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Jun 09 2013

Dealing with the ten percent

NK Jemisin is an American writer who was in Australia to give a speech. The context: she’s a black American woman in Australia with some trepidation — Australia has a bit of a reputation for racism, I’m sorry to say. Even when I visited the place, there were a couple of instances of casual racism as we were touring the cities (not within the atheist convention I was attending, I am quick to add) that left me a bit gobsmacked, and I’m your standard oblivious white man. But before you think this is an Australia-bashing occasion, read the speech.

Now. Before you tar and feather me, let me tell you something else I’ve come to understand in the past three days. Australia may not be the safest place for someone who looks like me… but it’s trying to become safer. And Australia may have classified the peoples of the Koorie and other nations as “fauna” until very recently, but Australia has also made tremendous strides lately in rectifying this error. I’ve listened in fascination to the Acknowledgements of Country made at nearly every public event I’ve attended since I’ve been here. I’ve marveled that indigenous languages are offered as courses for study at some local universities. I am awed that you don’t shove all of your indigenous history into a single museum, where it’s easy for people not of that culture to avoid or ignore, because that’s what happens in the US. So as horrified as I am by the nastier details of Australian history… I am also heartened, astonished, inspired, by the Australian present. You’ve still got a long way to go before Reconciliation is complete, but then again, you’ve started down that path. You’re trying.

I want you to understand: what you’ve done? It will never happen in my country. Not in my lifetime, at least. Right now American politicians are doing their best to roll back voting rights won during our own Civil Rights movement. They are putting in place educational “reforms” which disproportionately have a negative impact on black and brown and poor white kids, and will essentially help to solidify a permanent underclass. Right now there are laws in places like Florida and Texas which are intended to make it essentially legal for white people to just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence. So: admitting that the land we live on was stolen from hundreds of other nations and peoples? Acknowledging that the prosperity the United States enjoys was bought with blood? That’s a pipe dream.

Ouch. It’s true: Americans can be masters of denial. Didn’t we fix all the racism with the Civil War? Or was it the Reconstruction? Or maybe the Civil Rights Movement. Anyway, it’s not a problem anymore. The Republican Party isn’t profoundly racist at all, nor is the rest of the country. I can’t see any problems with my eyes closed, anyway.

She’s not done. She then proceeds to chastise science fiction fans.

For the past few days I’ve also been observing a “kerfuffle”, as some call it, in reaction to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ of America’s latest professional journal, the Bulletin. Some of you may also have been following the discussion; hopefully not all of you. To summarize: two of the genre’s most venerable white male writers made some comments in a series of recent articles which have been decried as sexist and racist by most of the organization’s membership. Now, to put this in context: the membership of SFWA also recently voted in a new president. There were two candidates — one of whom was a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavors of asshole. In this election he lost by a landslide… but he still earned ten percent of the vote. SFWA is small; only about 500 people voted in total, so we’re talking less than 50 people. But scale up again. Imagine if ten percent of this country’s population was busy making active efforts to take away not mere privileges, not even dignity, but your most basic rights. Imagine if ten percent of the people you interacted with, on a daily basis, did not regard you as human.

Just ten percent. But such a ten percent.

And beyond that ten percent are the silent majority — the great unmeasured mass of enablers. These are the folks who don’t object to the treatment of women as human beings, and who may even have the odd black or gay friend that they genuinely like. However, when the ten percent starts up in their frothing rage, these are the people who say nothing in response. When women and other marginalized groups respond with anger to the hatred of the ten percent, these are the people who do not support them, and in fact suggest that maybe they’re overreacting. When they read a novel set in a human society which contains only one or two female characters, these are the people who don’t decry this as implausible. Or worse, they simply don’t notice. These are the people who successfully campaigned for Star Trek to return to television after 25 years, but have no intention of campaigning for Roddenberry’s vision to be complete, with gay characters joining the rainbow brigade on the bridge. These are the people who gleefully nitpick the scientific plausibility of stopping a volcano with “cold fusion”, yet who fail to notice that an author has written a future earth in which somehow seventeen percent of the human race dominates ninety percent of the characterization.

That ten percent seems to be a problem everywhere: politics, religion, science fiction, atheism.

91 comments

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  1. 1
    David Hart

    I am reminded of Bill Bryson’s book Down Under, in which he describes (I paraphrase) how the Australian government did not include indigenous Australians in its census – that is, did not count them as human beings – until the 1960s.

    Seriously messed up.

  2. 2
    Inaji

    Right now there are laws in places like Florida and Texas which are intended to make it essentially legal for white people to just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence. So: admitting that the land we live on was stolen from hundreds of other nations and peoples? Acknowledging that the prosperity the United States enjoys was bought with blood? That’s a pipe dream.

