The second controversy — even more recent — involves a screed filled with unabashed racism written by one of SFWA’s members that was, inconceivably, signal boosted on the organization’s twitter feed. I haven’t read about an official organizational response, though the outgoing president of the organization called for people to make donations to the Carl Brandon Society (which fosters and supports SFF writers of color) and Con or Bust (which offers grants so that writers and readers of color can attend a SFF convention). From all accounts the call elicited a wide response and a good amount of money was raised.
Here’s the thing: I am not surprised by the racist rant, I am surprised by how startled many SFF writers have been by it.
|Sebastien de la Cruz|
Like me, the vast majority of SFF writers of color — no matter their dayjobs — are used to noticing the systemic and endemic racism and ethnic prejudice expressed in our society at large on a daily basis. In the choice of which schools to close in Chicago and Philadelphia; in the efforts to institute voter ID and national biometric IDs; in challenges to affirmative action; in national and state budget cuts that kill food programs or make college educations even less affordable to the children of lower-income people of color; in instance after instance of violence against Latinos like Marcelo Lucero and Luis Ramirez, and African-Americans like Trayvon Martin, just because they were walking on streets where they were perceived not to belong.
I’m fairly confident that, also like me, those other SFF writers of color were unsurprised by the language, the vitriol and disgusting sentiments Theodore Beale expressed about NK Jemisin because the SFF world isn’t different than society at large. We walk the streets of a gated community, even in SFF. Maybe — on bad days — particularly in SFF.
So the shock, the stunned disbelief that has been expressed in wake of Beale’s screed? It is a good thing, I think. Good that people are articulating how abhorrent they find expressions of racism. Good that they feel strongly enough to sign on to efforts to curtail it from within the membership of SFWA.
But it’s also easy. It is one instance to be decried; one kook that can be dismissed and hopefully expelled from SFWA; one push to raise money for the Carl Brandon Society.
The hard stuff comes with opening our eyes and seeing that we are blind to, or complicit in, less obvious forms of racism — the everyday kind. The harder stuff is in recognizing the circumstances and instances when we let racism pass unremarked and unfought. The hardest stuff is in understanding that this isn't the work of one blog post or a hundred, but of a lifetime.