racism

The year: 1968. A science fiction show called Star Trek makes history by featuring the first interracial kiss on American television.

The year: 1959. A writer named Robert Heinlein makes a Filipino young man his protagonist in what many consider to be his best work, Starship Troopers.

The year: 1973. Marvel Comics’ Captain America title features its hero tracking down a villain who ends up being none other than President Richard Nixon himself. The event causes Cap to become highly disillusioned, and he gives up wearing the American flag for a time.

The year: 1980. Writer Gregory Benford’s novel Timescape warns of global environmental apocalypse if humans aren’t more careful in how they alter their surroundings.

Science fiction has always been an avenue through which creators comment on political, cultural and social matters. Like racism. The nature of society and government. Abuse of power. Stewardship of our planet.

But only in the hallowed halls of academia will you discover such is not enough for this creative genre. No sir. If the creators are not of the “right” color or background, and if the “right” issues aren’t being addressed adequately, then there’s a problem.

At the University of California, Riverside, a grant was needed to explore “ethnic futurisms” — because, it seems, “there has long been an unacknowledged tradition of SF written by people of color.”

“Alternative Futurisms,” which will launch in September 2015, will bring together African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American scholars, artists and writers to examine the colonial roots and legacies of science fiction and the power of speculative fiction as a tool for social change.

Science fiction fans and scholars are rethinking what counts as science fiction, explained Sherryl Vint, professor of English and co-director of the SFTS program with Latham. Vint is co-principal investigator of the Sawyer Seminar with Latham and Nalo Hopkinson, professor of creative writing and an award-winning author of science fiction and fantasy.

“The canon is not monolithically white,” she added. “Questions of social justice are emerging, particularly with regard to colonialism, borders, DNA, and profiling. Our seminar will elicit and sustain dialogue among the many peoples of color who are using speculative techniques to combat systemic racism and will seek to displace the hegemony of the post-racial imaginary with a range of ethnic futurisms.”

The “colonial roots and legacies” of sci-fi? Sounds like yet another university-based grievance fest. And who wants to translate that last sentence? Any takers? Here, I’ll give it a go:

“Our seminar, comprised almost exclusively of non-white folks, will discuss how science fiction can combat the persistently and incorrigibly racist Western societies, and will strive to abolish the popularity of racial unity themes in the genre and replace them with various racial and ethnic separatist group fictions.”

How was that?

Unfortunately for UCR, other than that last deconstructivist-based sentence, there’s little new “Alternative Futurisms” offers to science fiction. “Speculative fiction as a tool for social change” is, after all, what sci-fi is.

white-spacemen.x-ray.deltaone Sorry. We’re too white.
 

This story comes about, ironically, at a time when there has been considerable debate within the science fiction community about matters racial and sexual. The rise and popularity of social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, have served as a catalyst for such. This online brouhaha, for example, between conservative author Larry Correia and lefty writer John Scalzi is a (continuing) microcosm of such. Unfortunately, the predictable accusations of racism, sexism and homophobia by those in the latter camp mar real conversations.

Over the last decade or so, the “Big Two” comicbook companies Marvel and DC have made headline-worthy attempts to “diversify” their ranks — characters and creators alike — sometimes by turning long-established characters into something they’re not. And, like the liberal (general) science fiction crowd, progressive comicbook fans and creators alike are quick to denounce any criticism of such, however innocuous.

Most recently, for example, it was announced the Marvel character Thor would become … a woman. (This is in the comics, not the movies, so don’t worry about Chris Hemsworth ladies. Oh, wait, was that sexist? My apologies.) Even reactions such as “it’s just a cheap gimmick” have been met with angry counters, invoking “misogyny,” “angry white males,” “marginalization,” and, of course, “racism.” Like the movie industry’s predilection for churning out “reboots” of even classic science films, such announcements, much like comicbook character “deaths,” are merely short-term gimmicks, guaranteed to result in a sales boost, however fleeting. I suppose it’s just too much work to actually create new (diverse) characters, much like it’s the same situation with writing original movie scripts …?

