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Sai
11-06-2012, 06:28 PM
So I recently beta read a friend's contemporary fantasy novel. The novel is set in the UK, and the main character is an immortal being who's current form is a young white British woman. However, her true identity is a major figure from (let's say for the sake of anonymity) Indian mythology. After I finished reading the book, I mentioned to my friend that it troubled me that she had taken a mythological figure from another culture and white-washed her. I pointed out that in her novel she used figures from Japanese mythology and kept their human forms Japanese- didn't it feel weird to make the main character's avatar white when her roots were from another part of the world? I stayed away from words like appropriation, but that's how it felt to me. She said that she hadn't thought about it that way before but she could see where I was coming from. She had some reasons for making the character white, but they didn't make me any more comfortable with her choice.

Part of me wishes I had pushed her harder on this, but I didn't because 1. She's my friend and 2. I'm whiter than a Fleetwood Mac concert and I wasn't sure if it was really my place to be offended when it's not my culture getting painted over.

So I guess this post has two questions to it: How do you bring it up with friends when you feel they've written something problematic? Can you call someone out on racist depictions without acting like you're speaking on behalf of a culture not your own? Overall my friend took my comments very well, but like I said before I worry that I should have pushed harder.

dolores haze
11-06-2012, 07:18 PM
Possibly link her to an online discussion about it? Information for her, but not coming from your own mouth.

Polenth
11-06-2012, 07:30 PM
Usually, I try to make my position clear in brief, and pass on some links from someone who is in the culture or group. It's about repeating what they've said, rather than coming up with something all-new that they may or may not think. But after that, there's nothing more you can do. Using harsher language won't make a difference.

It is important to speak up. This isn't a case where someone Indian was in the room and you shouted over them. You were the one there, and if you don't say anything, it could be no one will. There are a number of times where an author has got to publication, and I'm boggled that no one pointed out there might be issues. Everyone waited for someone else to say it.

davidh219
11-06-2012, 07:51 PM
Well, it depends. I'm the type of person who doesn't offend easily, and I tend to look down on others who are offended easily. Not saying it's right that I do that, but it's just who I am, so take anything I'm about to say with that in mind.

But yeah, it depends. It depends on what those aforementioned reasons for the character being white are, if the mythological figure is from a religion that people still practice today, etc.

I would say if there are good reasons for this character to be white, then it's fine. Like say she's a mythical being who can take any form she wants and is only white because either that's what most people there are, or because white people are more privileged there, or both. That would be a good reason. Why should a mythical being choose a body that's going to face discrimination? They're not human anyway, so it probably doesn't matter to them. I'm not from the UK so I don't know firsthand, but isn't there an awful lot of hatred towards people from the middle east there? Just a thought.

If there is no good reason like that then yeah, I think she should change the character's ethnicity, not necessarily because it's offensive, though some may take it that way, but because it would just be silly not to, and it would make your friend seem like somebody who just wrote a white character because she's white and that's what she's familiar with.

leahzero
11-06-2012, 08:02 PM
Part of me wishes I had pushed her harder on this

I'm wondering why? You informed her of the elements you found problematic, and she seems to have been receptive to your feedback--at least, the way you described her reaction doesn't come across as self-righteous or defensive.

You can't force her to understand, or to change the story. It is, after all, her story, and she can tell it in the way that she wants to.

I don't know your relationship with this person, but it seems you've done enough, IMO. Your friend will probably think about it more on her own. Maybe she'll begin to see the same problem in her other work, or in the work of others, and gradually become more aware of cultural appropriation and whitewashing.

You could give her a gentle reminder by linking her to an article about whitewashing in fiction. Since you feel uncomfortable about pressing the issue personally, it may be better to let a third party educate her. It could also preserve your friendship with her, since she'll be less likely to see it as you criticizing her, but rather leading her to a deeper understanding that she'll achieve on her own.

Sai
11-07-2012, 02:39 AM
Thanks everyone. Over the course of today I've found new things to stress about (hahaha, a river of water under my floorboards! Great!) but I really appreciate everyone weighing and making me think about things from different angles. Thanks again.

crunchyblanket
11-10-2012, 08:08 PM
Personally, if parts of my novel were racially problematic - or problematic in any other way - I'd want someone to point it out to me.

Kitty27
11-11-2012, 10:19 PM
I'd LOVE a friend who pointed out that I was veering into WTF territory. This is a valued service.

I have seen some jaw droppers in my time. Everything from a friend of mine who decided to write about Asian culture and had geisha's serving Chinese nobles in ancient China.

Uh,no. Just,NO. Writers of color have to always remember to also respect other people of color when choosing to write about them.

I have had well meaning friends want to write Black characters yet have them all having a "natural" rhythm.

It's good tat you spoke up. I hope she takes your advice.

Cyia
11-12-2012, 02:17 AM
Good grief - YES - please speak up if something's not reading right. No one wants to get to the point readers are going through a story only to be caught up short by something that's either a mistake, a flat out impossibility, or a phrase/line that read one way to the author and a totally different way to the reader.

If it hadn't been for my copyeditor, one paragraph of one of my novels would have gone to print with an unintended double meaning. I'm - extremely - literal in most cases, so when I say something is black, I mean onyx-colored. My editor knows this, and tends to read things as I intend them. However, the CE is more neutral and read the lines completely different. Once she pointed it out, I knew exactly what she meant and changed it. I would have been mortified if a reader had interpreted that section the same way my CE did. It was never intended to be a racially-charged scene, but rather a description of a medial condition that darkened a person's blood until it appeared (onyx) black. Because of the way it was phrased, the MC's comments about the person's "black blood" could have come off as highly offensive.

Rachel Udin
11-12-2012, 06:20 AM
Personally, I keep around the people who will smack me upside the head if I get to WTF territory. (figuratively). When people beta a story about another country I wrote, I beg them to do that and not back off. People do make mistakes and sometimes without realizing it, so it's better to say anything than tip toe. I've been talked down a few times. ^^;; (Also had to talk myself down a few times)

But yeah, telling them and showing links from people with that experience is better. If she doesn't understand why, you can find more articles to that effect. Ultimately the best you can do is inform her decision, but you can't really change it for her.

Being wrong isn't the end of the world. Being wrong and having it immortalized in print is mortifying... I prefer to be wrong before the print part.

Kim Fierce
12-29-2012, 06:33 AM
I think it's good to point out problems like this. I wrote a short story which I offered as a free download on my publisher's web site. It is told from the POV of a bigot, and is to make fun of the racist points of view he has. My publisher liked it and put it up. However, after a couple months, I submitted a sequel and she told me that some readers were confused and thought I was racist!!!! I grew hysterical and wished she would have told me before. She said if I put both versions of the story together perhaps things would be more clear. But because I'm working on so many other projects right now, I decided to just pull the free short story off the site, and maybe I'll put both stories together in the future, but right now I have novels I'm working on!

aruna
03-06-2013, 04:15 PM
She's not a friend, she's a member of another writing board where I mostly lurk but sometimes post. She is white, and she self-published this book. (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265183)

On that forum, she described the book in more detail. The MC is a white man who is sold into slavery in the American South by a love-rival. He is stained dark at first, but then the sun takes over and he really looks dark; he is also passed off as an octoroon. The book seems to focus on his rage at the "injustice" of his enslavement, and of course in the end everything turns out well and "justice" is done, ie he is set free and gets the girl.

I am not terribly thin-skinned but I find this premise problematic.
It seems that most other writers on that forum are white and only one of them raised an objection; she actually posted a link to Victoria Foyt's novel and recommended that the author read it. I posted a brief comment saying that I too find it problematic. The author very breezily brushed away these objections.
However, she has intimidated that she is quite happy to make adjustments and improvements and maybe even change the title.

I think she is in for a lot of flak if she goes ahead with this story and word gets out. I haven't read any of it so I don't know what the writing is like, but the premise of a white man unjustly enslaved -- as if black men are justly enslaved -- seems very touchy to me. As I said, I'm not an active member of that forum so I don't think my opinion would count for very much, and I have had my say already.

I just wanted to your feedback .. how do you feel about this premise?

Dandroid
03-06-2013, 04:35 PM
Does the "white-washing" go beyond the avatar being white? If I were a mythical being able to take any human form, i'm sure I'd try everything...

Cyia
03-06-2013, 05:13 PM
I just wanted to your feedback .. how do you feel about this premise?

I think she's playing with fire.

Maybe she thinks she's writing a story that decries racism/slavery or some such, but given her set-up, I wouldn't touch it. The broad scope of this seems poorly thought out; I can't imagine the mine field that must be the nuances.

