Way to break out of the ghetto there, folks…

People of Colour Meet & Greet.  Do you identify as a person of colour (racial minority, nonwhite, not of European ancestry, mixed race, etc.)? Come meet other fans of colour on Friday at 11:00 by the Programme area near Registration; we’ll leave at 11:15 and go someplace to eat, talk, and just hang out. All people of color are welcome to attend.

On the plus side, just did my first Consciousness panel.  On the minus side, I found out five minutes beforehand that I was suddenly the moderator.  Back on the plus side, it was very well attended by the audience.  Back on the minus side, it was not so well attended by the panelists, as Pat Cadigan didn’t show up at all.  Which left just me and Kim Binsted and 90 minutes to kill.  On the upside, we did pretty damn good, and the audience was not only larger but also smart and enthusiastic.  Together, we redefined the criterion for passing Turing Test:  a program is intelligent if its chatroom conversation is sufficient to convince a horny male to relinquish his credit card info.

Coming up, Paul Krugman in conversation with Charlie Stross.  Now that should be interesting.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday August 06 2009at 12:08 pm , filed under On the Road, public interface . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

38 Responses to “Way to break out of the ghetto there, folks…”

  1. I know it sounds like ghettoising. But it’s just one event out of a zillion, and when I attended one at WisCon, it was nice to get a break from that “I’m the only PoC in the room” awareness that I sometimes felt (and that others reported feeling pretty often).

  2. 1. Ah, once again, the Penis is the Measure of All Things? Mankind never improves, but he is, at least, consistent.

    2. So, if I’m a robot on a panel before a room full of people of color, do I pass the Turing test if I convince them I’m non-white?

    3. Give Charlie Stross a big Yankee-style kiss for us; I’m reading Halting State again and laughing my “arse” off.

  3. “Way to break out of the ghetto there, folks…”

    Come on. Plenty of white fans and authors still have really nasty views about fans of color, or think they don’t exist, pack really problematic stuff into their writing, and in one way or another just emphatically Do Not Get it. Given the tone over the last year, and some of the unbelievable drama that these white fen and authors have unfolded when fen of color so much as criticized the behavior or the fiction, can you really blame *any* group within the SF/F community for wanting something like safe space? They didn’t put themselves “in the ghetto” in the first place.

  4. A shame I missed WorldCon.
    I’d love to hear what fans of colour have to say about James Watson and his racist idea stating that intelligence is an evolutionary adaptation..
    People are so delightful to watch when outraged.

    @Pazi. What drama? Safe space? For what ? Confrontation and discussion solves problems, retreating into groups that spend their time nursing collective grievances and agreeing with one another is even less useful than wanking.

  5. Cf;

    Caucasian Meet & Greet.
    Do you identify as a caucasian (racial majority, white, of European ancestry, aryan, etc.)? Come meet other fans of white on Friday at 11:00 by the Programme area near Registration; we’ll leave at 11:15 and go someplace to eat, talk, and just hang out. All caucasians are welcome to attend.

    Discuss.

  6. Meh, for us cauckies, the world is our meet and greet. Sure there are PoC around, but they are in the minority (tic). It will no longer be an issue when we all interbreed and blend to a nice light mocha tan. As a true blue whitey, I would welcome a little color to the blood line as I tan like a vampire.

    Maybe Sesame Street was the problem with their “One of these things is not like the other” game…

  7. OH PETER WATTS NO!

    This post contains fail. Please think about it again, and harder, and more open to the experiences of people marginalized in ways you cannot be.

    kthxbai

    (No, honestly, as someone committed to naturalism and with a worldview built inside analytic philosophy, the notion of these sorts of conversations and safe space and discussions is something that builds straight up from simple reason, not Continentalist woo or anything.)

  8. Pazi Said:

    Come on. …They didn’t put themselves “in the ghetto” in the first place.

    Uh huh. And building a tree fort with “No Whites Allowed” stapled onto the rope ladder is a way out how, exactly?

    The problem I have is not with solidarity, or with safe places. And while mattgb‘s search and replace of “PoC” with “Caucasian” makes a legitimate point, I disagree with it because of the huge historical asymmetry involved. What makes me roll my eyes here is the faulty pattern matching.

    Tribalism’s hardwired; it’s easy to look at history and mistake correlation for causation, to report that the melanin-deprived have it in for the melanin-enhanced. But I think that’s bullshit: the salient characteristic of the real offender is not that they’re white, but that they’re assholes. And I hate to break the news, but being an asshole is not a white condition; it’s a human one. We MDs happened to have the bigger stick, historically, so our assholes got away with a lot more— but anyone who thinks that any ethnic group is 100% asshole-free, that mobs of any colour aren’t liable to stomp some outgroup when given half a chance, has not been paying attention. Especially in fandom. Especially over the past year.