    Yes, it is a pipe dream. There are still laws on the books in ND and SD about how it’s perfectly okay to kill us pesky Indians, under the right circumstance. These laws were never removed at all. SD law is worse than ND, you just have to be walking by someone’s property. There’s something about having to be in a covered wagon in ND. Round up all the ‘icky’ people, stuff ‘em in a corner in blazing poverty, and hey, it’s all good.

  3. 3
    lockout

    There is racism everywhere.

  4. 4
    nonotthatla

    Where I live (southeastern Louisiana), it’s a lot more than 10%, too.

  5. 5
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    There are still laws on the books in ND and SD about how it’s perfectly okay to kill us pesky Indians, under the right circumstance.

    I have long thought that the “disappearing Indian” myth is in part inspired by settlers classifying Indians as “those folks we shoot for land.” Once they stop shooting us, guess we don’t exist anymore, eh?

  6. 6
    Ingdigo Jump

    Lockout shut the fuck up

  7. 7
    Inaji

    MM:

    Once they stop shooting us, guess we don’t exist anymore, eh?

    Pretty much. I think the whole “stuff them into a rez, over there – that little corner” counts as rendering us invisible or non-existent. We only exist if we constitute a threat.

  8. 8
    Trebuchet

    That’s really a great message. Can you get her to become an FTBlogger?

  9. 9
    Reginald Selkirk

    And Australia may have classified the peoples of the Koorie and other nations as “fauna” until very recently, but Australia has also made tremendous strides lately in rectifying this error.

    Why is that an error? I look up fauna on dictionary.com and get the definition, “the animals of a given region or period considered as a whole.” Surely any evolutionist and naturalist agrees that humans are animals; and there is no use of the artificial construct “non-human animals.”

  10. 10
    Inaji

    Why is that an error?

    Gee, it might have something to do with those superior pasty white folks not being classed as “fauna”. Jesus fucking Christ onna stick.

  11. 11
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Surely any evolutionist and naturalist agrees that humans are animals; and there is no use of the artificial construct “non-human animals.”

    Somebody without a clue. Fauna in the average person’s mind means wild animals. Definitely a derogatory term.

  12. 12
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Why is that an error?

    Because it’s exclusionary and is making a distinct, dehumanizing difference between the peoples of the Koorie and the white people. By the same token, you can described all humans as great apes, but if you classified white people as people and non-white people as apes, you’d be a racist shitbag.

  13. 13
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Just to make it clear for our overseas friends: there are many peoples in Australia – the Koorie are but one group. Think of it like the many nations of indigenous Americans.

  14. 14
    Muz

    David Hart @1
    Aboriginal peoples weren’t counted in the census because the census is a federal matter. The natives were legally considered State concerns (and yes this rendered them non-persons, legally).
    Aboriginals and women were given the vote in the late 1800s in South Australia (the first anywhere), but those laws became void when the colony joined the Federation.

    I don’t know if you’d call Australia racist exactly – officially bends over backwards not to be, most of the time, as mentioned – but casual racism is pretty common. It’d be interesting to hear about PZ’s incidents.

  15. 15
    lockout

    I don’t believe there were apes in Australia, before the development of zoos.

  16. 16
    mythbri

    I read fauna as a fancy “scientific” term for “those people-like things that were here first but obviously can’t be people because look at their skin and anyway they don’t even speak proper English, the savages.”

    Who could object to that?

  17. 17
    mythbri

    Lockout, shut the fuck up.

  18. 18
    Inaji

    Muz:

    I don’t know if you’d call Australia racist exactly – officially bends over backwards not to be, most of the time, as mentioned – but casual racism is pretty common.

    As casual racism is common, then yes, you could say Australia has a racism problem. Pretty simple.

  19. 19
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Yes we do. Very simple indeed.

    Not in a ‘blacks can’t ride the bus’ way, but more of a ‘who will get the job – the white person or the black person?’ kind of way…

  20. 20
    smhll

    This is outstanding.

    Imagine if ten percent of this country’s population was busy making active efforts to take away not mere privileges, not even dignity, but your most basic rights. Imagine if ten percent of the people you interacted with, on a daily basis, did not regard you as human.
    Just ten percent. But such a ten percent.
    And beyond that ten percent are the silent majority — the great unmeasured mass of enablers. These are the folks who don’t object to the treatment of women as human beings, and who may even have the odd black or gay friend that they genuinely like. However, when the ten percent starts up in their frothing rage, these are the people who say nothing in response.

  21. 21
    SallyStrange

    You’re out of your depth, Lockout!

