I wonder why race matters in steampunk, do you?

Posted By on December 7, 2011

At my first ever steampunk-themed event, I looked around, and I was the only visible POC there. Same time, Ay-Leen would go to a con and at a crowd of over a hundred, maybe more, only two people in the crowd would be visible POC.
Recently, two little boys were called racial slurs in class. They’re not the first, and won’t be the last.
In the Netherlands, a tradition of blackface continues. Darker-skinned people face prejudice at the same time that people declare this blackface tradition is not racist. 
Back home in Malaysia, a trans woman friend of mine confesses that she feels normal when a child calls her a “Cina babi” — Chinese pig — because it means she’s considered normal enough as a woman that people are just racist towards her, not transphobic.
Well-meaning white people tell me and Ay-Leen to our faces that it should be okay for them to say and do racist shit because it’s just an act, and people should be able to recognize it for what it is, except, of course, if I’m on the receiving end of racism, how am I supposed to know it’s an act?
White folk can come to this blog and ask me to explain why should racism matter in steampunk, why steampunk should be purposefully anti-racist, while by-passing my 101 Reading List, and tell me my experiences don’t validate the existence of racism nor the necessity of anti-racism in steampunk. 
They do the same thing at Occupy, they did the same thing during RaceFail, they probably did the same thing at every single major turning point in history where racialized peoples try to raise awareness of racial injustice. 
Meanwhile, people tell me that I can’t use steampunk to talk about racism because steampunk is supposed to be fun and fantasy. They tell me my presentation isn’t as good as it could have been because I talked about issues and stopped having fun. To my face, even.
People think “non-Caucasian” is a good way to say “person of colour” and obviously have never had to think about the words they use to talk about race. 
Hollywood whitewashes more Asian films, cutting off chances for Asian-Americans to star in favour of white actors who look more “American”.
Folk have the temerity to tell me that “racism will always exist” and apparently I should fucking accept this. Yes, I and all POC like myself should accept racial injustice embedded into systems of employment, education, healthcare, housing, access to basic standards of living. 
Somehow people can understand that the world is made of different cultures, different nations, different social groups, different genders, different this different that, but think everyone should be treated the exact same way anyway.
I get called a “racist” very casually for wanting to meet people who identify with these differences of theirs.
At my own party, to my face, again, when I say, I don’t believe in tolerance, because tolerance is no longer useful in gaining equality, I am equated to Matthew Shepard’s killers. (FYI, that was not a problem of tolerance. That was a problem of hatred.) At a steampunk convention.

Just a few things off the top of  my head that demonstrate how racism is an everyday part of life. Does steampunk happen in some alternate dimension completely insulated from everyday life? If so, please direct me to this magical portal.

And somehow, all through this, people honest to God do not see why conscious anti-racism is necessary, in any fandom at all, and think it’s okay if people just aren’t obvious assholes to each other’s faces. 
Oh gee. I cannot imagine why.

Comments

Comments are closed.