Facial Recognition

So. I know the classic racist cliche is "all those people look alike." And the inability to distinguish people of another ethnicity from each other is a fairly standard marker of prejudice.

I have moderate to severe difficulty telling faces apart in general; I tend to run with context, haircuts, and broad categories, and if those change or are too close to someone else's, I can't tell people apart without a lot of familiarity. (I've occasionally mistaken my sisters for each other, or not recognized them immediately, after not seeing them for more than a year. I only have two.) And this difficulty gets worse with PoC, especially if my brain keeps categorizing hairstyles I'm less familiar with as roughly the same thing.

This is a minor inconvenience when it comes to watching movies with a bunch of white guys in suits who I keep mistaking for each other. This is a problem when it comes to my inability to recognize people I interact with on a semi-regular basis. If I've been sitting next to someone in class three days a week all semester, I should be able to recognize them when passing them on campus, and often I can't.

I do not want to be the person doing the "all you people look alike!" thing to PoC. Even if I'm not phrasing it like that. Even if it's true for white folks too.

Does anyone know a way I can fix this, or work around it better? "I'm terrible at recognizing faces and remembering names" may well be the simple truth, but if there's a way to fix this, I'd really rather do so, rather than keep assuring PoC that, hey, it's not my fault I'm confusing them with other PoC. It's not like I have complete face blindness--I can recognize most people I deal with on a regular basis, if I do so in multiple contexts--so I'm hoping there's some way to make this better.
on the road

(no subject)

I wear a keffiyeh. I try my best not to be appropriative about it; it's a solidarity thing and I have talked to several Palestinian friends/associates about it and am usually reassured it's a valid solidarity thing. (And then they usually take it off my head and retie it.)

Today at a coffee shop, a little girl sitting with her mum pointed at me (in a peacoat with the keffiyeh tied around my head to keep the rain off) and said, "She's like us!"

The mum was clearly embarrassed and explained that the girl's father wears the same keffiyeh I do and told her it's not polite to point. I sort of looked at my feet until I bought coffee. I just wonder if I could have handled it differently.
Palimpsest, city of masks

a timely reminder for Halloween

Ohio State University's STARS group (Students Teaching Against Racism) created a series of posters reminding folks that Halloween costumes supposedly portraying a member of another culture (geisha, sheikh, gang member) are racist and hurtful. View the posters here:

Several stories in the news in the past few years have discussed people throwing "ghetto" parties on college campuses and the like. Please reconsider your choices if you have planned a Halloween costume or party like this, and please speak up when you see others doing so.

Blackness vs. blackness

First post here— I've wanted to join for months but thought it might be best to read from the sidelines and only ask for membership when I had an actual question to ask. And now I do have a question, which also has been around for a bit but I didn't see anyone address it here yet. (Apologies if I missed it.)

I'm sure different people have different preferences on this, but as I gradually feel more comfortable writing about race problems and racism, I'm not sure when to speak of the Black community vs. the black community. I understand, albeit vaguely, that capital-b Black developed as a descriptor during the Civil Rights movement, but beyond the actual history of the term, I don't know when it's appropriate to use it now. I see some anti-racist activists and bloggers of various races using Black as a default (often using White as well instead of white), but for every one of them, I see someone who leaves everything lowercase. Is there a logic to this that I've missed?

In short, if Black still has connotations of Black Power and Black Pride, I want to make sure that I use Black in contexts that are respectful to those things, and I want whatever word I use to not sound well-intentioned but ultimately patronizing and presumptuous. On that same note, am I right to see a subtle difference when one uses Black and white instead of Black and White?

Thank you and I apologize if I've phrased any of this awkwardly/problematically.
cap, captain miss america

Racism in Comics

Darryl Ayo has a post up about racism in cartooning, the evolution of how racism has affected comics, and aesthetic issues that a history of racist caricatures has created for contemporary black cartoonists drawing black characters today. It assumes the reader knows a bit about comic history, but these are problems that aren't often discussed even though racism in comics is a big issue right now in re: the DC reboot and the introduction of the new Spider-Man.