  22. 22
    SallyStrange

    Surely any evolutionist and naturalist agrees that humans are animals; and there is no use of the artificial construct “non-human animals.”

    You appear to be talking about current beliefs. The relevant question is whether the naturalists and evolutionists, such that existed at the time, as well as more influential figures, such as, for example, Clergy, who live at the time and did the classification, would agree.

  23. 23
    PZ Myers

    LOCKOUT: You are being annoying. Go away and grow up a little before making any more of these vapid comments.

  24. 24
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Lockout is here to represent the 10% for us.

  25. 25
    Inaji

    Gobi:

    Not in a ‘blacks can’t ride the bus’ way, but more of a ‘who will get the job – the white person or the black person?’ kind of way…

    Yeah. Look, try to make distinctions in order to say “hey, we aren’t that bad” isn’t helpful. It’s great that official steps have been, and are, being made. That makes a difference, a good one. However, to the person who can’t get a job because people are being bigoted asswipes, getting to ride the bus in a front seat in the midst of a bunch of people who might be thinking nasty things about them? It’s not a fabulous prize.

    Short form: you don’t deal with racism by trying to mitigate it against greater scale racism.

  26. 26
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    We are heading for a federal election this year. The Liberal party ( by name only) have been been expert at exploiting this undercurrent of casual racism in the past. Will be interesting to see how the campaign goes this time round…

  27. 27
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    Caine, ( if I understand you right) I wasn’t trying to say ‘we aren’t that bad’ – on the contrary I was trying to say it is, in some ways, more insidious. Sometimes the less overt it is the harder it is to fight. Sorry if I am not making my point very clear.

  28. 28
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Reginald Selkirk #8
    Seriously? You’re genuinely not understanding why it’s a problem that certain ethnic groups were officially designated as wildlife? I don’t even know where to start.

    gobi’s sockpuppet’s meatpuppet

    Just to make it clear for our overseas friends: there are many peoples in Australia – the Koorie are but one group. Think of it like the many nations of indigenous Americans.

    There are (white) Americans who don’t seem to be aware of the fact that there are many nations of indigenous Americans. I can’t count how many times I’ve been told that ‘The Indians” believed (almost always past tense here) this that or the other thing. When I ask what nation, specifically, had/has these beliefs, though, I never get an answer.

  29. 29
    Inaji

    Gobi:

    Sorry if I am not making my point very clear.

    That’s okay. I’m sorry I misunderstood what you were trying to say. Yes, ‘casual’ racism is insidious, and it’s damn hard work dealing with it.

  30. 30
    mythbri

    @Dalilama

    Look no further than the history textbooks that the majority of Americans use in schools (elementary, junior high and high school). Look at the difference between the treatment of Christianity and the various belief systems of the Nations. If the belief systems are discussed at all, it’s always monolithic and treated in a “primitive woo” kind of way. The destruction of the cultures and the lack of mainstream interest in preserving them makes it difficult for the (white) layperson to easily understand that there is more than one “Indian culture,” and that the differences are important.

  31. 31
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    I am probably not being the most understandable tonight – 2:00AM here with a head full of influenza :)

    I am just a normal white Australian guy but I am sick to death of the casual racism that is around. I have also had stand up verbal fights with people – not so casually racist- about a culture that is tens of thousands of years older than theirs and should not be dismissed as some primitive oddity of yesteryear.

  32. 32
    Inaji

    Mythbri:

    The destruction of the cultures and the lack of mainstream interest in preserving them makes it difficult for the (white) layperson to easily understand that there is more than one “Indian culture,” and that the differences are important.

    The whitewashing of Indians has been going on for a very long time, it’s not going to stop now. When it comes to history books and schooling, some teachers out there make an effort, a serious one, however, for the most part, it still comes down to the brave white heroes and the savages.

    It’s really not difficult to educate yourself (or your kids, if you have them), or anyone else on the subject of Indians, different nations and all. Most tribes have extensive websites. The problem lies much deeper. A majority of white people have very predictable reactions: 1) they get all starry eyed and misinterpret everything they learn, deliberately, and often start calling themselves something like “Mary running beaver shining crystal howling wolf” and act like a fucking fool, or 2) insist on portraying white people as the brave heroes and go on to list all the problems with those damn Indians (lazy, drunk, primitive, unable to integrate, poor, stupid, all that) and 3) Oh, those poor souls. Well, you know most of them are xian now and 4) the basic “I thought all the Indians were dead” along with its variant, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

  33. 33
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    There are many white Australians who don’t think much more of aboriginal Australians than eating witchetty grubs, playing the didgeridoo and throwing boomerangs…

    It is good that our education system has improved since I was in school.