Walk away, writer. Walk away.

(ETA: I checked GR to see if she's there, and she's not. Probably a good thing - they'd shred her to pieces.)

aruna
03-06-2013, 05:21 PM
That's what I thought. I feel sorry for her, but she didn't take the initial warning nor the link to V.F. --- I don't think anything I'd say now could change that. And the forum being mostly white (AFAIK) they would support her. aaargh...

Rachel Udin
03-06-2013, 07:40 PM
Not black, but NO. That's a definite no. (Though the cover has issues too)

- I'd talk her down by linking Victoria Foyt's long list of hate-filled mail.
- Then link her to the history of black face (which even made my white classmates feel sick.) Warning: The videos I've found get pretty offensive.
- Link her to the demise of a magazine over Victoria Foyt (well near extinction)
- And clue her in that putting Abraham Lincoln on the cover doesn't make the book's contents less racist... (He was not technically the person that freed the black slaves... blacks also had a hand in it.)

- Also, I think she's missing the whole history of racism. A person isn't going to understand what it's like to be shipped across the sea, see their family and people die, get lashed, treated like an animal, be forced to have children by a person they don't love and know what it's like to be raised, often branded, that they will never really get to escape. Selling a love rival and black facing them, makes light of that fact.

It's not the same. I believe there is a documentary about the genetics of African Americans that kind of shows what the implications of slavery were. Can't remember the title, though.

aruna
03-06-2013, 08:19 PM
It's not my way to give unasked for advice, Rachel, just as I don't like to receive it. It just feels pushy to me.
She was given a warning, by two people; given a link to the Victoria Foyt disaster; if she had been concerned, asked why it is troublesome, I would have been happy to discuss it with her. But she just brushed it off. I almost hope the book will sink without a trace; she doesn't seem to be promoting it aggressively the way VF did. If it does ever attract attention I think she'll just have to learn the hard way.

Cyia
03-06-2013, 08:50 PM
Sadly, that's all you can do, in some cases. Too many people expect their intent to override their content. They don't consider the final destnation of Good Intention Road. :(

Rachel Udin
03-06-2013, 09:11 PM
Yeah, it's the best you can do. Sorry... well, you can't "rescue" them all. Sometimes the hard way is the only way to learn.

clee984
03-06-2013, 09:24 PM
From your description, it doesn't sound too bad, I mean, why not have a character from Indian mythology inhabit a caucasian body? I'm a heterosexual white guy, and someone asked me recently who I'd like to play me if a movie were made of my life, and I said Rachel Weisz, because I've always wondered what my life would be like if I was a beautiful jewish woman. (I hope that) I was not being misogynistic or anti-semitic by saying that.

However, if you do think her work is a little troubling, I see no problem in telling her. It it were me, I'd be very grateful for that kind of feedback. My lead characters are invariably female (not that I have unresolved issues you understand, I wear the underwear purely for comfort reasons), and if a woman read my stuff and told me she thought something I had written was incorrect or even mildy offensive, I'd thank her, and change it.

SBibb
03-08-2013, 06:15 AM
Not sure what to say about the situation, but I would personally want to know if there was a problem with something I was writing. One of my readers pointed out an "Unfortunate Implication" before, and I'm glad they did. I went back to rewrite that scene so it had my intended vision, rather than how it came off at the time. So I would say to tell them your concerns, and why, so they can be aware of it.

thebloodfiend
03-08-2013, 07:36 PM
That's what I thought. I feel sorry for her, but she didn't take the initial warning nor the link to V.F. --- I don't think anything I'd say now could change that. And the forum being mostly white (AFAIK) they would support her. aaargh...Looked at the cover on Smashwords. Quietly closed the tab.

You've done your best. I honestly hope no one on GR comes across it. She should thank her stars it isn't a YA book. It would've been discovered and ripped yesterday.

Sochitelya
03-11-2013, 05:41 PM
She's not a friend, she's a member of another writing board where I mostly lurk but sometimes post. She is white, and she self-published this book. (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265183)

On that forum, she described the book in more detail. The MC is a white man who is sold into slavery in the American South by a love-rival. He is stained dark at first, but then the sun takes over and he really looks dark; he is also passed off as an octoroon. The book seems to focus on his rage at the "injustice" of his enslavement, and of course in the end everything turns out well and "justice" is done, ie he is set free and gets the girl.

I am not terribly thin-skinned but I find this premise problematic.
It seems that most other writers on that forum are white and only one of them raised an objection; she actually posted a link to Victoria Foyt's novel and recommended that the author read it. I posted a brief comment saying that I too find it problematic. The author very breezily brushed away these objections.
However, she has intimidated that she is quite happy to make adjustments and improvements and maybe even change the title.

I think she is in for a lot of flak if she goes ahead with this story and word gets out. I haven't read any of it so I don't know what the writing is like, but the premise of a white man unjustly enslaved -- as if black men are justly enslaved -- seems very touchy to me. As I said, I'm not an active member of that forum so I don't think my opinion would count for very much, and I have had my say already.

I just wanted to your feedback .. how do you feel about this premise?

I saw that on Tumblr (a Tumblr dedicated to bad fantasy covers, but it also touches on racism/sexism). Hopefully it gets picked up by other blogs. Perhaps a public outcry will get through to her.

aruna
03-11-2013, 08:32 PM
Link: (http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/post/42280699692/a-tale-of-the-south-for-some-reason-its-the)

On the comment thread is a post by the forum member I mentioned, who goes into more detail here. Or at least, I "think" it's her. She has a different name here, but it is in the ABNA forum. I just don't remember the back and forth going on that long.

akaria
03-13-2013, 11:21 PM
From your description, it doesn't sound too bad, I mean, why not have a character from Indian mythology inhabit a caucasian body?

What I find problematic about it is that it continues the idea that white is right. An Indian goddess can't even inhabit the body of one of her own people? She's got to be a white woman because....why? It's like the author gets to use all the shiny bits of Indian mythology without the pesky part of writing a WOC. Just like people who write characters that are bi-racial (Always mixed with white. As if different kinds of POC don't bonk each other.) and ignore the non-white culture except when mystical woo-woo is needed.

akaria
03-13-2013, 11:24 PM
Looked at the cover on Smashwords. Quietly closed the tab.

I did the same thing! Except replace quietly closing the tab with sending my hubby a link to the page with AW HELL NO in the subject line.

little_e
03-18-2013, 01:33 AM
Eh. One of my pet peeves is white people getting offended and lecturing other white people on behalf of POCs, over stuff the POCs in question don't even care about.

Take Speedy Gonzales. They don't show Speedy cartoons in the US anymore because whites are scared that Speedy is racist. Mexicans, meanwhile, LOVE Speedy Gonzales, because he's quick, clever, and Mexican.

Or white people who are like, "I don't believe in race, so I'm not going to teach my kids words like 'black' or 'Asian'. We're all just people." What's up with that? Black people are proud of being black. Asians are proud of being Asian. Jews are proud of being Jewish. Mexicans are proud of being Mexican. Ethnic and cultural identities are hugely important to people. History is important to people. Ignoring that doesn't make racism go away.

So, to the OP, if you have a problem with something, or you think a subject needs to be handled with delicacy and tact, by all means, mention it to your friend. But a Hindu deity manifesting as a white person? That by itself is not problematic. Hindu deities have already done that, because (according to monotheistic Hinduism,) all deities are just different manifestations of Vishnu. I have a Hindu friend who is a Christian because he believes in Jesus: Jesus is a manifestation of Vishnu (this is his own statement of belief). Likewise, all gods of all religions.

Not to mention that Hindus are Caucasian, so they might not have a problem with this at all. I'd worry more about the colonial history of England having conquered large parts of India than about an Indo-European deity appearing as another sort of Indo-European. Would it have been a problem if the deity had shown up in a Chinese body? There's a long history there, too, and probably violent future.

Your friend probably chose a white person because this is what her life experiences have equipped her to write. (I mean, have you read stories set in cultures the authors don't know very well? They tend to be terrible. It takes a TON of research to write another culture well, and sometimes you just want to write your story.)


So long as the deity is being portrayed consistent with the mythology, in a way that does not demean the deity or their followers, I don't see a problem. So, yeah, if she named her deity Kali and then had her cuddling kittens, that could be a problem. If you take a religion's most beloved prophet and declare them the anti-Christ, that is really darn problematic. Remind her to be careful and respectful when dealing with something beloved by another culture. But a deity manifesting outside of the geographic area their main worshipers live in? I wouldn't sweat it. Omnipotent deities are not limited by race or culture, and someone showing an interest in other cultures is a good thing.

little_e
03-18-2013, 02:11 AM
She's not a friend, she's a member of another writing board where I mostly lurk but sometimes post. She is white, and she self-published this book. (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/265183) LOL. That looks pretty bad. But honestly, don't waste your time. Even the "review" is transparently by the author.