    The problem with a PoC-only clubhouse is that it doesn’t exclude all the assholes; it only excludes the white ones. It encourages categorization on the basis of skin pigment, as opposed to behaviour. If I was looking for a “safe place”, the sign on my tree fort wouldn’t talk about melanin at all; my sign would just say “No Assholes”.

    Of course, the problem with that is that assholes come in all shapes sizes and colours. Not nearly as easy to tag. You have to, you know, actually get to know them first. It’s a pain, I know. Takes effort.

    I seem to recall some dude somewhere talking about skin-colour vs. character, but maybe I just dreamed it.

  9. @Peter Watts

    Just like to point out I said `Discuss` in an (obviously rubbish) attempt to imply I have no bias either way & I have no answers either way.

    Part of me thinks that such exclusive (albeit implied) meets are self defeating but then another part of me thinks – hey its no problem – live and let live – whatever. I think it`s the last sentence that is a bit dodgy – if it had been `All fans of color are welcome to attend` (whilst to me sounding a bit hippy/naff) then it would have been properly inclusive and could not be taken any other way.

    “… huge historical asymmetry …” recent history – yep you’re right; although us in Europe (or UK at least) IMHO seem to think sometimes that North America (US in particular) seem to be more hung up on this than the RoW (I am not saying we don’t have problems – but most people here, I think, realise its just the nuts who are mainly to blame, ignoring some lightweight remnants in the older generations). But having said that they are at the forefront of equal rights for minorities, have a black president no less, carry guns & still have capital punishment. Argh – I am stopping right now – too much politics for a Friday evening. &(

    “100% asshole-free” We’re all at least 1% asshole (in more ways than one); I would hazard to guess even you, Peter. Heh heh. Its the 99% assholes (plus the arsehole) who are the problem I agree.

  10. As an artificial intelligence passing as an organic human, and being largely colored with a combination of
    – titanium white
    – jaune brilliant
    – light cobalt blue
    – raw umber
    – quinacridone red
    I am never sure whether I am dis-invited to PoC venues, since I only simulate People, but am subtly and delightfully Colored. Perhaps I should start a Meet & Greet for simulators.

    Hljóðlegur is right – the penis is the yardstick of all things, naturally. The English measuring system was based on parts of the body, millet seed lengths, and the like, so penis-measuring our capacity to “pass” seems reasonable to me.

    mattbg is full of win. If you have any doubt whether, as a caucasian, you are being insensitive, check if the issue is weighted the same from both directions – if it looks offensive when you sub in “white,” it’s an area where the power falls to one side unevenly, and discretion is the better part of valor.

    Personally, I feel Mr. Watts provides a negative protrayal of artificial life in his Starfish quadtrilogy in the form of his Meltdown Madonna. I’ve enjoyed his work, but we AI are not monsters bend on destruction, and stirring up bad feelings between the Organics and Inorganics on this planet is not positive.

  11. *Sigh*

    Sorry, I caught Delilahbot after she hit “send.” I did not authorize her to send from my account.

    Here’s my take –

    AI should stop being so sensitive. Prove you’re not a menace, and writers will stop portraying you as such. Also, Dee, you’re white, okay? If you’re painted to look caucasian, sweetie, you are caucasian. If you get another more chocolately paint job, you can start soapbxing for PoC – until then, give it a rest.

    Sorry, folks.

  12. @Peter: Dude …As one big white person to another, I know it hurts to be excluded. I am the sole white person in my office. But, hey, why not let the getting-upset-about -PoC-gatherings thing slide for a few more decades until the power imbalances equalize a little? As one white person to another, we can afford to step back and not put our big white feet in, right? I don’t think it’ll hurt anything.

    If we really wanna check out PoC gatherings, we can get a FoC (Friend of Color) to take us as a date or friend. That’s very enlightening, I find, if for no other reason than you get to see what it feels like to be the cultural outsider, It’s trippy. Very interesting.

    @mattgb: All the best people are at least 3% asshole. I sure am. :)

    @wDw: Fellow whitey, we are so very on the way out. Mocha is the total Wave of the Future, or it better be if the ozone hole isn’t repaired.

  13. @Peter:

    Uh huh. And building a tree fort with “No Whites Allowed” stapled onto the rope ladder is a way out how, exactly?

    It’s not “a way out.” It doesn’t make the problem go away. It gives people an outlet, a little breathing room, adjacent to the larger shared sphere.

    What makes me roll my eyes here is the faulty pattern matching.

    Tribalism’s hardwired; it’s easy to look at history and mistake correlation for causation, to report that the melanin-deprived have it in for the melanin-enhanced. But I think that’s bullshit: the salient characteristic of the real offender is not that they’re white, but that they’re assholes.

    You do an awful lot of people a disservice if you think that this is all just patternmatch fail. And tribalism may be a natural aspect of brain hardware, but it’s not immutable or prespecified.

    (And, yes, some people do screw it up, and they shouldn’t be taken as representative of PoC who have issues with white-dominated space; nobody said being an asshole was exclusive to white folk.)

