and no doubt some other folks are posting about some bad experiences at Wiscon; in particular feeling like they and other POC were in a zoo, with white people coming up and looking at them and not saying anything, and in some cases even going and fetching more white people to come and look at them. At the Verb Noire party, there were white people coming in and hanging out who didn't talk to their hostesses. On the flip side of that, a lot of people who go to cons regularly have never thought to introduce themselves to the host of a room party, and some of them don't talk to strangers, period, unless the stranger starts the conversation, and sometimes not even then.
Fandom has a long tradition of wecoming people with poor social skills, and stuff that's considered bad manners in many places seems to be normal at cons. This year at Wiscon there were a lot more fans of color than in previous years, from what everyone is saying, and many people who were new to cons were there, and some of them are kind of stunned at the rudeness they encountered.
So it seems to me that there are a few things in play, that need to be really picked apart and reconfigured in order for fans of color to have a good time at future cons, and white fans to learn how to behave in a diverse environment.
1. There are a lot of racially prejudiced white people in fandom
, as in the world at large, and a lot of people who are prepared to accept them or give them equal time to share their views. On top of that, SFF fan culture, as it currently exists, is a lot more comfortable for white people than for people of color. This means that responses to challenges that are based on "but it's always been that way!" or "but you're challenging our precious way of life" are not helpful. Preserving the status quo can't be the goal.
2. There are cultural differences in manners between ethnic & social groups. White people in the US have very informal (aka "bad") manners compared to a lot of POC in the US, in my experience, and I've encountered surprising differences in manners between me and my friends from other countries, usually with the non-US person having better manners, but occasionally not. Stuff like party invitations, RSVP's, thank-you notes, bringing a dish to share when you go to someone's house, introducing a new person to everyone in the room, giving a compliment when you greet someone, children using titles instead of first names when addressing adults, elders preceding younger folk through a door--all of that will seem like just basic decency to one person, and will seem like stuffy overformality to another, and race & culture absolutely have a lot to do with it. Not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of white people have atrocious manners, and treat each other like crap, and get away with it because of the culture valuing informality & "being yourself." People who haven't encountered this are going to take it personally, when it's often not personal, but just saying "don't take it personally" isn't helpful. White people can afford to overlook disrespectful treatment more, because we encounter it a LOT less than POC do.
[ETA: 3: upon rereading, I discover that I cannot count. There is no 3. Oops.]
4. At the same time, SFF fan culture has been a safe space for a lot of people who are serious social misfits. SFF is, by its nature, escapist, which means it appeals to people who are struggling in their lives or are uncomfortable in society or have damage of one kind or another; Criticizing people for lacking social skills doesn't seem productive to me, given that it's impossible to know how hard it is for another person to deal with social interaction, or what their training is in formal manners, or what their neurological and psychological challenges might be. Maybe having "Social Skills 101" would help, or even just talking publicly about social skills on the level we talk about other faily things might make a difference. Handing out a "con ettiquette guide" to attendees? Buttons that say "shy" or "not shy," "awkward," etc?
5. Social skills might be cultural, too? I know some parents who react to shyness by protecting the child from interaction, and others who react by coaching the child to interact more, "get out there and play," etc. I'm trying to think if this is something I see broken down in terms of race or social group. I know a fair number of Irish-American families that don't like kids to hang out in their rooms alone; they're supposed to be out in the common areas socializing or doing chores if they're not sleeping. Many non-Irish white folks I know think that's intrusive and overly bossy. So this is one of those areas where trying to change how people do things is challenging; but not impossible, I hope?
Anyway, I guess what I'm thinking is that maybe we can talk about this manners/ social skills/ racism mix over here in fight_derailing
, (in addition to the conversations already happening, not instead of) and start to show how having poor manners and social skills can be really harmful, when you're trying to socialize in a diverse group. But also find a way to be accepting of the different levels of social ability in fandom, ***where that is all that is going on***, while putting a stop to racially prejudiced bullshit behavior that's being accepted under the umbrella of geekhood. And find a way to figure out which is which.
What do you think?
[June 2 ETA: Because this post is likely to get a lot of fresh traffic after coffeeandink's very cogent post,
I just want to re-emphasise point #1 up above. There are a lot of racially prejudiced white people in fandom, as in the world at large, and a lot of people who are prepared to accept them or give them equal time to share their views. [...] Preserving the status quo can't be the goal.
I put that point as #1 because I believe it's the heart of the problem. ]