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The Inner Geek

And the outer geek, for that matter. Should I start of with the ways I am Geek? Well alright, if you insist. And it’ll help me practice with this WordPress html.

  • Big genre lit geek. Sci-fi (hard and soft) and fantasy and those that lay betwixt. Cyberpunk is an obsession that waxes and wanes but is always there. Waiting.
  • Big video game geek. More or less anything that’s good (subjective much?) but mostly RPGs. Avoided FPS between the first Quake and Half-Life 2 but have taken in some pretty good ones since. And some really horrible ones.
  • And speaking of RPGs, been playing pen-and-paper roleplaying games since AD&D, now also play online. Actually almost entirely online these days, except when I can sucker my partner into sitting around our makeshift game board for Pathfinder.
  • Anime. This is probably my least geeky aspect, since I’ve only really gotten into a few series and movies, but I do get into them. Anything by Manglobe wins my heart. Everything by Ghibli breaks it.
  • Oh and comic books. Are those still geeky?

I make this list because it occurs to me that, while I’m certainly exposed to the systemic racism in news and more popular media, and I want to explore the ways that’s shaped my thinking, these are the areas that I am more commonly involved. And if I could ever be considered qualified to talk about race–which I don’t take as a given–it would be in these genres of mass-entertainment. Talking about True Blood and Foreigner was a lot easier than trying to keep up with current events that, sequestered little child that I am, I don’t have the practice for. Those are still important things to me, and I will continue to endeavor in that direction, but these are things I know now.

So first, some words on being a geek. Geeks are not an oppressed minority. No, I don’t care how many times you were swirlied in high school. Geeks are not persecuted. A geek, in and of itself, is not entitled to its persecution complex because somebody threw your carefully organized collection of DNAngel cards into Monday’s trash. These presumptions lead in turn to some very ugly practices amongst geeks, that are much more damaging than a couple of awkward and horrible secondary school experiences. In fact, geeks should all read this excellent takedown of some social fallacies perpetrated by geeks.

Thus, I do not feel compelled to like something just because it falls within my geek spheres. I do think that, overall, it is mostly middle-class white kids in this country who have the time and spending money to devote to these kinds of obsessions, and being able to do so grants some kind of geek cred no matter how thoroughly somebody enjoys something that they can’t afford the miniatures for. It also sets up a supposed target market for geek products. A very white market. (And straight, for other reasons.)

So I see an awful lot of products that are pushed at me (for while I don’t qualify for the middle-class club, I do have the internet, and aren’t we all monied on here?) that have very little color outside of their lovingly rendered backgrounds. I’ve recently finished The Witcher 2, which despite having about twice as many NPCs as the first (which is a feat, since it takes place in less than half the geographical space) lacks in it’s entirety a single person of color. Instead it has dwarves and elves. Nothing new in the fantasy genre, but…really? Not even one? Also, if the other species are meant as a sort of stand-in for minorities, it’s highly problematic that they take extra damage from the witcher’s silver sword…you know, the one meant for monsters. Then there’s Divinity II, which I’m actually stuck 3/4s through in, but same thing. At least Witcher has the excuse of Geralt being the pre-established hero. There are no color options for character creation in Divinity, and nobody of color in the whole game that I’ve seen. And that takes place in a world where travel is augmented with great zeppelins, so it’s not like people couldn’t get around.

And this is ridiculous. Two huge, modern games, not with an under-representation but no representation at all. It’s criminal, and it sets up such a massive, white-washed wall of egoism that I used to be ashamed but am now just angry at how these people, these companies, and these rabid, defending fans represent white people’s attitudes.

[Oh and the FANS. When somebody goes so far out of their way (ie, before the mod tools were released) to replace Rochelle’s model in Left 4 Dead 2 with Zoey’s model because THIS JUST CANNOT STAND, it’s ridiculous. And responding defensively to accusations of racism? Ridiculous! When similar folk feel the need to mod CJ into a white man in GTA: San Andreas because it CANNOT BE. I’m sorry, are there not enough games for you to immerse yourself in? Do you feel UNDER-APPRECIATED because you’re white? Get. Over it.]

