As seen in Deluxe_Viven’s LJ. An interesting discernment on the wackiness of HP fandom. I read the post below and I am still totally lost as to what the original poster’s issue is. The whole thing started from daily_deviant LJ comm using miscegenation as a prompt.
I guess I just don’t get what the fuss is about. Can someone tell me please? Whole exchange could be tl;dr for some.
Dog Whistles and Insults
White Americans, and many people outside of the United States, know that they can’t use the word ‘nigger’ where black people can hear them. It has only just recently occurred to me that some white people think that ‘nigger’ is some kind of black person dog whistle, where being of African descent makes that syllable combination physically painful, triggering rabid snarling and the urge to violently silence the source of the painful sounds.
If you think that, you are wrong. As is made clear by the fact that some black people do say ‘nigger’ to one another as a form of acknowledgement or greeting, or they use it in conversation between themselves to disparage some third black person without causing a fight, the collection of sounds is not the problem.
What a word like nigger (and all of the similar racial insults for people of color or non-Christians: kike, gook, slant-eye, redskin, spic, towelhead, etc.) means is that the speaker considers th
at, by virtue of ancestry or affiliation, the insulted party is unworthy of respect, subhuman, and bestial. It says, “You are not of my kind, you are not of my species, you are no more worthy of my consideration than a cow or a chair.”
What some people have failed to consider is that, because it is the connotation, the subtext, the implication of ‘nigger’ that is the problem, other words can be just as infuriating and insulting in the same way, even if they do not denote anything like ‘nigger’, which denotes “insult for a person of African descent.” Because connotation is tricky, and may not be included in a dictionary definition, it is even quite possible for someone to use a word or phrase with a racist connotation and be unaware of it.
If you do use a word or phrase with a racist connotation you were unaware of, and someone who knows that connotation points it out to you, the person educating you is likely to be huffy, snide, or otherwise perceivably annoyed. Do you know why? Because you’ve insulted them before the conversation even started. You have, by using the word with the racist connotation, called them a ‘nigger.’ This person is mad at you, because you’ve said something maddening.
Here’s the thing. Many people of color realize that you probably didn’t intend to offend them. For one thing, American white people hate to be called racist and lose their shit when it happens. So, generally speaking, to get out of this awkward social situation, all you have to do is a) say, ‘I did not realize that was racist’ and b) stop using that word. If you can’t bring yourself to say racist in relation to your own actions, you can say something like: offensive, a problem, would hurt anyone’s feelings, would make you feel that way. The point you are trying to get across is that You Did Not Know That.
Sometimes people have a problem when it comes to stopping using offensive language. They think that once they explain that they didn’t mean to use the word ‘that way’ the offended party should change their feelings instead of trying to get the white person to change their behavior. I would like to explain to you how this conversation goes down in the mind of a person of color when a white person refuses to change offensive language, after the offense has been explained to them.
PoC: You are calling me nigger. Stop it.
White Person: No. It is more important to me to do X than to acknowledge that you are a human being. Have a nice day and fuck you very much.
If there’s some outside reason it is absolutely required that a white person continues to use the racist language, if they are, for example, translating a text which is racist, they need to take steps to ameliorate the offense. At a minimum, this includes clearly identifying the term they are using as an offensive term which should not ordinarily be used, so that someone coming along surfing on the internet doesn’t see the term and incorporate it into their vocabulary without realising its offensive nature.
This is how the transition from someone who is accidentally offensive, because the culture in which we live is racist and they are unaware, to someone who is deliberately offensive occurs. People of color know that you may say things out of ignorance that hurt us without intending to hurt us. However, after we’ve told you that it hurts, and you continue to do that thing, the understanding we have of your actions is that you intend to hurt us. In the same way that that if you were standing in a crowd, and someone stepped on your foot, and you said, “Hey, you are stepping on my foot!”, you would find, “I have to stand on this particular spot in order to see the Queen,” evidence that the other purpose felt no consideration for you as an ordinary human being.
This post was prompted by something specific. daily_deviant is a Harry Potter kinkfic community. The mods post themes each month from an encyclopedia of sexual terms. One of the terms used this month was miscegenation which they defined as Sex or marriage between two people (or magical creatures) of different races.. Stories written in response to this theme included human/human, human/magical sapient (i.e. werewolf, house-elf), and human/goat. What follows are the e-mails we exchanged on the term.
Date: Sat, July 28, 2007 2:05 pm
To: Daily Deviant Mods
You have picked an offensive word for use as this month’s daily deviant theme. Miscegenation has the connotation of polluting or corrupting a white person by having sex with or marriage to a person of color. The Wizarding equivalent of the term miscegenation would be something like “blood treachery.” Your use of this word infuriates me.
There is a common word used in the porn industry for pornography involving people of different races: interracial. That word and the kink as applied to human/human interaction, while not without problems, are much less historically loaded with racist hatred and fearmongering.
Please change the term in your list of kinks, your tags, and as the warnings on the relevant stories.
Subject: Re: Miscegenation
From: [Name redacted at the daily deviant mods’ request]
Date: Sat, July 28, 2007 4:11 pm
Thank you for your kind message. We receive messages every month from readers who are upset about our choice of themes, in fact. It is their right, as it is yours, not to read our stories or view our art.
