Thursday, September 6, 2007

International Blog Against Racism Week

I was recently talking about IBARW with Sarah (it happened in the first half of August), and discovered it was mainly a LiveJournal thing, not an across-the-blogosphere event. So, mostly for Sarah, but also for my own reference, the LJ community is here and the del.icio.us account with all the links and posts tagged is here. To be entirely honest, I had thought initially that the premise was naive at best and kind of stupid at worst - how do you blog against racism? But it ended up being an incredibly interesting event, with a number of practical discussions on, first, how to notice racism (the more subtle instances, obviously, that someone possessing white privilege may not even recognize as racism per se), and second, how to retrain one's thought patterns and implicit assumptions. The event organizers also complied a wonderful (and huge) list of references and resources, which I have been slowly perusing. I have not studied race and racism in any serious way, and it's very possible that there was nothing new said, but it was certainly a teachable moment, raising one's awareness thing for me.

A cool offshoot of this event was the formation of the community, Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge, wherein members are attempting to read 50 books over the next year by writers of color. I haven't joined, because there is no way in hell I'll be able to read any 50 books over the next year, but I thought it was an interesting idea, and I've been skimming the reviews.

It is startling, once I stopped to think about it, how deep the divide is between "white" literature and that written for a non-white audience. At Borders (and at the public library), there's the "Literature" sections and then the "African-American Literature" section, the "Gay and Lesbian Literature" section, etc. That division may be good and useful - highlighting the existence of such works, and displaying them prominently - but it also reinforces the implicit assumption that "Literature" is written by white heterosexuals, and everything else needs a qualifier. The other effect, which I've noticed before, is that I'll tend to drive by the "African-American Literature" section because I feel both that a) it's somehow not "for me" and b) that I "don't belong". I've definitely gotten some sidelong looks from fellow shoppers when I do stop by the African-American Literature bookshelf, and it's ... uncomfortable. I've been thinking about this entertainment divide every time I go to the Severance movie theater, where the trailers are all for completely different movies than the ones I see at Shaker or Cedar-Lee theaters, both of which serve a more predominantly white audience, but it's more recently that I've been pondering that same division in written entertainment as well. (Also, see this entry in Overheard in NY.)

At any rate, I thought the most useful part of IBARW was that I actually starting thinking about these issues, which is a step in the right direction. Like I said, I really have zero training in the "-isms," and so it was a good starting point, just becoming more aware of my own implicit assumptions, etc.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

As promised... links to some interesting posts on A Bookseller's Tale.

http://jennbrissett.blogspot.com/2007/08/timeouts-article-on-race-in-publishing.html

and

http://jennbrissett.blogspot.com/2007/08/speculative-fiction-on-npr.html

I want to spend some more time on the second one, which links to an NPR piece on black SF/fantasy.

Oyceter said...

Oh cool, I'm glad you found some of the resources useful!

Also, it wasn't meant to be just an LJ thing, but it sort of ended up that way because I suck at promotion =(. So I am always happy to see people not on LJ blogging about it, thank you!

Christina said...

Hi, oyceter - thanks for stopping by! And thank you for putting IBARW together and out there - it really was an eye-opening experience for me, as I lurked quietly around it.