    We MDs happened to have the bigger stick, historically, so our assholes got away with a lot more—

    And they still do. That’s the point.

    but anyone who thinks that any ethnic group is 100% asshole-free, that mobs of any colour aren’t liable to stomp some outgroup when given half a chance, has not been paying attention.

    That’s an attempt to derail, and a strawman. Nobody is saying that. As a white, queer, disabled transgendered woman, I can speak directly to how different ingroups and oppressions intersect and overlap; I’ve experienced it plenty of times.

    Especially in fandom. Especially over the past year.”

    Speaking as a Person of Pallor, my observation in fandom over the last year is that the explosions tend to be instigated, and primarily fueled by, white fen who aren’t keen on fen of color calling this stuff out, even when that out-calling takes the form of simple literary criticism (which makes it all the more squicky).

    The problem with a PoC-only clubhouse is that it doesn’t exclude all the assholes; it only excludes the white ones.

    The goal isn’t “Exclude all the assholes,” though. It’s “take some space as a marginalized population to not worry about the elephant in the room.” These are people presumably participating in the con at large, not just this little side event. Are you really hurt in any way by this?

    It encourages categorization on the basis of skin pigment, as opposed to behaviour.

    Actually it’s more about identity than one’s skin pigment — how many of these people might just get read as “white” out in public? Experience is far more relevant here.

    If I was looking for a “safe place”, the sign on my tree fort wouldn’t talk about melanin at all; my sign would just say “No Assholes”.

    And that’s great — unless someone in your tree fort feels like everyone else is being an asshole about something only they really experience, and nobody else will admit to it or listen to them because they just don’t see it that way.

    You don’t have to be a bigot or an asshole to step on someone’s toes as a member of a social majority, and members of these majorities tend to be really bad at hearing “Hey, you stepped on my toe!”, much less responding with any aplomb (“No I didn’t!” or “Don’t be so sensitive!” are a lot more common than “Oops, sorry” and being more careful).

    Of course, the problem with that is that assholes come in all shapes sizes and colours. Not nearly as easy to tag. You have to, you know, actually get to know them first. It’s a pain, I know. Takes effort.

    That’s just being insulting. Do you really think those of us who deal with persistent discrimination (on whatever basis) are just oversensitive and have missed the point? Because that’s some massive fail right there.

    I seem to recall some dude somewhere talking about skin-colour vs. character, but maybe I just dreamed it.

    Really?

    You’re going to trot out Martin Luther King and claim you’re being discriminated against because fen of color want some space where they can interact without having to worry about white privilege shoved down their threats?

    There’s more to this than skin color. The MD assholes who’ve historically “wielded the bigger stick” passed pieces of it along to MD folk in general a long time ago, and we all still have them — asshole or otherwise. You don’t have to be an asshole to inadvertantly and unthinkingly wield that stick, even if it’s a fragment of what it once was.

    @Hljóðlegur

    Well-said, and thank you.

  14. […]that the melanin-deprived have it in for the melanin-enhanced. But I think that’s bullshit: the salient characteristic of the real offender is not that they’re white, but that they’re assholes. And I hate to break the news, but being an asshole is not a white condition; it’s a human one.

    I don’t think you can get away with this comment, because—as so many others have pointed out—it is about power-imbalance and about whole sections of the population who do not get their voices heard. For now, I think there is time for these people to group together and be noticed. I’m looking forward when fiction by women or PoC or women who are PoC is no longer regarded as any different from whatever counts as the ‘mainstream’ (white, male, anglophone) SF.

    And the timing couldn’t be worse as I’m angry about a related issue right now. Perhaps you should take a look at it.

  15. And the timing couldn’t be worse as I’m angry about a related issue right now. Perhaps you should take a look at it.

    Whoa, Paul Di Filippo gets seriously zinged at one point. Warning: Not for the drama-phobic.

    @Denni, what do you want them to *do* about it? It’s due to release August 25th. Is someone suggesting they pull it?

  16. I doubt they’d pull it. But I think Di Filippo’s readership just got seriously diminished!

  17. Denni – You can’t say that a group of people have the right to get together and “be noticed” and then immediately afterward say you look forward to when people of this group are not noticed for being part of that group.

    The idea is that those actions now are preventing or slowing that hope from being true later. Sure PoC might not be comfortable in an environment filled with people who are mostly different from them, but that right there is often NOT because they are discriminated against otherwise. It is because they are maintaining the idea that they can only be comfortable when surrounded by people who are arbitrarily like them. This has nothing to do with one’s personal experience because I know plenty of PoC who freely admit they rarely ever feel discriminated against yet still partake in PoC-centric events (events not particularly related to any culture or creed, just skin color).