WaveHopper
03-18-2013, 02:47 AM
LOL. That looks pretty bad. But honestly, don't waste your time. Even the "review" is transparently by the author.

The whole thing is like it was mocked up for an edgy comedy sketch.

From the blurb:

The jealous rejected suitor causes his victorious rival to be abducted, dipped in a staining solution and sold South into slavery.

From the review:

Filled with beautifully drawn characters and well-researched, plausible situations...

Rachel Udin
03-18-2013, 09:07 AM
. But a Hindu deity manifesting as a white person? That by itself is not problematic. Hindu deities have already done that, because (according to monotheistic Hinduism,) all deities are just different manifestations of Vishnu. I have a Hindu friend who is a Christian because he believes in Jesus: Jesus is a manifestation of Vishnu (this is his own statement of belief). Likewise, all gods of all religions.


Just a heads up note... From what I understand from my Hinduism class, there is a sect (or sub sect depending on how you class Hinduism, since there are two major branches) that believes that *certain* gods are the incarnation of Vishnu. (Incarnation is not reincarnation).

Vishnu, in turn is part of the Trimurti. (In general Hinduism mythos). Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Because of the similarities between Krishna and Christ, there is some speculation in the Hinduism community that maybe some Hinduism spread to Christianity... (Christianity, despite what adherants think has been accursed several times of taking in other religions earlier than speculated, among which are Hinduism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism) The speculation is for the unaccounted years of Jesus' life.

Here, Krishna is said to be an incarnation of Vishnu and then Jesus is also an incarnation of Vishnu. Jesus, BTW, was a Jew and definitely not white. (He was part Egyptian since he came from the Levite line through Mary.) Incarnations can be simultaneous...

So I'd say *some* but not all believe this to be true, more than likely *some* but not all Hare Krishna.

That given, still making the person born white is dicey business mostly because of the overall history of how it was done and used by white people. (See the fail in Katana, though that was just plain funny as a huge fail.)



Not to mention that Hindus are Caucasian, so they might not have a problem with this at all.
Not necessarily--definitely we are all African. But the point of dissemination can be argued to be around the South West Asia point as well. Which means the Aryan push doesn't necessarily come from Europe. (As I understand it.)

Plus not all Indians in India look white, even in the North. There is a wider range of skin color than the stereotype reported, though. And definitely not all Hindus are necessarily from the Caucuses either.

Indo-European is the language group... but it's only one language group in India which has close ties to Sanskrit. There are still other languages such as Tamil that aren't related.



Would it have been a problem if the deity had shown up in a Chinese body? There's a long history there, too, and probably violent future.
I'd be against this too, though I'm giving slack for how it's handled in either case. Especially since Tibet comes into question with fighting over Buddhism... plus there is less history of Chinese trying to systematically take over and "discover" Indian history and overwrite it with such things as wars and slanted histories/long movies about their own superiority through demeaning all of India as a homogeneous culture.

Yeah, I know I'm slicing differences very closely, but the thing is that many people look at Hinduism and only see the reincarnation part of it. Which is fine, but I think also that you need to understand the regionalisms, the complexity and some of the really awesome beauty of what the base philosophies say. (I tend to favor more towards the sects without the gods and more towards the philosophies, such as Vedanta.) Plus I dislike the definition of karma which puts it that good deeds instantly pay off in this life... not the point.

Anyway, this is to say, put in the work to understand what you're writing about.

Polenth
03-18-2013, 01:31 PM
Eh. One of my pet peeves is white people getting offended and lecturing other white people on behalf of POCs, over stuff the POCs in question don't even care about.

So, to the OP, if you have a problem with something, or you think a subject needs to be handled with delicacy and tact, by all means, mention it to your friend. But a Hindu deity manifesting as a white person? That by itself is not problematic. Hindu deities have already done that, because (according to monotheistic Hinduism,) all deities are just different manifestations of Vishnu. I have a Hindu friend who is a Christian because he believes in Jesus: Jesus is a manifestation of Vishnu (this is his own statement of belief). Likewise, all gods of all religions.

Not to mention that Hindus are Caucasian, so they might not have a problem with this at all. I'd worry more about the colonial history of England having conquered large parts of India than about an Indo-European deity appearing as another sort of Indo-European.

That's the same logic that's used to justify a lot of whitewashing. People from this area might possibly be lighter, so they might look like a darker Southern European. As Southern Europeans are European, any European will do. Therefore, we'll use a Northern European with pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair.

It's a way of trying to make it sound logical that the world is turned blond. All the while, it ignores that if you place the Northern European next to the person from the original area, they don't look anything alike, and no one's going to mistake them as being from the same community. This isn't something that white people decided to complain about and no one non-white cares about. It's frequently discussed, and even if you don't personally believe it's a problem, it doesn't mean others don't see it as a problem (or that they must be white if they don't like it).

little_e
03-20-2013, 11:02 AM
That's the same logic that's used to justify a lot of whitewashing. People from this area might possibly be lighter, so they might look like a darker Southern European. As Southern Europeans are European, any European will do. Therefore, we'll use a Northern European with pale skin, blue eyes and blond hair.

It's a way of trying to make it sound logical that the world is turned blond. All the while, it ignores that if you place the Northern European next to the person from the original area, they don't look anything alike, and no one's going to mistake them as being from the same community. This isn't something that white people decided to complain about and no one non-white cares about. It's frequently discussed, and even if you don't personally believe it's a problem, it doesn't mean others don't see it as a problem (or that they must be white if they don't like it).
It would be very silly to cast a blonde-haired person as an Indian in a movie. But that's not what we're discussing. We're discussing an Indian deity--which are depicted as having all sorts of skin tones, from actual white (http://ganesha.info/images/shiva.jpg) to blue (http://omgtoptens.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Vishnu.jpg) to red (http://0.tqn.com/d/hinduism/1/0/7/Z/ravi_sunday.jpg) to green (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3kUWw-Dw9VA/T8YH_hDeVYI/AAAAAAAAAn0/nv5C68De4wo/s1600/God+Vishnu.jpg) to actual black (http://folk.uib.no/gsuto/Bilder%20Gallery/ShashanKali.jpg). Not to mention Ganesha with his elephant head and Hanuman, who looks rather like a monkey.

There is nothing I have seen which indicates that these deities are supposed to look like real real humans of *any* particular ethnic group.

Not to mention that in (some branches of) Hinduism, the entire universe is a manifestation of one thing, Brahman. The Brahmanda Purana says that Vishnu is the whole universe--which includes all of the people in it, no matter what skin tone they are.

These are gods, not people, and they have believers of all skin tones and can manifest as anything they want.

Even arguments of 'cultural appropriation' fall flat, because white folks are not culturally dominant over Indians (and that is assuming that Indians even see themselves in this way, and don't have their own complex view of global ethnic groups and their position/s among them.) India has over 1.2 billion people. The entire US has only about 300 million (many of whom are not white). The UK has 63 million.

And no, I really don't see a bunch of Hindus (even on the internet) discussing the problem of white folks white-washing their gods. I've seen Muslims complaining quite vocally about Western depictions of Islam and unflattering depictions of the Prophet Mohammad, but never Hindus.

little_e
03-20-2013, 12:41 PM
Just a heads up note... From what I understand from my Hinduism class, there is a sect (or sub sect depending on how you class Hinduism, since there are two major branches) that believes that *certain* gods are the incarnation of Vishnu. (Incarnation is not reincarnation).

Vishnu, in turn is part of the Trimurti. (In general Hinduism mythos). Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. ...
To be fair, there are a lot of different beliefs which fall under 'Hinduism'. So it is very easy to oversimplify, and I do not make any claim to be an expert. But inasmuch as Brahman is (in some traditions) the entire universe, all gods, or at least all stories about gods, are part of Brahman.

(And yes, I know that the historical Jesus was a Semite, [assuming he was real], though there are religious traditions which claim otherwise.)


That given, still making the person born white is dicey business mostly because of the overall history of how it was done and used by white people. (See the fail in Katana, though that was just plain funny as a huge fail.)