So when I play a game like Mass Effect and it takes no effort to create a Commander Shepherd that is unambiguously black and female, yes, it’s a relief, it’s amazing, and it is so ridiculously sad that this is the bar for inclusion. And when I play another Bioware game that has none of these options (eat a dick, DA) I’m like, what? Did you hit your quota? Or did you take all of that coding it would have taken to put in POC and cram it into rendering those huge, freckled tits?

All my blog posts have cut off sort of abruptly thus far, and that’s because where a conclusion is there should be some answers, and I’m not that far along. I have none, other than anger and words in the void.

Re: What Price A Black Girl’s Life?

I was writing a long-ass comment on this post over at ABW, and decided that it was verging on the self-serving.  So I figured I’d go ALL THE WAY to self-serving and just make a post out of it.

I hated True Blood as a whole (and thereby the past tense; I stopped watching after a season) but I loved quite a lot of its parts, and Tara was a big part of that, uh, part (Lafayette being the other).  Because UNlike Sookie, Tara reacts only to the things that have ACTUALLY happened to her, she’s the only proactive (human) woman with any sort of positive goals, and she is so beautiful and proud and heartbreakingly loyal.  But like Martha (best companion EVER) she is hated by fans for getting in the way of their white romances with things like, oh I dunno, a realistic impression of vampires?  An opinion that isn’t based exclusively on her attraction to a man?  A series of actual Bad Shit that happens to her?

Unlike Martha, though, and what really galls me, is that Tara is also maltreated in-character because of these things.  Sookie treats her only friend like slime because she thinks Bill’s a creep, or warns her of danger, then calls her traitor when she decides to take care of her own shit instead of Sookie’s.  So not only do the writers treat Tara like Sookie’s Lassie (an issue in and of itself) but it’s like if everytime Lassie came to tell the parents that Joey’s fallen down the well they gave her a swift kick.

Viewing all black women as being strong is like viewing all Asian-Americans as being math geniuses.  Even a so-called positive stereotype is still a stereotype, still a box to put others in as a way of separating them out from Us, the White People Who Are Actual Humans.  It’s why only a white woman’s tears illicit the reaction they do–black women crying seems somehow a cheat, a subversion we neither expect nor want.  She should be angry and loud so we don’t have to feel so bad when she’s hurt.  How dare she ask us to feel guilty for our wrongdoing when everybody knows black women don’t have real feelings?

Seeing things like this from the other side of Not Being a Douche makes me try and think back to any positive representations of POC in the media I’ve been exposed to over the years.  I’ve seen plenty of black hard-asses, certainly, but that’s not necessarily positive in a way that, you know, allows people to be people.  I liked what we got to see of Book and Zoe from Firefly, though I was starting to get some bad Whedon Warning Signals even by the end of the first season.  And then Book promptly died in the movie.  But he was a black man (in an overwhelmingly white cast, considering it was supposed to be the US and China whose cultures mostly survived) who got to be both strong and sensitive, spiritual and practical, right and wrong.  Zoe, I think, was definitely a victim of Strong Black Woman, and while I loved her character and her inclusion in soldier culture it was wee white Kaylee whose vulnerabilities were used to make us cry.  And I still feel really weird about the bounty hunter…

CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series is also a bit of an issue for me.  It oscillates wildly between several known problematic tropes and what I feel could be Doing It Right, from chapter to chapter and sometimes from line to line.  The Big Black Aliens are all people, at least by the end of the first book, but they’re still mysterious and stoic (and what says “bizarre and inhuman” like bastardized East Asian culture mishmash?) and the POV character is SO WHITE.  And so the Hero, albeit not in the usual sci-fi ways.  Some POC humans are introduced throughout the nine books but they’re all bit-parts.  I don’t know.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about that series.

I could go on, but not really that long.  It’s hard enough to find genre examples of POC characters and then they’re all just the same stereotypes that we get in more mainstream titles.  Or they’re turned into aliens or elves or Black Council Evil McEvilPantses so we can treat them however we want because now it’s fiction, right?