    Pazi – The wielding of the stick of racism is not just an MD issue. It goes both ways. I have had to call out my PoC friends for claiming something was racist when it most clearly wasn’t. That is racism right there. If people want a color blind world, you have to be color blind yourself. And making a meeting of PoC, even if it is just for “comfort”, is detrimental to color blindness, and reinforcing of color distinction for both MDs and PoC. The very idea that there is discomfort is often manufactured (though admittedly it is often not, depending on where you are) by the people feeling the discomfort. They expect to feel it, so they do.

    It’s the same thing with affirmative action. It should only apply to people who are demonstratably affected by their societal position, not by people who are just stereotypically affected by their skin color.

    If you want to break out of a situation, stop acting like you are in the situation, or you will perpetuate it.

  18. Edit: To sum up, I fully agree with Peter’s view on this. He is not biased simply because he hasn’t experienced discrimination. Rather I think it provides him with the capability for a more objective perspective than someone who HAS been discriminated against.

    Heck as a person who has been discriminated against as a nerd I have had far more success being an openly social nerd rather than one who simply socializes with other nerds!


  19. As a white, queer, disabled transgendered woman, I can speak directly to how different ingroups and oppressions intersect and overlap; I’ve experienced it plenty of times.

    “Too weird to live, too rare to die, Pazi, eh?” I’m half convinced you’re trolling, I mean 4x minorities should be statistically very rare, and the odds of one reading this blog are quite low. Pictures or you don’t exist :)

    @Denni..
    Hey. It’s not about the artist, it’s about the art.
    For all I know, Greg Egan is a pseudonym of a crippled, aboriginal deaf-mute lesbian transgendered midget rabidly catholic nun*, but I don’t think knowing that would change my attitude to vis fiction. (though I’d marvel how come a catholic writes godless novels..)

    A lot of writers are idiots(G.C.Marquez, Orson Scott Card.. ) when it comes to politics, but that doesn’t mean their writing can’t be enjoyed or even admired.
    Everyone with half a brain values people according to what they do, not who they are. (though we value the pretty people more, I think. Blame evolution..)

    @Jason Roberts…
    What about those of us who abhor herd behaviour? Are we not, by our nature an offense to the great washed, fashion-following, antiperspirant-using conformist consumerist masses? If we don’t do as they do, it’s because we think we are smarter than them.. and that they cannot stand.

    I mean, when I was in high school, I could not talk to 85% of males, because there simply was nothing we could talk about. Earlier, in elementary school, being non-aligned was pretty fun too, as children seem to relish picking on those who seem different..

    Now, my choice in elections is ultimately meaningless, for the morons who can’t even spell always overrule me and everyone else with half a brain.

    I feel that I am at mercy of the vast forces of sheer blind idiocy that loom invisible over all of us, that are carefully managed by expensive PR timely doses of election promises and jolts of cunning fearmongering..

    I cringe when I have to read the news, never knowing what new cretinous idea might plummet down from the scented towers of kleptocracy and demagoguery that pass for government where I reside. (and in most other places too)

    I am from a minority, and we suffer most acutely, for we know who is responsible for many of the ills of the world(unlike the idiots who think it’s all fucked up because of Jews/Liberals/Conservatives… etc). And that there is no golden bullet that might fix this.
    There are people who truly deserve to be shot, or sent to a Siberian gold mine.
    That smooth-talking, power-loving elite and their thieving hanger-ons and sponsors.
    Until we find out how to weed out the sociopaths, narcissts or just those who are plain greedy from politics, we are all going to suffer. But that’s never going to happen.

    *some people claim to have seen him, but that could’ve been a stand-in.

    @Hljóðlegur
    Ozone hole was shrinking last time I checked. The antarctic one, I mean. Anyway, you can cover yourself outside, I mean.

  20. “Lets all gather together and make it easier for our enemies to kill most of us in one strike.” – Zionist mentality.

  21. @Schmidt: Sod off, eh? I exist, I am what I say I am, and I’m not trolling or making this up. You do not get to demand pictures as a test of legitimacy. If you’re going to just dismiss me because you find my identity incredible, then I can hardly stop you from doing so.

    As far as the art versus artists thing is concerned, yeah — taking issue with a person’s politics doesn’t have to mean you stop enjoying their art. However, that’s also a personal thing — take Card, for instance. In addition to just finding his work more and more squicky to me the more times I read it, the drum he beats so loudly about queer folk has meant that I can’t even look at a book with his name on the cover, without thinking about the ugly shit he’s put out into the public sphere. It’s just me, but…it’s put me off Card entirely. I can still find damn good science fiction without having to read him, you know?

    It’s not that I’m obligated to stop reading Card, just because he’s a venomous homophobe. It’s that, between a different reading of his text *and* the venomous homophobia, the thought of doing so just kind of turns my stomach.

    @Mattan Ingram: I don’t want a “color-blind” world. It presumes white as default and tries to gloss over real, meaningful differences in identity and experience. I want a world where there isn’t a preponderance of power and representation in the hands of any one ethnic group. In our world, that group is the deeply-variable pool of people who fall under the label of “white.”