Sorry, I think I'm missing the antecedent for 'it', unless gods have been manifesting as white folks a lot more than I'm aware of!
There's a big problem with assuming that something is dicey because of X that white folks have historically done to POCs, is that the experiences of, say, black people in the US and the depiction of their culture by whites and of Indians and their experiences with the British are completely different. Different people, different cultures, different politics, different time periods, etc. Just because something is (or isn't) problematic in one culture doesn't mean that it is (or isn't) in another culture. Assuming it is (or isn't) is oversimplifying the world, not to mention ethnocentric.
(And katana? Do you mean the traditional Japanese sword? The Wikipedia disambiguation page is failing me.)

I don't think it really matters where group FOO came from--my point is that ethnicity is complex and people around the world don't necessarily see themselves in terms of typical American or Western racial norms. I honestly don't know what a Hindu would think of the book, but I'd guess 'factual inaccuracies about Hinduism' or 'history of British colonialism' would be more likely problems than 'god manifested as white person.'
If I were concerned, I'd ask an actual devotee of the religion or mention to the author that they should talk to an actual devotee about the book/plot ideas in order to make sure they don't accidentally say or do something stupid or offensive--a pretty good idea whenever writing about someone else's culture/beliefs, since 'the book says X' may have very little relation to reality.

Kim Fierce
03-21-2013, 01:49 AM
Or white people who are like, "I don't believe in race, so I'm not going to teach my kids words like 'black' or 'Asian'. We're all just people."

.

Whoa I've never heard that one lol. I have heard other white people say things like "We don't see color." Even though I'm white I think that's ridiculous, because to me it's implying that other colors are bad or wrong, so we just need to pretend they don't exist!

little_e
03-21-2013, 03:18 AM
Whoa I've never heard that one lol. I have heard other white people say things like "We don't see color." Even though I'm white I think that's ridiculous, because to me it's implying that other colors are bad or wrong, so we just need to pretend they don't exist!
Oh, this is definitely A Thing.

Bronson and Merryman devote a section to it in Nurture Shock (http://www.amazon.com/NurtureShock-New-Thinking-About-Children/dp/0446504130/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363818549&sr=8-1&keywords=nurture+shock), if you want to read some of the data on how it doesn't work. (Basically, it's because kids ain't stupid and will start figuring out pretty quickly on their that social/cultural groups exist, and then start wondering why their parents won't talk about it.)

EG: The parent of one of my kids' friends made a post the other day about how difficult she found explaining "Black History Month" to her kid because she doesn't "use words like 'black' and 'white' to describe people." (Her kid had heard about it on the TV, because Nick Jr. does little segments featuring black inventors, scientists, leaders, etc., in Feb.) So she's trying to explain the history of racism without talking about races, and I'm thinking 1984. They want to make racism go away by erasing race itself, and with it culture, history, pride--all of the good things people have done and loved, not to mention the memories of the tragedies people endured and histories we must not repeat.

To be generous, I think it is a withdrawal, a sort of 'coping with something which makes someone uncomfortable by not going anywhere near it'. They figure that if the don't say anything at all, then they can't accidentally say something wrong. If a white person sticks to talking about white people and white history and white culture and white deities, then no one can accuse them of cultural appropriation, or white-washing, or any other stuff.

Less generously, there are a bunch of people who really just don't care about others and can't be bothered.

So when I see someone taking an interest in other people, other cultures, wanting to learn and think and talk about them, even if they're doing it clumsily or their writing is atrocious, I see that impulse as basically good.

Kim Fierce
03-21-2013, 04:52 AM
Oh I can believe what you say that this is A Thing . . . the weird thing is that I had the government basically do that in my book The Divide, though I had never heard of it really being done IRL by anyone (albeit on a smaller scale). Almost all my characters are multi-racial since it's 200 years in the future, and I just believe this is inevitable for the US, but this doesn't mean it's impossible for people to know their roots. But the government withholds information, including the truth about some of the past in the US such as racism, so I think I should definitely read your link! Because in Book 2 I want to make it clear that the main character in my book had very limited knowledge, that it's the government's fault, and that I do not condone that system. There are going to be other rebel characters who do have more knowledge and will educate my other MC further. So to research this failed method will help!

It just seems very misguided to use such a tactic, even if it seems on the surface ok to say "We're all just people", yes that's true, but it's ok for us to acknowledge and celebrate our differences, while also acknowledging and celebrating our similarities and getting along.

ETA: I read about that Nurture Shock book and it sounds very interesting. I'd definitely like to read it.

Rachel Udin
03-21-2013, 10:17 PM
To be fair, there are a lot of different beliefs which fall under 'Hinduism'. So it is very easy to oversimplify, and I do not make any claim to be an expert. But inasmuch as Brahman is (in some traditions) the entire universe, all gods, or at least all stories about gods, are part of Brahman.
Which is the point-- the whole problem with racism is the reductive quality of it. The failure to see the diversity within the diversity and acknowledge it. Acknowledging it in simple words such as, "In this particular sect that my friend believes, they believe X" is better than saying, "Well all of Hinduism is like this." I picked on the factual inaccuracies because I dislike reductive statements, especially when it comes to things we don't know... Even a simple, "I don't know it all," or a "I'm not sure." would help.



(And yes, I know that the historical Jesus was a Semite, [assuming he was real], though there are religious traditions which claim otherwise.)

I'd be familiar with the Bible which says Jesus was from the Levi side of the line, which you can trace back to Moses. So, he'd definitely be darker. They can discount the Bible itself, but it's in there and they should actually read the thing sometime. (They referring to the people who are thinking that he's not a Semite--at least by half.)

On Absolute Write in this section there is a thread on a book called "Katana" which goes over some really bad blunders with a Japanese girl being reincarnated into a white girl. (With a really horrible cover since it makes me nervous) and the contents of the book have a "Japanese" guy named "Kim" (Which if you know any Japanese, you will know the huge issues with that.)

Apparently, in the WEST, it is common. The book, if being published, say in England and in the US will have those issues. (Not to mention I've watched some really horrible movies to that effect--you have no idea) (And, yes England has race issues... I have a linky to prove it) The impact is where and when it's published. The history of Europeans in general trying to erase or take claim to culture is pretty universal through history... (And that's not an all statement, that's a tends to statement). Indian history is very similar. (Watch a few BBC documentaries lay claim that British Archaeologists "Discovered" "real" Indian culture... --;; Can someone gag me yet?)

I'd happen to be very aware of the impact of English rule on India. I made allusions to it. I researched it quite a bit too. So I'm pretty confident that the meaning of someone white writing about that would be the same meaning as in the West. It has the same ugly flavor of imperialism to it, and probably more so out of Great Britain. Now if people within India know it or not, it doesn't mean it's less racist. The hubrous lies on the person writing and delivering it. (I was researching it so I could avoid doing the same stupid patterns.) It's not ethnocentricism. I know my crap.

Such as Japanese people didn't know that stereotypes about black people were destructive when they imported the ideas from the US to Japan on TV in such a way that makes me wince. (Someone clued them in since... but still) Just because they don't know, doesn't mean it's not racist.

I got racist comments I didn't understand until later. Does that make it less racist? I don't think ignorance of the receiver is an excuse for it to be OK.

Yes, check with a person, but at least put some of the work to not get foot in mouth syndrome first. (Which is what I was trying to do by watching Bollywood movies, reading books, watching documentaries with a wary eye.) My friend also helped by piling on documentaries made by Indians, making recommendations of Bollywood movies, and I went and read the religious texts and studied my butt off. When I got stuck, that's only when I asked her a question. And I'll get a group to check the whole manuscript for inaccuracies. No amount of research can substitute for people who lived and grew up with the culture.

Kim Fierce
03-22-2013, 04:46 AM
On Absolute Write in this section there is a thread on a book called "Katana" which goes over some really bad blunders with a Japanese girl being reincarnated into a white girl. (With a really horrible cover since it makes me nervous) and the contents of the book have a "Japanese" guy named "Kim" (Which if you know any Japanese, you will know the huge issues with that.)

.

I was trying to look this up, because my Japanese exchange-student friend preferred to call me by a nickname instead of Kim, and she just said it was easier to pronounce and I never questioned that until I read your statement! But I can't find anything about Kim and the Japanese meaning, I only know the Korean and English meanings.

I agree Rachel that just because a person may not immediately realize something is racist doesn't mean it's ok. I don't know all the details of this book in question, but I would think it would be really cool to make the character look even more obviously like the Hindu gods, and if they don't blend in, oh well, they have supernatural powers! But that might be a different story lol.

Cyia
03-22-2013, 05:34 AM
But I can't find anything about Kim and the Japanese meaning, I only know the Korean and English meanings.


