Sunday, January 29, 2006

Fine line between fun and fury

Okay, it's all in good fun, no offense to anyone. My uncle sent it to me, and I felt pretty stupid.

But I thought it might soften my post for today a wee bit.

Yesterday I fired off my congrats to Tess Gerritsen for her Edgar nomination. I actually did that before the blog post went up, so when I went back today to read her blog, I was jolted back into reality.

The reality I don't have to face. Being "white". Not ever having been a minority. Only being an "outsider" on holidays in third-world countries.

Anyone who's been around my blog regularly knows I didn't grow up in Leave-It-To-Beaver land. One of my childhood memories is of the day a classmate of mine phoned, a boy who lived down the road. He wanted me to ride bikes with him. I wanted to go. And my parents stood there debating whether or not they should let me, because it might not be a good idea for their daughter to play with a Japanese boy.

I never got mad as a kid - I had self-preservation and beating-avoidance worked out pretty well by that age - but I was so angry. By the time I was in high school I was hanging out with every black, Chinese or otherwise 'not-white' student in school. Probably there was something in there to pissing my parents off. But I was fascinated by culture. One friend, her family immigrated to Canada from Guyana. Where was that? What was it like? My window to the world, Esther was.

Another friend's family had fled China via Taiwan. Her grandmother only spoke Chinese. I was hopeless trying to learn to say Mary's real Chinese name.

When I read Tess's post, it brought back a lot of old feelings. It also got me wondering. Why are people racist?

As people, we compartmentalize. A woman did this, all women must be this way. A man did that, therefore all men are pigs. A black person did this - all black people will do the same.

Talk about generalizing.

For those of us that write, talk about the ultimate challenge. I mean, how do you portray what is without advocating it?

You know, I never even thought about that when I wrote Terms of Redemption, yet one of my characters (not leading, but important) is Native. And he's not a drunk, gasoline-sniffing washout. He's an RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) officer. One of the RCMP officers that helped me with research was half-French, half-Native. We joked he had the minority angle covered. He was so wonderful, I wanted to put a Native cop into my book.

But you know, in as much as I think about it in writing, reading Tess's comments really got to me. It was a punch in the gut. That this is still something people have to deal with is truly sad.

If you agree, go over and email Tess and just say, "You belong."

And since I'm into free love and embracing the brotherhood of all mankind, I guess there's even hope for the Welsh.

Not quite so sure about the reformed lawyer though!


Mark Pettus said...

Racism is food for a writer's tortured soul - almost as basic to humanity as sex and hunger. I think the answer to your question, "Why are people racist?" may be closer than you suspect - we're tribal. Us against them. It kept our group alive, and like the instinct to eat until we are gorged, having outlived its usefulness has not removed it from our genes.

Or maybe not.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hmmm. That's an interesting perspective, because as I thought about this, I realized that there is always one group of people putting another down. Probably every country has the region that's the butt of their jokes.

But I think now, a lot of it has to do with putting people down to make you feel better about yourself. "If they're no good, I'm better than they are." Really, it's a pretty twisted way to think.

Nice to see your butt drop by Mark.

JamesO said...

Touching on a huge topic there, Sandra. But I'm afraid the Welsh are irredeemable;}#

Actually, when I was a kid we used to say a little rhyme (which I'm sure I could find in one of my old books if I could be bothered looking for it). It went:

Taffy was a Welshman
Taffy was a Thief
Taffy came to my house
And stole a piece of Beef

This would have been the seventies, when we were still allowed to have Golliwogs. Things have improved immeasurably (by which I mean a great deal) since my childhood, but it's true to say that we've still got a long way to go.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, I know James. And it did cross my mind that people wouldn't post or might take offense.

But I'm not going to pander to people's prejudices. In the few emails I exchanged with Tess Gerritsen, I just felt so angry. Not at her - certainly not! - but because this is still the way it is in so many places.

And my Welsh remark was squarely a shot at Boy Kim. I had no idea about rhymes like that. Of course, we used to pick team members and such with 'Eeny meeny miny mo" when I was a kid. Not the 'updated to tigger' version either. But I stopped when I understood what the 'n' word meant.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I need a new picture. Unfortunately, that is the most recent snapshot of me.

Boy Kim said...

"I guess there's even hope for the Welsh."

Damn straight there is. Where there's sheep, there's hope.

Although I'll be buggered if I can get one to bend over the chaise long properly.

Oh hang on... I won't be buggered, but the sheep definitely will be.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Forget the furniture. Surely you know why it is the Welsh wear wellies...

Boy Kim said...

Hey! If I'm gonna shag a sheep, it's going to be in the comfort of my own home, thankyouverymuch!

Besides, I've heared of dogging, but I've never heard of sheeping.

Boy Kim said...

And I know, I know... it's a flock of sheep, not a heard.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You can do it in the comfort of your own home.

Just use the wellies in the front entrance and you never have to clean or change the sheets. Wam bam, thanks ma'am and right back out the door.

Boy Kim said...

Thank ewe for your wonderful (as always) advice.

You have much experience, it seems.

Erik Ivan James said...

ZOOOOOOM! I never even saw those buggers fly by. Heard them though, when they landed in that pile of sheep-shit. SPLAAAT they went.

Sandra Ruttan said...

So erik, you throw the buggerers out into the sheep scat?

Kim, it isn't from experience. At least, not my experience. No doubt you know more than I do.

Gabriele C. said...

How did this turn from racism to sheep? Writers and their weird imagination ... *shakes head* ;-)

Which leads to the question: are sheep racists? Does the Heidschnucke look down at other sheep who don't have such curly horns and feel superior. "You pitiful critters with no horns, you ain't worth a thing. Heck, I even taste better."

R.J. Baker said...

Everyone is free to hate lawyers though...

Wow, racism to sheep shagging, are we doing the intellectual limbo here.

I agree, I'll check out Tess's post. I really like her work, its very cool she's been nominated.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Can't you just see them Gabriele? "Well, your fur isn't as soft and fluffy as mine.

As for sheep-shagging, don't you know about Welsh hobbies?

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

I'm Asian, but I never felt like a minority (dont' get me wrong, I've felt racism, but it was usually from my relatives towards non-Chinese; which is a total embarassment to me).

My folks told me out of every 4 people on earth, at least one was Chinese. So eventhough I grew up with mostly non-asians (with me always being the only asian in class), I always felt that out of the whole world, since there were way more Chinese, if anyone were to bully me, I could give Bruce Lee a call and he'll come and kung-fu their arse for me.

(I didn't know Bruce Lee had died in 1973 back when I was thinking this.)