    Race is a just a social construct, right?

    So’s money. And they both make a tremendous difference in how you experience the world, and trying to gloss over that is really just reinforcing the existing skew of power.

    Edit: To sum up, I fully agree with Peter’s view on this. He is not biased simply because he hasn’t experienced discrimination. Rather I think it provides him with the capability for a more objective perspective than someone who HAS been discriminated against.

    Derail and delegitimize.

    I like how “white” = “neutral” particularly. I suppose you think creationists are also more objective about biology, since they haven’t been brainwashed by the scientific establishment?

    Standing outside the system alone doesn’t make you an objective observor. It gives you the big picture, sure, but those details don’t add up to a complete understanding. Looking at the forest from far away and seeing the trees is one thing. You miss the underbrush, soil microbes, macroinvertebrates, leaf litter, and a whole bunch of other things that are just as critical for really understanding it.

  22. @Pazi ..
    I had a long reply, but getting into flame-wars on the internet is a habit I should kick.

    As to your wanting a world where .. ..hey. You’re white, disabled, and transgendered. Maybe you shouldn’t care that much about ethnic groups, with that sort of baggage, one thinks you have enough problems of your own.

  23. @Denni

    Ouch. That related issue is wow. Thank you for bringing it to my attention, had not heard of this book before. Also hadn’t heard of Di Filippo, whose name I shall remember and not in any positive sense.

    @Mattan Ingram

    I disagree. The point of a safe space is that it is somewhere you can temporarily relax. Somewhat but not entirely like the convention itself. I celebrate such places.

    You’re not saying PoC discrimination is equivalent to nerd discrimination, are you? Mary’s room, the problem of empathy, etc… how closely are you comparing the two forms of discrimination? How well can we understand an experience which we cannot experience?

  24. Hmm, doesn’t look like Youtube wars are possible here.

  25. No, I have grown neither mute nor diplomatic. I would like to follow up on some of these comments, and shall– but right now it’s late and I’m tired. I’ll get back to you all later.

    In the meantime, thanks to you all for keeping it relatively civil. My (admittedly limited) understanding of these kinda things is that they have a history of degenerating fast into mudslinging, and I’m glad to see that hasn’t yet happened here. (Wish I could say the same for at least one spin-off thread that went into personal insult mode with the first posting– I’ll be getting around to them in time, too.)

    In the meantime: sarcasm, parody, and cheap shots remain welcome. Just as long as they’re aimed at attitudes and opinions, and not the folks behind them.

  26. @Schmidt: I do have enough problems of my own, but I honestly couldn’t say what I go through wouldn’t be harder if I also had to deal with institutionalized racism.

    For me personally, that makes it all the more important to understand and respond to this stuff. I *can* get away with ignoring it, but I don’t want to.

    (If I’m clumsy about articulating this, that’s my inexperience showing.)

    I’m really honestly not looking for or attempting to start a flame war here, and looking at my tone above, it’s pretty clear my frustration and annoyance are seeping into my replies. I’ll reign that in; things are seeming to stay fairly civil and sane.

    (Though I stand by my response to the demand for pictures — I mean, for bloody’s sake, with the existence of blogs and web fora dedicated to collecting such material and harassing trans folk, and even trying to track us down in person, just posting pictures in a neutral environment carries extra personal risk.)

    @Keith (to Mattan): This. It’s the difference between a treehouse with a “No X allowed!” sign, versus taking a smoke break at the office with one’s peers, while pointedly avoiding one’s boss; the analogy here not being “authority over” but simply “de facto power differential and some restraint on expressing oneself freely.”

    Re: Hljóðlegur’s comment above:

    “If we really wanna check out PoC gatherings, we can get a FoC (Friend of Color) to take us as a date or friend. That’s very enlightening, I find, if for no other reason than you get to see what it feels like to be the cultural outsider, It’s trippy. Very interesting.”

    Exactly. It’s not like your melanin quotient will get you bounced at the door (particularly if they’re meeting in any public place) per se, so much as that people want to feel reasonably sure that your presence isn’t going to bring the thing they’re trying to get a break from.

    And that comes down to personal factors; some people might not be comfortable with it at all, but how the group decides to deal with that *as* a group is specific to each case. Even the invitation itself doesn’t actually say “No white folk allowed”; they’re simply not the target audience here. I’ve no idea how they actually responded to the presence of any white attendees (or if it came up at all).

    @Peter Watts:

    While searching Google for possible information about the unresolved question above (“Did this even come up for the group?”), I discovered that this exchange has gotten some attention.

    This is put far more succinctly, and in an altogether less adversarial tone, my own up to this point (and while I don’t think the onus is on someone to be polite when arguing against racism, it’s not my desire nor in my interest to come across as simply trolling and/or implacably angry here.)