"In later years, we would see a retreat from such imagery in mainstream comic books, but there was a cost. After some point in history, comic publishers began to feel it not wise or politically inopportune to allow such images in their products. What ended up happening, however, is that black characters largely vanished from many comic books."

That Old Black Magic

Is it even possible to appropriate from a white subculture?

This is in response to some claims I've seen - that the white mainstream is appropriating from geek culture, that metrosexuals are appropriating the markers of gay culture. I'll comment/edit with specific examples as I find them.

How do you all feel about these claims?

I can see how it can be argued that calling "mainstreaming" of subcultural markers "appropriation" can actually trivialize the experience of appropriation when people of minority cultures attempt to discuss the matter, so I can see how it would be silencing. But I'm white, so I'm taking a wild stab in the dark.

on cultural appropriation

This seems so basic and yet I had never seen this explained in this way before. Makes so much sense!

For me, what really helped me understand this issue was learning a little bit about semiotics. Semiotics is the "study of signs." In language/culture there is always a signifier (in this case "mohawk" cuts/dreadlocks) and a signified (indigenous cultures who used hairstyles similar to the "mohawk"/indigenous or resistance cultures that wore dreadlocks). The problem with appropriation is that it takes a signifier and removes the signified. All of a sudden, you have groups of people and their heritage that no longer have any way to signify themselves. They become a culture without any way to be seen, understood, or referenced, because all their signifiers now mean something completely different. It is cultural genocide (meme-cide?). In this case, the mohawk now signifies that you're part of an "alternative" subculture (punk, queer, whatever), and native peoples are very rarely even thought of.


Crossposted to my LJ.

2 interesting resources

"I’m not racist but…" is a tumblr curated by a couple of college students who simply search public Facebook posts for this phrase and grab screenshots that reveal just how "not racist" our culture is these days.

Microaggressions is a blog that "seeks to provide a visual representation of the everyday of 'microaggressions.' Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt - acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

This project is NOT about showing how ignorant people can be in order to simply dismiss their ignorance. Instead, it is about showing how these comments create and enforce uncomfortable, violent and unsafe realities onto peoples’ workplace, home, school, childhood/adolescence/adulthood, and public transportation/space environments."
Blue Moon Fics

Writing Without Marginalising

I'm going to try not to show my ass too much, but any and all critiques are welcome.

I have this idea for a post-apocalyptic scenario. I've actually written almost 75K words on it (thanks to NaNoWriMo), but it was the part of it that would happen in my neck of the words. (The demographic around here is decidedly white and our largest non-white group is Hispanics. The whole area is getting better, but progress is slow.) My own background is white as can be and largely non-religious as well, though I briefly took up neo-paganism in my junior high and high school years.

The post-apocalyptic idea is this: one day, roughly %99.99 of the human population of the planet disappears. Not straight across the board, but it works out to about that much. The point is that the world has been separated, and those who have magic in them are where the story takes place. The version of "magic" in this scenario is largely skill based, with people having unusual and/or instinctive skills in a certain area (so far I have hunting, gardening, healing, building, and animal husbandry, because those were useful to that particular setting). I'm debating having more flashy, Harry Potter style magic, but right now I'm sort of sticking with Circle of Magic-type magic.

My question for you nice folks is this: how do I write about groups that I am not part of without making them "Magic Negros" or "Wise Indians" or similarly insulting and marginalising stereotypes? Is it even really possible at our current levels of society, with all the appropriations and stuff that happens every day?

I would also deeply appreciate anything that anyone can tell me about ideas of "magic" or "mysticism" in the various peoples/religions/cultures that I am ignorant of. Or sources you can point me to that explores the idea of magic in different cultures. I'm particularly interested in Native American, Romani, and African-American, and I really want to avoid doing more harm to peoples who are hugely taken advantage of in fantasy literature anyway.

Thank you in advance!