Tuesday, April 03, 2007

White Ethnic Blogs

Claire has realized that all those white blogs she's been reading really do count as ethnic blogs:
Now that I've had the realization, I feel differently about these white blogs. Everyone has a right--nearly a mandate, almost an imperative--to explore his or her home or group culture, to examine it, to illuminate it, to critique it. I love this about black, brown, and yellow ethnic blogs, and now I love this about white ethnic blogs as well. I no longer need them to change. I no longer have to fight down long emails to each blogger telling them how white they are and that they need to be more inclusive. They don't need to be more inclusive, any more than Cute Overload needs to blog about Iraq.

All they need to do is acknowledge that they are blogs written by white people from a white perspective about white culture. All they need to do is admit that they are white ethnic blogs.

Sounds reasonable. I can't exactly be blogging from a nonwhite perspective here, can I? Let's try it.

This is a white ethnic blog. -- No, no, that doesn't sound right.

This is a blog about comics from a white perspective. -- Okay, technically true but--Ugh! Who wants to get lumped in with "white power" (can't wait to see what kind of asshole finds my blog from that phrase) imbeciles? Also, really don't want to scare off nonwhite readers with this.

This is a blog about comics from a white perspective, but not a white power perspective. -- Okay, that's just pathetic. Let's try dropping the perspective stuff.

This is a blog about comics, by an American white girl-- Ick. White girl.

White woman doesn't sound much better.

I am absolutely certain I'm not the only one reacting like this. No one likes to identify as white. I've heard people say its boring, and I used to think (being raised to identify as Italian-American before white) that the whole default white culture thing gets on my nerves because it mashes Anglo-Saxon and Celtic and Greek and Polish and German and Italian and Scandinavian into one big white Euro-mess. We lose a little bit of cultural identity when we do that. Except, most of white American culture is one big white Euro-mess anymore and ethnicities like Irish and Italian are variations on that. Assimilation. Our parents and grandparents could manage it, so they did. I don't know shit about any other country, but some regions in the US have a long history of "I'm whiter than you" cultures hating the new guy until they could lose enough of their European culture to blend in. It works like the Borg. A big white Borg cube.

Nobody likes to say that because it implies all white Americans think alike, which they don't, but white American culture does absorb and adapt new cultures into the cultural collective. Reminds me of a conversation I had at work the other day about American food versus European food, and how much better European food was. Why? Because we take new foods and Americanize them and they lose all their ethnic flavor. Much as we do with immigrant cultures.

We Americanize to fit in. It comes down to "who's normal" and if you identify as your skin color, suddenly you're admitting that your skin color is not necessarily normal. And that's part of why very few white people blog about race. You can't really not know anything about race or ethnicity. Everyone has race and ethnicity. Its just uncomfortable to admit which side of racism you happen to be on, so if you're lucky enough to be on the side that benefits from racism you ignore it.

That's what that white privilege stuff is talking about.

Which might be why it looks so stupid when I type it out. Because it feels stupid to admit I'm not necessarily normal and I shouldn't be getting all the little perks from a wrong situation. Which is the biggest alarm bell that says Claire has a point about ethnic blogs and admitting you have an ethnic blog.

So we'll go with a white ethnic blog and leave it at that.


  1. "We Americanize to fit in. It comes down to "who's normal" and if you identify as your skin color, suddenly you're admitting that your skin color is not necessarily normal."

    That may be true for some people. However this is an area where to be honest quite often I find my teeth grinding. First of all I have to admit that I find more than a bit of condescension in the original bloggers thought process. It sounds to me like she's gotten on her high horse on numerous occasions towards bloggers who's greatest sin were not trumpeting their whiteness. Personally I have to wonder who died and made her the ultimate authority on what must or must not be said?