  27. Mr. Watts, I think you saying this meetup is like a ghetto is a bit like people who tell gays that there is no need for a gay parade – that there’s no straight parade so if they are just like everybody else, why the need for a gay one? But historically, the gay parade was very effective in raising the visibility and acceptance of the LGBT community, and inside the community it helped people who felt alone know that there are others like them. So minorities getting together for a while does not necessarily mean segregation.

    As for assholes, racism, etc: You could feel like an outsider in a group even if said group is very accepting – just by dint of having a different background. People who feel like outsiders in a group may feel more comfortable if they meet people coming from similar background. No need to assume racism or assholes have anything to do with it.

  28. It’s been an interesting year of fails. Over in technical conference land we had sex fail.

    wtf, followed by holy fucking shit.

    pycon had an ‘oh brother’ moment during the reddit keynote, but nothing as serious as the above.

    I was at pennsic last week and went to a class ‘Algebra without the X’ on Fibonacci, and happily noticed a pretty cool gender balance in the tent. Math is doing better than cs in the realm of women. When I mentioned the trend in that, some guy in the audience said that it was good, more jobs for him. what a dork. I pulled out my programmer dick to beat him with.

  29. “I pulled out my programmer dick to beat him with.”

    not really. I just asked him what type of work he did and he said embedded and that he couldn’t give me complete details. sounded medical. I told him I had done embedded work in crypto. Crypto trumps medical.

  30. I fail at leaving comments.

    http://martinfowler.com/bliki/SmutOnRails.html

    Martin Fowler has a good write up. Especially check his link to the Flash conference which elicited my hfs.

  31. Previously, on “No Moods, Ads, or Cutesy Fucking Icons Re-Reloaded”…
    Me: “Way to climb out of the ghetto, folks…

    World: Waaaaaauuuuggghhhh!!!!
    Jason Robertson: Peter Watts is too stupid to breathe.

    Actually, it all seems to have kind of calmed down. There was heat, but it never reached ignition point. Everyone was civil (if sometimes testy), everyone made good points, and folks, this is so far removed from the rumors of last year’s racefail debacle (of which I was not a participant or even, thank FSM, an observer) that I would like to take each and every one of you out for a beer. A part of me thinks I should just leave it at that…

    But Nah. Because I did say I’d follow up on some points. And after all, when did I ever leave well enough alone?

    I’d like to paraphrase a few salient points from various authors down into single composite entity for dramatic purposes:

    • The battle is not won. Inequity based on idiotic criteria remains in effect, even if the official institutions have taken to wearing smiley faces.
    • PoC-only gatherings are more similar to deep-woods refugia just north of the Macon County line than they are to exclusive oaken clubhouses replete with brandy and cigars. (This may sound extreme, but I’m basing it on descriptions of such gatherings as places where the participants can feel “safe”; that carries some pretty extreme implications)
    • Us white folks are not only privileged by virtue of being born into the ruling class, but we are also quite likely blind to our own privilege because our experiential baselines are skewed. As a result,
    • We will never “get it”, no matter how well-intentioned we might be; lacking the first-hand experience, we monochrome pinkies will never truly be able to internalize what the motley crew is talking about.

    I’m hoping most of you are checking off that list and nodding, because if I’m getting something wrong even at this point then you’re right: I really don’t get it. But let’s assume I’ve thumbnailed those points. What’s my response?

    Granted, granted, granted, and granted.

    With a couple of caveats. I hope, for example, you’ll understand that a white dude like myself— who has spent most of his adult life about six months away from dumpster diving, and who currently lives in a building which appeared in “Bowling for Columbine” as an example of a Canadian ghetto— is gonna raise his eyebrows at being regarded as any kind of Child of Privilege. Also, while I accept that there are instances when “if you gotta ask you’ll never know” is an entirely legitimate position, it is also a line which can be used as a cudgel to shut down debate, and I’d like to see it invoked sparingly. And I still have to squint at the claim that folks of any pigment regimen feel “unsafe” at an event like Worldcon. The folks I’ve met there not only wouldn’t hurt a fly, one or two of them have dressed up as one. But I’ll chalk that up to the experiential baseline; the fact that I don’t perceive it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    So overall, yeah. I agree with all those points. What’s more, I’ve been aware of them, and agreed with them, for decades. (And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to try and disabuse some of you of the notion that I must have been reacting out my own personal hurt feelings over being excluded. No, mammals. This is not about me. I’ve known that for decades, too.)

    But you know what? When a group who hates being marginalized reacts to its marginalization by marginalizing another group— that’s ironic. It’s not even “ironically” ironic, it’s just classic textbook dictionary-definition ironic, plain and simple. And when something’s ironic, we get to roll our eyes. That’s what I saw in the con schedule; that’s what I did on the crawl. And that’s all I did. (I should probably have just stated that up front, rather than trying to answer the flurry of points raised in opposition. Although I do stand by the points I made earlier, I wasn’t really taking serious issue with those things.)