Science fiction aficionados crave good stories, no matter the race/gender/sexual orientation of the creators or the stories’ characters. An all-consuming desire for — and corresponding knee-jerk criticism toward dissenters of — superficial “diversity” does little to enhance and encourage the human oneness much of science fiction envisions. Nor, for that matter, does seeking to “displace the hegemony of the post-racial imaginary” with cluttered, separatist racial/ethnic literary enclaves.

Lastly, in terms of access and availability, today there is little to prevent minority science fiction creators from getting their creations out to the public. They certainly don’t face, for example, what Benny Russell did in my favorite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Far Beyond the Stars.” All it takes is hard work and a lot of persistence. Just ask sci-fi author great Larry Niven; even a trust fund (white) guy’s stories like his got rejected a gazillion times … but eventually one broke through. And I, for one, am glad he kept at it.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. He’s written about science fiction and comics (among other things) for over a decade, mostly at The Colossus of Rhodey.

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IMAGES: Matthew Vaughan & x-ray delta one/Flickr

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The Washington Redskins are set to play the Minnesota Vikings at the University of Minnesota on Nov. 2, but one Democratic lawmaker has lodged a complaint against those plans, saying the Redskins’ visit would violate a campus diversity policy because the team’s name is “racist.”

Underscoring that, an officer of the American Indian Student Cultural Center and a U of M native student told The College Fix he predicts the game will prompt campus protests.

The game is slated to take place at the public university’s outdoor TCF Bank Stadium, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) states in a strongly worded letter to the Vikings’ owner that the “presence of the Washington franchise and their racist name on the University of Minnesota campus would be in violation of the Board of Regents’ Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy.”

The policy states in part that the university must “establish and nurture an environment … that actively acknowledges and values equity and is free from racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice, intolerance or harassment.”

While not asking for the game to be cancelled or relocated, McCollum calls on Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to break his silence on the matter and condemn the Redskins’ name.McCollum

“The name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur,” she wrote in a letter dated one day after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled to cancel legal protections for the trademarked Redskins of Washington, D.C.

She CC’d more than a dozen people on the letter, including local tribal leaders, the University of Minnesota president, and the chairman of the university board of regents.

McCollum, in her letter, does not use the word “Redskins.” Citing the fact that all NFL franchises profit equally from the sale of licensed merchandise, McCollum asked Wilf if he wants to “continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters.”

Her hope, she stated, is that the Minnesota Vikings will no longer benefit from the “commercialization of that hateful slur.”

She also mentioned one of Minnesota’s tribal nations contributed to the funding of TCF Bank Stadium, and a plaza at the stadium was built to recognize Minnesota’s many tribal nations.

So far, the University of Minnesota has been noncommittal in its response to the letter.

“The university is very sensitive to the use of sports team names that promote stereotypes,” said campus spokeswoman Julie Christensen in an emailed statement to The College Fix. “The U of M strives to create an environment for faculty, staff, students and visitors that acknowledges and values equity and diversity.”

While the university cannot actually prevent the game from being played, she added, “we are looking into this issue to determine how the U community can best respond.”

Brandon Alkire, an officer of the American Indian Student Cultural Center and a U of M native student, said he was satisfied with Rep. McCollum’s letter.

Alkire, who said he cannot comment on behalf of the AISCC board, said the group has not published an official opinion on the matter, since the board does not convene until the fall.

“The Regents policy is very clear about keeping the campus climate discrimination-free,” Alkire said in an interview with The College Fix.

He said he is “disappointed” that the Washington Redskins would continue to use a “derogatory name and mascot.”

“Fifty years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been signed and yet we are still fighting for the most simplistic of recognition, to be considered human,” Alkire added.

In the meantime, Alkire says he has made inquiries into the “permits, reservations, or repercussions” of organizing student protests at the game, but has yet to hear back from the university regarding the official rules.

“I, personally, would be part of a protest if one was organized, and I know that there probably will be one,” he said.

