August 9th, 2008

white privilege

Lazy IBARW

Thanks to sparkymonster and altfriday5 for providing me with fodder for Blog Against Racism week.

1. List 5 things which are basic common knowledge in your culture, which people outside are unfamiliar with. This is not about obscurity, but something everyday to you, that others go "bzuh?" at.
Hm. First I would have to know what my culture is. I was raised in Michigan as a WASP, which means that a lot of my culture of origin is pretty mainstream and people in other cultures, at least in the US, are expected to know about it. In order to get to things that others go "bzuh" about, I need to talk about subcultures that I now belong to - queer, poly, fat activist, SF fandom, geek.
--Queer: Most queer people I know are conversant with the terms "butch" and "femme," although there's certainly little agreement what the terms mean. Many folks who don't know much about the queer community don't understand those terms.
--Poly: The concept of polyamory is not really known in the mainstream. The part of it that mainstream people seem to have the hardest time with is the part where people actually know about each other's other partners, rather than the multiple relationships being kept hidden.
--Fat activist: We call ourselves fat because it is descriptive and we consider the terms overweight and obese to be offensive or misleading. People outside this subculture are confused because they think "fat" is offensive and the other terms are "kinder."
--SF fandom: In this subculture, it is considered polite and appropriate in conversation to correct another person's mistake. In mainstream culture, a lot of people consider it rude to do this.
--Geek: Glasses are considered sexy. (Kind of a lame example. I'm finding it hard to come up with a better one.)

2. What was the last book you read that was written by a person who is a different race than you? Do you seek out books written by people of other races? Why? Why not?
I recently listened to the audiobook Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. A few months ago I read Dark Reflections by Samuel R Delaney. I mostly read books by white people, but I do sometimes seek out SF&F by people of color. If they are writing about their culture, I want to learn about it. And regardless of whether they are writing about their culture, I want more authors of color to be published. Some publishers are reluctant to publish works by authors of color or who belong to (US) minority cultures, because they assume that white people won't want to read such works. There's a tendency for mainstream culture to pigeonhole such writers and assume that they will only write about how they are different and that their works will only appeal to other people like them. The former is not true, and it would be nice if the latter were not true either.

I make more of an effort to seek out movies and documentaries by people of color than I do to seek out books -- I usually really enjoy them and it seems there are a lot of really talented people of color in the film industry.

3. What did you eat at dinner last night? Would you call it ethnic food? Why?
I ate a veggie burrito at a restaurant that serves Mexican and Caribbean food. I guess burritos are considered ethnic food in the US. (At least I am aware of a concept of "American food" that includes only hamburgers, sandwiches made with bread, and meat+potatoes entrees; everything else is considered "ethnic"). On the other hand, taquerias around here are more common than McDonaldses.

4. Has your gender presentation changed over the last 5 years? Has this change/lack of change been a deliberate choice on your part?
Mostly it hasn't changed, but over the past few months I've widened the selection of clothes I wear, so that now in addition to cotton pants, t-shirts, caftan tops, and hawaiian shirts, I also sometimes wear dresses and babydoll tops. I'm mainly doing it for comfort and "lazy respectability"; that is, at home I tend to clothing that is only one step removed from underwear (bike shorts and tank tops), but sometimes I want to go out to dinner somewhere that outfit would make me underdressed, so I take off the tank top and throw on a dress. I feel like I am in drag when I wear dresses though.

5. Do you discuss race and racism in your livejournal/blog or in person? Why have you made that choice?
I participate in the discussion when other people start it. I feel I should be more proactive; I think it's an important topic of conversation. I feel like as a white person who has done some reading and thinking and listening about racism, I ought to be talking to other white people about what I have learned, so that the burden of education doesn't fall entirely on people of color.

6. Bonus question. Were you aware of International Blog Against Racism Week? Did you choose to participate in it? Why or why not?
I was aware of it and this is my participation in it for this year (somewhat late, I guess). I didn't participate more fully because for the past little while I haven't had the mental energy to initiate discussions about political issues. As a white person I have the privilege of being able to ignore the topic of racism if I don't feel like engaging in it.