  34. 34
    mythbri

    @Caine

    It’s really not difficult to educate yourself

    I agree that it’s not difficult – I’m learning as much as I can about the nations that live on the reservations in my region, and about my own family history as well (my grandmother’s grandmother was Cherokee, and my grandmother told me stories before she died of “friends” of hers refusing to have anything to do with her after they learned of her heritage).

    But for people to educate themselves, they have to (1) understand where their knowledge is lacking and (2) care. This is not my general impression of the white layperson.

  35. 35
    Inaji

    Mythbri:

    This is not my general impression of the white layperson.

    Nor mine.

  36. 36
    Rey Fox

    You’re out of your depth, Lockout!

    Element.

  37. 37
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    This is not my general impression of the white layperson.

    Indeed.

  38. 38
    mvemjsun

    With the uproar over the Cheerios commercial’s interracial couple this country seems to have plenty of bigots as well. I am in a interracial marriage and there are places it is dangerous to be so. It would be wonderful if a person’s color, gender, and sexual orientation had nothing to do with their perceived worth to a stranger.

  39. 39
    markr1957

    This is not my general impression of the white layperson.

    My experience has been that even if you can convince some (white) people they are wrong, they still don’t want to learn how to be right.

  40. 40
    SallyStrange

    Element.

    Ahhh fuck me.

  41. 41
    Eristae

    And beyond that ten percent are the silent majority — the great unmeasured mass of enablers. These are the folks who don’t object to the treatment of women as human beings, and who may even have the odd black or gay friend that they genuinely like. However, when the ten percent starts up in their frothing rage, these are the people who say nothing in response. When women and other marginalized groups respond with anger to the hatred of the ten percent, these are the people who do not support them, and in fact suggest that maybe they’re overreacting.

    Right now these are the people who are giving me the biggest sadz. I can handle the hate of the 10%. I don’t know if I can handle the undercutting of the enablers. I said such in my letter to CFI.

    1) they get all starry eyed and misinterpret everything they learn, deliberately, and often start calling themselves something like “Mary running beaver shining crystal howling wolf” and act like a fucking fool,

    OMFG this drives me crazy!

    “I’m a Native American spiritualist . . . who got all my ideas of what it means to be Native American from television or other popular fiction. Look! Dreamcatchers! Animal guides! Spirit quests! Sage smudging! Feathers!”

    Nyaaaaaah! *falls over*

    You’re out of your depth, Lockout!

    Element.

    Ahhh fuck me.

    I’m going to take a moment to express my approval of the phrase “out of your depth.” You go stick an animal in a depth of water that it’s not suited for? DOOOOM.

  42. 42
    johndhynes

    Something that’s bugged about Star Trek for years is that, even though they interbreed left and right with different species, within our own species they mostly only date the same race. Of course, nobody notices when Kirk and Picard date white women, even if they have green makeup, since most of the actors are white, but on Deep Space 9 if a black woman showed up, it was to date the black captain. How realistic is that 4 centuries in the future?

  43. 43
    Ingdigo Jump

    Bashire mostly dated white women…..and Garrek

  44. 44
    Inaji

    johndhynes:

    How realistic is that 4 centuries in the future?

    Well, hopefully, if we’re still around four centuries from now, it won’t be realistic at all. SciFi/Fantasy has the opportunity to challenge ideas and social norms. It’s quite disappointing how Star Trek has been handled all these years. At least back in the 60s, Roddenberry had the nerve to feature the first interracial kiss on television, and people weren’t terribly happy about it, to say the least.

  45. 45
    Ingdigo Jump

    GIve Trek credit that they tried to have onair gay couple but got nixed by network assholes

  46. 46
    vaiyt

    “Depth” fits Pharyngula better, I think. Cephalopods and all.

  47. 47
    Inaji

    Ing:

    GIve Trek credit that they tried to have onair gay couple but got nixed by network assholes

    Credit for what, caving? A couple wasn’t needed, it wasn’t a fucking soap opera. The writers could have simply written one of the main characters as a GLBT person and stood firm on it. They could have had a diverse crew, too. But no, we had ‘white people in space with lots and lots of kids!’ Bleargh.

  48. 48
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    with lots and lots of kids

    Born the painful way, because finding ways to ease childbirth is just never a priority in science fiction.

  49. 49
    Inaji

    Beatrice:

    Born the painful way, because finding ways to ease childbirth is just never a priority in science fiction.

    Yes indeed. Gosh, a transporter can get ya all the way to another world, but retrieve an infant? *Gasp* No, never!