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

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IMAGES: Main/Redskins Facebook screenshot; Inside/Betty McCollum website screenshot

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Matthew Hincman is an assistant professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He ignored official procedure and mounted a small monument to slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin atop a lamppost in Boston’s Jamaica Plain. Boston.com reports:

The top of the monument is flat and features a small hooded sweatshirt that appears to have been tossed on the ground. On the side of the fixture, Hincman inscribed his name and the message, “Still, 2014.”

Across the street from Martin’s monument is a granite Civil War monument, which is dedicated to about two dozen West Roxbury men that died in the Civil War.

The professor told WBUR that the proximity of the Civil War monument to Martin’s adds another dimension of meaning:

By pairing Martin’s death with the Civil War monument, Hincman aimed to make “a contemporary marker to how far we’ve come in terms of race relations, in terms of power and equality since the end of slavery, since the end of the Civil War.”


Hincman scoffed at getting permission to set up his tribute “because ‘he remains skeptical of the city’s public art approval process.’”

Read the full story here.

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“When it noted that a sparsely attended meeting of the Ronald Reagan Lecture Series took place on Oberlin’s ‘notoriously liberal campus’ this spring, the college newspaper was not betraying reality.”

That from a June 2011 article in The New York Times, and we here at The College Fix must agree: Oberlin College is proving to be the quintessential example of a college steeped in Leftism and political correctness.

For one, the Ohio-based private liberal arts college hosted its graduation ceremony yesterday. Monday. ON MEMORIAL DAY. 

That’s just a slap in the face to veterans and the memory of the military men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country. It’s not the grads’ fault, of course. But couldn’t administrators pick any other day?

Then – get this – their commencement speaker’s claim to fame? He’s never held a job in the private sector.

“(Thomas) Perez has spent his entire career in public service,” boasts the bio Oberlin put up in announcing that the U.S. Labor Secretary would be the keynote grad speaker this year. 

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Perez’s words of wisdom to grads came right out of the Communist Manifesto. (h/t Twitchy)

Perez, Oberlin and collectivism make good bedfellows.

Consider another recent bit of news about Oberlin:

Reason reports that “Oberlin College attracted media attention when its Office of Equity Concerns posted, and later removed, a trigger warning guide advising professors to avoid triggering topics such as racism, colonialism, and sexism when possible.”

Because we wouldn’t want to frighten, offend or upset our little darlings, would we?

Except, of course, when there’s fake hate crimes on campus – then let’s cancel classes and talk about racism in America all day.

Yes, that really happened at Oberlin.

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The Examiner reports:

In a video posted Saturday at Progressives Today, Kankakee Community College adjunct professor Stephanie Baran is heard promoting the idea that capitalism is the cause of racism in the modern world while speaking at the White Privilege Conference held in Madison, Wisc., this March. The answer, apparently, is full-blown Marxism.

Baran said she would be “down” with the idea of “kicking out capitalism,” even though it would “encourage full scale revolution.”

“I’ve learned I’m a ‘vulgar Marxist,’” she added, “because I desire to see the entire dismantling of the system versus the other, softer, kinder, brutal Marxists.”

Read the full article.

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Cinco de Mayo Countdown: Hyper-Sensitivity Run Amok

Cinco de Mayo consistently serves as a platform for universities and their students to complain about “racial insensitivity” among non-Mexican peers.

It seems that any time a student dons a sombrero, it’s decried as culturally biased, or even racist.

In honor of another school year of hypersensitivity run amok, The College Fix presents the top five most Latino-inspired campus overreactions over the last 12 months:

No. 1: Recently, one lone complaint over a Mexican-themed fundraiser to benefit cardiac research at Dartmouth College prompted administrators at the Ivy League university to freak out and cancel the entire event. The joint sorority-fraternity “Phiesta” fundraiser, originally slated for tomorrow, will no longer take place.

What was so racist and insensitive about inviting students “to join Greek members on Phi Delt’s lawn for a performance by campus band ‘Burn the Barn,’ free virgin piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris, chips and salsa, homemade guacamole and Boloco burritos.”?

