labingi: (Default)
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, this seems a good time to review James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time (1963). I recently read this book after having somehow missed Baldwin all my life and found his discussion of race relations in America brilliant. It should be standard reading in all American high schools. The book comprises two essays: a short letter to Baldwin's nephew giving advice on how to weather life as a young African American man and a long discourse on race relations with extensive personal examples. Along the way, he addresses his own conflicted youth, the Holocaust, the Cold War, school integration, and the Nation of Islam movement of Elijah Muhammad, among other social and historical moments.

I feel ill qualified to comment on the book but will venture a few observations. Baldwin was ahead of his time and--at least as far as mainstream discourse of the white hegemony goes--is still ahead of ours. His discussion of the blindness of white privilege (though he doesn't use this term) feels right out of contemporary racial discourse.

But Baldwin's challenge runs deeper than exposing power relations and demanding they be acknowledged. He is correct that the dominant discourse on race in the US (he is mainly concerned with African Americans and whites) frames the problem as the need to elevate black people to the status of white people. If black people become as socially mobile, wealthy, professionalized, well represented in various fields, etc. as white people, goes the argument, then the task of integration will have been accomplished. As far as I can tell, this is still the dominant discourse fifty years after Baldwin's book. Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
This article on white guilt in heroic fantasy narratives is interesting. In a nutshell, it criticizes the trope of the white person "going native" in order to help the oppressed POC and then rocketing to success as leader of the POC from the inside. There is, indeed, much to criticize about that trope.

So I feel myself walking into it, and if I can, I want to preempt that (or at least seek an outside opinion). I have a plan (in early development stage) for a web show set in my science fiction universe but using a Buck Rogers/Farscape tactic to send a 21st century Everywoman to the distant future. As it stands, my Everywoman is white, she is one of the only white people in the cast, and she does get the big revelation that is a substantial part of saving the day. Ergo, conspicuously white "relatable" character becomes hero who figures out salvation for POC.

Thing is, I'm not sure what to do about it. Here are some considerations that led to this racial state of affairs.

Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
"On Race in The Hour before Morning"


"My Attempt to Beat My Critics to the Punch"

Being totally unqualified to speak to RaceFail, I've been reading with interest and avoiding sticking in my oar. Here, however, is my very tangential contribution, a rumination on my own creative mazes.

I'm making a science fiction movie. I don't know if it will be good or bad, but I know this: if more than ten people ever see it, at least one of them will observe that it's got the black people oppressing the white people. The following is my explanation of how I arrived at this predicament, with some comments on what I'm striving to do about it.

Read more... )


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