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Because There Aren't Enough Spoons on the Planet
I was reading the latest links from the Great Cultural Appropriation Debate and Racefail of Aught Nine when I saw him.

It doesn't matter what his name is or where he posted it. The only thing unusual about him in my world is that he's a he. For convenience sake, let's call him Internet User #1,574,313,181.

Internet User #1,574,313,181 knows the Great Cultural Appropriation Discussion and Racefail of Aught Nine could have been entirely avoided if only people hadn't gone around accusing people of racism.

Golly gee. Why ever in the world didn't anyone think of that before?

A few scrolls down and I encountered Internet User #1,574,313,182 who totally supports anti-racism activism, but thinks people could have used a better approach if they really wanted to further the cause and not just score points.

Hallelujah! It's amazing isn't it? People have spent over two months on this particular discussion, and years of their time on this issue all because they were too short-sighted to try a not-at-all-vague or non-existent better approach. Well, thanks be to Internet User #1,574,313,182 for figuring it out. Glad we got that cleared up. You can find out how to nominate Internet User #1,574,313,182 for a Nobel Peace Prize here.

I kind of wandered away after that, but I'm sure if I'd read on eventually I would have encountered Internet User #1,574,313,183 who is probably right now thinking that it's so sad people get offended and hurt over a misunderstanding. Why I just bet Internet User #1,574,313,183 knows that nobody had any racist intent. (Screw intent. I've known actual skinheads who believed sincerely and wholly that they weren't being racist. That doesn't frelling make it true.)

[The usual group of POCs and white allies (per fen) / A few pseudonymous trolls (per tnh / Thousands of pseudonymous confidence men and crooks (per Kathryn Cramer) / Non-egalitarian hypocrites (per Will Shetterly) / Silencing flawed-critiquing privileged POCs (per matociquala)] politely responded to Internet User #1,574,313,181 and Internet User #1,574,313,182 and tried to buy them a clue. It went about as well as it usually does.

I'm really offended that people can wander into a discussion about race more than two months after the inciting incident, see all the links that rydra_wong has compiled, and go, "You know, none of these folks would have mooned the internet if only people hadn't accused them of not wearing pants/been nicer in pointing out they weren't wearing pants," as if they're the first people ever to suggest that in a discussion of race.

I have more spoons than someone with lupus. That doesn't mean that at the end of the day I feel like spending whatever I have left over on Internet User #1,574,313,181 and Internet User #1,574,313,182. Probably no one else does either. But people do. Intelligent, creative, wonderful people spend their spoons over and over again on the Internet User Numbers of the world, and it's just not right that the same darn people end up having to do it every time. It makes me sad to see it, especially when there's this whole other discussion about race and representation and cultural appropriation and pseudonymity and power and privilege going on that is in desperate need of a few spoons. And then these two yahoos wander in and brandish the tone argument.

Every time that I see someone spout about tone, I despair. I really want to believe that what the discussion needs is just a few more people with spoons left over at the end of the day putting in their spoons to explain it. I really want to believe that I can and should be one of those people. What I actually feel, though, is that if everyone, including me, did take a spoon or two of their time, it would just end up using up all the spoons and there'd be none left for world hunger or workers' rights or global warming or poverty or health care or torture or sexism or or or and still there would be people who would say "but if only so-and-so had been nicer," because there just aren't enough spoons on the planet.

But that is a useless attitude and these days I fell useless enough as it is. So, fine. Tonight, I'm spending a spoon on Internet User #1,574,313,181 and Internet User #1,574,313,182. Or rather, I'm spending a spoon on Internet User #1,574,313,184. Because I think those two are just lost causes for now. So here's my spoon. The next time I see someone using the tone argument, I'm not going to waste any spoons trying to calculate if I've got an extra spoon in me to say something. I'm not going to waste any spoons trying to think of something to say and how to say it.

I'm just going to link them to this, my one spoon, and be done with it.

