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Fighting the Derail Since March 2009
The difference or lack thereof between a change of direction and a derail 
15th-Jun-2009 05:23 pm
I've been pondering what does and doesn't count as a derail, which seemed a like a valid thing to ask this community about.

I think it's relatively easy to judge a derail if it's on someone else's post or community. But what about posts to our own journals?

I wrote a long rambly post about it but in short to try and express it better: if there's a particular conversation about race happening in our online circle(*), should we try and avoid slipping into a tangential discussion which is very similar but not about race? If you get inspired by a race discussion to make a similar post not about race should you save it until later so as to avoid derailing that particular discussion? Is making that sort of post worse than making a totally unrelated post not about race?

I'm not saying that if there's a discussion like RaceFail going on then Every Post Must Be About Racism. And as has already been discussed many times, there are perfectly good reasons why any individual might avoid posting on the topic at all. But as a group we have a responsibility to try to not avoid talking about race and racism.

Similarly, I think there can be a dynamic a bit like cultural appropriation where FOC get momentum into a discussion about race and racism, and then white people are inspired by and take advantage of this momentum to pursue their own non-anti-racist agenda. And while as an individual you may have good reasons to engage in this sort of thing, as a group we should try and avoid it.

Two examples which come to mind:
-Following from RaceFail09 and Wiscon there were discussions about how the different dynamics between different subcultures of fans contributed to the fail. To some extent this turned into a general discussion of the different dynamics between different subcultures of fans without much reference to race. (my post goes into this more)
-(from a possibly misremembered post I read on metafandom ages ago) Someone started a community to promote fic about Foreman from House to counteract and draw attention to the racist way he and other COC are ignored. People got inspired to make similar comms...for lots of other white characters.

And the thing is, neither of those actions (discussing fandom dynamics and celebrating ignored white characters) are inherently racist or derailing. But in that context the effect of those actions is (possibly?) to derail an anti-racist endeavour. So perhaps like cultural appropriation, it's impossible to totally avoid but we should be mindful of this sort of knock on effect and where possible avoid this sort of derail.

Do people agree? Can you untangle my point? :)

Note: I have health issue which mean I can be VERY slow at replying to comments and dealing with Badness. But I will do my best.

(*)What "our online circle" means is a whole nother discussion, but going into that here would I think be a derail!
15th-Jun-2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
Read, contemplated, no further comment at this time.
16th-Jun-2009 12:36 am (UTC)
Fair enough.
15th-Jun-2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, I get the point. I like it when someone points out to me "that's sort of derailing" and then adds something "so why not take it to a separate post?"
16th-Jun-2009 01:13 am (UTC)
Yes, but my point is also that sometimes even that still ends up being a bit derailing (though nowhere near as bad as going off on a tangent in someone else's space)
16th-Jun-2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Well, hmm. True.
17th-Jun-2009 01:55 am (UTC)
I do think that posts etc. that are clearly inspired by widely-known discussions about racism, but are not about racism, can be derailing.

I am less likely to think that such a post is a derail when it acknowledges the inspiration ("this was prompted by discussions about RaceFail . . . "), gives readers the ability to find more context (" . . . and you can learn about it and why it's important at this link . . . "), and provides a reason for not engaging with the racism discussions that is not itself explicitly or implicitly derailing (" . . . but I'm not going to talk about that now because I'm still listening and learning, though my intention is not to discourage others from doing so.").

Which is just a more concrete way of saying what you have, being aware of the context and the effects of one's actions in that context.
21st-Jun-2009 02:42 am (UTC)
This is a very thought provoking comment, as proven by me reading it, thinking for while, starting a reply, being hit with a sudden epiphany and having to go think some more, and then having the power go out so I had to think even longer (ok, so maybe you weren't responsible for that last part :D)

Anyway: those are some very good concrete suggestions.

The epiphany I had is that while I am not avoiding talking about RaceFail(*), the way I've set up my dreamwidth as a "safe sapce" for these sorts of discussions mean they get cut off from the rest of my fandom meta and that is going to have a huge derailing effect.

I'm still trying to decide if separating my posts neatly into "generic fandom meta" "generic racism meta" and "racism and fandom meta" etc is a good or bad idea. Mushing them all together I think encourages "go into a post about racism and talk about something else" derailing, but separating them encourages "Ignore posts about race altogether" derailing. But I think your comment gives some ways of avoiding both extremes. Hmm.

(*)Whether I've talked about it "enough" is a complicated question I shall avoid for the time being
3rd-Feb-2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
I came here in search of answers to pretty much the same question. Where does a tangent become a derail if it's in one's own space? Where does a tangent become a derail when it's explicitly identified as a tangent? Where does it become a derail if it's *not* explicitly identified as a tangent of the discussion at hand, and presented as a separate subject? One can argue for either: this is a derail since it makes reference to Topic X and being inspired by Topic X but it's actually about Topic Y; or - this is a derail because it's along the same lines as some of the discussions about Topic X but it's about Topic Y and doesn't mention Topic X even in the "this is not it".
6th-Feb-2010 06:19 am (UTC)
Yes, it's very tricky! I'd like to say I've come to more solid conclusions since writing this post but I'm not sure I have :/
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