  50. 50
    Ingdigo Jump

    @caine

    Producers came down to stop them from doing a gay cameo even. gay character was also impossible due to studeo dickery (rumor is GEORDI may have been intended to be the gay crewman)

    @Beatrice

    Except for Farscape, where Sebacians are gene hacked for gestation on mothers terms (she hs to choose to allow pregancy to progress otherwise embryo is kept static for up to 2 yers) and ease of delivery (only didn’t go as easy bc only one seen was half human and thus messed it up…oups)

  51. 51
    johndhynes

    Caine, Fleur du mal:

    At least back in the 60s, Roddenberry had the nerve to feature the first interracial kiss on television

    In the 90s they seemed to be terrified of it. At least nowadays nobody seems to even notice when Saldana and Quinto kiss.

    And speaking of Quinto, he gets to do what Takei couldn’t: come out. Now if only some of the characters would…

    Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. -Martin Luther King, Jr., paraphrasing Theodore Parker

  52. 52
    Inaji

    johndhynes:

    At least nowadays nobody seems to even notice when Saldana and Quinto kiss.

    Yes, but that’s because it’s seen as a human/alien relationship, not interracial. Firefly had an interracial relationship in Zoe and Wash.

  53. 53
    johndhynes

    Caine, Fleur du mal:

    Yes indeed. Gosh, a transporter can get ya all the way to another world, but retrieve an infant? *Gasp* No, never!

    Actually, not “never”. That was done on Star Trek: Voyager.

    I don’t know how many constitute “lots and lots of kids”. How many of the main characters had kids?

  54. 54
    Inaji

    johndhynes:

    That was done on Star Trek: Voyager.

    Ah. I think I saw about 3 eps of that one. When I say lots and lots of kids, the times I had to suffer through an ep of NG, there were either kids everywhere or the story was kid based. They had the nursery, the school, several of the characters had kids, or so and so was pregnant, yada, yada, yada. Nursery in space. Oh, and of course, the genius kid as played by Wil Wheaton.

  55. 55
    johndhynes

    Caine, Fleur du mal:

    Firefly had an interracial relationship in Zoe and Wash.

    I don’t recall anyone noticing that, either, although it was not long after DS9. So did something change between the 90s and 00s?

  56. 56
    A. R

    Yes indeed. Gosh, a transporter can get ya all the way to another world, but retrieve an infant? *Gasp* No, never!

    I think they did that once on Voyager, but they gave some handwave about only doing it in emergencies due to potential complications or something like that.

  57. 57
    Inaji

    johndhynes:

    I don’t recall anyone noticing that, either, although it was not long after DS9. So did something change between the 90s and 00s?

    I expect it had more to do with Fox never giving it a chance to pick up a major audience, then canceling it prematurely. I imagine enough assholes would have been upset about it, had they known – look at the reaction the Cheerios commercial received.

  58. 58
    Muz

    Caine @ #17
    Yeah. “Australia is racist” has been a bit of a thing of late, is all. When it’s really about as true as saying the US is racist, the UK is racist (dunno what Canada is like. Someone could chime in), which I doubt anyone would dispute. If people somehow had an impression that Australia was different or above it all then they are going to be quite disappointed.

    Still curious about PZ incidents; where it was, who the targets were etc.

  59. 59
    johndhynes

    Caine, Fleur du mal:

    When I say lots and lots of kids, the times I had to suffer through an ep of NG, there were either kids everywhere or the story was kid based.

    They were annoying, but that was hardly every episode, and they were trying to make the ship reflect society, and there are a lot more kids in actual society than were ever shown on the ship. 20% of the US population is under 15. And I don’t remember any in the original series.

    And who doesn’t love Wil Weaton?

    On TNG they at least tried, although usually hamfistedly. Like, to make up for the sexist uniforms on TOS, TNG had woman in pants and men in skirts, although it just looked dumb. And they had an alien race that was all black, although the execution came out even more racist. And they did have an episode that dealt with homosexuality in a roundabout way, using aliens who, well, that one didn’t come out as well as intended, either. But give them a break, the straight white men in charge were at least trying!

    DS9 actually had two women in a forbidden love! (Although nobody cared that they were the same sex, it was forbidden for completely different reasons…)

  60. 60
    johndhynes

    Muz @ #57
    “dunno what Canada is like”

    Racist. But they’re much more polite about it.

  61. 61
    Inaji

    johndhynes:

    They were annoying, but that was hardly every episode, and they were trying to make the ship reflect society, and there are a lot more kids in actual society than were ever shown on the ship.

    Sorry, that just doesn’t wash for me. I’d buy pregnancies and sproglets all over a ship if it were a research vessel, maybe. An exploration class ship? One that gets into frequent firefights and dicey situations? Not so much. It’s a bloody spaceship, it’s not supposed to reflect society. At any rate, if that excuse is to be used, where are all the people of colour? Where are the gay men, the lesbian women, the bisexual people, the transgender people and the asexual people? Sorry, you don’t get away with “reflecting society” if the only reflecting bit is white people and their kids.