Dear [Clueless Newbie / Agony Aunt / Internet User #1,574,313,184 / Person Who Eschews Labels and Is Quite Hurt that I've Just Assumed He or She Is a Newbie or Clueless / Person Who Is Offended by My Tone / Person Who Is Offended at Someone Else's Tone / Person Who Wasn't Offended Until I Linked Them To This, but Is Now Quite Prepared to Bristle / You]:

Welcome to discussions of race on the internet! If this is your first time, congratulations! You can look forward to many more exciting discussions for years to come, as race has been an issue on the internet so long as people have been on the internet. Why I still remember my first imbroglio way back when. If this is not your first time, you may also remember my first imbroglio when a bunch of people showed their asses by saying [there's nothing racist about Sisko only being a commander and not a captain; he's in charge of a space station, not a ship, for crying out loud / vulcans can't be black / there's nothing racist about casting a white girl as Jubilee in the Generation X television movie; the casting director probably just didn't know she was Chinese-American; it's not like she's drawn with slits for eyes or talks funny]. Ho ho ho, *wink, nudge* those were the days, weren't they?

Recently, someone pointed out that [in an awful lot of SGA AUs Ronon and Teyla are non-professionals / observant Jewish people can't participate in online events that take place on Saturdays / there are no Asians in Firefly / Ged is not white / miscegenation doesn't mean what you think it does / Aang ain't white / all but one black character on Supernatural has been violently murdered / that sci-fi and or fantasy book you wrote used some racial stereotypes].

Someone else felt that [true or not, that's not the kind of thing you say on someone's first story / baristas make bank / we didn't mean to leave anyone out, we just never thought of it before / look, we're not doing it on Sundays, okay? I'm busy then / regardless, the show is really witty and awesome and has space cowboys and Zoe and Book and Inara / Summer Glau kind of looks part-Asian / it's reverse racism not to cast the best actor for the part / there's just not any good young black actors / we took a poll and our friends don't think it's racist / there is no racism in Australia / producers have to sell movie tickets and no one wants to see a movie about Asian people / they don't act Asian / you're harshing my squee / Sam and Dean are hot / you've always been really nice and understanding of PoC in the past / those people just don't have the right educational background in Irish ponies, or possibly bunnies].

The next commenter after that [was really horribly rude / was especially polite and non-accusatory], and it all went downhill from there.

Now, you [just heard about this today / have been following along quietly for days / don't know anyone who's involved / have friends on both sides and it's tearing you apart]. You totally get why someone might be offended that [Gunn is a vampire / yuletide is kind of an ethnocentric name and date, now that you mention it / the aliens are always played by PoC / Native Americans died out hundreds of years ago], but you think that [they shouldn't be offended / they're being over-sensitive / it wasn't the right time to bring it up / it wasn't the right place to bring it up / they should have tried to see the issue from the other person's point-of-view / they shouldn't have used the word race / they shouldn't have used the word racism / it's really hurtful to say anything / they should have known better / they should have brought the lulz / they should have ignored it / they shouldn't have expected better from the internet, television, literature or comics / they should have identified themselves / they should have been more polite / they should have phrased it better / they should have brought it up in private where no one had to be embarrassed / they should have said it publicly instead of behind people's backs / they should have kept it to themselves / they should have used the language of literary criticism / they should have used everyday language / they shouldn't have assumed that people meant to be racist / they should have learned more about the person before saying anything / they should have been more patient].

You, my [friend / acquaintance / stranger / sworn enemy], have just made a tone argument.

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you are wrong. The tone argument has been thoroughly debunked.

You are wrong to believe that a [more polite / more civil / more understanding] [tone / vocabulary] would have [been more likely to convince people / made people feel less hostile / made people feel less hurt / made people feel less scared / led to an enlightening and productive conversation for all]. That's been tried before, really, and it has never worked. Anyway, are you sure that the original poster wasn't polite? How would you have phrased it differently? If you can't think of a way that the person might have better brought up the issue, if you instead think the only way to handle the problem would have been to not see a problem, then you may need to read this.

This isn't my first imbroglio, nor fandom's, nor the internet's, nor the planet's. We've all heard this before, and we've got better things to do with our time than catch you up. I suggest you go read something from here and try again later.

