bagheera_san: (birds sky)
There is discussion about Race&Fandom going on, and it once more reminded me of my own problems with the topic.

I'm white, and so is 99% of my family (I have a second degree cousin whose father is African-American, but my parents, grandparents and all traceable ancestors were European). Germany in general is a much less multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country than the US or the UK. Among the people I graduated from highschool with, for example, which were about 65 people, there were three people who would qualify as mixed-race. That's it. And Heidelberg isn't a village. It's a university city, and it has the European headquarters of the US Army.

So I want to talk about race, but I'm not sure which words to use. As a non-American, and non-native speaker, this gets even more complicated, although I reckon I'd have the same kind of problem talking about race in German.

In fact, in Germany it would be offensive to even talk about race as "race" ( = "Rasse"), which is a term with definite Nazi connotations. ("Rasse" can today only be applied to breeds of animals. It has a vaguely biological sense, although one of the first things biologists will tell you is that "Rasse" is a meaningless term in biology.) So most Germans will try to avoid the topic altogether. Then again you will still find older people talking obliviously and unabashedly about "Neger" ("Negroes"), which will usually cause most young people around them to look quietly mortified.

Besides, I know people have wildly different opinions of what they want to be called and by whom and in what context. I *think* the most politically expression for black Americans to use is "African - American" but it's also okay for me to say "black" when I'm talking about looks, not nationality. Or is it?

What do I do when I write fantasy/sci-fi and want to say that a person is ethnic? I can't use "African-American" or "Asian" in a world where these continents don't exist and people don't think in the same racial categories as we do. Is it okay to say "dark" or "dark-skinned" or "slanted eyes"... wow, my vocabulary fails me big time when it comes to describing people's ethnicity. Clearly, there's tons of avoidance to deal with here. It would probably be lots easier if the characters we write about weren't so predominantly white and there was fannish consensus about this stuff.

You'll probably think, "That's just a handy excuse not to write about any non-white characters", but actually it's more of an observation I made when recently I wrote a scene where an alien (AU Kal) comes into a room with a number of people. All of these people have to be described somehow. Three of the men are African-American, but would Kal even notice? They're all human, that's their defining quality for him. By naming two of them men (Dr Hamilton and Victor Stone) I can identify their looks to SV fans without having to describe them at all. Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman in Batman Begins) would probably not be as easily identifyable for most SV readers. So how do I go about describing the occupants of said room? There is a)Bruce Wayne (white, partly disfigured, thirty-ish) b) Alfred Pennyworth (white, older, well-dressed) c) Victor Stone (young, cyborg implants, black) d) two arguing scientists named Lucius Fox and Dr Hamilton (middle-aged, black) e)Dick Grayson (young, white).

Do I mention their race at all? I never mentioned race with any white characters. Do I describe their tone of skin or do I use the arguably cultural terms "black" and "white"? Do I call Vic, Lucius and Hamilton "African-American", since they're all US Americans, which Kal doesn't know? Is there even a good reason for all these people to be in the same room, or will people wonder why I suddenly have three African-American characters in the same scene when for the most part, all characters are white? I'm not making any kind of statement, I would have the same characters there if they looked completely different. Or would I? I could replace Hamilton with Helen Bryce for the mad scientist role, which would raise the female quotient, which in this scene consists of Alicia Baker, but I blew off Helen's head in an earlier scene so that'd be difficult.

I wish I could just not worry about this, but honestly, I can't. Sometimes I think the more I agonize about these things, the more racist I get.
bagheera_san: (birds sky)
There is discussion about Race&Fandom going on, and it once more reminded me of my own problems with the topic.

I'm white, and so is 99% of my family (I have a second degree cousin whose father is African-American, but my parents, grandparents and all traceable ancestors were European). Germany in general is a much less multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country than the US or the UK. Among the people I graduated from highschool with, for example, which were about 65 people, there were three people who would qualify as mixed-race. That's it. And Heidelberg isn't a village. It's a university city, and it has the European headquarters of the US Army.

So I want to talk about race, but I'm not sure which words to use. As a non-American, and non-native speaker, this gets even more complicated, although I reckon I'd have the same kind of problem talking about race in German.

In fact, in Germany it would be offensive to even talk about race as "race" ( = "Rasse"), which is a term with definite Nazi connotations. ("Rasse" can today only be applied to breeds of animals. It has a vaguely biological sense, although one of the first things biologists will tell you is that "Rasse" is a meaningless term in biology.) So most Germans will try to avoid the topic altogether. Then again you will still find older people talking obliviously and unabashedly about "Neger" ("Negroes"), which will usually cause most young people around them to look quietly mortified.

Besides, I know people have wildly different opinions of what they want to be called and by whom and in what context. I *think* the most politically expression for black Americans to use is "African - American" but it's also okay for me to say "black" when I'm talking about looks, not nationality. Or is it?

What do I do when I write fantasy/sci-fi and want to say that a person is ethnic? I can't use "African-American" or "Asian" in a world where these continents don't exist and people don't think in the same racial categories as we do. Is it okay to say "dark" or "dark-skinned" or "slanted eyes"... wow, my vocabulary fails me big time when it comes to describing people's ethnicity. Clearly, there's tons of avoidance to deal with here. It would probably be lots easier if the characters we write about weren't so predominantly white and there was fannish consensus about this stuff.

You'll probably think, "That's just a handy excuse not to write about any non-white characters", but actually it's more of an observation I made when recently I wrote a scene where an alien (AU Kal) comes into a room with a number of people. All of these people have to be described somehow. Three of the men are African-American, but would Kal even notice? They're all human, that's their defining quality for him. By naming two of them men (Dr Hamilton and Victor Stone) I can identify their looks to SV fans without having to describe them at all. Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman in Batman Begins) would probably not be as easily identifyable for most SV readers. So how do I go about describing the occupants of said room? There is a)Bruce Wayne (white, partly disfigured, thirty-ish) b) Alfred Pennyworth (white, older, well-dressed) c) Victor Stone (young, cyborg implants, black) d) two arguing scientists named Lucius Fox and Dr Hamilton (middle-aged, black) e)Dick Grayson (young, white).

Do I mention their race at all? I never mentioned race with any white characters. Do I describe their tone of skin or do I use the arguably cultural terms "black" and "white"? Do I call Vic, Lucius and Hamilton "African-American", since they're all US Americans, which Kal doesn't know? Is there even a good reason for all these people to be in the same room, or will people wonder why I suddenly have three African-American characters in the same scene when for the most part, all characters are white? I'm not making any kind of statement, I would have the same characters there if they looked completely different. Or would I? I could replace Hamilton with Helen Bryce for the mad scientist role, which would raise the female quotient, which in this scene consists of Alicia Baker, but I blew off Helen's head in an earlier scene so that'd be difficult.

I wish I could just not worry about this, but honestly, I can't. Sometimes I think the more I agonize about these things, the more racist I get.

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