    Like, to make up for the sexist uniforms on TOS, TNG had woman in pants and men in skirts, although it just looked dumb.

    Yeah, and it didn’t take very long for the writers to decide to stuff Troi into a dress designed to make her cleavage the star.

    Sorry, sorry, I really couldn’t stand TNG, so I’ll stop talking about it now.

  62. 62
    johndhynes

    Caine, I actually cannot find any part of your last post I disagree with.

  63. 63
    David Marjanović

    did not include indigenous Australians in its census – that is, did not count them as human beings –

    A slightly more charitable interpretation is “as members of society” instead of “as human beings”; the most charitable interpretation of that is “they have their own society, we don’t care”.

    I’m making no claims as to whether it’s the most parsimonious interpretation.

    Bashire mostly dated white women…..and Garrek

    “They’re after our white women!!1!!!”

    Roddenberry had the nerve to feature the first interracial kiss on television

    But it’s quite disguised: they don’t kiss of their own free will, evil aliens with telekinetic powers make them do it.

    Actually, not “never”. That was done on Star Trek: Voyager.

    Yes, to deliver a baby who has horns on her head, in one of the later series.

    Sorry, sorry, I really couldn’t stand TNG, so I’ll stop talking about it now.

    I recommend this, especially sections 9.4 and 9.6.

  64. 64
    Reginald Selkirk

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy: Seriously? You’re genuinely not understanding why it’s a problem that certain ethnic groups were officially designated as wildlife? I don’t even know where to start

    I do.
    1) Some Fundie mentalist gets all het up because he doesn’t believe his grandpappy was an ape. Which side do you take? The educated evolutionist says yes, we are all apes, we are all primates, we are all animals.
    2) So the error should be not listing some other ethnic group as fauna, not including the Koorie.
    3) I see you are changing up vocabulary. “Fauna” was not outrageous enough, so you pretend that I said “wildlife” and strawmanning about that instead. Grow the fuck up.

  65. 65
    Electric Shaman

    I wholeheartedly agree with her speech but I just can’t help myself here and nitpick, and I recognize that this has nothing to do with her intent. But it irritates me when people use words like “Koorie” as an indicator that they understand other cultures, or “totally get it”, when in fact their use of the word only functions as a display of their ignorance. I probably would have just gone about my day and ignored this if she hadn’t used the term “Koorie” in context with the concept of Aboriginal “nations”. Instead, I have spent the last half hour stewing and pondering how to articulate my frustration in blog comment form. Luckily (not really) it’s the Queen’s birthday (it isn’t) and I have the day off so I am not wasting time at work because of this.

  66. 66
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    “Fauna” was not outrageous enough, so you pretend that I said “wildlife” and strawmanning about that instead. Grow the fuck up.

    Fauna does mean wildlife; animals: Fauna is all of the animal life of any particular region or time. Most humans don’t consider themselves as part of the fauna for the region, and animals aren’t counted in human census. The problem is in your mind, where you can’t be wrong, not ours.

  67. 67
    vaiyt

    @Reginald Selkirk

    3) I see you are changing up vocabulary. “Fauna” was not outrageous enough, so you pretend that I said “wildlife” and strawmanning about that instead.

    Nobody cares what your personal definition of fauna is. It does mean “wildlife” in the original context. The whole point of counting the Koorie as fauna was to not count them as humans. You’re failing at being pedantic.

  68. 68
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    People who haven’t grown up with or seen real racists at work simply try using the dictionary definition of fauna, and the dictionary definition of humans as the naked ape. Those of us with experience with racists understand the aggression that calling the indigenous population as “fauna” means. It says they are subhuman, and should be expected to be treated badly. Same as calling native americans “savages”. Good old 1950s racism.

  69. 69
    mildlymagnificent

    And it’s not as though they didn’t know it was wrong to regard indigenous people that way, either. I can’t remember which book I read it in, but I was actually quite pleased, charmed(?), can’t think of a better word, reading about a communication/ pronouncement by Queen Victoria. If you read it one way it’s an arrogant statement by an empress about just how many people and places she claims to rule. Read the other way, she’s stating quite baldly that “these people” are “her people” and the colonial administrators had better make damn sure that if they govern in her name they’d better do it for the benefit of the locals.

    (When we finally get our books organised out of boxes and into the not-yet-purchased bookcases, I’ll see if that group of books survived the massive cull when we moved.)

    And please, not koori. Around here, it’s generally nunga.

