how-much-farther-to-go asked: Do you feel that there is racism in the ASOIAF books' representation of its PoC other than the general lack of them? (It seems like very many live in its WORLD but don't proportionally participate in the story). Which brings up another question I have: Have you ever written a post concerning the extent to which individual authors have a responsibility to represent PoC? If you have, I would very much be interested in reading it.
If you want to talk about “responsibility” on the part of individual authors, you can go ahead and read it from the horse’s mouth.
He really believes he is basing this story on history, and that is his response to lack of and poor representation of people of color in his stories:
So let’s talk about the internet controversy about Oberyn Martell. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I commented on my blog. You can find a more studied response there. I made a couple of comments as to what people said about that. I always pictured Oberyn Martell in my head as a — what I call a Mediterranean type. I know people attacked me for that by saying “He’s ignorant, he doesn’t know that Africa is on the Mediterranean.” No, I know Africa is on the Mediterranean. But in common parlance, when you say Mediterranean you are thinking Greek, Italian, Spanish. When you are thinking Moroccan or Tunisian that’s North African. That’s the way people talk about that.
I always pictured the Martells and the salty Dornishman as Mediterraneans, so the casting I think is perfectly appropriate with what I wrote in the books. I do sympathize. I mean, I understand.
Some people have written me some very heartfelt letters, and I’ve tried to respond to them about how they wanted to see someone who looked like them in the books, and how they were [disappointed]. They had pictures of the Martells looking like them, and they were disappointed.
I understand that, but it still wasn’t my intent to make… Even the terminology here is such a land mine. I don’t even know what words to use here “black” or “African.” I used African at one point, sort of like African American. [But] if you use “African” you are guilty for saying all Africans are the same.
I don’t know. I am drawing from history, even though its fantasy. I’ve read a lot of history, The War of the Roses, The Hundred Years War. The World back then was very diverse. Culturally it was perhaps more diverse then our world, but travel was very difficult back then. So even though there might have been many different races and ethnicities and peoples, they didn’t necessarily mix a great deal. I’m drawing largely on medieval England, medieval Scotland, to some extent medieval France. There was an occasional person of color, but certainly not in any great numbers.
^ I consider this to be a cop out. Added on to the fact that he seems more concerned about getting criticized for using the wrong word than massive disappointment on the part of his own fan base. It more or less reeks of “everyone’s so P.C. these days! Ugh!”
I mean, there is plenty of historical precedent for even large numbers of various people of color in all of those nations. You can read articles about forensic archeology and recent discoveries that have challenged these notions to the breaking point. Like, as in 20% people of color. Take 4th Century York, England. According to Dr. Hella Eckhardt:
“It helps paint a picture of a Roman York that was hugely diverse and which included among its population, men, women and children of high status from Romanised North Africa and elsewhere in the Mediterranean.”
Eboracum (York) was both a legionary fortress and civilian settlement, and ultimately became the capital of Britannia Inferior. York was also visited by two Emperors, the North-African-born Emperor Septimius Severus, and later Constantius I (both of whom died in York). All these factors provide potential circumstances for immigration to York, and for the foundation of a multicultural and diverse community.
I can tell you the same things about Scotland, France, Central Europe…all these regions had seen large influxes of immigrants in the late Roman and early Medieval Eras. After all, these people didn’t just disappear hundreds of years later when historians decided a new “period” of history had begun! There’s plenty of primary sources and documentation that many specifically Black people lived and worked in various Medieval European cities and towns.
Also, speaking of Empires, there was also a rather important Mongolian Empire that happened firmly within an time frame that is pretty universally recognized as “Medieval”. Which, very unfortunately, brings us to the Dothraki.
People complain that the Dothraki are this one-dimensional barbarian society.
I haven’t had a Dothraki viewpoint character though.
I guess it’s too late to introduce one now.
I could introduce a Dothraki viewpoint character, but I already have like sixteen viewpoint characters. I could kill some of my viewpoint characters, to get down to the seven or eight I started with, or some numerical equivalent. The Dothraki are partially based on the Huns and the Mongols, some extent the steppe tribes like the Alvars and Magyars. I put in a few elements of the Amerindian plains tribes and those peoples, and then I threw in some purely fantasy elements. It’s fantasy.