I think Rachel means that Kim, while common in China and Korea, is not a native Japanese name, rather than referring to translation issues. It's a symptom of the idea that every thing "Asian" is interchangeable, be it names, culture, clothes, or the (very odd to me) belief that all of Asian = Buddhist.

Kim Fierce
03-22-2013, 06:09 AM
Oh, that makes sense! :-) (I must have read that wrong, because I didn't think Kim was a Japanese name, so thought perhaps she meant a translation thing.)

kuwisdelu
03-22-2013, 07:49 AM
Oh, that makes sense! :-) (I must have read that wrong, because I didn't think Kim was a Japanese name, so thought perhaps she meant a translation thing.)

And as for preferring your nickname to Kim due to pronunciation, it's because the sounds to make "Kim" exactly as it's pronounced don't exist in Japanese. The closest you can come sounds like "Kii-mu."

Little Ming
03-23-2013, 03:42 AM
I think Rachel means that Kim, while common in China and Korea, is not a native Japanese name, rather than referring to translation issues. It's a symptom of the idea that every thing "Asian" is interchangeable, be it names, culture, clothes, or the (very odd to me) belief that all of Asian = Buddhist.

Assuming Kim = 金, then the Chinese (Mandarin) pronunciation would be Jin. I don't think "Kim" is a word in Mandarin pinyin. Other dialects... :Shrug:

the wrong idea
03-23-2013, 04:16 AM
And as for preferring your nickname to Kim due to pronunciation, it's because the sounds to make "Kim" exactly as it's pronounced don't exist in Japanese. The closest you can come sounds like "Kii-mu."

Roughly speaking, Japanese "syllables (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mora_(linguistics)#Japanese)" always end in vowels, with two exceptions--the nasal "n" and the... however you describe the first half of what's romanized as a double consonant. Of those, only the "n" can appear at the end of a word. The phonetic scripts reflect this, with glyphs corresponding to full morae rather than individual sounds.

In other words, not only is kuwisdelu correct about the phonetics here, the same applies to the written language. There is literally no way to even write "Kim" in Japanese that is exact and unambiguous (though in practice it's pretty obvious what キイム is trying to be). This fact is painfully obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Japanese language.

Cyia
03-23-2013, 05:53 AM
Assuming Kim = 金, then the Chinese (Mandarin) pronunciation would be Jin. I don't think "Kim" is a word in Mandarin pinyin. Other dialects... :Shrug:

I thought Kim was Cantonese, but the bounds of my knowledge on that one are a girl I knew in high school over ten years ago, so not exactly proficient. I defer to those who actually speak the language.

Marian Perera
03-23-2013, 04:02 PM
Link: (http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/post/42280699692/a-tale-of-the-south-for-some-reason-its-the)

Thanks for the link. For some reason I didn't notice Abraham Lincoln up in the tree until I saw the larger cover.

aruna
03-23-2013, 07:25 PM
What about the Indian in the top left corner! :)
Really wacky.

Little Ming
03-24-2013, 12:31 AM
Roughly speaking, Japanese "syllables (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mora_(linguistics)#Japanese)" always end in vowels, with two exceptions--the nasal "n" and the... however you describe the first half of what's romanized as a double consonant. Of those, only the "n" can appear at the end of a word. The phonetic scripts reflect this, with glyphs corresponding to full morae rather than individual sounds.

In other words, not only is kuwisdelu correct about the phonetics here, the same applies to the written language. There is literally no way to even write "Kim" in Japanese that is exact and unambiguous (though in practice it's pretty obvious what キイム is trying to be). This fact is painfully obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Japanese language.

Cool, I'm learning so much from this thread. Thanks. :)


I thought Kim was Cantonese, but the bounds of my knowledge on that one are a girl I knew in high school over ten years ago, so not exactly proficient. I defer to those who actually speak the language.

The best way I can spell/pronounce 金 in Cantonese here is Gum, as in chewing gum, but with a harder, sharper tone at the end.

As for "Kim".... if I squint really hard it might sound like "sword" in Cantonese. Though I've never met anyone with that as a surname... Given name, maybe, though it would be a bit dated. :Shrug:

But my problem with Cantonese to English pronunciations is I don't know if there's an "official" translation guide, like pinyin for Mandarin, so whenever I try to explain it over the internet, it always comes out as "This is what is sounds like to me..." though I could completely wrong.

Rachel Udin
03-24-2013, 02:16 AM
I'll clarify with what I *do* know. Keep in mind my Mandarin/Cantonese isn't stellar. I strongly defer.

김 (Pronounced keem, short ee, which is not k-short i-m of Kim as in Kimberly) is a Korean surname. It means, as mentioned, gold. 金

In Japanese the word "Kim" is impossible because it becomes Kimu, キム (キイム) In Japanese the character for gold is pronounced "Kin" and is in no shape or form a native Japanese name. (There are Koreans who are living in Japan from the occupation, but that doesn't really count.)

Technically neither language has a short i sound like in English. (Lee, of Korean is really ee 이, so Koreans are trying to make you feel better when you mispronounce it. ^.~)

The problem with the book mentioned is that the guy is *assumed* to be 100% Japanese with a given name of "Kim" (as in not a surname). Not only is it impossible in Japanese because of the syllabary system, but that's no given name.

It's problematic. Shows absolutely no look at research and probably, as I surmised at the time was pulled from some random newspaper which had "Kim Jong Il" on it kidnapping Japanese. (Which is why you do your research when you pull names).

As for 金 in Cantonese and Mandarin surnames... I, personally, with my limited knowledge have never seen it. I *have* seen it rendered Jin (excuse the lack of pinyin) as a given name. (Taiwanese show) But there is no way it would be rendered "Kim" There is a slight probablility that Koreans living in China (which there are some) might use "Jin" as a surname, but that would be highly selective of yet, again, Koreans. (Even in China, itself, it is ethnically diverse... but I think that you'll find that with every country you pull up... the US does not corner the market on this factor--I think a good book can play to the majority culture. A great book can nod to the fact there are sub cultures within that.)

I'm working in Mongolian language knowledge, too, but it's slow. (Book research)

Linguistic nerdiness aside, mixing cultures when you don't know your stuff is usually bad. East Asia is a subsection of defined territory, not a country. Even if it were, it would still have sub populations. And with several languages and countries vastly divided by climate, geography, history and language, it's really worth it to get at least a basic overview before mixing it up and pulling from the culture before making a new one (though I, personally, prefer deeper digging.)-->loosely referring to the other disaster of a book discussed last year, also set in an "asian" setting. Which was basically Meiji Japan with characters saying "Aiyo" occasionally. --;;

I'd also say to not *default* to the only thing that you know about the culture for the main plot.

Durrrhhhh Samurai, Meiji, Geisha, sushi, Red district for Japan.
How about tsukemono (which has a rich history), Poets, contemporary times and times before Meiji... and the shop owners. (Shop owner culture in Japan, I really like.)

For example... which is my other problem with Katana. (Is that really the *only* thing you could learn about Japan?)

Minority Pathology Porn, as it was nicely put...

Be nice not to see the default of the othering cycle. Like us with different coping mechanisms and sometimes same coping mechanisms for the things we all face as humans.

But that's hard to convince someone otherwise about once they have a story idea. However, I think we can do better, especially the insiders to not default that way.

the wrong idea
03-24-2013, 03:27 AM
As for "Kim".... if I squint really hard it might sound like "sword" in Cantonese. Though I've never met anyone with that as a surname... Given name, maybe, though it would be a bit dated. :Shrug:

But my problem with Cantonese to English pronunciations is I don't know if there's an "official" translation guide, like pinyin for Mandarin, so whenever I try to explain it over the internet, it always comes out as "This is what is sounds like to me..." though I could completely wrong.

The usual term for that is romanization (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanization), and Wikipedia apparently has a whole category about romanizing Cantonese (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Cantonese_romanisation).

There are a huge pile of methods for romanizing most east Asian languages, some of which prioritize avoiding ambiguity over avoiding mispronunciation by English-speaking people. And just because the romanized forms of names or words may look similar doesn't mean the original versions were similar at all. Complicating matters further is that immigrants to countries that use the roman alphabet may pick a spelling for their name based on whatever romanization system was popular at the time in whichever location(s), including some systems rarely used today. Given those inconsistencies, "Kim" could very plausibly be anything resembling "velar stop, front and/or closed vowel, nasal consonant".

This is very much a case where writers should have at least a rudimentary understanding of things, and should get feedback from someone who would know. It's all too easy to screw up with unfamiliar languages. Then again, I couldn't even read a Japanese children's book without a dictionary and many hours of effort, but most of the mistakes discussed here were still blatantly obvious to me.


