NOTE: the final link for this month includes a piece about the fights over rape in fiction and so my response/thoughts… revolve around rape in fiction (and a little bit about it in fandom). Read carefully, please.
We started by affirming simple truths: that Black critics have been setting the record straight and engaging Black citizenry “in the making of its own story,” as Elizabeth Méndez Berry and Chi-hui Yang wrote in 2019, across the centuries, from Frederick Douglass’s sharp observations about blackface minstrelsy to the barrier-breaking journalism of theater and music columnists like Pauline Hopkins, Sylvester Russell and Lester Walton in the late 19th and early 20th century. The long Harlem Renaissance gave us figures like Nora Holt, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. And Amiri Baraka and Phyl Garland wed Black nationalist desire with fierce, experimental music criticism in the Black Arts era.
I would not be where I am now without Black critics who came before me. I think about that often.
It’s not just about reading their work and learning or growing from it, but about having that access to content and understanding that without them paving the way, there’d be nowhere for me to step.
It’s always so hard to pare down my links to a manageable amount rather than pouring out the entirety of my bookmarks for the month. But between last time and now, I have read some incredible things! Here’s a sampling with the usual added commentary.
She finishes her brief segment on her Twilight Apologia grievance by doing a classic “see I’m a liberal ally to the brown folks” move straight out of a JK Rowling’s tweet: adding the link to the Quileute tribe’s fundraiser to prove that she’s not racist, she cares about ACTUAL problems that the Quileute folks face. Not something as trivial as representation in Twilight but REAL problems. Clearly she cares more about indigenous issues than the indigenous people she’s arguing with.
In any case, you don’t need to be native to know there isn’t much sincerity to someone who dedicates two hours to taking shots of whiskey for every “apology” they have to make. Quite frankly it would’ve saved her time to just upload a five second Youtube video of her telling us to eat shit. The same message would’ve been delivered expeditiously.
A lot of people think that ignoring a problem like racism in media – here anti-Native racism in Twilight and Pocahontas… and Ellis’ coverage of both after the fact – will just make it go away. Add in a heaping helping of Ellis weaponizing her white womanhood and lumping in real Natives trying to educate her in with the very legitimate harassment she does get… And you’ve got a disastrous approach in one.
I thought this piece by Ali Nahdee was brilliant, insightful, and is a must-read for people who genuinely care about representation in media, fighting anti-Native racism, and holding ourselves and our favorite content creators accountable. In this country, Indigenous communities are mistreated and misrepresented as the norm. Media is one of the biggest ways that their cultures are repackaged – often being boiled down to a single experience set up to serve for the whole – and it’s important to recognize when we and our favorite/popular cultural critics drop the ball on recognizing that.
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!
Somehow this is both short (only like 5 links this month) and very long (because I had a lot to say about them), but I will return for a BTS + Butter focused one before the end of the month so there will be more links… and more thoughts on them!
If we are asked to determine whether the Austen family was pro-slavery or anti-slavery, then the best answer to that question is both. We can’t take up one half of the facts and ignore the other. We ought to continue to engage directly with these matters as they arise in her writings and to investigate them further in the cataclysmic times in which she wrote. To respond to today’s conversations about Austen and race with dead silence is to join the rest of the Bertram cousins. Scrutinizing the past in these ways ought to prompt a reckoning in fandoms and readerships, as well as better museum labels.
My friend Amanda-Rae Prescott wrote an article about Sanditon that was… not necessarily well received by the Totally Not Racist (But Actually Deeply Racist) Fandom Karens there. I bring that up because the repeat complaints to her article claimed that she was playing the race card, trying to insert political correctness into everything, and that she was actually demanding historical inaccuracy from the future seasons of Sanditon. The thing about historical accuracy though, is that history is written first and foremost by the people who survived it.
I found my own Trinidadian upbringing confusing. On one hand, I was made to believe that race mattered very little, echoing sentiments of postraciality that surfaced after President Barack Obama was elected. My schoolbooks emphasized that Trinidad and Tobago was a rainbow utopia, evident by the shoehorning of as many creeds and races as could possibly fit into small, grayscale pictorial representations. I’d look at my face in the mirror—my light but definitely brown skin, my broad nose—clocking my features against the fact that my last name was confusingly Chinese (my great-grandfather on my dad’s side came from there) and wondering what the hell I was.
In the Caribbean, there are so many complex relationships with our Blackness, what Blackness could look like and who got to be Black in the first dang place. In islands like Trinidad where you have a more visible history of non-Black people of color (primarily Indian and Chinese) marrying and loving Black people, Blackness is complicated. And so is your understanding of where white supremacy fits in to the conversation. Because the people in power in Trinidad, in the Virgin Islands, in Jamaica… aren’t actually or typically white people. And yet, white supremacy thrives in these places to the point of harming people of color who live there.
