Back in 2019, I wrote What Fandom Racism Looks Like: PickMe POC to talk about trends I’d been noticing in transformative fandom – queer/women’s fandom focusing on creating transformative fandom works to (re) claim the text as their own – where some fans of color would trot themselves into the line of fire and set themselves up as racists’ first line of defense from “mean” people of color who dare to talk about racism in fandom.
Between 2016 and early 2021, I exclusively called them “PickMe POC”, referencing the term “PickMe”. The term, which stems from African American Vernacular English, refers to “people who feed into narratives that are personally oppressive to them in an attempt to gain the approval, attention and/or validation of their oppressor”. (You can read this definition as the fourth one at Urban Dictionary.) I took the term and slapped “POC” after it to make it clear that I was talking about other people of color who feed into racist narratives (and even be racist themselves) in order to be treated well by racists in different fandoms. (But I have used the term to talk about other bootlickers like trans people who throw in with and defend trans-exclusionary feminists.)
As a result, I have been called “racist against mixed people”, accused of using a “misogynistic and racist” slur, have then been called misogynistic slurs, and have had my usage of the word used as a reason for people to call for me to be fired from Teen Vogue where I freelance. Since I love and appreciate feedback, as absolutely unhinged and racist as it may be from these weenies, I have decided to heed the haters who hate the term “PickMe POC” so much. I have chosen, of my own free will and in my free time, to (temporarily) retire the term.
So what’s replacing it?
While I wanted to go with something worse to replace PickMe POC, like an actual slur (this is a joke), I chose the path of least resistance and less characters: POC TOO.
A POC TOO is a person of color who uses their identity as a person of color (who’s often but not always ALSO queer) in order to defend white racists and excuse their own racism/compliance with the racist status quo.
They usually position themselves as a more knowledgeable expert of color who has somehow never seen racism in a given fandom space or piece of media, but knows enough to know that the person of color that they’re coming up against is wrong. Sometimes, they accuse that person of color they’re going up against of being “racist” against them. Usually, that person has simply geared their critique towards white women in a given space or has said they don’t care for POC TOO types in fandom.
You’ll know them by the way they start their sentences, frontloading their identity as a person of color as well in order to dismiss the stance of another person of color talking about their own experiences with racism in a given space. They never are speaking up in order to confirm the existence of racism in a given space, only to deny it and cast doubt on the lived experiences of other people of color. When they do speak on racism in fandom, they still frontload their identity of course, but it’s followed up by them… getting soundly smacked back into the place they’ve carved for themselves by the racists that they have enabled.
Their call begins with: “As a POC TOO” and is usually followed by some variant of “I don’t think this is racist”. Be wary of them and feel free to also ignore them because while they also do experience and witness racism in fandoms, they only interject to destabilize the positions of other people of color in fandom/media.
Now let’s look at some examples:
If you’re in different anime fandoms, one of the common things you’ll see from antiblack weenies is the insistence on “westerners” not injecting their “modern” or “woke” morals into anime.
A lot of Black POC TOO insist on pushing to the forefront of the line in order to dismiss the conversations Black fans have about antiblack caricatures of Black people in anime. But newsflash, honeys… pretending that antiblackness is foreign to Japan is just going to bite you in the ass when you manage to make your weeb pilgrimage and someone calls you a slur because they think it’s cool and also that you deserve to be called a slur.
(Japan does have progressive people and anti racist activists who fight against antiblackness in their society, but chances are that if you’re a Black person that sees Japan as a race-free utopia that shouldn’t be expected to care about Black people in media… you’re going to stumble across people who really do not like you.)
I have talked a lot about cultural appropriation in Korean pop and one of the recurring themes from fandom is an increasing insistence that merely talking about appropriation from Korean idols is racist… against those idols.
There’s a specific kind of infantilization that comes up in these cases where people essentially position themselves as POC TOO who think that Korean idols who are participating in antiblack or anti Native racism via cultural appropriation and the subsequent entitlement to these cultures… are being subject to racism.
Because people from those cultures are going “I don’t like this and I feel it’s disrespectful”.
But you wanna know what’s racist? Setting “as racist as white celebrities” up as your goal post to meet. You don’t want to end racism, you want the power that comes from being racist and you want your idol favorites to have that too.
A wild thing attributed to me is a desire for the AO3 to add Top Level archive warning tags for racism or slavery. I cannot express enough how little I want that crap. (Racists won’t use the tags, geniuses. Because in fandom, they don’t think they are racists.)
But whenever I suggest that the AO3 do anything about racism literally on the platform – in the form of boosting their own pre-existing offensive content and harassment policies – other POC TOO show up alongside the usual crowd of frothy white racists to inform me that I am in fact the real racist and wanting racism to be banned from fandom is actually worse than being a real racist in fandom.
These POC TOO are especially annoying because like… they clearly cannot read or use critical thinking skills.