    As for not "claiming" white identity? Well there could be multiple reasons for that. First of all so many of the self appointed givers of the PC law seem to have handed down the message that if you are white, male, non physically challenged, heterosexual and american then you have no real value in this world and that nothing to say worth hearing. Further many want to act as if there is some great wellspring of white privilege from which we are all drawing. If this great wellspring is out there where I can walk in off the street and get a job that pays better and doesn't make me want to cry everytime I go to it then hey point it out so at least I can get the perks to go with the presumed guilt.

    Furthermore speaking for myself (which I think most of us bloggers are) I don't blog from any perspective but my own. I don't claim to speak for any group at all. And the blogs that I read and enjoy I read and enjoy because of the individual perspective represented therein. Even a blog that is very openly talking about diversity, (Loren's One Diverse Comic Book Nation) I still read because I enjoy reading Loren's perspective.

    So at the end of the day I think I will continue to be myself, talking about things from my perspective, and if people want to read it fine, and if not fine too. Those waiting for me to proclaim my identity had best bring a chair and a book because it's going to be a long wait.



  2. Okay, who had "PC Thugs" in the race post reaction pool?

    All kidding aside, Toriach, you are sincerely oversimplifying things if you think privilege means you are supposed to have the perfect life.

    No, it just means that when it comes down to you and a nonwhite, all other things being equal, you have an edge and thats not fair.

    And I honestly don't see who's saying white, male, able-bodied straight men have no value in the world. Seriously, look at our culture. Starting with comics, sicne we're a comics blog -- What demographic is Superman? What demographic is the main Green Lantern? What demographic is the vast majority of the main characters in action shows on Network television? The detective shows? the action movies? Major books? What demographic are most fictional politicians? Real politicians? What demographic is the President? Most of the founding fathers?

    Do you seriously see a dearth of positive portrayals of straight white able-bodied men? You have no one for a straight white son to look up to and see all the possibilities of his life? Honestly, where are you looking?

  3. I had to double-check to make sure this wasn't an April Fool's post.

    Nobody needs to blog from a white perspective just like nobody needs to blog about, say, comics from a male perspective. That's because white (like males in comics) is the DEFAULT, and the default is ALWAYS ASSUMED. It's only when the perspective deviates from the default that it bears identification, mostly for the sake of greater visibility and parity.

    I'm surprised this even needs explaining.

  4. Oh crap. Not only do I have a white blog, but I have a WASP blog! AND from Connecticut!

    Truely I am one of the damned.

  5. "Nobody needs to blog from a white perspective just like nobody needs to blog about, say, comics from a male perspective. That's because white (like males in comics) is the DEFAULT, and the default is ALWAYS ASSUMED."

    I agree that no one needs to start up a blog to make sure the underrepresented "white/male opinion" is available in the blogosphere.

    However, I feel like when those of us who are white don't identify it and just let it be assumed, we reinforce that it's the default. If I say "as a white woman, this is my opinion" it seems more respectful of the fact that people from other backgrounds may have a different take - rather than presenting my opinion as a general opinion without context. As if being raised in a position of race and class privilege in this society doesn't affect my opinions.

  6. I'd argue that there's a legitimate distinction between a [whatever] ethnic blogger and a blogger of [whatever] ethnicity.

    To be clear, I think being a [whatever] ethnic blog can be quite laudable. There's definite issues in the world of comics and I'd like to see improvements. When [whatever] is white the issue is potentially quite problematic, although to use your blog as an example I think blogging on classical English myths such as King Arthur would be a non-problematic example of an interest in a subset of white culture.

    However, I think it's also possible for a member of a group to touch on such issues occasionally and thus should instead qualify as a blogger of [whatever] ethnic group. I also know some people who have a primary interest in a culture other than their own, so they may further complicate the issue.

    To move to gender rather than ethnic issues, I think an old Written Word post covers this issue fairly well. It marked the fact that this is effectively a feminist blog rather than what you originally intended: a blog by a feminist. I tend to think of Pretty Fizzy Paradise as being more of a blog by a feminist, although kalinara can of course correct me if I'm wrong on that point.

