The paper mirror

The Paper Mirror

The Paper Mirror [link via Via @shrub]

I didn’t see myself reflected in the same panels which tekanji used, which itself is the nature of the paper mirror. What I did see in these two frames was something I’d taken for granted. Something Willow E pointed out…

… I want to see myself reflected in our modern myths, in these powerful tales of courage and wit, bravery, sacrifice and determination. I want my own heroes (those just like me through appearances, background or ethnicity) to be weaved into the general tapestry. I want the lessons learned and encouragements given to apply to me (and other women like me). I want to see aspects of my dreamings.

- Willow E of Seeking Avalon guest blogging on GRC

I have to admit to being both clueless and getting the point in parallel. It’s not an acheivement, it’s a mistake of assumption that because I read that as a post from a fan of comics, so would everbody else. We’d all pick up the column, see that point, get that point, and go “Yes, this is what comic creators need to think about. Telling stories that resonate with the readers through characters they can identify with in their own lives” . After all… back in January, I was after the same thing

Some of those more and more readers might actually want to see characters that speak to their lives, their desires, their hopes and their dreams. When I was in high school, having Oliver Queen and Dick Grayson was to have characters who I could identify with, and to use to pin my fantasied reality of an ideal world to my reality. I wanted to be Oliver Queen, muckraking journalist by day, costumed crime fighter by night. I had that character, and the white male middle class entitled and privileged costumed hero to call my own.

For me, Ollie Queen wasn’t about being deniably ambiguous. He was about being identifiable and unambiguous.What’s wrong with wanting the rest of the place to have characters they can call their own without having to permanently wear a shadow of deniability?

There’s something about the paper mirror that I’d forgotten. Something, that by virtue of my position in society, I’d overlooked. I’m used to seeing the reflection, to seeing the character that’s about me, for me, by people who want to tell stories to me. I talk a lot about identifying with Green Arrow as my paper reflection, as many people have noticed. In the last couple of days, I realised something.

Green Lantern, 76

I may want to be Green Arrow, but I’m Green Lantern. I’m white, I’ve got authority and power, I’ve got privilege, and I’ve been blind to race. I never addressed race because I never thought of it because I’m part of the crew that benefits from the invisibility of others. When Willow E talks of identity, it’s identity of race. When I talk of identity, it’s for gender or sexual orientation, because I have unambiguously white characters to call my own. I can identify with Dick Grayson or Oliver Queen or hundreds of other white characters. This option isn’t there for everyone, and I never noticed that.

Since Willow’s post, I’ve been facing up to that realisation that I never dealt with an issue so ingrained to the treatment of people as people, not little categories of [Us][Sort of like us]and[Other]. Part of facing up to that fact has been that I have not wanted to willingly accept the responsibility for missing this, or taking it on in the future.
I wanted to say “Hey, look, having enough trouble holding it together on the whole feminism front, so, uh, I’ll take a pass on the race issue”. Here I am sitting in my nice safe suburb, with my nice safe career in my nice safe established comfort zone thinking about conceptual paradigms of “mission creep” to justify ignoring racial issues.

I want this to be very clear. I wanted to not tackle this, and I wanted to justify my way out of dealing with the issues and excuse myself from room and slink off to a comfort zone.
It’s one thing to be blind.
It’s another to close your eyes tightly and claim not to be able to see.

So, the way I see it is this – I have a choice.
I can open my eyes, and start down the path to doing something positive to address the issue of race in the DS column, and in my life.

I can keep my eyes closed and say “I benefit from this, I wish for it to continue”.

I could mount an argument against getting involved, I could justify my way out of it, and I’d be able to point to all sorts of justifications and probably even some citations and references. I’d be talking complete bullshit though, I didn’t tackle race before because I didn’t see it. Now it’s been pointed out to me, I don’t have that excuse.
To be bluntly honest, I ran through a bunch of thought processes.

  • “I don’t want to have to deal with this” (What? I think everyone else wants to?)
  • “But I’m just a white guy with privilege, what use can I be?” (this stopped me with feminism?)
  • What do I know about race?” (what did I know about marketing before I started studying it?)
  • “I’ve been a big enough class traitor over feminism*” (seriously, see the footnote for explanation)

I spared myself the embarrassment of dredging the truly inane squares on the bingo card, but I figure 3 squares and the freebie before I hit the brakes on shy of calling out “HOUSE”.

For a few days, I have given the idea of keeping my eyes closed serious consideration. This is an unpleasant truth to consider, for me to say and perhaps for you to read. But it is a necessary truth for me to have to realise – for a period of time, knowing that there was a problem, I wanted to not get involved. I ain’t no saint, I ain’t looking for pats on the back (or the metaphorical cookie). Just a record of the realisation that I had a choice here, and I had to think about that choice, and when I made that decision, it was just that – a decision. It wasn’t innate, it wasn’t automatic and for anyone else who finds themselves in my position, understand that the temptation to look the other way was strong.

I want to open my eyes. The light’s gonna hurt like hell, but I ain’t doing this because I want to feel better about myself. I’m doing this because closing my eyes and wishing for it to go away is to support making people invisible. To perpetuate something that is wrong, and to support with actions what I oppose with words.
Individual responsibility means fronting up and making the personal changes. It means saying “I” a lot, and doing things by myself but not necessarily for myself.I have a lot of work to do to in this area, and I will make mistakes, and I run the risk of backsliding and not addressing any race issues over time. But I know as well, I’m not doing this alone, and I know that I have access to a truly amazing community of people, both within Girl-Wonder, and across the broader internet.
Year Two of operation ain’t gonna be easy.

Count me in.

Designated Sidekick
*I do want to put an explanation on this point: This is a surprisingly recurrent issue in my head. I know that I was raised by the patriarchal system and attending an all male Christian Brothers school under the patronage of Saint Joseph is pretty much the pinnacle patriarchy factory. Some days, I can’t stop the thought that I am actually a traitor to my class from popping into my head. There’s some deep code that runs under the surface and I know it’s there. That’s doesn’t stop the code from running, it just helps identify the source of the pop-up windows in my mind, and knowing what’s my thoughts, and what’s a residue from the system that was meant to keep me in line.

Discuss the post here in the comments, or down yonder on the G-W Message Boards

5 Responses to “The paper mirror”

  1. Ragnell says:

    Lovely post, but the fan in me must address a tiny point: You don’t want to be Green Arrow either, he’s the self-congratulating liberal who feels he doesn’t need to examine his privilege because he’s “enlightened.”

  2. Furikku says:

    Good choice.

    Looking forward to seeing what you have to say in the future!

  3. Stephen Dann says:

    @Ragnell

    He has better facial hair than I’ve ever managed, a really cool bow, and I have this inexplicably envy of anyone who van make a boxing glove arrow. Plus, y’know, he got to be mayor before I did (In 1998, I’d planned a time and date for a mayoral candidacy. GA beat me to it).

  4. Benel Germosen says:

    Welcome to the struggle. It’s always good to have folks of all stripes join in(Jeez, makes it sound like we’re going to march on Washington)

  5. Stephen Dann says:

    @Benel
    At least Washington is mostly elected. Voting out Quesada could be a tougher ask.

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