26 Nov 2009

kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 so you wanna revolution)
Reading urban fantasy. What book? Doesn't matter, because this isn't the first time I've seen this or similar. (Aside: publication date is 2008.)
White witches weren't so bad, though maybe that was only because most of them [weren't very powerful]... Black witches gained power by killing or torturing things: from flies to human.

Yes, I do find those adjectives to be hugely offensive. A writer's stock in trade is the power of words, and thus one best equipped (and possibly expected) to ask: is this really the best word for my purposes? Especially when, as in this case, the answer is a resounding FUCK NO.

I mean, let's say you argue that white and black are 'just colors'. Why must it be those two? What about Orange Witches and Purple Witches: what's your first impression of which must be good and which must be bad? How about Chartreuse Witches and Puce Witches: no value judgment and probably even less of any meaning, thus demonstrating color in and of itself does not dictate a thing's morality.

The story even adds that on the whole, witches are untrustworthy regardless; the only reason White Witches aren't scary Black Witches is because the former type isn't all that powerful. Implication being that if a White Witch could be more powerful, s/he would immediately fall into Black Witch territory and go haring off on torture and death sprees, which takes the fail to even greater levels.

Plus, this good/bad division ultimately makes no sense in context; the good guys don't even like witches. They consider witches a necessary evil, and the operative word here is evil, though they may cooperate with certain witches when needed. What's the logic here, then? Good guys can't ally with (bad) witches, so we must minimize the evilness of the not-worse witches? Hmm, let's call them white — because white is automatically less-bad/better than black. Righto!

This is like saying, "well, he murdered, but y'know, it was just that one time — it's not like he murdered lots of people!" Even when we have need (eg for state's evidence), we don't dance around with euphemisms: a murderer is a murderer, be that once or many (serial) times. We don't label the former as less murderous; we label the latter as more murderous.

That's why I say it's not just racist, it's racism by dint of inertia. It's falling back on the status quo, same as defending the use on historical grounds (black magic and white magic). It's equally historical to use left-hand/right-hand, sinister/dexterous, dark/light, night/day, even clockwise/widdershins, to name a few. The black/white dichotomy is hardly the only cultural set of monikers to designate magical morality. Furthermore, I'd say it's ingenuous (if not outright disingenuous) to protest that 'history' justifies ignoring a term's modern meaning. 'Cunt' may have once been a compliment, but that was a thousand years ago — and if you call a woman that now, don't come crying to me after she punches you in the face.

TL;DR version: the predominant rationale for white=good and black=bad is based in racism.

It's not that hard to try something else. It just requires a few seconds' thought (although that does require a willingness to be arsed enough to be aware of the need). In this story, frex, if a witch gets power from controlling life, call that a Life Witch. If it's via torturing living creatures to death, call that one a Death Witch. There, see? Two seconds' thought and I came up with a descriptive term that actually tells me something — and doesn't require I tap into racist slurs to grasp the text's meaning.

Our language has millions of words. I refuse to believe that the inadequate and essentially bland color-adjectives are an author's only freaking choices to describe bad and more-bad, and I further resent being made to feel a silent accomplice in the text's racist undercurrents. If the combined gatekeepers+author never stopped to even realize what's being said in the text, that's idiocy. If they realized but didn't see it as worth addressing, that's reprehensible.

But if they didn't see reason to change it because they figured I'd never realize or care, I find that the most offensive of all.

note: if you comment anonymously and don't sign your post, I reserve the right to ignore your nitwittery. Have the decency to stand behind your words.


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
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to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

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