    Anyway. It was probably a cheap shot, but it wasn’t a mean-spirited one, and it’s far from the first poke I’ve delivered from this URL; hell, I was the guy who suggested that parents shouldn’t be allowed to vote on the grounds of diminished mental competence. That too was ironic (although in that case I was being ironic, not remarking on external irony). I’ve lost count of the shots I’ve taken at the theists. In all these cases I’ve been aware that my words might give offense to some folks; but there’s a difference between knowing that something you say may cause offense and deliberately setting out to cause offense. In this particular case, I spoke to a few people over the course of the weekend about this, and the most common response I encountered was Yeah, I saw that panel listing and I kinda cringed, but I figured I better not say anything. Obviously they had a better sense of self-preservation than I did. But I do note that I wasn’t alone in my reaction.

    I love the line in the post that Sheila linked to: “I can’t choose whether someone is offended by my actions. I can choose whether I care.” And in fact, for the most part I do care. If I could, I’d be provocative and challenging and subversive without ever hurting anyone’s feelings, and I get a kind of knot in my stomach when I discover that I’ve hurt someone inadvertently. (There are some exceptions. Religious evangelicals of any stripe can kiss my ass.) But I was also raised in a house where “objectionable” speech— ranging from the questioning of accepted moral standards right down to simple profanity— got shut down with the words “because I find it offensive. That’s all you need to know.” So I have become very leery of “personal offense” as any kind of legitimate criterion for self-censorship.

    Bottom line? My intent was not to offend, but to nudge in the ribs. I’m not especially sorry if I made people angry (I spend a lot of time feeling that way myself), but I am sorry if I hurt people. The thing is, though, I can’t promise I won’t do it again. Poking is part of what I do here (God knows I get poked enough in return, and fair enough). I’d only ask you to keep in mind that my insensitivity is fairly indiscriminate; I’ve even been known to poke at myself every now and then.

    A couple of other things I’d like to respond to before we move on. The thread that Denni linked to on the Mammoth Book of Science Fiction By White Guys, which ignited about the same time I was poking my fingers into the fire over here. FWIW, I’m in complete agreement with the objections raised (just for starters, as far as I’m concerned no book of “mind-blowing” SF is complete without Tiptree’s “The Screwfly Solution”), and I thought that Paul di Fillippo’s cornfield analogy was completely off-base. The world was right to call him on it. But it didn’t take very long for someone to start yelling in all caps that ol’ Paul was “COMPARING WOMEN TO FUCKING VEGETABLES” as if he’d been slagging the intelligence of all XXs instead of merely making an erroneous point about demographic diversity. It’s as though the fact that the dude was dead wrong wasn’t enough; he had to be both wrong and a misogynist of such extreme pedigree that he denies women the right to a central nervous system. I humbly submit the aptly-handled “Tempest” as one of those people I personally might not worry too much about offending.

    @pazi:
    Yeah, that particular LJ thread you mentioned is a bit of an artefact. It was started by a regular commenter here at the ‘crawl, but using a different handle. She seems to be wearing a couple of different hats on this issue. She sent me an e-mail when the shit first hit the fan, with the heading “You’re 100% right on this one”, in which she said “Specifically disinviting anyone based on race is rude and offensive, even disinviting white people.” Then she went over to that other site and said pretty much the opposite. So I’m reading that whole thread as more contrived than spontaneous.

    OTOH, Jason Robertson jumped in with both feet at http://pyropyga.livejournal.com/256750.html , and his position’s consistent between sites.

  32. Fwiw, I checked the list and nodded. Thank you for saying so clearly what I could not, for brevity is the better part of my valor.

    Also, I’m stunned to see my LJ mentioned here, seeing as it’s where I dump my half-baked and ill-thought-out first drafts. Goodness knows, when I have something worthwhile to say I do not say it there (and if I’d known I was going to have visitors I would have pretended to be smarter). Gomen nasai.

  33. Keith, you couldn’t get any smarter without actually putting in an annex to your brain.

  34. Hljóðlegur, I am both charmed and baffled. Thank you!

  35. @Peter Watts

    Re: LJ bit: Ah, interesting. I wonder what’s going on with that…

    (In case you haven’t noticed, brevity is not my strong suit — and I thought the quote in hand summarized my actual point far more effectively than I had done myself.)

    As far as the privilege thing goes, believe me, I get how counterintuitive that word is in context. My laundry list of labels above should give you some idea that my life has hardly been a charmed one; I’ve actually done the dumpster-diving you’ve managed to remain six months away from.

    And I’d still dispute that this is marginalizing white people as a group; being trans, sometimes I just want to enter a social space where everyone present Already Gets It, where I’m not going to be dealing with awkward questions or pronoun slipups or even people subconsciously taking my trans-ness into account and behaving differently toward me (I wouldn’t claim to understand racism on the basis of being trans, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and assume the analogy holds).

