There's been some stuff going on in fandom, stuff about inherent prejudice and racism. Though it's difficult for me to be coherant about this topic, I'm going to try.ciderpress
made an amazing post here
, a really thoughtful, interesting post that I strongly encourage every one to read. S/he talks about defining racism and fandom reactions, resistance, and the thing that never fails to make me angry, arguments against. liviapenn also has an excellent post here
, wherein she talks about the actual phenomenon in SGA, this unconscious hand washing that is so predominant, and so incredibly frustrating. I strongly recommend both of these posts. Everyone in these sorts of arguments always starts by establishing their credentials, so I don't know if I should mention this, but Liviapenn is a white fan, and Ciderpress is a fan of colour. Interestingly, Ciderpress establishes this early on, whereas Liviapenn does not establish it at all.
And now I would like to establish my own credentials.
My mother-out-law sat with me one day, sipping her tea and despairing over her middle child; "I don't know," she said, "Why he's so racist. He didn't get that from us." "Yes, he did," I said, and she looked at me. "When you tell us stories from the hospital, it's always this Aboriginal boy
or this Chinese woman
, but it's never this Caucasian girl
," and she got very upset, and then very quiet. "Do you really think I'm racist?" she asked me, later. "No," I replied. "But everyone has their prejudices."
And they do.
My mother is Malaysian born Chinese. When she came to Australia she tried to improve her English; she was marked down because of her accent, and her place of birth. When we visit Malaysia, she gets a funny look, at the her Australian passport and her place of birth. When I used to get in trouble as a child, it was sometimes with a glare, and a "don't do that, only Malays eat with their hands." At dinner during CNY, discussion around the table turned to Malaysia, as it always does, and at the mention of the mosques my mother's face turned cold, and unkind. I know that talk of mosques and Islam has become a different thing now, but in my parents' house it remains the same: the intrusion of the Malays into Chinese lives, and the urge my mother felt to leave the country of her birth.
My mother believes that Singaporean born Chinese shopkeepers are misers and bitter; that old Caucasian Australians are racist and prejudiced; that Malays are insincere and dirty.
My mother has her prejudices, of course she does. I have mine, too.
As I said, my mother is Chinese. My father is Caucasian-Australian. When I fill in forms, I check the boxes marked Chinese
based on the purpose of the form; every time, my pen hovers over language spoken at home
, and I am torn. When I was ten, I realised that not everyone ate rice two or three meals a day, and it stunned me. I have been verbally abused in regards my race exactly once: I was thirteen, and he was a dumb shit at my high school. I was yelled at by an old Chinese dude when I was parking my car at my mechanic's; my mechanic's office manager was so affronted on my behalf: those things he said were terrible
, she said, and him your relative!
She meant it in the kindest way, I know she did, but the old man was Chinese, and so am I, and in her mind clearly we are relatives.
When I turn on the television, I see people with white/pink skin; when I read books, they are books about white/pink people. Now that I am grown, I make a conscious effort to read books by Chinese people, books about Chinese people, and I consciously look out for children's books, in English, about Chinese children, for my own (who do not yet exist). My thesis at university was on immigration from China and the Overseas Chinese; my pet topic, the thing that can get me talking and about which I may never stop, is the Chinese Diaspora.
A couple of weeks ago I asked for characters of Chinese descent
. Every comment I got filled me with such glee, such intense, awesome glee, because I got referred to all these texts with awesome Chinese characters in them, characters I could maybe relate to.
All of these things are to explain why, though I pick my favourite characters based on their actions and their words, I will make a special effort to learn about them if they are Chinese.
The prejudices of my mother and my father curl through my gut and through my heart and sometimes, I don't even notice them informing my decisions. But as Ciderpress says in the post to which I linked, it's often not a conscious choice, and it doesn't mean you can't be a good person.
I was going to list my own prejudices here, but then I realised that they are mine, and they're not things of which I'm proud, so I won't. It's enough that I know them, and that I am ashamed of them, and that I try to change them.
In conclusion, I'd like to reiterate that I think people should read Ciderpress' post, if nothing else, even if you've naught to do with it. Because you're a person, and you're prejudiced, whether you think you are or not. And all I'm asking is that you think about your prejudices, and how they affect the rest of us. Because some of us don't get a chance to not care, or be just like every one else; some of us have no choice.
Of course, sometimes I emphasise the difference myself, the decorations in my window at New Year and nattering away in Mandarin or Malay, and the little shiver of delight I feel when I hear strangers walking past speaking in Mandarin or Malay is indescribable.