Until this point, we have mainly discussed paintings, but they are not the only works of art that embody Korean history and traditions. That is not to suggest that works that inherit from tradition are always excluded from the list of artistic genres, but no list would be complete without the ceramics of Kwon Dae-sup. RM, who uploaded a picture of himself with one of Kwon’s moon jars in his arms on his social media, admiringly referred to Kwon as a master of Korean aesthetics while viewing his work s at an exhibition.
I have this absolutely irrational fear of museums that I will never address. As a result, I do a lot of my art-learning through art criticism and the flurry of coverage that comes whenever BTS’ RM goes to a new museum exhibit or purchases art (that he or the artist then posts about on social media). I’m super grateful for this piece by art critic Jangno Lee because it looks at the art RM has looked at and what he’s loved enough to purchase and then puts all that art into its contexts for a wider audience and reveals information on the techniques that many average fans who aren’t art nerds wouldn’t know. Now, I’m holding out for some uh… hip-hop focused content? Because I desperately need to know RM and Suga’s thoughts on M-net’s latest hip hop offerings and the general state of Korean hip hop… Just saying.
After all, it was a white woman feigning outrage (that she later admitted was a lie) that killed Emmet Till in the first place. But while white readers ordered so many books about white privilege during the summer of Black Lives Matter protests over the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that they created a shortage, the majority of books about women’s anger often depict all women’s anger as being equal, a force for good and never a tool used to silence and punish others; they largely ignore the slew of white women having meltdowns at the sight of non-white people having barbeques, enjoying swimming pools, or birdwatching that abound on the internet. Perhaps that’s because the idea that white women’s anger is, has been, and continues to be a source of terror for a lot of marginalized people is simply not something white women, even “good” white women who marched for Floyd and Taylor, are particularly interested in buying.
I think it’s been interesting how I have constantly been accused of anger – when I am at best mildly annoyed and deeply inconvenienced – by white people who are angry that I exist and that I write what I do.
Thankfully, one of my darling social media buddies set me on the right path and showed me what pleasure activism was actually all about. Beyond what that moomoo up there said, the idea of pleasure activism actually does work for me. It’s more aligned with the theorists and thinkers I’ve been consumed by since college than anything else.
And it does not actually support focusing on the redemption of a white man as pleasure activism. That’s not how that works. (But then, that day was when someone compared not wanting a Kylo redemption arc to supporting the carceral state so… that fandom is NOT okay.)
I came across this video thanks to one of my old mutuals on tumblr and I think it’s a pretty great overview of the way that shipping trends and fandom racism are often one in the same.
The video’s narrator, Moth, starts with a “Shipping 101” introduction for the uninitiated and then jumps right in. They focus on a couple of specific areas that I feel are important to take into consideration in fandom/as a fan:
The popularity of “unhealthy” non-canon ships with two white characters over “healthy” canon ships with one character of color being shipped with a white character (Moth uses “unhealthy” to refer to ships involving minors in sexual/romantic relationships with adults, incest, one character being a noted abuser in canon, that sort of thing.)
The excuses fans in fandom give for why they’re not racist for being almost solely invested in ships between white characters — especially white villains and the white characters fighting against them.
And the Star Wars’ fandom’s Rey/Kylo shippers and several of the racist excuses that some of the fans of the ship use to explain why they can’t find Finn a “worthy” partner for Rey (but insist on shipping her with someone who she calls a monster and can’t stand).
Obviously, this sort of video hits a lot of my buttons because these are things I talk about on my website. I think it’s a really insightful video that clearly lays out what fandom does, what characters are impacted the most, and why it’s a set of trends that is racist. Much of the video focuses primarily on the Star Wars fandom, but as I think that’s one of the most racist fandoms active right now… Obviously, I think that’s a great thing to zero in on.
So please, go to Moth’s video and let them know how much you appreciate their work and upvote the video (because folks that talk about race and racism in media or fandom definitely get the short end of the stick and tons of abuse from assholes who don’t seem to get that they’re just… proving that fandom is racist).
Joyful Reads is the brainchild of blogger Kristen Carter. A book subscription service in its infancy, Joyful Reads will serve the purpose of gettng diverse Young Adult literature into the hands of teenage and young adult readers.
This is a labor of love and an attempt at diversifying the very white landscape of book subscription boxes that I think has a lot of potential. I’ve been book buddies with Kristen for over a year and they’re pretty awesome!
Right now, the subscription service is set for a May 2017 launch.
You can support Kristen and Joyful Reads on her GoFundMe where you can find out more about the service, as her questions, and help her afford a website designer, social media manager, and shipping supplies for the first set of subscriptions.
(And if you can’t contribute financially but want to see Joyful Reads get off the ground to get diverse books into the hands of eager readers, you should always consider talking to Kristen and seeing if there are other ways that you can help her with this endeavor!)
To find out more about Kristen and Joyful Reads, visit the following webpages:
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