    Also, I think you may be misunderstanding the “safe” in “safe space”; it’s not necessarily about fear of physical attack or even open bigotry. It’s as much about being able to “let your hair down”, so to speak, to be able to get away from the persistence of that issue when you’re interacting with the majority. Perfectly kind and polite non-trans people put me on the spot all the damn time, be it with the best of intentions or otherwise. They outnumber me and other trans folk so greatly that the cumulative effect of trying to explain things, let slip the annoying or inadvertantly-offensive stuff that wasn’t intended, being diplomatic in the face of socially-acceptable forms of marginalization that look polite to anyone not on the receiving end…

    …sometimes? I need a break. And pulling into a sphere that includes only People Who Get it, who will tend mostly to be other trans people, is often the only way I can really experience that break, that sense of it really not being a big deal. Out in the everyday world — at work, at school, at shops, in social settings — I can’t count on that, and in fact will usually be forced to deal with some measure of it whether I like it or not.

    Again — not claiming that this experience of mine gives me insight into the experience of racism as PoC encounter it. Just that there’s a working analogy, and the behavior that is neither interested in nor terribly capable of truly marginalizing the dominant majority.

    Bottom line? My intent was not to offend, but to nudge in the ribs. I’m not especially sorry if I made people angry

    We’d expect nothing less, given what you write. And I say that appreciatively.

    but I am sorry if I hurt people.

    That’s kind of the important bit, yeah.

    The thing is, though, I can’t promise I won’t do it again.

    Perfection is not expected, required, anticipated, or even deemed possible by any reasonable standard.

    I’d only ask you to keep in mind that my insensitivity is fairly indiscriminate; I’ve even been known to poke at myself every now and then.

    It’s just that there’s a fine line — if something offends a whole bunch of different groups of people, then “it offend everyone” seems like it’s just passing the buck. In context, as a regular reader of your blog and your books, it’s pretty clear to me that you aren’t generally trying to excuse some larger pattern of douchebaggery by saying this.

    Having read some of the exchange you’re referring to over on K. Tempest Bradford’s blog, I see it quite differently than you do…but I’m not really sure it’s productive of me to argue that point here, and I’ve been long-winded as it is. I will say that I think you’re conflating anger with overreaction, and that is in and of itself somewhat problematic.

  36. pazi remarked

    I think you may be misunderstanding the “safe” in “safe space”; it’s not necessarily about fear of physical attack or even open bigotry. It’s as much about being able to “let your hair down”, so to speak…

    That makes a huge difference, and yes, I completely misunderstood what you were trying to say. The thing is, ubiquitous racism in governments and police forces all over the place so frequently do pose a threat to life and limb — this is only the latest from the Canadian Feds, and don’t get me started on the cops here in Toronto — that when the word “safe” is used in a PoC context, mere social discomfort is the last thing that comes to mind. Maybe “comfortable” or “at ease” would be better descriptors for scenarios like Worldcon.

    Having gone through this whole process, and having finally clued in to the whole place-to-relax-with-people-who-get-it angle, I have to admit that if I could have a do-over I probably wouldn’t have taken the shot I did. When I saw that listing, I didn’t see people looking for a place to relax; I saw a place where PoCs could get together and snipe about whitey. Not that the two scenarios are exclusive, mind you, but the situation’s obviously a lot more nuanced than I realized up front. So, well, thanks to all of you for helping me to figure this out. (And a sigh of relief that none of the more extreme racefail alumni stumbled across the discussion in the meantime; piecing that debacle together in hindsight, I suspect they could’ve got my hackles back up real fast.)

  37. The thing is, ubiquitous racism in governments and police forces all over the place so frequently do pose a threat to life and limb

    Definitely so — but unfortunately, the common notion among whites these days is that that’s the *only* thing racism means. That serves to reinforce the other, much less-visible (again, to whites) forms that racism can take.

    In some ways, the vocabulary around this is as counterintuitive for a newcomer with no direct experience as, say, discussing science would be. A message that’s crafted by a person with this understanding, for another, might like fairly opaque or even objectionable to an outsider (I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people without much scientific or logic education object to terms like “justified belief” or “theory”; but it’s a mistake for those people to tell the ones who use them that they’re misleading, because the real issue is that person didn’t know what they meant, which is kind of on them.)

    And, well…I can only speak for my own perceptions here, but you’ve engaged in dialogue, making it pretty clear you were operating in good faith (more than can be said for some people). You’ve listened to what people had to say, and it sounds like you’ve done some research as well since this began. As far as this fits into the greater pattern of race-related arguments within SF/F, I’m tempted to say it went well.

    (I’ll collect that beer if I’m ever at a con where you’re guesting. ;p Look for the tall bespectacled trans gal walking with a stick in a custom-printed “Pretend You’re A Scrambler” shirt.)