Did anyone else get con crud? I’m just now getting over a nasty sore throat.

As mentioned in my wrapup, I was on the civil rights in SF panel.

It was disappointing. I think it’s time for convention programmers to understand that when you have a panel on a topic that asks questions about science fiction and civil rights, it is imperative to have persons of color on the panel. Because frankly, when the panel is a cross-section of white men and women, it is a failure right from the start. And yes, one can say that because there were women and a gay man on the panel it represented minorities but one would be copping out.

Because here’s the thing — there’s no shortage of women and gay men (and gay women!) in science fiction.

What there is is a shortage of black people.

So here’s how our panel went — Lee Thomas tried valiantly to make it about civil rights, David B. Carren made some excellent points about how Hollywood culture wouldn’t know a non-stereotypical Hispanic if one jumped up and bit Hollywood on the ass, and the rest of us struggled to speak with authority about a topic that doesn’t really affect us.

And the lone black person in the audience that I noticed got up and left about 15 minutes in.

Why didn’t she stay? Why didn’t she stand up and at least say what everyone was thinking — “why are you people up there talking about this when you don’t even have the black perspective on the topic to talk about it?”

And she’d be right, and I’m calling this woman out right now and saying, “You didn’t help the discussion by walking out. You should have stayed and asked questions and made comments and challenged the dumb-ass panel that was all wrong for the topic.”

We don’t need white people on a panel talking about why there aren’t more black people reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. We need more black people on panels like this, discussing this extremely important topic and reaching out to readers who may think that science fiction has nothing to do with them.

So, I am calling out to convention programmers — stop doing this type of programming unless you are fully committed to finding the people who are most affected by it and can talk about it with authority.  And that means thinking seriously about the black people you know already in the science fiction community and asking them to speak on this topic and you know what — maybe then we’ll be talking to each other and not at each other. At this point in the game, good intentions are not enough.

This is a hugely important dialog to have, and we’re not doing it right. Not with that stupid racefail with everyone talking at each other and through and past and over and everything but to one another.

And not with last week’s ApolloCon civil rights panel.


m_bey · July 3, 2010 at 10:33 am

I felt the same way about the “minorities in fantasy” discussion at last years Dillocon workshop. On the one hand I believe that the speculative genres are culturally relevant and need to address important social issues. On the other hand, it’s filled with a bunch of Asperger-sufferers and Caucasians, two demographic groups with a track record of being unintentionally offensive.

Patrice Sarath · July 3, 2010 at 4:37 pm

You think it’s the Asperger’s that’s turning people away?
(that was a joke.)

There are so many issues involved that it would take an entire convention to do them justice, not just a panel.

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