In case you have assumed we deliberately chose this word in order to be offensive, let me explain a bit about how we choose our monthly themes. In fact, we choose them at random from a large “encyclopedia” of sex-themed words and phrases, both historical and contemporary. We choose numbers in advance at random, then go to the corresponding page numbers in the encyclopedia. Whatever is on that page becomes one of our themes for the month.
The community administrators decided very early on that they would never censor what came up on the page, and we never have. This has caused much grief over several themes in the past, and it continues to do so this month. Still, we will not censor or alter the phrases as they come up. Every term in that encyclopedia is offensive to someone, after all.
Our writers and artists are free to interpret the themes as they see fit, and that could include, if they wished, a critical analysis of the term and why a character in their work may find it offensive. Some have indeed done this. We welcome critical engagement with the themes, in the form of the stories and art produced.
Again, thank you for voicing your concerns. Peace,
[Name redacted at the daily deviant mods’ request]
I did not assume that you chose the word miscegenation in order to offend. I assume that when fans are racially offensive, they are acting out of either ignorance or lack of thought.
I do not, however, feel that your reply is responsive to nor satisfactory of my concerns. If you feel for [sic] your policy of random chance is more important than not offending people, even if offense is not your overt intent, there are several things you could have done to ameliorate the foreseeable offense.
1) You could have picked a book which didn’t include racially offensive terms. You can’t displace your responsibility for posting the terms onto the book or the book’s author. You chose to continue using that book after you found that it included terms which were going to be problematic, you chose to adopt a policy of not re-choosing or altering terms when the ones that were chosen at random were problematic, and you chose to follow that policy and use the racist term miscegenation.
2) Your strict policy of random chance selection and refusal to alter terms is not made clear on your userinfo or any of the entries linked to from the userinfo explaining the function of the community.
3) You have posted the term miscegenation completely without context or any indication to your membership that the term is racist and using it outside of the community might lead people to believe that they are racist for using it.
4) You defined the term in such a way as to increase the offense of its use, conflating interracial relations between humans with bestiality.
I approached you privately at first because I assumed you used it out of ignorance. To be very clear, the use of the term connotes, implies, and subtextually states that people of color are subhumans, are beasts, are niggers, kikes, spics, gooks, and redskin scalpers. Since you are not willing to change your use, I am going to speak publicly about why I think the use of the term is wrong. Because I plan to submit this livejournal post, when I make it, to Hogwarts Today, The Quibbler, and Metafandom, I am cc’ing the writers and artists whose work is tagged miscegenation so they can prepare for a negative response. I don’t plan to post on the subject before Monday, so they all have a chance to receive this e-mail. When I make this post, I am going to include both of my e-mails to you. Do you want me to include your response below? If you don’t, I will simply say that you refused to do anything in response to my e-mail. If you make a public statement and I become aware of it, I will link to it.
Look, it’s not my intent to make you daily_deviant mods into bad guys. But I’m not going to let you implicitly say nigger out loud and in public, without making it clear, out loud and in public, that I think anyone using the term ‘miscegenation’ is implicitly calling people of color niggers, and that they are wrong to do so.
They replied to me saying that I should quote their e-mail above in full, and that that e-mail, although it was sent from an individual mod’s e-mail account, represented the statement of all of the DD mods, and I should not single her out when I posted. I was not sure if they also gave me permission to quote this e-mail. I have asked them, and if they say yes, I will include it.
Subject: Re: Re: Miscegenation
Date: Sun, July 29, 2007 5:28 pm
To: “Daily Deviant Mods”
You misread my statement. I would not have said that you didn’t answer my e-mail, but that you refused to take any action in response to my e-mail. If you proposed any action in your first response, I did not understand you and would be pleased to hear of a clarification.
Further, I am not seeking wank. I am seeking to make fandom a place where I, other fans of color, and anti-racist white fans are not implicitly unwelcome. I particularly don’t want it be a place where we are offended by those who don’t intend to offend us. The use of the term miscegenation is offensive, whether or not that is your intent.
You, as the DD mods, have decided that it is more important to follow your self-imposed theme selection rules than to make a fandom a place where fans of color are welcome. I don’t believe that everyone who is a part of fandom feels that way, but I do think they may not know that miscegenation is an unacceptable term in polite company. I am publicizing this because your use of the term miscegenation, as something neutral and unmarked, has been disseminated widely, as the HP newsletters have picked up the stories written in response to your theme and readers have seen those stories labeled as such.
Last but not least, I want to make it clear that I never tried to stop you from having a theme which was “Sex or marriage between two people (or magical creatures) of different races.” I didn’t give negative feedback to any author who wrote on that theme or attempt to make them stop writing any such stories. I just wanted you to substitute the common pornographic term ‘interracial’, which more precisely accords with the definition you gave, instead of the racist term ‘miscegenation’, which carries additional meaning you neither explicitly stated nor disavowed.
Thank you for your permission to post your first reply. I am uncertain whether you intended that I should also have permission to post your second reply. I know that you have closed your correspondence, but I would like clarification on that point. If you could respond, “yes, you may post our second e-mail” or “no, you may not post our second e-mail” I would appreciate it. If you do not respond, I shall assume I do not have permission.