5 Unexpected Activities That Encounter Startling Racism

by Mark Anderson
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When people think of racism, most of them imagine stuff that is very overt and obvious — slurs being yelled, people being denied entry to certain locations, black makeup smeared over the face of a very stupid white dude, etc. These are all things that shout “RACISM” through a Confederate-flag-colored megaphone. But what most non-minorities never consider is that acts of racism can be found in small, niche settings and scenarios as well. Scenarios they’d never consider. Scenarios like …

5

Cosplay

As a proud blerd (black nerd), I love conventions, and I love dressing up as my favorite characters when I go to them. The con life is a blast, except to nonwhite people who dare to dress up outside their race. Then it becomes an endless sea of harassment. This has happened to countless black cosplayers all over the country, just because they had the utter gall to pretend to be Sailor Venus for a couple of hours. Like this woman, for example. Once idiots found out that a black person had dressed up as a proud anime defender of the Solar System, they clawed over one another to get to the comments section.

I’d been warned about this years before I started cosplaying, which is why I generally don’t post pictures of myself in public forums. And I can’t stress how common this reaction is. A cosplayer I know named Rory (who has been referred to as “N****r Moon” by the world’s most uncreative racist) once posted a pic of herself with a white friend in which she was dressed as Opal from Steven Universe and her friend was dressed as Rainbow Quartz. Guess who was targeted for criticism? Hint: It wasn’t the white girl. Just for reference, Opal is a giant four-armed magical archer, and people got mad when a black girl dressed as her.

Another cosplayer who goes by Krissy Victory has been attacked so many times online that she started screenshotting them and posting them to her social accounts. There are a whole lot of n-based slurs in that album, guys. Along with “you look like a monkey,” “you look dirty,” and “ugly ass thot lookin like a gorilla.” One of my personal favorites: “lol black people shouldn’t cosplay, it’s seriously cringe.” If I have to add commentary to that line, I’m not sure this world is worth saving.

You’d think that those who dress up as their favorite fictional characters would be more open-minded, as most people tend to talk about conventions as having the most inviting, accepting group of people they’ve ever met. Sadly, it’s only true up to a point. I guess anyone could lean into idiot racism, even the guy who tweets slurs while dressed as Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z.

4

Hiking

I have relatives who live in Canada. My family makes regular trips there all the time to visit them and go hiking. Once when I was young, as we were going down a trail, my little brother and I got separated from everyone else. We weren’t too far away, as I could hear voices, so I wasn’t too worried. We took our time heading back, and while doing so, we came across an older white couple who seemed startled at our appearance in a way that I remember feeling strange about. On paper, this seems like it might be the start of a mid-’80s slasher film, but tragically, it was something worse: weird racism.

I politely introduced myself (I was a friendly kid) and asked them directions to make sure we were on the right path back. They didn’t respond. They just looked at us in a way that made me nervous. I grabbed my brother and we walked away. As we did, I heard the man start to complain to the woman about our presence “ruining his good time,” saying, “I thought those people didn’t like the woods anyway?” She laughed. And this was in Canada, the country voted by all of pop culture to be the Friendliest Place in the World.

I actually don’t like hiking or camping, but that has nothing to do with race — just my aversion to exercise in general. It’s common sense that when feeling one with nature and its elements, your skin color really is irrelevant. Or it should be, at least, but white people make up 78 percent of those who go to national parks, and some of them don’t want that number to go any lower.

A Japanese American woman named Jenna Yokoyama learned that the hard way when she tried to prepare for a backpacking trip by creating a Facebook group and asking how safe it would be for people of color to walk down those trails. The racists must have been sitting by the computer waiting for this shit. Seriously, do they just not have jobs? Go find something to do. A hobby, or a weekly visit to Best Buy. Something. Because, as the article about her explains:

“Almost immediately the posts generated dozens of comments, many supportive but others accused her of everything from promoting separate trails for white people and non-white people, seeking to form exclusive cliques and even warning her to stay off the trail because she wasn’t worthy of search and rescue help should she get in trouble.”

Thanks, humanity! And there are other Facebook minority hiking groups that stay restricted and are very picky about who gets to join, just because of online harassment issues. And nope, I’m not going to link to them. That would be like saying, “Here’s a group of people who don’t like getting punched in the face … and here’s a boxing glove and their home addresses.” I guess something about all that fresh air just brings out some people’s inner bigot.

3

Seeing The Doctor

When I was just a little kid, I ran into a weird incident at the dentist. Like most kids who are ripped from their homes and thrust into the inescapable office of mouth sorcery, I really didn’t want to be there, and I tried to distract myself with my Babysitter’s Club book. To make matters worse, the nurse wasn’t being very nice to me or my mom, for reasons that didn’t click at first. Then, in the hallway right outside our (OPEN!) door, she had a conversation with another nurse, joking that she didn’t want to go through post-procedure discussions with us because “They wouldn’t understand me anyway. I’m not sure they even speak English.” It would’ve been better if they’d just told me, “Sorry, but your whole bone structure is just one big cavity.”