  70. 70
    Electric Shaman

    Arrrrgh why is this bothering me so much? I think I have discovered a new pet peeve today. @66 stop it with this “the Koorie” business! For one, it’s usually spelled “koori” and also koori is such an ambiguous term you might as well just say Aboriginals or Indigneous Australians. Especially since the laws weren’t just biased against “the Koorie”, but all indigenous people in the country.

    And @ 68, around my parts, it’s generally murri.

  71. 71
    Inaji

    Reginald Selkirk:

    I do.

    So, you’ve decided to dig in and defend appalling racism. Have another shovel or three, you’ll need them, as you seem quite intent on increasing that hole you’re in.

  72. 72
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    @Electric Shamen

    As a Queenslander, I find this “‘the Koorie’ business” a bit odd as well. Didn’t come across it until talking with people from the southern states. Aboriginal people up here don’t identify themselves that way.

    The ‘nations’ thing was probably my fault a bit – I was trying to get across the idea to our US friends that the indigenous people of Australia were not a big homogenous group. I thought that might have been the best way as the conversation was around American Indians at the time.

  73. 73
    Rey Fox

    Ahhh fuck me.

    But I’m not a nihilist.

    Some Fundie mentalist gets all het up because he doesn’t believe his grandpappy was an ape. Which side do you take? The educated evolutionist says yes, we are all apes, we are all primates, we are all animals.

    Do you honestly think the Australian government had that in mind when they classified Aborigines as “fauna”, but, conveniently, did not white people as such? Please tell me you’re not that stupid.

    I’m reminded of when George W. Bush did a speech in the west somewhere after a heavy wildfire season and described it as a “holocaust”. Various Bush defenders claimed that since the original meaning of “holocaust” is “burnt offering” or some such, that it wasn’t offensive. I mean, come the fuck on.

  74. 74
    SallyStrange

    Reginald, you don’t suppose the people who classified the Australian aboriginals as animals rather than people ever used that as a justification for all-out extermination of said aboriginals, do you? Do you??

  75. 75
    SallyStrange

    “Depth” fits Pharyngula better, I think. Cephalopods and all.

    But the reference, guys! The reference.

  76. 76
  77. 77
    Electric Shaman

    @ Gobi

    I was referring mostly to Ms Jemisin’s comment about the “Koorie” and other nations. It just reeks of her doing something along the lines of “I’m giving a talk in Australia, what is there around that I can read on the plane ride over that gives me some background and I can use to make me sound like I have some deep profound understanding of the indigenous people there.” And now this seems to have been perpetuated by others in the comments here. As I was alluding to in my original comment, using the term koori does not make you uber-pc or savvy, it just makes you look like an ignorant try-hard.

    From my understanding of where koori derives from, those in the southern states would be correct in using “koori” (I am also a Queenslander). Here in Queensland, the term most similar to koori is murri or it’s dialectal equivalents–such as “murdi”. Very generally speaking, using terms like murri as a group identifier is a linguistic one and a very broad one at that. From my understanding, languages in Queensland vary in their relatedness to each other, but all seem to have the same word for “man”: murri/murdi/mardi etc. This differs from the languages further to the south along the coast in New South Wales, Victoria, and possibly South Australia. My knowledge of non-Queensland aboriginals is sketchy at best, but from my understanding that’s where koori would come from–it is a common word in those languages that would mean something along the lines of “man”. There are of course other commonalities among the murris and among the kooris than this broad linguistic definition, and not all Queensland groups are necessarily murri and not all groups in the southern states necessarily koori, but yeah that’s more or less very generally where it comes from. As a loose comparison, it would be like saying all people descended from Western Europeans are the same “nation” because we have a handful of words that are very similar to each other and have the same meaning.

  78. 78
    gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet

    @Electric Shaman

    Thank you for the clarification. I was hoping it wasn’t another case of southern states just assuming they are all that Australia is. Gets a bit tiresome after a while.

  79. 79
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Even in the southern states it’s not all “Koori”. That tends to be used as a catch-all for urban Aboriginal people of many tribes. Our locals are actually Ngunnawal and would much prefer that! And there’s Wiradjuri around here too.

    Yeah, Australia has a racism problem. It’s nice that someone noticed we’re trying to deal with it, but I don’t hold out much hope for improvement in the short term. The next election is going to be bad.

  80. 80
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I was in the audience for this speech and the actual spoken one was even better. It followed the text mostly but there was a little ad libbing. She wrote the speech while at the convention and jet lagged so there may be an odd inaccurate bit. And considering upcoming election and the polls indicating that so many Australians appear to be swayed by misogyny and fear she may be too optimistic about us. But she is so right about the enablers.