    So, I think the post you linked to is incorrect. I agree that blogs that "openly acknowledge the ethnicity or raciality of their view" should not be attacked. I also think that blogs that argue "comics are for men so we should ignore complaints about the depiction of women" do qualify as male-gendered blogs and not in a laudable way. Similarly, other forms of pushback against attempts to increase diversity might qualify as white ethnic blogging or the like.

    Similarly, a blog that largely focuses on American folktales might be white ethnic blogging, although it should still include some stories about John Henry or the like lest it legitimately be considered exclusivist. I think if you devoted this blog to complaints about depictions of Italians as all having mafia ties that would be a legit form of Italian ethnic blogging.

    I skimmed the comments and I agree much more with a later statement by Claire.

    "i acknowledge that i am blogging from a white American perspective, not a default American perspective"

    That accurately applies to me. I just think it's important to say that just because one has a white perspective doesn't mean that one's blog is primarily about one's white perspective.

  7. I'm going to agree and disagree a bit...
    I agree that "being able to ignore your race" is a "privilege" (I think it should be a "right", but society's certainly not there yet). On the other hand, I don't think people should feel obligated to point out their race when blogging.
    And I think there may be another reason one might feel uncomfortable with pointing out they're white: human nature is such that we usually only point out things we're proud of, unless it's relevant to the topic at hand (ie, if I talk about racim, I will probably mention my own ethnicity, since it probably ah, colors my life experience XD). And who's proud of being white? ... probably people who caucasians who aren't proud of being white want to be associated with.
    The other reason is maybe there's the nagging insecurity that people will start judging us by our race. Without pointing out our race, the reader is free to assume whatever race they feel most comfortable with. When pointing it out, we may be assigned "white privilege" even if perhaps it's not relevant to the topic at hand.
    For a different example, I usually prefer to be of ambiguous gender, and sometimes when I post something in a feminist blog that may be a bit off-cannon (or just ill thought out), the first thing I'm asked is if I'm a man. Invariable, if I was a man my words would be dismissed and I would be jumped on for my "male privilege", whereas because I'm female my thoughts get discussed a bit more until some conclusion is reached. This is sexist, and I can understand why someone would want to avoid it when going out on a limb to explore their thoughts on such sensitive topics as sexism and race.

  8. I was recently thinking about something like this, regarding what's the default and what's the other, in regards to minority characters in comics.

    I don't know, you see, if hispanic characters like Renee Montoya or Jaime Reyes ever have their cultures incorporated well into how they're depicted. I'm not sure I even notice, I just assume things about them, like how the Reyes family celebrates Chrismas. It's got nothing to do with good or bad writing and everything to do with my preconceptions as a mixed-race person with hispanic heritage. Hispanic is one of my 'defaults'.

    On the other hand I do strongly notice when, say, a black character is never written as being black and could really be any race because I don't make any subconcious assumptions about them. I have no black heritage to draw on so I don't fill-in the blanks automatically.

    Not being from the US, Americans are also somewhat 'Other' for me in this way. I'm getting second-hand and/or delayed feed of your culture, your politics aren't my politics and often I have to do a google search just to figure out why everyone is so angry about subject x because where I am it's just not important.

  9. I think there are many reasons to consider this and I'll suggest another which I arrive at from analogy. I'm white Irish living in Bristol in England. I've found that many English people are shy of identifying as English, for similar reasons to some presented here for white ethnicity. However, I find I feel less excluded when English people identify as "English". I believe this is because then we're a group of people with various identities. When they don't, they're "normal" and I'm a self-identifying oddity when I open my mouth.

  10. I always saw this as a blog about comics from Ragnell's perspective. I'm happy with that.

  11. I just came across your blog in trolling in white ethnic blogs and I found yours to be very interesting in the fact that you obviously are a very intelligent,articulate white woman who loves comics. I just thought I would say keep up the good writing and if you want to check out some very interesting work that is comic/fantasy art relevant, check out this website http://battlegroundvictory.com/