I think Rachel means that Kim, while common in China and Korea, is not a native Japanese name, rather than referring to translation issues. It's a symptom of the idea that every thing "Asian" is interchangeable, be it names, culture, clothes, or the (very odd to me) belief that all of Asian = Buddhist.

Yeah. Since the book in question is blatantly a case of "everything Asian is interchangeable", I'm guessing it was just a bizarre misuse of the most common Korean surname (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_(Korean_name)), making this sorta like having a major character be a French guy whose first name is "Smith". Anything beyond that is probably giving the author of aforementioned book too much credit. (EDIT: Oops, I walk away for a while in the middle of writing a post and Rachel responds to this in better detail.)


김 (Pronounced keem, short ee, which is not k-short i-m of Kim as in Kimberly) is a Korean surname. It means, as mentioned, gold. 金

In Japanese the word "Kim" is impossible because it becomes Kimu, キム (キイム) In Japanese the character for gold is pronounced "Kin" and is in no shape or form a native Japanese name. (There are Koreans who are living in Japan from the occupation, but that doesn't really count.)

Technically neither language has a short i sound like in English. (Lee, of Korean is really ee 이, so Koreans are trying to make you feel better when you mispronounce it. ^.~)

The problem with the book mentioned is that the guy is *assumed* to be 100% Japanese with a given name of "Kim" (as in not a surname). Not only is it impossible in Japanese because of the syllabary system, but that's no given name.

Aren't kun-yomi (in this case, "kane") readings more common in names? Anyway, the dictionary I checked mentions 金 as a surname and female given name, but that's probably uncommon at best (and could be due entirely to modified foreign names).


Linguistic nerdiness aside, mixing cultures when you don't know your stuff is usually bad. East Asia is a subsection of defined territory, not a country. Even if it were, it would still have sub populations. And with several languages and countries vastly divided by climate, geography, history and language, it's really worth it to get at least a basic overview before mixing it up and pulling from the culture before making a new one (though I, personally, prefer deeper digging.)-->loosely referring to the other disaster of a book discussed last year, also set in an "asian" setting. Which was basically Meiji Japan with characters saying "Aiyo" occasionally. --;;

You mean this mind-boggling trainwreck (http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/d-plain-reviews/review-stormdancer-by-jay-kristoff/)?


I'd also say to not *default* to the only thing that you know about the culture for the main plot.

Durrrhhhh Samurai, Meiji, Geisha, sushi, Red district for Japan.
How about tsukemono (which has a rich history), Poets, contemporary times and times before Meiji... and the shop owners. (Shop owner culture in Japan, I really like.)

If someone wants to write a story set in historical Japan the least they could do is rehash the Sengoku period. Historically dubious sorta-fantasy set in the Sengoku period is nothing if not well-tread ground.

little_e
03-24-2013, 03:46 PM
Which is the point-- the whole problem with racism is the reductive quality of it.I get what you're saying, but I think the real problem with racism is that it harms human beings.
The failure to see the diversity within the diversity and acknowledge it. Acknowledging it in simple words such as, "In this particular sect that my friend believes, they believe X" is better than saying, "Well all of Hinduism is like this." I picked on the factual inaccuracies because I dislike reductive statements, especially when it comes to things we don't know... Even a simple, "I don't know it all," or a "I'm not sure." would help.Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't exactly see how this is relevant to anything I've said or the book described in the OP, since I did in fact do these things, and we have no idea if it's even relevant to the book or how much research the OP's friend did or didn't do.


I'd be familiar with the Bible which says Jesus was from the Levi side of the line, which you can trace back to Moses. So, he'd definitely be darker....Jesus was divinely conceived (according to mainstream Christian tradition.) The Bible genealogies are only for Joseph, who is not his biological father, and there are many different traditions about Mary, whom I don't think Christians consider a biological parent, either. If Jesus received no DNA from his earthly parents, why should he look like them? Maybe he did, just because it would have been inconvenient not to. Or maybe he looked completely different. (Even if he was just a normal guy, having one ancestor generations back from place FOO does not determine what you look like. Inheritance doesn't work like that.)

That's the thing about gods. They (very often) don't have human DNA. Yahweh is not a Jew. Allah is not an Arab. Vishnu is not, as far as I can tell, an Indian. And for most religions, their followers can also be of any ethnicity. The Christians I know wouldn't care if you depicted Jesus as a Jew, an Egyptian, a Japanese person, or an Aborigine... (And the ones who would care aren't Christians I'd care to know.)


On Absolute Write in this section there is a thread on a book called "Katana" ... Moral of the story: better to write the culture you know than to attempt one you don't and fail. If the OP's friend knows British culture, then she might as well write a book set in England.


Apparently, in the WEST, it is common. The book, if being published, say in England and in the US will have those issues. ...I hate to say the same thing two posts in a row, but I don't know what the "it" you're referring to is. (I don't know which book, either--the OP's friend's book or the one in the other thread.)

The history of Europeans in general trying to erase or take claim to culture is pretty universal through history... (And that's not an all statement, that's a tends to statement).Frankly, this is "noble savages" thinking in which Europe is demonized as the great big evil while everyone else is good and moral and above doing terrible things like conquering other countries. Europe is not special in this regard, and all groups, throughout history, have attempted to conquer their neighbors and adopt the useful or interesting bits of their cultures. It's an enormous jump to go from 'Europeans did (and still do) a lot of cultural appropriating' to 'therefore, a Hindu deity manifesting as an English person is racist'. It might be. It might not be. It depends on the way it's handled in the story. Maybe the deity wanted to convert the English to Hinduism, and saw this as the best way.

The difference between "appropriation" and "adopting" is that appropriation is done in the context of a more powerful group taking cultural elements from a less powerful group, especially in a way that interferes with the original cultural expression. For example, Hollywood has so completely dominated our images of Native American Indians, that people think headbands are a universal part of traditional Native attire. (They're not. Hollywood just used them to keep the wigs on.) In Australia, some people sell 'Aboriginal' art actually produced by white folks. Folks are being duped, and real Aboriginal artists aren't getting paid.

India, by contrast, is the world's second biggest country. It is a nuclear superpower. It is not a tiny ethnic group in danger of being overrun. Hinduism is not being destroyed by English folks writing urban fantasy about its deities. If someone says something racist, stupid, or incorrect about India/Indian culture, by all means, let's all stand up for what's right. But this is not cultural appropriation.

European super-dominance of the planet is, for the time being, basically over. India and China are the new super-powers.

(I'm pretty sure those racist Japanese depictions of black folks are actually racist, not just accidentally racist. All things considered, the Japanese probably knew about black people long before they heard about Americans, much less American depictions of black folks.)

clee984
03-24-2013, 04:26 PM
Link: (http://lousybookcovers.tumblr.com/post/42280699692/a-tale-of-the-south-for-some-reason-its-the)



I think whoever designed that book cover is to be pitied, rather than condemned. I literally can't think of any white lie (no pun intended) that I could tell someone if they showed me that as a piece of their own work.

Rachel Udin
03-25-2013, 12:39 AM
I get what you're saying, but I think the real problem with racism is that it harms human beings. Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't exactly see how this is relevant to anything I've said or the book described in the OP, since I did in fact do these things, and we have no idea if it's even relevant to the book or how much research the OP's friend did or didn't do.

The reduction of peoples is part of the reason it becomes hurtful and harmful, in fact it's one of the biggest factors of why it becomes harmful. In any type of prejudice. It's the simple failure to realize that one person does not represent all and the imposition of the dominant power group that causes issues in the first place. It's hard to say one hates a group if you can't reduce it to harmful stereotypes.

Add the reductive quality of prejudice over time, enforce it with governmental and history and voila. You got institutionalized discrimination. That, in turn, is hurtful to the economic and social power of the group it is launched against.

You need those three ingredients in order to get it to hurt. (reduction, time, and governmental power)


Jesus was divinely conceived (according to mainstream Christian tradition.) The Bible genealogies are only for Joseph, who is not his biological father, and there are many different traditions about Mary, whom I don't think Christians consider a biological parent, either. If Jesus received no DNA from his earthly parents, why should he look like them? Maybe he did, just because it would have been inconvenient not to. Or maybe he looked completely different. (Even if he was just a normal guy, having one ancestor generations back from place FOO does not determine what you look like. Inheritance doesn't work like that.)http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/mary-motherofjesus.html

Mary was a Levite. I told you. And besides, Christians didn't believe in DNA because it didn't exist until after the turn of the last century.