Sincerely, inalasahl

P.S. Having read this letter, you may now be feeling the urge to come back and tell me that you read this letter and you're not convinced. Furthermore, how dare I be so [sarcastic / mean / rude / suppressive / dismissive / hypocritical / incivil]. In fact, if my letter is an example of the standard discourse in internet discussions of race, than I've just proved [white people can't win / people of color are their own worst enemies / anti-racist activists just want people to grovel at their feet / I'm just trying to make you feel guilty / I'm only interested in scoring points / the internet sucks / I'm too young to understand / I'm too old to understand / I don't have the education to understand / I'm too elitist to understand / I'm mean]. That's okay. Look, I've been there. Some of the examples in this letter are taken from things that I, myself, thought or said, once upon a time. You're entitled to your feelings. Just go back to the part that begins with Dear [] and read through again. Repeat as many times as necessary until you fucking get it, and the urge passes.

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*hands you a shiny internets*

Hee! ANd yes.

You are so very patient. See I would not have the patience you have, I'd have used a spoon up telling them exactly where they could stick it. ; )

But see, obviously I have "tone"issues...; )

This is made of win.

(I am especially grateful because I've been trying to compose a post to Internet User #1,574,313,181 and his friends myself, and not only have you saved me many spoons, yours is infinitely better and funnier than anything I could have come up with.)

Thank you. I am grateful to you, as well. The linkspam has been a huge public service, and I'm sure you had no idea when you started that you'd still be doing it here in March. Thanks for sticking with it.

This is brilliant: funny, versatile, and eminently useful!

Now we can ALL link :)

Now we can ALL link :)
Please do! Save your spoons!

Wonderful and brilliant and PERFECT! Thank you!

I'm glad that people are finding it helpful.

Not enough spoons? yeps, good way to put it. That's why I feel drained have the time, or sit there windering if I have the emotion strength to spare to try to educate someone that day. Even with more spoon that many of my friend with health issues and other big drains on them in thier lives, I still feel like I don't often have enough left to deal with what need to be done. Thank you for this.

Best. EVAR. Can I print it out so I can hand it out instead of Bingo cards?

Aw, I like bingo cards. But sure.

Win. Total win.

And I just need to share this, because I'm sort of shocked:

There's nothing racist about Sisko only being a commander and not a captain; he's in charge of a space station, not a ship, for crying out loud

DS9 came out when I was, I think, in high school, and military ranks meant less than nothing to me. (I also didn't get to watch the show very often, as I didn't have the channel that carried it at home.) I had no idea that Sisko was a lower rank than captain--- I thought, as that comment says, 'well, he commands a space station!' I thought naturally he was a higher rank than Picard et. al. I'm rather stunned. I say this, not to derail or to make it all about me (I hope) but to say, after more than a decade:


Seriously. The producers were eventually shamed into giving him a promotion, I think, but yeah, he should have just had a higher rank from the beginning.

YES. This. Thank you!

Re: here via rydra_wong


2009-03-07 04:35 am (UTC)

Just my turn.

This is fantastic. Thank you!

I love you.

I keep starting a post and it keeps not coming out how I want. I wish I had more spoons to spend on the bullshit. But then, I wish a lot of things.

{{you}} I wish you had more spoons, too. Without having to spend them on bullshit.

Thanks. The P.S., by the way, was directly inspired by every time ever I've seen you try to be helpful to people by linking them to your wonderful compilation (or one of the links therein), and they've responded with "but you called it 'for clueless white people'! therefore, I shall be outraged" or whatever.

those people just don't have the right educational background in Irish ponies

Dangit, don't do that when I have a mouthful of tea....

Wonderful. Thank you so much for this.

This is like the best thing I have seen all day.


here via ithiliana, and gladly.

This is a brilliant compilation.

Yes. This. Exactly this. May I memory this and then refer people as I see asses showing?

Of course. Save your spoons.

(Deleted comment)
I'm glad it will be helpful to someone.

(Deleted comment)
Next time I need to explain the tone argument, I'm sending people here. Thank you.

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