Are they barbaric? Yeah, but the Mongols were, too. Genghis Khan — I just saw an interesting movie about Ghengis Khan, recently. I’ve read books about Genghis Khan, and he’s one of history’s more fascinating, charismatic characters. The Mongols became very sophisticated at certain points, but they were certainly not sophisticated when they started out, and even at the height of their sophistication they were fond of doing things like giant piles of heads. “Surrender your city to me, or we will come in and kill all the men, rape all the women and make a giant pile of heads." They did that a few times, and other cities said, "Surrender is good. We’ll surrender. We’ll pay the taxes. No pile of heads, please.”
*puts hands over face*
Okay, let’s talk about how and why a guy who “reads a lot of history” gets this kind of idea about Mongol people, and apparently friggin Plains NDNs people as well (TW for murder gore, rape at link and f*ck you very much Mr. Martin, jeeeeebus.)
There is no equivalent for the Dothraki in history. What people point to most often is the Mongol invasions in Asia and Europe, but these generalizations are originally extrapolated mostly from the accounts from invaded nations written by someone who had heard this or that about what had happened. I’m not saying like, “such and such never happened” I’m saying it didn’t always happen, and also that there’s a lot more to the story, and also that this narrative dominates for a reason.
We’ll do an example. Here you have something like this from UWGB, which heads up their “Mongol Values” section with a supposed quote from Genghis Khan. Here’s what the claim is, right? We have this translation of something he supposedly said here:
The greatest joy a man can know is to conquer his enemies and drive them before him. To ride their horses and take away their possessions. To see the faces of those who were dear to them bedewed with tears, and to clasp their wives and daughters in his arms.
Okay, so basically, Conan the Barbarian. The article, which, might I remind you, is on a college site, goes on from this to say:
Or to paraphrase it in the bluntest possible modern terms: “To kill people, take their property, see and enjoy the pain you have caused their families, and rape their women as a final gesture of power.”
Okay, well that’s is a pretty big “I decided this means exactly what I already expected someone I think Genghis Khan was like would say.”Even if you did decide to take this at face value…that’s still not the casual attitude toward sexual violence the Dothraki demonstrate, it’s the opposite.
I could go into how women in Mongol culture had a great deal of power (which doesn’t necessarily translate into conquered women being perceived as equivalent, but might I remind you that Dothraki women in ASOIAF appear to be chattel with zero bodily autonomy evidence of sentience, for the most part), or how women having sociopolitical power does not equal a lessening of sexual violence by necessity….but.
I could mention that the way in which Genghis Khan was able to stabilize and actually rule such a vast empire was by giving conquered MEN to his DAUGHTERS in marriage, but then took these husbands out on campaign with him, and replaced them as needed when they died. Or that his empire was actually inherited by his daughters.
And then this article goes on to make statements about we know from Genghis Khan’s attitudes and sadistic enjoyments (more or less) that hope for humanity’s goodness will always be futile, because there will always be Hitlers and Stalins.
^^^That is their section on “Mongol Values”. D:
People who claim that GRRM’s Dothraki are realistically based on Mongolian or Plains NDN culture are pretty much in “Einstein and Hammurabi Disco Dance in a Hot-Air Balloon" territory.
Thanks to Historians like the above and GRRM, people think “Mongolian=pile of heads, nonstop rape” . There’s no Khutulun, Wrestler Princess, among the Dothraki. There is no Queen Manduhui, no Lady Hö’elün, no Empress Chabi, no Sorghatani Beki, no mention of The Great Khanum and eight princesses Ruy González de Clavijo saw and marveled at in 1403.
GRRM took a society of women who could own property, divorce at will, hold political office and positions of military command, and replaced them with visibly dirty, grunting animals being raped publicly in the dirt [tw link for an image of what i just described].
Because “historical accuracy”.
Because oh, well it’s already done and it’s too late to change it now.
