Jenny Rae Rappaport, Kate Nepveu, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Phoebe Wray, Jamie Nesbitt Golden , Tobias Buckell, Michelle Kendall* “What should writers know when writing about geographic distribution of racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. or other countries? How have discrimination, segregation, migrations, and class contributed to the geographic patterns seen today? If doing near-future or future worldbuilding, what factors should writers consider in their extrapolations?” Kate talks about growing up in a very white neighborhood, and being an adoptee of a white couple. Adds that her current neighborhood is a little better but not all that much. Jagi talks of growing up in a similar neighborhood but living now in a dramatically diverse population, and that her kids really don't have any exposure to that sort of monoculture [ ETA : This was highly reductionist of me, and somewhat giving the benefit of the doubt. She really spoke for quite some time about how her kids don't ever mention someone's race and don't even see it. ] Jenny says she grew up in a moderate mix. Toby describes that he was born in Grenada and of mixed English and Caribbean ancestry, calls himself “light, not white.” And that having a caribbean background but very light skin tone means he has difficulties feeling accepted by American whites and American blacks. Michelle grew up in deep Chicago but her family moved to the suburbs into a very white neighborhood. Prior to that point she'd only really encountered racism in one very unpleasant incident, but at that point she encountered it all the time, and that no matter how much she “did the right thing” it didn't matter. Phoebe grew up in a very small town, and didn't see a black person until she was 5. The town self-enforced its segregation dramatically when she was 9. They moved out when she was 11 or 12 and moved to Santa Rosa california where she encountered her first Asian kids and was tremendously shy about it because she had no context for the experience. She went to Berkley but ran away with the circus, became a standup comedian, and became good friends with Maya Angelou. Has had a wide variety of experiences with people of all races. She teaches at the Boston Conservatory of Theater and Dance, where there is a history of problems with the school being too white. Kate brings out that pointing out that racism is present in your assumptions is not calling someone a racist, just pointing something out that is hard to perceive in oneself. She mentions that color-blindness can be a reductionary, problematic assumption. Jagi insists that she really has had incidents where she didn't notice someone's race. Kate exclaims that that's really weird. Michelle brings up the cultural default of whiteness, particularly in Genre fiction. Toby brings up the Stanford Perception Test, that that was what a question about whether Jagi noticed if she noticed what her friends were wearing was, that the “I don't see race” statement is troubling because people use it as a defense to declare affirmatively that they are not racist, without questioning their assumptions. That it's a go-to to shield others from perceiving their racism, and that it's a specific phrase that is associated with that reactionary “Yeah, that seemed racist, but I don't really see race” type of behavior. Kate talks about a Restricted Covenant clause in deeds, Michelle talks about Sundown Towns and Neighborhoods. They were towns where you could be in color and be in the town during the day, but if you were there after Sundown you would get hurt. Audience comment that almost all Sundown Towns are in the Midwest. Kate continues that post reconstruction there was a great wave of black emigration out of the South into the North and Midwest, and that these people would try to move into these towns and be driven off. The patterns we see today aren't there because black people like to live in the cities, it's the legacy of a world where they literally were not allowed to live in the suburbs. Phoebe relates a story about the small town where she lives that she can't get her Korean neighbors to vote. Kate talks about how there's this perception of how all people who are Asian are foriegners. Toby comments that as a first wave immigrant who's elegible to vote in everything but elections for the President, its incredibly difficult to vote as a dual citizen with a green card in local elections even though he's eligble to do so. Audience comments about how being a Jew is also being an invisible minority. Kate brings out a quote that expecting one oppressed group to expect to automatically understand the oppressed of another group is expecting them to have to be more capable of such things than most people ever are (approx.). Audience comment recommending “Brother G.” Kate recommends Durham's “Acacia.” Kate goes back to writing geography, Toby was really interested in the geography of his world and discovered a lot of fascinating history of the US and the Caribbean, moved to the US because he'd rather be subject to our terrible domestic policy than our terrible foreign