That's the thing about gods. They (very often) don't have human DNA. Yahweh is not a Jew. Allah is not an Arab. Vishnu is not, as far as I can tell, an Indian. And for most religions, their followers can also be of any ethnicity. The Christians I know wouldn't care if you depicted Jesus as a Jew, an Egyptian, a Japanese person, or an Aborigine... (And the ones who would care aren't Christians I'd care to know.) Hinduism, look up incarnation. Try again.

I'll warn you, though, you're deviating. And you've admitted already you're in waters you don't understand, so I'm not quite sure why you're trying to defend it. I merely pointed out your reductive errors and pointed out that doing it that way causes problems.



Frankly, this is "noble savages" thinking in which Europe is demonized as the great big evil while everyone else is good and moral and above doing terrible things like conquering other countries. Europe is not special in this regard, and all groups, throughout history, have attempted to conquer their neighbors and adopt the useful or interesting bits of their cultures. It's an enormous jump to go from 'Europeans did (and still do) a lot of cultural appropriating' to 'therefore, a Hindu deity manifesting as an English person is racist'. It might be. It might not be. It depends on the way it's handled in the story. Maybe the deity wanted to convert the English to Hinduism, and saw this as the best way. No... Noble Savages, refers to an idealized outsider. Someone with superior culture to be preserved.
I just poked at the fact that British rule of India was Imperialism and they tend to want to continue it on BBC, which is not much different than pointing out that Asians on Television tend to be under represented and given excuses for that such as "The culture forbids it" and "Asians are only good at math anyway." (I've heard both stupid excuses).

Have you watched a British documentary on India? The word "discover" is thrown around. "Rediscover" is more accurate. Take your choice. BBC does it a lot.

I didn't say that Indians were a "majestic" "perfect" people. There are many social issues they are trying to tackle within their country (And doing a lot better than we are from one show I saw, translated, BTW--I was jaw-droppingly amazed.). I just pointed out that people taking credit for "discovery" of a previous existing culture is a type of racism, or Did you check out why it's insulting to Native Americans to be told that Columbus "discovered" America and their cultures? (First Nations for Canadians)

Poking at Imperialism, no matter what the form, is fair game. Often accompanied by "Manifest" destiny. And let's face it Manifest destiny is just racism crossed with Imperialism given religious excuse.

And for the record, I dislike all Imperialism. I find it stupid and often filled with justifications that are prejudiced to begin with.



India, by contrast, is the world's second biggest country. It is a nuclear superpower. It is not a tiny ethnic group in danger of being overrun. Hinduism is not being destroyed by English folks writing urban fantasy about its deities. If someone says something racist, stupid, or incorrect about India/Indian culture, by all means, let's all stand up for what's right. But this is not cultural appropriation. Reductive, yet again. How many times do I have to tell you that India is quite diverse.

You have Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikism. (I know I missed a few... picking out the top religions. Sorry.) Not in order, BTW. Many of which gods and temples are in the US. There is a Hare Krishna temple in LA as far as I know.

Can you quit lumping it as "their gods". If you don't know, that's fine, but for both our interests and the interest of this thread, it might be better to either educate yourself on even ground (as in read up on things like the British Occupation, which you already admitted you were blind to) and last I checked there were places of worship for all religions mentioned.

Plus it sounds like you've been listening to the insipid American Media rather than stepping out of that cultural context. (Which I blame on the American Media.)


European super-dominance of the planet is, for the time being, basically over. India and China are the new super-powers. Which is why India feels the need to teach English. And in fact the de-facto Lingua Franca is English. From 2 empires--the British and American Empires.

Global Politics also has it that the people *running* the actual corporations are Americans. (And if you notice the demographics in the 2012 job distribution they are mostly white male)

China and India *produce* goods. They do not run the show. And the dollar is still the currency that runs to stock market, especially after the sudden crash of the Euro.

I pay attention to economics. We are definitely not in any soon chance of becoming victims. We are profiting quite greatly from doing things like Nike refusing to put proper masks on workers in China because it's cheaper. (Or did you miss the whole NAFTA thing.)

America is quite a super power... exporting its language, products, movies in great quantity, while refusing to import many of the external goods of the same. (or why I was shocked at Gangnam Style being an international hit)

Asia has been, from at least the 1980's (That's as far back as I know) trying to make stars such as BoA, Namie Amuro, etc, learn English to break the American market and the American Market has steadily refused. (This is a position of power one can take when your culture is being exported and adopted due to economic power issues)

Personally, I see this whole recycled and regurgiated "Yellow Threat" as an extension of the crap that put the exclusion act in place. In the meantime those countries you mentioned? They see themselves far, far behind the US. And in *some* respects, they really are.

Even our story telling conventions are getting exported as superior to many of the native Story telling conventions.

Again, it seems you are short on knowledge and are trying to argue from a US nightly news... but spend some time in Asia, or other country that doesn't speak English and you'll be shocked at how much English you'll be surrounded by. I was asking why in France they were playing English songs, when the reverse was not true... there you go, Imperialism, though indirect in this case.



(I'm pretty sure those racist Japanese depictions of black folks are actually racist, not just accidentally racist. All things considered, the Japanese probably knew about black people long before they heard about Americans, much less American depictions of black folks.)If you want to check it out yourself, It's called the "N Word." Worth the watch, in general.

Despite that, there is no history of racism against blacks in Japan before the importation. (Importation came after the US settling troops in Japan and Korea) There is a systemic abuse of Koreans and Ainu in Japan. The documentary, BTW, systematically shows (which was made and produced by African Americans) that it was imported by American television, kinda like American television caused anorexia in Samoa.

I tend to put more weight into people making their own documentaries, though for book use, I always cross reference.

Katana (book) and Sworddancer, though are good examples of Epic fail. Katana also illustrates the really huge fail of using reincarnation, which was definitely the topic of the OP. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11788440-katana

Kim Fierce
03-26-2013, 01:39 AM
Definitely learning a lot about the Japanese language. (I wanted to take Japanese in high school, but for some reason we were only allowed to after 3 years of taking another language and I couldn't hang.)

The only people I met who were actually from India and spoke to at length were Christian missionaries. They were born in that country, a husband and wife with two kids, and visited our church every year in the summer. I was only a kid, too, so mostly I just remember the words to a couple Christian songs they taught us, so there is no way for me to really add any input except I am reading all this with interest.

Amadan
03-28-2013, 07:35 PM
Despite that, there is no history of racism against blacks in Japan before the importation. (Importation came after the US settling troops in Japan and Korea) There is a systemic abuse of Koreans and Ainu in Japan. The documentary, BTW, systematically shows (which was made and produced by African Americans) that it was imported by American television, kinda like American television caused anorexia in Samoa.

Wait, what? If you're claiming that Americans introduced the Japanese to the concept of racism, that's so wrong it's not even funny.

I'll give you Europe/North America as currently dominating global culture, to much detriment of others, but Europe/North America as the current, let alone historical, sole purveyors of racism... umm, no.


Also, this:


You need those three ingredients in order to get it to hurt. (reduction, time, and governmental power)

is wrong. I am familiar with the equation "racism = prejudice + power" and for the sake of argument I will accept it as the definition we are using here, but even under that definition, hurtful racism does not require a pervasive, institutionalized legacy.

Rachel Udin
03-28-2013, 10:43 PM
Wait, what? If you're claiming that Americans introduced the Japanese to the concept of racism, that's so wrong it's not even funny.

I'll give you Europe/North America as currently dominating global culture, to much detriment of others, but Europe/North America as the current, let alone historical, sole purveyors of racism... umm, no.
On 1. Do you have a counter source? I gave you mine. "The "N word" film. Before the American occupation,spurred by 2 white men (Perry and MacArthur) who were the epitome of imperialism came in, there wasn't a black population in Japan at all. (Or nothing on record)

The main contact to the European world was actually Portuguese. They imported many foreign substances as pure sugar, corn, hot pepper, and so on. The other contacts by Japanese before that point were Koreans (who have a history of outsider marriages. Vietnamese, India and Mongolia...) and mostly Chinese. With Japanese denying any connection to Korea, every chance they could get, despite arcaheology contracdicting that. (Attitudes have sharply reversed these days due to free importation of media between all three East Asian countries). Imperialism rose after Perry arrived in Japan. (Mostly against China, Philippines and Korea--all three populations still exist within Japan as well). Japan, then, started to attack Korea, which was now opened by the US, China, which also was opened by the US, and the Islands...