  81. 81
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I will note however that thtis was a convention where before this speech there was a Social Justice 101 panel where there were a lot of people who did not know about intersectionality and privilege and so forth and listened with interest to the panelists, and nobody attempted to mansplain or claim that this sort of thing did not happen or be hostile in any way. I was heartened!

  82. 82
    Electric Shaman

    @ Gobi

    I have a feeling that this may be a case of the southern states assuming that they are all that matters in Australia. Once again. She gave her speech in Melbourne, so perhaps some all wise urbanite who helped organise the conference told her that the aboriginals around those parts were kooris, because said urbanite happened to see copies of “The Koori Mail” floating around in one of their trendy alleyway cafes. It is also possible that I am being too cynical as well, but I digress…

    @ Crockoduck 78

    I did say, perhaps in a long-winded and unsuccessful way, that the term “koori’ does not apply to all indigenous people in the southern states, but you are quite right when you say the term is a “catch-all” term, especially for urban Aboriginals. Here in Queensland, calling a person a “murri” is the same as calling someone a blackfella. It is just an acknowledgement that the person you are referring to is Aboriginal. When it comes to, for lack of a better term, “tribal” identification they don’t use murri–they use more specific identifiers like Wakka Wakka, Gooreng Gooreng, Kalkadoon, and so on.

  83. 83
    Reginald Selkirk

    vaiyt #66: Nobody cares what your personal definition of fauna is.

    I should think not. That’s why I looked up a definition in a commonly used resource instead, shithead.

    SallyStrange #73: who classified the Australian aboriginals as animals rather than people…

    You still have not taken my point, which is that people are animals.

  84. 84
    vaiyt

    @Reginald Selkirk

    Being called a shithead by a straw-grasping troll like you is a sign that I’m doing it right.

  85. 85
    Amphiox

    Reginald Selkirk, are you seriously trying to imply that you do not understand the difference between biological and legal definitions for words, and why it is sometimes important that the two not be identical?

  86. 86
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    Amphiox – exactly, because they were classified as ‘fauna’ they fell under the rules for how flora and fauna were dealt with by law, not how people were dealt with. Reginald Selkirk appears to be terribly obtuse if he does not that understand that while all people are biologically animals, being classified as them legally is a totally different thing. Because different laws and rules usually apply to what the laws refer to as animals or fauna, than what apply to what the laws classify as people. If there wasn’t a difference because all people are animals, then why was only this small subset of the people described so?

  87. 87
    rowanvt

    Reginal ‘logic’:

    Humans are animals, so when we give humans rights, we are giving animals rights, therefore all animals have rights and I can register my corn snakes to vote in the next election.

  88. 88
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    From upthread, but:
    Caine:

    johndhynes:

    I don’t recall anyone noticing that, either, although it was not long after DS9. So did something change between the 90s and 00s?

    I expect it had more to do with Fox never giving it a chance to pick up a major audience, then canceling it prematurely. I imagine enough assholes would have been upset about it, had they known – look at the reaction the Cheerios commercial received.

    Couldn’t have anything to do with how Wash/Zoe was white man/black woman and the Cheerios commercial was black man/white woman, could it?

    Those two situations should not read as equivalent.

  89. 89
    SallyStrange

    Well, people are animals. Stop the presses. Now if only we could have a time machine so we could go back in time to the people who classified Australian aboriginals as fauna, NOT as human beings, and explain this concept to them.

    In other words, fuck you, Reginald, you lying, dumbass, racist piece of shit.

  90. 90
    Nick Gotts

    Reginald Selkirk,

    It’s truly difficult to believe that you are really such a shit-for-brains as you appear to be. Yes, biologically, human beings are animals. But the term “fauna” is not equivalent to the scientific term “animals”, and its use to apply to people is racism at its most vile. The best thing you can do is to apologise profusely, and then STFU until everyone has had a chance to forget your behaviour on this thread.

  91. 91
    Hannah Armstrong

    To further expand on some comments made above, “Koori” is not even one group, and it’s not applicable all over Australia. I’m Aboriginal, from Tasmania, grew up in Melbourne Victoria. I’m not Koori. A lot of white teachers and school principles would call for (example taken from the day Kevin Rudd delivered the Apology) “All Koori kids/students, please come to the library.” I’m not Koori, it’s a word that usually means Victorian blackfella, and I’ve heard folk from NSW and Queensland use it too.

    Further – my Mum was born in 1966, the same year that Aboriginal people were ‘granted’ citizenship – before then, as has been noted, we were “protected” under the Flora and Fauna act. Until recently, Mum wasn’t even sure she would be eligible for a passport due to her year of birth.

    We’re making progress, but we’ve a very long way to go.

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