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There is a side debate that sometimes comes up when debates about racism is being had in fandom, and it's this - do racism in an American context apply for the rest of the world, and should non-Americans be expected to know it and spot it?

I am a bit torn, I must admit. I am a non-American and I do not like the US being held as the standard for the rest of the world. On the other hand, non-Americans digest a lot of American media and can unknowingly help perpetuate something that hurts people. That's not okay.

I guess I am wanting a bit of understanding that non-Americans can miss out on a lot of American context (because while we do get subjected to some American culture, we are not living it - we are watching it from afar, and shallowly at that) and a bit of willingness from non-Americans to not just dismiss expressions of American racism as 'not our problem!' Fandom is a subculture that bridges many nations - if a fellow fan is being hurt by racism, is it okay to say nothing just because it takes a form you're not familiar with? Is it okay to let it happen again?

The US is not the standard of the world. But us non-Americans, we can certainly hold ourselves to a decency standard. If we learn something is hurtful, we can at the very least try not to perpetuate it further. Maybe we can't be the first to spot racism in an American setting, but we can at least help denounce it. We can realise racism might take unfamiliar forms - but it still has harm as its core. Hell, it might increase sentitivity and help us fight racism in our cultural context, where we have no bloody excuses not to.

Racism is not okay. It is not okay in the US, it is not okay in Norway, it is not okay in Japan, it is not okay in South Africa. That it takes different forms does not make any more okay in any of its disguises - it just makes it harder to fight.

That got me thinking a bit about part two to this, though. Non-American racism. Racism takes certain forms in the US. In other places, it can take different forms. Certain things can be similar, but others might not be.

I got a comment some time ago when I was having a discussion in someone else's LJ about racism, in which I was talking about trying to be careful in never dismissing something as not racist in an American setting, because it's not my culture and there is so much context I am missing. I went on to add racism in Norway takes different forms I am more familiar with, but those wouldn't always be akin to racism in the US, just as racist expressions in the US might not be akin to racist expressions in Norway.

(For instance, I did not know watermelons had been used in a lot of racist imagery in the US, and thus was rather confused about a racist joke some American idiot did with an image of the White House with rows of planted watermelons outside. I was very kindly pointed to resources to read up on it, so now I know. But I always worry I might miss similar things and thus not spot them as racist.)

The comment expressed interest in reading about racism in Norway and the forms it takes, if I should ever write that up. I guess I am wondering, would others be interested too? It would be from a white perspective, though I would try to use as many sources as I could from Norwegian PoC perspectives. It would include some history, some politics, some examples from the multicultural school I've been working at this year and attempts to explain certain cultural particulars in Norway.

Maybe it can help illustrate how blatant racism usually takes the same forms, but the less obvious kind is oh so very good at easing itself into different cultural expressions. At least, that is a pet theory I hold.

So, would you want to read a post about that?
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January 2011

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