The offended student, Daniela Hernandez, bemoaned in an email to The Dartmouth that “there are various problematic structures and ideologies regarding a Cinco de Mayo-inspired event, and I am sure that we, as a Dartmouth community, could learn from the extensive literature written about the Americanization of Cinco de Mayo and its construction as a drinking holiday in the United States, cultural appropriation and the inappropriate usage of cultural clothing, and the exploitation of groups of people and cultures for the sake of business opportunities.”

Her “right not to be offended” trumped raising money to save lives, as well as what sounded like a fun and delicious party.

No. 2: Sombreros, Ponchos, and Nachos Deemed ‘Culturally Insensitive’ at Cornell

A Cinco de Mayo-themed marketing campaign last year to tout the university’s Oct. 5 football game and designed to drum up a festive spirit among students instead apparently prompted angst among “several student groups andMemeMrt Latino community members” who deemed the promo “offensive, culturally insensitive and inappropriate” and forced the school’s athletics department to grovel for forgiveness, the Cornell Daily Sun had reported.

One of the most insulting parts of “Ithaca: Cinco de Octubre,” according to one student quoted in The Sun, was apparently a photo booth designed to encourage students to dress with the theme.

“I was disappointed that this theme was stereotyping the Mexican culture of which I identify,” student Carmen Martinez told the campus newspaper. “I was especially troubled by the ‘photobooth’ activity, especially after one of my colleagues pointed out that the winner [is the person] with the ‘best costume,’ implying the best Mexican costume was going to win a prize. What better way to invite stereotyping of our culture?”

Even campus administrators got in on the action to chide the campaign, telling The Sun the incident “is an important reminder about how we must function as an increasingly diverse community. … Using stereotypes and other people’s cultures to market events is wrong.”

No. 3: Sorority Called Racist For Culturally Inspired Costumes at ‘Olympics’ Party

Members of a Columbia University sorority were dubbed insensitive – even racist – after they donned culturally inspired costumes at an Olympics-themed party. At the mixer, students had the audacity to wear sombreros and pose with bottles of tequila.

The Feb. 22 party prompted politically correct pandemonium at the Ivy League institution – with its interim Dean of Student Affairs going so far as to offer counseling for those who were offended.

A Latino campus group called the party “offensive,” saying “stereotypes are used to oppress marginalized communities.” The sorority in question also begged for forgiveness and promised to launch “social awareness” campus initiatives.

No. 4: Universities Warn Against ‘Offensive’ Halloween Costumes, Including Latino-Themed Ones

Last October, the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Dean of Students Christina Gonzales said in a memo to students that “sombreros … geishas, ‘squaws,’ … cowboys and Indians” all fall under the insensitive category.forshamememe

“Unfortunately, stores often sell stereotypical and offensive costumes,” Gonzales stated. “If you are planning to celebrate Halloween by dressing up in a costume, consider the impact your costume decision may have on others in the CU community.”

“As a CU Buff, making the choice to dress up as someone from another culture, either with the intention of being humorous or without the intention of being disrespectful, can lead to inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of other peoples’ cultures in the CU community.”

And at Ohio University, a student group’s annual Halloween poster campaign called “We’re a Culture, Not a Costume” informs students that some of their holiday get-ups – including Latino-inspired ones- are probably misguided and possibly racist.

No. 5: Students Told Not To Drink Tequila, Eat Tacos on Cinco de Mayo

Last May, an open letter to the Northwestern University community from the student government president and leaders of a Hispanic/Latino campus club admonished students not to eat tacos or drink tequila on Cinco de Mayo.

Those who party on Cinco de Mayo, accused the letter’s signatories, would “have fun at the expense of our peers and the cultures and traditions we should cherish.”

It went on to note that “drinking tequila shots, eating tacos, and wearing sombreros do not commemorate Mexican culture; on the contrary, that offends, marginalizes, and isolates many of our friends, classmates, and community members, and casts our entire community in poor light.”

Thankfully, the effort prompted a backlash from some other natively-Mexican students who said they were offended by the notion and that the request didn’t represent their beliefs.

College Fix contributor Dominic Lynch is a student at Loyola University Chicago.

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Main Image: Joe Penningston / Flickr

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