policy. Speaks about the control the US still enforces through the banana companies. That she gets readers who have trouble adapting their belief structures when they realize that the villains have agendas similar to their own. Michelle speaks about her study of diaspora that one of the things that come up a lot was that the sugar trade killed a lot of people. Toby talks about this moment where Haiti overthrows the French and Alexander Hamilton advises them not to adopt a US style constitutional system and told them that what they really need is a strong dictator. That there was a lot of concern among the US elite that the democratic principle might spread among the caribbean. Michelle states that imperialism doesn't really work without racism and (in passing) that colonialism doesn't work without oppression. Kate asks about books that deal with the fact of where things come from. Jenny mentions Kurlansky's “Salt.” Kate mentions she really means fiction, now we're talking about how there's very little SF that deals with Economics. I bring up The Baroque Cycle, another audience member brings up Dune, Michelle brings up Green's Deathstalker Cycle. Toby says that Dune is fascinating to him because it's a slightly subversive SF book that he can describe without its SF trappings that people then realize that it's an allegory for Middle Eastern insurgents set as their heroes. Jenny mentions a series by Marsden where people invade Australia. Jagi points out that there's this balance between writers talking about writing diversity, but then they don't really know anything about it. Toby answers that he's written about this a lot, and someone described him as “well known race blogger” that he's actually posted .1% of his blog related to race. Toby mentions that he does strive to increase the number of female characters in his works, and the important thing to him is to read autobiographies, talk to women about it, have women beta readers. He feels he knows little about the Black experience in the US or in Africa, but wants to be able to represent that with some authenticity, but that that takes work: being of mixed race doesn't give him a blank slate on all things black. He mentions that almost all African fiction is set out in the dust and the strife and relief agencies, not the relatively successful cities and regions of Africa that are not like that. Michelle says writers tend to say “How can I represent the voice of POCs when I don't have that experience of being one?” She says that it may be better to let them do that, that there are a lot of writers of color, and they write brilliant things. It's not really diversity if you're promoting the same few stereotypes. Audience comment that there is a big difference between diversity of experience and diversity of race in fictional depiction. Toby points out that if you don't have just a token character, if instead you have true diversity, you don't raise red flags in your fiction like “Oh, here's the Magical Negro.” Kate comments that she was complaining recently that she's tired of women characters who are men with wigs. That her real point is that it's about shared experiences. Phoebe comments that her protagonist is a white women in an interracial relationship. One of her readers asked “wait, why isn't everyone brown?” Some discussion of how that's a really ridiculous myth. Michelle, in closing, points out that blogs are a great way to research race and racism from anywhere. So, this panel has had something of an aftermath, to understate things rather dramatically. Because of its topicality (and its close relation to the last panel posted doesn't hurt), I posted these notes out of sequence; they otherwise would have been posted on Sunday. For those interested, most of the controversy can be found on the journals of kate_nepveu, karnythia (Michelle, above), arhyalon (Jagi, above), and johncwright (Jagi's husband, apparently). My comments (in brief, because I'm running late): I am a privileged White* heterosexual male, and I'm well aware that there are advantages to that just walking around that I will never even have a chance to perceive. I kind of hate that, but I know it's real, because I listen to my friends who are POCs, I hear what they say, and I believe them. Even more than that, I listen to my friends of all color and hear the accidentally and incidentally stereotyped and racist things they say without ever meaning to or thinking of themselves as having racist assumptions. I can't judge them, because I know I do it too, and although I try not to I expect I will continue to do so as I find new ones and re-weed pernicious old ones that pop up again. That's the best I know how to do, and it's what I want to encourage others to do, so: look at your assumptions and defaults, think about what you say and do...and then think about it again. And good luck to you. * Yeah, OK, 1/16th Native American, or something like that; I'm proud of it, but I don't think it's relevant to this discussion P.S.: This went up originally yesterday evening, but LJ totally munged my concluding words, and I wasn't about to leave it out there without them.