Early last year, I actually saw someone make an excuse for one of the different Super Junior members doing blackface years ago because it was a) homage and b) actually just normal and natural for Korean culture.
The person saying that was an American of Color (no idea of specifics beyond that unfortunately), if I remember correctly, and even if they’d been Korean or Black… That’d just be the most embarrassing hill to die on. Super Junior blackface of all things… Those men are not talented enough for the defense squads built around them.
And then, let’s be clear here: it is racist to infantilize East Asians who are antiblack in some ways – like the Bubble Sisters in the attached image. There are super progressive Koreans – I know several and they are delightful people who push back against the status quo. There are also incredibly casually antiblack Koreans who can’t ever bring themselves to see Black people as people. Because we live in a society and said society is antiblack as hell.
We can hype up people doing well while recognizing that society is actually just… Universally antiblack in ways that mean blackface can be a fun family entertainment when it shouldn’t be.
Infantilizing Koreans and other East Asians to remove them of the responsibility of… not being antiblack? That’s really damn racist.
Back in May or June, I did a thread about how some Rey/Kylo shippers were celebrating about John Boyega temporarily losing his Twitter verification and were like “he lost his check/left his Netflix gig because he’s about to get revealed as a predator”. Of course, the hordes descended upon me to insult me and harass me because me disliking their fandom is the same as not being allowed to drink from a water fountain meant for white people. (No joke, huge swathes of the fandom believe I am capable of or interested in oppressing them on a seemingly systemic level by expressing my opinions about the ceaseless antiblackness they deliver regularly.)
At one point in my thread I mention that they had been under attack from the Fandom Menace… but specified that they’d actually started it in an attempt to deflect from the focus that wider fandom had been doing on their racism. (The woman heading up the podcast and article series about racism from TFM was a Rey/Kylo shipper who’d dismissed racism from her fandom, blocked pretty much every single Black fan she could, and blamed all the racism on “antis” and the “alt right” who were controlling them. She then turned her attention to actually “proving” that Pⓞsobiec and them were the real and sole source of racism in the fandom… which is not actually true.)
My tweet led to other shippers flooding my quote tweets to insult me and call me names (like someone called me a bootlicker of color and suggested that Teen Vogue actually was responsible for John getting mistreated)… but the funniest one was the person who said I was a coward for not… yelling at Nazis on behalf of Rey/Kylo shippers. Not only was that not a thing I was interested in doing, but why would I take up this actual security risk for people who have spent years trying to destroy my reputation in multiple fandoms and harassing me and had, at that time and just a few weeks and months previously, tried to get me fired from Teen Vogue?
Racist ass fucking weirdos.
As a Black American, I’m just gonna say it.
Why do super ambiguous POC TOO in fandom from outside the US only ever want to talk about racism when they can use their identity as POC to shut down Black Americans talking about racism in fandom they’re experiencing and witnessing?
I can only speak for myself. Yeah, I’m a Black USian (born outside the US, moved here as a tween), but that doesn’t negate what I’m talking about? Like I actually do clock the “US centrism” of specific arguments and leave them in the drafts, but antiblackness is universal.
It’s a red flag as a POC TOO – and haha okay half of the POC TOO accounts with their cute picrew display images are uh… Probably Not That – to dismiss a Black person’s words on antiblackness and act like they’re talking about racism in fandom (like the “ACAB = fancops” shit) specifically to hurt “proshippers” – a category of fan that is not actually more marginalized than other fans in fandom despite how intent they are on pretending they’re the only queer people/POC/women/kinksters in all of fandom.
Personally, I’m talking about racism in fandom because I’m affected by racism in fandom and so are many of the people I love. If you as a POC TOO think that’s too “Black American” of me.. Well… Yikes.
POC TOO are the same type of social media user as PickMe POC. They exist to clog up the gears of fandom discourses on race and to validate racists in fandom.
They are also liars.
It’s not that they actually think racism in fandom isn’t real.
Many of them have actually experienced it from haters who dislike “their” thing and they deal with it from the fandoms they’re die-hard defending. However, they know that if they don’t just keep their heads down but turn other POC into targets, their experience will be less stressful.
They just can’t tell that they’re going to wind up right where we are: subjected to racism the second they remind racists in fandom that they are in fact a POC TOO beyond their use-value as a discourse deflector.
Not every single person of color has the same experiences with racism. I know this. I have experienced this. There are things I genuinely don’t think are racist, that I’ve seen in different fandoms.
Y’all will never know what they are because me speaking up and saying that will negatively harm other people of color and I’m aware of that.
I know that people of color aren’t a monopoly and that what I experience as a Caribbean-born US-ian is different from someone else in different parts of my diaspora or someone outside of it entirely.
The difference between me and them is… I would never sit there and publicly say that something wasn’t racist. I don’t position my identity as a Black person to win arguments about how some things aren’t actually racist or get clout from racists.
But POC TOO do.
And that will always be my biggest problem with them.