On July 31, 2007, an article entitled Race, The Final Frontier, appeared in the Boston Globe. I knew I had to blog something about it, after all, I’m mentioned in the first paragraph. But what to write about?
Since this blog functions (minimally) as a journal, I’ll focus on the personal. The more global aspects of Ms. Jones’ article can be addressed down the road. I’m sure others are doing so even as you read this. Plus I’m a bit of an unreconstructed navel-gazer, so this is right up my particular psycho-social alley. Hey, if you don’t want to read it, move along.
Why do I, a minority, within a minority, within a minority, within a minority, find Science Fiction Fandom so comfortable?
Why do I feel comfortable at every convention I go to, whether a reading oriented convention like Readercon, special interest conventions like Gaylaxicon, regional conventions like Westercon or Boskone or Arisia, tiny conventions like Albacon, or huge conventions like Worldcon?
Why does my experience of Fandom differ so radically from that of my brothers and sisters of African heritage?
When I said something on the order of, “They’re the most accepting group of folks I’ve ever been with,” I meant it with every fiber of my being. The folks I run into at cons, seem to me, to accept me as who I am, nothing more, nothing less. I suppose there could exist a huge fannish conspiracy to lure a (very) few guileless black men into fandom, just to smile at their faces while lobbing (or whispering) epithets at their backs, but to me, that seems unlikely. Instead, it seems to me that I get back what I send out. Not mere tolerance, but acceptance.
Clue #1 seems to be: I walk into a convention, whether I’ve attended before or not, with an aggressively non-judgmental mindset. I’m there for a reunion with my fellow fans and I know they’re literally all over the psycho-social map. I accept them, and I expect that they’ll accept me.
All of my life I’ve found myself in situations of being one of one or two people of African heritage in the group. My elementary, middle and high schools were integrated (all three are now majority minority because of white flight (but I digress)) but because I was in an accelerated program, once again, I was one of one or two. It never really bothered me. I wasn’t oblivious, I noticed, but it didn’t bother me. Why? Perhaps temperament, I was a pretty quiet and studious kid, perhaps upbringing, my parents (particularly my late Dad) were staunch integrationists. And so, I didn’t just get along, I thrived along with my friends of African, Jewish, Hispanic, Japanese, Chinese and Northern European heritage (and many combinations thereof (this was L.A.)). Sounds idyllic, but it surely worked for me. Certainly idyllic compared to Boston’s televised riots I saw on the news as they tried to implement court ordered busing.
Clue #2 seems to be: I have experience, familiarity, and a certain level of familial and educational socialization on my side. The ancestral mix of folks who attend West Coast and Northeast conventions (I’ve never been to a con in the South or Midwest) is a close analog of that I grew up in and was taught to socialize with.
Lastly, I have to wonder, are there cultural norms within American Fandom that I picked up (once again, from my late Dad) before encountering Fandom, which were reinforced by my early exposures to fandom? I’m a futurist. The future is important to me. I’m an optimist, but I readily acknowledge that disaster is but a misstep or the wrong carom in the cosmic billiard game, away. I’m an agnostic. To me all of the religions I’ve encountered are equally improbable, though some seem more compatible than others with the thriving of a liberal democracy. The pros and cons of particular belief structures I’ll not go into here. But, upon encountering Fandom, when I expressed my views, if others agreed, well, they let me know. If they disagreed, I wasn’t shouted down, but rationally argued with. And then we went to dinner and geeked out some more. How civil. I’m a habitual learner. Just for the fun of it. Freaky, I know.
Clue #3 seems to be: Upbringing again. There was no way I was going to fit into a Baptist (or Pentecostal or Lutheran or whatever) church. There was no way I was going to fit in where the promise of tomorrow wasn’t revered. There was no way I was going to fit in where learning for learning’s sake wasn’t the rule of the day. But I fit in Fandom.
I’m sure there’s more. Those of you out there who know me better, or at least from a better perspective than my internal one, can probably add to this. Just as likely, you’ll pronounce the entire exercise as “Horse shit”. Whatever.
Now that I’ve finished Harry Potter, I’m going back to reading Accelerando.