The ‘Heights’ of Anxiety and the Color Line: Racial Ambiguity in a Culture of Absolutes

I once heard the great political philosopher and activist Angela Davis argue that Americans are so obsessed with race as an identifying feature that when we meet racially ambiguous people, we are anxious until we know on which side of the color line they fall. Upon hearing this, I was relieved by the articulation of something I had suspected was at the heart of my experience. It was like experiencing great art, that rush of adrenaline that comes with recognizing what we’ve known all along presented as fantastically new.

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Warren Ellis and the Lack of Accountability, aka Comics Culture Needs to Be Safer

Our public discourse has been overrun with the phantoms of “Critical Race Theory” and “Cancel Culture.” These ideas are like energon cubes for a section of white people. It has become their raison d’etre. They have become empowered by their imagining of a thing, instead of the thing itself because, in the case of the former, they have absolutely no idea what it is.

The Political is Personal

Since Donald Trump’s presidential election victory last week, there’s been much discussion and preparation in regards to the fates of minorities given the Presidential Elect[?]’s controversial and bigoted platform.

Whether it’s the election, Ferguson, Flint, Orlando, or DAPL, one of the most infuriating things I hear from people, and by people I mean white people, is that there needs to be more dialogue, more education, more love.

If only there were more people out there teaching and educating then tragedies like #Orlando or #Ferguson or #Baltimore wouldn’t be a reality.

Why is that infuriating? Because there are people who have dedicated their lives, doing that very work. In fact you’re reading one of their pieces right now.

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Gender and Tech: The New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

My name is Julie, and I am an actual woman in tech. Sometimes it’s hard being me in tech, because I am a woman… of color… with children… who hasn’t watched a single Iron Man or Wolverine movie. Call me Unicorn.

Have you read about the latest study that shows how shitty it still is to be coding while female (or, I assume, presenting as female)? The way they controlled for geekiness is especially awesome. There aren’t many surprises in this study’s findings; women in Computer Science and tech in general have always been excluded, implicitly and explicitly, and it seems the majority still likes to protect its vanguard.

The article’s flaw, in my opinion, is labeling Dungeons & Dragons, Star Trek, and other geek institutions as “masculine.” That’s too easy to dispute, and therefore, dismiss. We all can see why “masculine” is not the most accurate adjective to use: there are plenty of counter-examples of masculinity that have nothing to do with that stuff, and of course there are plenty of femmes who like that stuff. It is rather more a slice of the pop culture universe that is indeed white male dominated, but takes its identity from fandoms, the objects of those fandoms, and the general quest for purity within those fandoms. So for the rest of this article, I’m going to call this cultural archetype “ubergeek.”

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Shang-Chi is Coming to Netflix(!), Still Doesn’t Negate Need for #AAIronFist

This morning, our friends at MCU Exchange (with help from The Hashtag Show) broke some pretty big news: mainly, that Shang-Chi will be a featured part of the Iron Fist series on Netflix, with the possibility that he may get spun off into his own series! This is definitely some welcome news, especially considering how a lot of folk reacted to the news of Finn Jones. In fact, I can already hear the FistBros1 queuing up in our mentions telling us to finally shut up about #AAIronFist.

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‘Birds of Prey’ is An Asian American Aesthetic Superhero Movie I’ve Always Wanted

Holy batshit, batpeople, Birds Of Prey is powerful. It is an action-comedy escapade about a squad of DC Comics’ most beloved women characters, including Harley Quinn, Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, and Cassandra Cain. The film also does a thing … Continue reading ‘Birds of Prey’ is An Asian American Aesthetic Superhero Movie I’ve Always Wanted

GTA V and Hating the Things I Love

As nerds of colour, we’re all too familiar with the conundrum: what do we do when our geeky fare is both awesome and offensive at the same time?

It’s a problem born of the simple fact that the creative teams behind some of our favourite nerd  media — comic books, video games, board games, and movies — tend to be overwhelmingly White and male, fostering a sort of nerd-bro culture that too often gets the voices and narratives of women and people of colour horribly wrong (an issue well-discussed on last week’s epic Hard NOC Life podcast episode featuring industry insiders Larry Hama and Joe Illidge). Often, the arguably racist or sexist mistreatments of non-White, non-male characters — while offensive — is a symptom of a much larger weakness in a comic’s creative team, resulting in a book that can be easily dismissed as universally bad. Take, for example, the much-anticipated upcoming Mighty Avengers book, which Illidge predicted in last week’s podcast was unlikely to succeed due to both racial as well as creative problems. On the flip side, a book like Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese gets things right on all counts: it is on the one hand both well-written and well-illustrated, and on the other hand a compelling exploration of the Asian American identity.

In short, things are easy when the politics of a book also fit the overall quality of a book.

But, what happens when a favourite comic book or video game is both incredibly good, and pretty racist? Or, vice versa, how are we supposed to react when the politics of a book are compelling, but the execution leaves something to be desired?

Put another way, what happens when we find our identities as Nerds and People of Colour at odds?

This conundrum was brought to a head for me this past week when J. Lamb and I snatched up our copy of Grand Theft Auto V.

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Dicks, Smartasses, and The Magician King

While I read often, I rarely read quickly. I am jealous of my friends who can devour books. I am not that way and am awfully indecisive. My reading habit is to start six or seven books hopping between each and hoping one amongst all of them will stick. And even then, sometimes none of them do. But I’m happy to report that Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and The Magician King were books that I devoured.

This is all to say that I enjoyed those books immensely. And yet one minor passage midway through The Magician King gives me pause and illustrates why I am — in the end and inescapably — a Nerd of Color. Like most things, it has to do with penis, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Race and Gender in The Diamond Age

Author/Epic Beard Man Neal Stephenson wishes to announce: *Spoiler Alert*

“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well-educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations – in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward.” — Constable Moore, The Diamond Age

Neal Stephenson’s 1995 science fiction classic, The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, blew me away when I first read it as an idealistic NOC-in-training. I interpreted it as a heartwarming coming-of-age story about a down-and-out little girl named Nell who stumbled upon a copy of the Primer, a multi-disciplinary interactive textbook designed to train an upper-class girl to adulthood. She saves herself and the world through what she learns from the Primer. Girl power! The end!

It turns out, upon a recent re-reading, that I failed to recognize about ten other layers of the onion, all of them much heavier than the idea of an interactive book for girls. There is Stephenson’s grim portrayal of the future of China, for one, as well as his prediction that the boundary lines between people will not be drawn on a geographic plane, but rather by culture, and people will form tribes based on race, religion, or other creeds.

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(Not An) Origin Story

As a grad student in the United States, my mother accidentally fell into a vat of white dude while trying to do social work. As a result, I was born with the power to make total strangers harass me with impertinent questions, and professors, employers, and blind dates dismiss my bizarre notions of the world out of hand.

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More Favorite Asian American Action Figures

Many years ago, I wrote a few articles for a (now defunct) website called Pop Culture Shock. In fact, the first post I wrote for the PCS team was actually a piece that I had pitched to ToyFare Magazine years before: the five best Asian American action figures on the market.

Unfortunately, when PCS died, most of my posts passed along with it. The good news? My original action figure post still lives over here! But it’s been a while since I wrote that initial assessment, so I figured I’d revisit the topic. It also helps that there have been a few more Asian Americans who have had their likenesses immortalized in plastic during those intervening years. So why not start with the most important Asian American basketball player to ever see the hardwood? That’s right, I’m talking none other than Linsantiy himself:

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