Records about Africans in Japan wasn't until later on. Which came pretty much after WWII and television... (or so the N-word claims)

When American television was suddenly imported into Japanese television, that's about the time that portrayal of Africans was done with big lips, using the N-word for "laughs", etc. (N-word film, again). Kinda weird, because the people who were made to portray all of the stereotypes that benefited white America came to Japan, pretty much on white-made stereotypes of Japanese People...

So, yes, America imported black stereotypes to Japan. (I blank asked if there were blacks before then, and I was told very, very unlikely... and besides, foreigners were sequestered before then... Even so, I was told, most likely the blacks stayed on the Portuguese vessels...) Probably around the same time as trains, etc.

Japan, for the record, has had mixed results with reversing some of the stereotypes about blacks.... In some respects, I think they've done better than the US. (for example, the whole "Blacks are stupid" got overturned fairly quickly. [Several dramas have made them good at technology, which might be mixing the stereotypes of Americans being good at technology...] The whole "blacks as a side kick" didn't get overturned. They do still have issues with "blcks come from other places than the US".) You have no idea how much media I watched for that.

But long before that, Japan was trying to suppress and bring shame to both Ainu (who are considered a different race in Japan--though through blending, don't always look the typical "white" they once were, but are still treated as such) and Koreans, (who are technically not a different race, but still hated upon, even today) Ainu would definitely have racism against them.

Korea, also has a history of racism as well... though you wouldn't recognize it from television. You have to watch the films "If You Were Me" to get that and read between the lines of some sageuk... there is less power behind it though.

Despite this, from what I've found and researched, outside of the purposeful racism, the suppression of blacks especially as supposed to the paranoia about "gaijin" (which I should remind you that the US shares... which doesn't make it any better) doesn't seem to be any higher, nor have social or governmental power behind it than anyone else. Paranoia about "gaijin", however, is still in effect in Japan, for last reports, though I've heard it's getting a little better as we globalize.

On 2. I did not say that. (Did you miss the Anti-Ainu sentiment? Ainu are considered in Japan a different race, and historically treated as such.) In summary, the tendency towards Imperialism is often followed by prejudice in order to justify it. Also, just pointing out that not all racism is white-black relations. Or just black v. the world.

And that India *did* suffer imperialism from GB, which was disputed up there (rather weakly). And still sees some of the effects of that. (Will you dispute that?)

And that the majority of the effects of global politics have come out of European rule in at least the last 200 years. (British and American, American with a White Middle Class and up dominant, as seen through the political leaders of the country.) Some of that has also led to prejudicial framing out of European ideals. (through religious and cultural justifications.) That does not exclude other country's history of racism. Just that because of global politics, Europeans have been kinda dominant in that field.... (Boxer rebellion, opening of Japan's ports, The districting of Africa haphazardly (not a country...), the Philippines, North and South America, the forcing open of Korea..., WWI for "Middle East Management" excuse (which I find lame... since it was most likely the treaties that caused it), "Manifest Destiny") Kinda been done a bit more. You can argue for China before the Boxer rebellion, but due to the factioning within Chinese history and the constant conquering of each other and the splitting, it was not as unified as the European front (Mainly, should I note, the Dutch, British, Portuguese and Spanish Smatterings of Italian in there too).



Also, this:
is wrong. I am familiar with the equation "racism = prejudice + power" and for the sake of argument I will accept it as the definition we are using here, but even under that definition, hurtful racism does not require a pervasive, institutionalized legacy.Language gains power with tradition (repeated practice over time). So I disagree, because in order for a word to gain power, it needs a population to both agree it is hurtful and to agree on that definition, which takes time. Power also takes time to gain. Also that prejudice gains power exponentially over time.

The N-word, I believe would not have the same power as when it started if not for the history of slavery, demeaning, and agreed on hurt in order to reduce a person to a label.

Made up insults don't have the same weight as ones that have a history behind them. Add power behind those insults and I would say it gains weight. Prejudiced slurs, as noted by Steven Pinker, (From a Steven Fry documentary) are currently rated more insulting than the traditional 4-letter words. There was never any real governmental power behind the traditional 4-letter ones... but the prejudiced ones did.

Discrimination also gains power over time as well. Something that held up one day versus 10 years with language to match it... has a different meaning.

If you are going to argue that prejudice doesn't need history, at least history *does* exacerbate it.

And I would say racism is a type of prejudice. (Square is a type of parallelogram logic.)

Prejudice=reduction of people to labels+power+time

Or maybe in your argument Prejudice=(reduction of people to labels+power) <^time> <-- I know, nerdy.

Fair?

Amadan
03-29-2013, 04:36 AM
On 1. Do you have a counter source? I gave you mine. "The "N word" film. Before the American occupation,spurred by 2 white men (Perry and MacArthur) who were the epitome of imperialism came in, there wasn't a black population in Japan at all. (Or nothing on record)

Are you arguing that the Japanese were never racist against black people before Americans came, or that they were never racist against anyone? Because obviously, the Japanese had almost no exposure to people of African descent before the American occupation, but they had a long history, dating back to before the first European set foot in Japan, of viewing themselves with a sense of racial superiority rivaled by few societies in history.

And even if you're blaming Americans only for importing racism against blacks, you know what? Racist attitudes are a choice. I am not saying American racism did not (and does not) have a corrosive influence, but to blame it all on our media and thus completely absolve the Japanese and Koreans who adopted it is wrong on many levels. It reduces their entire culture to passive children who simply absorb what they're told. It implies they have no responsibility to question and resist harmful ideas. (Do you give white people who grow up in really racist regions a pass for being racist because "that's how they grew up"?) It also implies that they were a blank slate on the subject of black people or anyone else not like them until Americans came along. No - there may have been very few Japanese who'd ever met a black person before the end of World War II, but certainly they had their own media and their own cultural mythology about the rest of the world (including Africa) which was none too complimentary.


With Japanese denying any connection to Korea, every chance they could get, despite arcaheology contracdicting that. (Attitudes have sharply reversed these days due to free importation of media between all three East Asian countries). Imperialism rose after Perry arrived in Japan. (Mostly against China, Philippines and Korea--all three populations still exist within Japan as well). Japan, then, started to attack Korea, which was now opened by the US, China, which also was opened by the US, and the Islands...

You're condensing and simplifying a lot of history there, but if you're implying that the Japanese became imperialistic because of Perry's arrival, you're only half-right. It wasn't because America "taught" them how to be imperialists (they were extremely imperialist and warlike within their own borders for centuries). It was because they suddenly realized they were a small country surrounded by greater powers, and they wanted to play with the big boys. That was motivated entirely by their own cultural imperialism - rather than taking any number of other approaches that small, weak countries historically took, they said "We need to grab us some colonies of our own before the Europeans get it all."

From a pragmatic point of view, one might argue that Japan made a pretty rational decision, even if it didn't turn out well for them in the end, but it was certainly imperialism, and all their own volition.


Korea, also has a history of racism as well... though you wouldn't recognize it from television.

Unless you count the near total absence of non-Koreans, except for the occasional white TV personality who becomes a novelty by being able to speak fluent Korean.

What's that word? Oh yes, erasure. I've seen Korean TV. You'd think from watching Korean TV that they do not, for example, have large numbers of immigrant laborers coming from other countries and being treated the way immigrant labor from poorer countries are usually treated. Or an increasing number of Chinese and Russian brides being imported even to remote farming villages.


And that India *did* suffer imperialism from GB, which was disputed up there (rather weakly). And still sees some of the effects of that. (Will you dispute that?)

I did not see little_e disputing that India suffered imperialism from Britain. I saw her arguing that India today is a rising world power.


Language gains power with tradition (repeated practice over time). So I disagree, because in order for a word to gain power, it needs a population to both agree it is hurtful and to agree on that definition, which takes time. Power also takes time to gain. Also that prejudice gains power exponentially over time.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

You're free to disagree, but if you are oppressed in a small community that has no government power behind it, it's still going to hurt you.


And I would say racism is a type of prejudice. (Square is a type of parallelogram logic.)

Obviously.

kuwisdelu
03-29-2013, 06:08 AM
I'm not sure about importing racism, but it's definitely possible to import cultural and racial stereotypes.

lolchemist
04-05-2013, 12:29 AM
Eww... I'm not Indian but I am from a similarly brown culture and it would literally physically disgust me to find out that an author did something like this, just taking a character from my mythology and inserting it into the body of a white person for no valid reason. I would literally be pulling my hair out having to read about her *insert fancy description here* hair and her *so much better than boring old brown* eyes and her fancy pale sparkling marble skin. Unless it's relevant to the plot, why put the reader through this???