Insurance

My bank sent me an insurance card today, trying to sell me their personal cash-in on the new US health care system.

I’m taken care of anyway, but I looked into it, wondering when my bank started offering this service.  I mean, that much is obvious–there’s money in it now!  But I’d generally well-served by my bank so I was willing to give it a look.  Anyway…

You know, part of heteronormativity is the assumption that anytime you send out something specifically for straight people you’ll hit one every time.  It means that you can safely assume anybody you talk to, sell to, buy from is straight (and if they’re not in a relationship they’re looking to be).  It means my bank wasn’t expecting their customer to be excluded from their insurance scheme because I might not have a cis female partner to include on the policy or to visit me in the eventual hospital.

(It means a lot of other things, too, obviously, but I’m often confronted with the question of “realistics.” That is to say, besides the idea that there’s somebody rubbing their hands together and cackling at the idea of oppressing somebody else, there’s no way this sort of thing could be real, right?  Well this is one of the ways it is.)

And I’m kind of angry about this.  I mean, fuck advertising culture anyway, but…you want to sell to ME?  Learn who I am.  If you don’t want to sell to fags, well fuck you, but that’s your call.  Don’t make the assumption that I’m not one just because you want my money.

Also stop being a dick and include domestic partners.

*Note: I do, in fact, want to focus primarily on race in this blog, but I’m also trying to get into the habit and voice of writing this stuff out, so forgive me if some of these early posts seem to dart around a bit on topics.

Systemic

Systematically oppressed because of your skin color.

Systematically oppressed because of your skin color.

You know what doesn’t happen to white people in the US?  This.

No matter what isolated incidents we trot out in our life to show how we’re secretly prejudiced against, this has never happened to us.  I needed to tell myself this many times before it clicked.  I grew up in a series of pretty shitty neighborhoods, and was a victim of some crimes that were probably racially motivated.  But then I could go home and watch my white heroes on my white movies and see my white friends on the white news and never ever be asked to leave because I was being too ethnic in a restaurant.  Yes, violence is bad, and it can be devastating when it happens to us, especially because of something we can’t help.  But white people always have the trump in the US.

And I notice how a lot of these conversations come out starting with arguing against the idea that racism exists in the States?  First it’s “racism isn’t a problem” but when it obviously is the backup becomes “well black people are racist, too.”  Isn’t that just saying racism IS a problem?  Don’t we want to be less of the problem?  Well, I guess that’s not necessarily given, but…

People wiser than I have broken down privilege better than I could.  Unpacking the invisible knapsack, etc.  Links are available for the interested (not sure yet how much of that I want to be doing on here).  But it always bears repeating–an unexamined life is one unlived, but more pertinently, one we can’t make generalizations from.  White is the default in the US, the null hypothesis.  There are lessons we never had to learn, and nobody asks us to, and many of us never will.  That’s not actually an excuse not to learn them, though.

Finding the Angles

This is a new space.

Confronted with a blank canvas, what inspires an artist?  I’m not one, but it’d be nice to know.  Instead, I feel only the need to cover, to feign that artistry, to fill the void.

But that’s not what I want this space to be about.

This is going to be a blog, with any luck, about my own progress through the mire of cultural propaganda that enforces whiteness.  I am white, and male, and have a long way to go.  My very handle exhibits that–an appropriation from Tagalog–but it speaks well of the way I view Western life, the US, my family, myself: attractive only from a distance.  Up close, the warts begin to show.

This is meant to be a safe space, a place for discussion that gives the benefit of the doubt to the oppressed, not the empowered.  I will almost certainly trip over those words in my privileged haze, and I apologize, but I want to welcome that discussion all the same.  There will be rants, there will be anger, there will be exhaustion and there will be rage, but I don’t want there to be hate.

I identify as white, male, queer, and cis, and that leaves me with a lot of privilege but just enough oppression to be whiny about it.  I’m pursuing higher education at a higher-than-median age, and in the meantime I skim the poverty line.  And I read something every day that makes me angry.