. … I’m still navigating this.”
I think I first learned about Jin from Bad Rap where he was referenced in the genealogy of Asian American hip hop they were setting up. I loved this profile on one of The Firsts because it actually helps me put together further thoughts on the complicated presence of Authenticity in Hip Hop vs Authenticity to Self In Hip Hop. I really just want everyone to read this profile and think about the fact that Jin is still navigating this and consciously thinking about who he is and what he’s creating and who his audience is. Gosh!
The Western has long been built on myths that both obscure and promote a history of racism, imperialism, toxic masculinity, and violent colonialism. For Westerns set in Texas, histories of slavery and dispossession are even more deeply buried. Yet the genre endures. Through period dramas and contemporary neo-Westerns, Hollywood continues to churn out films about the West. Even with contemporary pressures, the Western refuses to transform from a medium tied to profoundly conservative, nation-building narratives to one that’s truly capable of centering those long victimized and villainized: Indigenous, Latinx, Black, and women characters. Rooted in a country of contested visions, and a deep-seated tradition of denial, no film genre remains as quintessentially American, and Texan, as the Western, and none is quite so difficult to change.
Does Brighty of the Grand Canyon count as a Western? If so, I guess the first film I remember seeing as a child… was a western. My dad loves Westerns. He’s seen them all. He has opinions. (This is huge because he is not actually a very opinionated person.) Growing up in a household where John Wayne – awful, awful man that he was – was a household name means that I literally had to unlearn how I was engaging with Westerns. They’re a problematic (former) fave – I saw Magnificent Seven in theaters and own it on DVD but I haven’t watched it in 2-3 years- but it’s this constant negotiation/reckoning with the fact that even when a film does what Magnificent Seven does (by racebending the cast and pretending at progressive politics… this is still a genre based on glorifying the colonization of Indigenous communities and the ongoing mistreatment that still shapes and is present in their lives from coast to coast. I recommend watching Reel Injun for a starter and looking into what Indigenous film critics and bloggers have been saying about Westerns.
Lil Nas X started out in the DIY world and has now captured a global audience. His music video exposed the many layers that those who came before him railed against — the alienation, the condemnation, the silencing of Black gay men within the hip hop world.
With him out there, there’s nowhere we can’t go from here.
In my honest opinion, I think that Lil Nas X is doing the Lord’s work.
I love Lil Nas X and this piece by one of my dear mutuals on Twitter is just absolutely a beautiful and empowering piece to read during Pride.
Queer Black people come up against so much strife, so much hatred, so much dismissal… but we’re also some of the most innovative, important, and wonderful people in our communities. We are necessary and we are amazing and we are loved. I have enjoyed watching Lil Nas X evolve as a person over the past few years and speaking with him was a delight (check out my profile on him, written after that conversation). I’m looking forward to the future of what his rebellion – and our own as a whole – may look like.
Fan culture also has lots of people of color in it, but they don’t make up the dominant group the way women and queer people do. In other words, most of the people of color in fan fiction culture are probably queer or female, but many of the queer and female people are not people of color.
It’s easy for a group led by queer women to have strong, condemning responses toward sexist or anti-queer behavior in the fandom. But since the white subset of this group still has more social dominance than the racially oppressed subset, the hierarchy of response rarely weights racism to the same extent. While the white fans may agree that racism is bad, they tend not to respond to it as quickly, as angrily, or as consistently as they do to the problems that more directly affect them. This produces a racist internal hierarchy of response. This effectively places the discomfort of white people as a higher priority than the harm against BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people and other people of color).
Any group dominated by white people doesn’t have to explicitly excuse racism in order to allow racism to propagate—they just have to prioritize fighting racism less. This all happens on an emotional level, before it ever reaches the dimension of conscious belief.
May is a fantastic writer and this piece, that pulls from her experiences with and observations of digital spaces’ responses to more/differently marginalized users is just a really solid read. I think that it’s incredibly relevant to anyone looking at the harassment and general nonsense I’ve been faced with all year and going “okay but why is this happening? Why are people so aggressive out of nowhere about stitch, a solid 3 in aggro at any given time?”. Not everyone that disagrees with me on the actions to take on racism in fandom are white – and in fact, I’ve learned a lot from talking with/through ideas they’ve posed on different platforms or in conversations. However, pretty much everyone who denies the mere existence of racism in fandom – and get in their fragile feelings over it – has been.
Fandom is a space that needs people to think “we are progressive in all ways” but it doesn’t acknowledge that in the same way that cishet men shouldn’t get to dismiss the effects of the patriarchy… white people don’t get to police how we talk about racism. (I mean, if you’re being bullied for writing the “wrong” ship or not writing POC in like… Bridgerton Book Fandom or whatever, that’s literally not what I’m talking about here.) Anyway, because fandom has this hierarchy, the discomfort of white fans who realize that they may be part of the problem and flail/wail their way to some weird conclusions about POC, is always treated as more rational and valid than POC in fandom merely going “here’s what I’m seeing and/or experiencing and it is bad” and that’s… tiring.