My mother, humiliated, just stared at the floor, but Kid Me was confused and angry. Feeling particularly hyped from my Babysitter’s Club book (as you’ll recall, Kristy is a boss bitch), I stuck my head out and defiantly shouted, “HEY! That’s not nice! I DO speak English, and I can understand every word you’re saying!” They both turned red and scattered, and my mom let me eat cookies on the car ride back home, so yeah, justice was served.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident, though it was the first time I ever noticed it happening to me. Turns out that even in this day and age, your race, ethnicity, and religion does affect the kind of treatment you receive from nurses and doctors. According to a study in the American Journal Of Public Health, a stunning two-thirds of doctors exhibited racial bias toward patients. Those doctors tend to have antiblack sentiments and think of their white patients as more likely to be “compliant.” On top of that, they often lecture black patients, speak more slowly to them, and make their office visits longer, which is such a racist notion that it makes me want to rip my own head off and punt it into the middle of a medical convention.

These patients then tend to cancel followup appointments because they don’t trust the doctor. This is an actual phenomenon in the black community. Black people don’t trust doctors — and all things considered, it’s not hard to see why.

2

Buying Makeup

I don’t wear a lot of makeup. To be honest, some of this is due to the fact that a tube of quality lipstick costs as much as dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. But most of it is because, as any nonwhite woman will tell you, up until a few years ago, if your skin color was darker than “sunkissed Latina,” there were almost no options for you.

Women of color have always had a notoriously bad relationship with the cosmetics industry because we can’t find shit that matches our skin color. These companies deliberately just make their lines for lighter skin tones only, with a couple of “darker” foundations in the last few decades that aren’t really fooling anyone. Iman (supermodel, goddess, wife of the late David Bowie) came out with a makeup line in the ’90s that had more options, which helped a great deal. But overall, it seems the beauty industry would rather lose money than help women of color feel good about their appearances.

Enter that Barbadian ray of sexual sunshine Rihanna. She’s been in the news lately because she’s come out with her own makeup line called Fenty Beauty, which has truly changed the game. With 40 foundation shades (40), darker-skinned women are guaranteed to find a match for their skin tone — something these other lines should have made a priority YEARS ago.

Why is this such a big deal? Because this world’s Eurocentric standards of beauty have done so much damage to women of color that they’ve had to resort to using more toxic products in order to fit into that mold. Something that could have been easily resolved if these huge makeup companies had just included a few more shades. Or, you know, just generally done more to expand their definition of what beauty is (straight hair and light skin across the board doesn’t exactly scream “diversity”). But god forbid they be forced to treat people like people. That would be crazy.

1

Writing (And Reading) Science Fiction

According to my parents, I’ve been scribbling stories down since I first learned how to hold a pencil. I came out of the womb writing exposition. I think at this point, I’ve dabbled in all genres, and feel comfortable in most forms of speculative fiction — except futuristic science fiction. And before discovering Afrofuturism, I didn’t realize black writers had even tried. Hell, historically, major genre works have rarely included anything to do with black people. As writer Saffron Alexander put it: “White creators would rather write about a race of war-hungry lizards living on Mars in harmony with Victorian soldiers than dare to imagine a black person included in their fantasy worlds.”

Serious question: Do you ever sit and think about how there are virtually no people of color in science fiction stories? Fellow sci-fi nerds will be able to rattle off a handful, but I’m talking comparatively. Maybe that’s because, as a genre, it’s plagued by “structural, institutional, personal, and universal” racism, which are exact words from a report that states that less than 2 percent of more than 2,000 sci-fi stories published in 2015 were written by black writers. Most people would agree that the science fiction and fantasy community has a problem with race, but most (white) people who aren’t in the community don’t realize how bad it actually is. They’re mostly concerned with arguing about The Last Jedi or worshiping at the altar of George R.R. Martin.

That’s not an accusation or an attack. It’s a very real problem that often doesn’t get pondered until it’s pointed out by a minority who’s attempting to break that pattern. A huge problem is the idea that people think speculative fiction is saved from anti-blackness in the same way that assholes thought racism was abolished when Barack Obama was elected president. “A major science fiction film / book series has a black character in a lead or sort-of lead role? PREJUDICE ENDED. LET’S ALL HAVE MIMOSAS.”

To put it bluntly, I’ll let writer Troy Wiggins explain: “I have a better chance of being wrongfully convicted of a crime than I do of selling a piece to a science fiction magazine.” Damn, dude. That’s a painful mic drop if ever I heard one.

Archie also writes for BlackGirlNerds, and tries to follow as many cosplayers as possible on Twitter. Send her your pictures on Twitter.

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