Actually, all of it sounds incredibly familiar:
"We cannot simply change it"
"I could introduce a Dothraki viewpoint character, but I already have like sixteen viewpoint characters"
"I guess it’s too late to introduce one now."
It’s always too little, too late, try again, make your own, better luck next time.
So, when do we get to stop being force-fed vile stereotypes with our fantasy? When do we get wish-fulfillment and escapism?
The bottom line is, I don’t know because the this is the industry right now:
How are supposed to break the vicious cycle of whiteness in publishing, whiteness of SF/F authors, whiteness of characters, othering, misogyny, degradation, stereotypes, and a history of a Black-White Good-Evil dichotomy?
Why does it matter? Because people think this is real, people think this is accurate, people think this is acceptable, people think this is historical, including, apparently, the people who are writing these stories.
We must change the narrative to change our stories, because lies about the past are in danger of dictating our futures.
can we just
Simultaneously the worst and best movie ever made
Actually one of my teachers watched every single version of Romeo and Juliet with the original text in front of him to prove that this was the worst version, but to his great dismay its the most accurate film adaptation of it, with the lines closest to the original text and most similar stage direction and relayed emotions.
He proceeded to show it to us in class.
This is how you handle getting your privileged called out.
Not “reverse racism!” Not “heterophobe!” and all those other dynamics that don’t exist. Just recognition. Recognition of privilege (and hopefully continuous self-checking)
Day 1 of White History Month: Imaginary Black-on-White Crime
[Images: Newspaper Article on Rosewood Massacre, Newspaper Article on Scottsboro Boys [x], Boston Herald Cover feating Charles Stuart [x], Conrad Zdzierak and Surveillance Photo of Conrad Zdzierak wearing a mask to appear Black during a robbery [x], Ashley Smith [x], Police Officer Robert Ralston [x], Ashley Todd hoax [x], Bethany Storro [x]]
White-on-Black hoaxes follow a standard pattern. First, law enforcement officials are called into action. They are asked to protect an innocent White person from further harm and to apprehend a widely perceived threat, a menacing Black man. Second, the incident arouses sympathy and results in calls for swift and stiff punishment. Third, even after the hoax is uncovered, the image of the criminalblackman lingers and becomes more embedded in our collective racial consciousness. - Katheryn Russell-Brown, The Color of Crime
White Americans have ascribed criminality to Blackness for centuries. There is a long pattern of blaming (and punishing) Black Americans for crimes they never committed, furthering this notion. While the aspect of race was noted when Conor Zdzierak disguised himself as a Black man, blaming Black Americans for crimes is part of a long-running historical theme in the United States. The trend relies upon ideas of inherent Black criminality and white virtue - particularly the Black Male Rapist and Pure White Woman. False accusations and racial hoaxes have led to terrible consequences: death (particularly lynchings), riots, imprisonment, and economic losses.
Disclaimer: Rape accusations are almost always true [pdf]. One notable exception is a historical pattern of false accusations against Black men for raping white women, often resulting in violent consequences.
1923 Rosewood Massacre
The Rosewood massacre was not unlike many other historical cases that lead to anti-Black violence. In 1923, a white woman named Francis Taylor, claimed that she had been beaten and raped by a Black man. This story quickly turned into rumors of rape and assault. In reality, she had been beaten by her lover, John Bradley, but the Sheriff took the story at face value; he neglected to question Sarah Carrier, who had been working for Francis Taylor.
The Sheriff instead suggested that it was a supposedly escaped prisoner, Jesse Hunter. A large mob of white men gathered; it amassed hundreds, largely from the neighboring town of Sumner, but with men coming from as far as 200 miles away to join in. They first tortured and lynched an innocent Black man named Sam Carter. The mob then proceeded to Rosewood, claiming that Jesse Hunter was hiding with his cousin, Sylvester Carrier - a Black man from an influential Rosewood family. It was certainly no coincidence that Rosewood was an exceptional Black community that was self-sufficient and relatively prosperous.
