I’m into my second year of using a Bullet Journal and since the post I wrote last year is one of the more popular ones, I thought it was time for an update.
Today is World AIDS Day.
The Vice President-Elect would like to use HIV prevention funds to make queers straight. He dragged his feet on measures to slow an outbreak of HIV in Indiana, waiting until it reached epidemic proportions to do anything.
I’m scared that not everyone is going to survive Trump, too.
I voted today and I hope if you’re able to vote in the U.S., you do. If you don’t know where your polling place is, here’s a handy place to look it up.
And how about a little Langston Hughes to get us through today?
Let America be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the black man bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the black man, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The abuse and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again
I’ve been thinking a lot about predators over the last month.
There’s been a significant subtweeting about someone who had been abusing and taking advantage of women writers and this past Friday, Kristine Wyllys said his name: Sunil Patel.
I first heard about Sunil Patel’s predatory behavior several years ago. The stories I’ve heard are not mine to tell. “Watch yourself around him. He’s not a nice person,” I told friends while hoping that it would be enough.
The sheer number of women who have been gaslit and undermined both directly and indirectly by Sunil Patel is staggering. I’ve seen accounts going back fifteen years. This goes far beyond social awkwardness or not knowing better and right into serial predation.
I believe the women who have spoken about how they were made to feel small and insignificant. I believe the women who are still too scared to speak about their experiences. I believe you all. You all matter. None of this was your fault, none of it. The only person to blame for this is Sunil Patel.
But the thing is this: Sunil Patel is not the first serial predator we’ve had to deal with in SFF. And he won’t be the last.
So this is a lot bigger than Patel, this is a problem that is endemic to our community, social and professional. There are people being abused right now who truly believe that no one will care if they speak up.
I also believe it’s important to address the racial component here: if Patel were a white man, I don’t believe the people he abused would be getting nearly the same degree of support from the community. Because this weekend YA author Greg Andree was also accused of similar behavior by two women who were too scared to speak directly and instead asked someone to speak for them. Pushback on their accusations and demands for proof or evidence were so overwhelming that their surrogate had little choice but to delete her tweets. There seem to be a different standard when the predator is a white cis man. This is not okay.
Additionally, Sunil Patel talks a good game, but he didn’t have his first pro publication until 2015. In other words: he is still an up and coming writer with a lot to learn. It’s easy for there to be consequences for Patel; for all he’s done to position himself as someone influential, he simply hasn’t been active in the community for that long. Consequences are a lot harder to make happen for someone who is established or entrenched–think about how long it took for Tor to sever their relationship with Jim Frenkel and the amount of social capital and willingness to go on the record that it took. That takes a lot of support and people who don’t have the social capital and who may be marginalized across multiple axes often don’t have the same access to support systems.
The more entrenched and powerful you are (or appear to be), the more difficult it’s going to be for those who were harmed to speak up. And when someone does speak up, if the person who has caused harm is entrenched and powerful, there are are often reduced or different consequences for them. See: the first decision Readercon made about René Walling.
This makes a bad situation worse for someone in a vulnerable or marginalized position. The costs of speaking up are often too high and outweigh the benefits. We must believe the people–mostly women–who speak out in public about the abuse they have suffered.
In addition to listening and believing–which is 101 level work, honestly–there are other things we can do: we can hold space for people to speak their truth and we can hold everyone to account, regardless of their social or professional position in our community. We can look out for newcomers–writers and fans alike–and make them welcome and follow through on our promise that we will have their backs. We can try to help people form connections with each other, so they are not isolated and alone.
No one should feel alone. Too many do.
I’m over at The Bias this week talking about three things that World Fantasy can do in order to fix the ongoing and persistent issues with their conventions:
The Board needs to take specific and actionable steps to modernize and professionalize their organization. Their other option is to cease operations. There are other organizations who can provide professional development and opportunities to writers and editors in the field. There is no need for writers and publishers to continue to subsidize willfully incompetent local organizations through membership fees.
The Board must change its culture from one where they receive the glory while “officially” doing very little of the work to one where they are active stakeholders in the ongoing health and well-being of the World Fantasy Convention.