The white mob proceeded to kill both Sylvester and his mother, Sarah Carrier - the same woman who worked for Francis Taylor and had claimed that she had been beaten by her lover, not a Black man. They continued onwards over the next few days, killing more Rosewood residents and eventually burning Rosewood to the ground. A grand jury found “insufficient evidence” to prosecute members of the mob. The surviving residents of Rosewood were left with nothing. Families were scattered and forced to rebuild their lives elsewhere.
Victoria Price and Ruby Bates and the Scottsboro Boys [Timeline]
In 1931, two white women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, engaged in sexual activity on a train. In order to avoid charges, they accused nine Black teenage boys of raping them. Within days the boys were indicted by a grand jury, and in the following two weeks, all nine of the boys (ranging in age from 13 to 19) were convicted of rape and sentenced to death.
There was no physical evidence of rape, and a letter was uncovered in 1932 where Ruby Bates admitted to her boyfriend that she was not raped. In 1933 she testified that she was not raped.
Despite this, the sentences of the boys were converted only to lengthy sentences (from 20 years to life). None of the convictions were dropped until 1937, when Roy Wright, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, and Willie Roberson were exonerated. The remaining men still had to serve sentences until they were paroled (and one briefly escaped). The last three of the Scottsboro boys who had not received a dropped conviction or pardon were only posthumously pardoned in 2013.
Contemporary Cases – Racial Hoaxes
Racial hoaxes - crimes that are fabricated or blamed on someone because of their race - are not only committed by white people, but if you search for any of the names below, you are likely to find portrayals of them as pained, complex figures. You will find their heinous actions attributed to mental illness, personal troubles, and childhood trauma.
Legal scholar Katheryn K. Russell-Brown wrote extensively about racial hoaxes in her book Color of Crime, documenting cases between 1987 and 1996; she found that 70 percent of the time, racial hoaxes involved white accusers. Not only have ordinary citizens falsified reports of Black criminals, but police officers and judicial representatives have invented imaginary Black criminals as well.
Charles Stuart murdered his pregnant wife, and with the help of his brother Matthew Stuart, proceeded to make the situation look like a robbery gone wrong. He blamed the incident on an imaginary Black man, igniting racial tensions in Boston and leading to police largely occupying the neighborhood of Mission Hill. He eventually picked Willie Bennett out of a lineup, leading to calls for Bennett to receive the death penalty. Charles Stuart’s brother eventually turned his brother in; soon after, Charles Stuart committed suicide.
In 1994, Susan Smith claimed that she had been carjacked and her two children abducted by a Black man, starting a frantic manhunt. While her hoax quickly unraveled, she exploited racial stereotypes and fears to cover up that she murdered her two young sons.
In October 2008, Ashley Todd (a McCain campaign volunteer) claimed to have been robbed at knifepoint by a Black man, who upon seeing her McCain bumper sticker, carved a backwards ‘B’ into her face. Todd only admitted the story was false and the wound self-inflicted when surveillance photos contradicted her account. The incident sparked racial tensions nationwide.
Philadelphia police officer Robert Ralston claimed that while questioning two Black men, one of them shot him in the shoulder. The story never quite added up and the evidence was non-existent, but he still managed to launch a manhunt and inflame racial tensions. Weeks later, it was revealed that his wound was self-inflicted. Ralston was to cover the cost of the manhunt, but did not face criminal charges.
In 2010, Bethany Storro claimed that a random Black woman approached her saying “Hey, pretty little girl, want to take a drink of this?” and proceeded to throw acid on her face. Of course, no such Black woman existed, but police still spent hundreds of hours questioning and detaining Black women, all while sympathetic strangers donated money to Storro. Her account undoubtedly relied upon the dynamic between Black women and white women to gain sympathy.
white people, this is why nobody trusts you
Racism’s Going Nowhere Fast
Uh…… you mean like this?
Ever notice how the people calling millennials lazy are the ones offering unpaid internships?
fucking thank you
i have all of these teacher at college trying to fix me up with internships. fuck that, i need money to survive i am not going to give you my valuable time effort and skills for nothing in return
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