Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Voice

For those of you who might want to hear a voice other than the usual suspects about the topic we are discussing, I refer you to Cherryl Floyd-Miller's blog, Rootwork: A Writer's Life and Poetics. Floyd-Miller, known by many artists as "Blue," is a poet, playwright, fiber artist and advocate for fellow artists (for a more detailed bio, click here). In her post "Stereotype, Caricature...Balance," she talks about the ideas being debated on this blog, and her experiences as a Southerner and Southern writer, and the caricatures and stereotypes that she deals with regularly.

Many prominent NY bloggers have weighed in on this debate and declared there is no problem. In fact, they have declared the discussion over. On the other hand, bloggers from the South such as me and Floyd-Miller, have said there is, indeed, a problem. One might raise a question about who would be more likely to be aware of a problem, those affected by it or those who aren't. When African-Americans insist that America is still a racist and prejudiced society, white people tell them, "Oh, no. That's not happening. Things have changed. You're imagining things. You're exaggerating. Why don't you just calm down?" In that instance, who would you believe: the white person or the black person? And the difference when it comes to the south? Check out Floyd-Miller's Boston cabbie quotation, in case you don't think Southern stereotypes abound. It would be interesting to know just how much time this cabbie had spent in the south, and where he got his opinion from. Gee -- you don't think it might be from the media, do you? Naw -- I must be imagining it.


Joshua James said...

"When African-Americans insist that America is still a racist and prejudiced society, white people tell them, "Oh, no. That's not happening. Things have changed. You're imagining things. You're exaggerating. Why don't you just calm down?""

Scott, this is why myself, and I'm sure others but I don't speak for them, get frustrated with you.


See Alison's comment on the post previous to this: You keep changing what you think we're fighting about.

What we have stated is that there is NOT one NY Arts ideology which practices a determined discrimination against the arts cultures of the rest of the country . . . and that an analogy comparing those of us in the arts in New York to bigots enforcing Jim Crow laws is insulting to us.

You bet there is racism in this country, you bet it exists in all worlds, I'm sure there are racist people in New York, and I'm equally certain there are racist people in Carolina and Iowa . . . but YOUR argument that New York Arts Community is the media / entertainment of the Klan is not only ridiculous (because you can't back it up with verifiable fact) but insulting not only to those of us you accuse of said bigotry, but insulting to those who are victims of REAL bigotry, and I say this as a man in a mixed marriage, about to have a son in a mere six weeks.

Scott, seriously . . . you are WAY off track and I'm actually beginning to get concerned for your health . . . take a step back and breathe, would ya?

Scott Walters said...

Well, I appreciate your concern, Joshua. What I am concerned about is your literacy, since you regularly fail to comprehend what you are reading -- and then you ascribe your misunderstanding to me, and accuse me of changing the terms of the debate.

My point was -- and focus hard, Joshua -- my point was that one might be more inclined to listen to those who are affected by the discrimination rather than those who are not. That those who do not identify as southern or rural might not be the best judges of what stereotypes are being perpetuated and the effect those stereotypes have. Did you read Floyd-Miller's post? Did you see the part where she said I was right? A published, southern African-American writer? Did you read the cabbie's remark about the South? Do you think that remark is somehow an isolated incident?

Joshua James said...

Right, Scott . . . didn't you read my comment, either?

If I wish, with regards to bigotry and discimination I can supply you with LOADS of testimony as well . . . some of it personally observed.

BUT, and this is one big as fuck of a but, you haven't shown, nor explained how there is ONE determined movement of New York Arts ideology that is conspiring to crush all others . . . you haven't.

Are there bigoted or racist people? You bet. I can also trot out a number of people who would tell you that it's easier for a talented writer to get hired if they're of a cultural heritage that is not white . . . you bet, corporate entertainment WANTS diversity now, whether it's just for show or not, it's happening . . .

The fact that people suffer from discimination every day is not under dispute (nor would I, having witnessed it myself) . . . the matter under dispute is whether or not there's a New York Arts ideology determined to crush arts ideology from other parts of the country.

I say no, there is not, and I also know and love several people in the arts from other cultures (including my wife but not only) who have experienced racism and discrimination in the world but are WELCOMED in the arts . . . this list includes writers, designers, and actors (one of whom has appeared in major movies, television and will appear this winter on Broadway) in fact, their non-white cultural heritage was SOUGHT after . . .

Now that's just what I've witnessed, I don't claim to speak for the land where you live . . . I can speak of Iowa and Nebraska, and I can speak of New York and, to a lesser degree, LA . . .

but your argument that there is just ONE ARTS IDEOLOGY practicing a racist, culteral hegemony is balony as far as I can see . . . you haven't proved it, you've only simply shared tales of people being discriminated against, which of course I stand against . . . but that happened not because people in New York are twirling their mustaches and conspiring against them.

It happened because too many people promote ignorance and stupidity based on generalizations and I note that you've written a spirited defense of generalizations -

I don't guess that, based on your somewhat snide response, that there is any worth in continuing this . . .

Scott Walters said...

No, there isn't, Joshua.

A dominant culture does not require villains engaging in conspiracies in order to continue the values of the dominant culture -- they just have to do what comes naturally. I have never posited am active conspiracy -- I have posited a dominant worldview, an ideology, a set of values. And I have located that worldview in the locii of media power: NYC and LA. As you have frequently pointed out to me in other conversations, that's where the action is, right? That's where the work is? Or have I missed some Mississippi hotbed of theatre, TV, and film power? So it isn't odd that I would identify those places as the source of the dominant worldview. I am not talking about the population of NYC, but rather the power brokers that are IN NYC -- the small group of producers, writers, artists who make decisions about what will and what won't be seen or written about. Or do these decisions just happen "naturally," guided by Adam Smith's invisible hand of the market?

Joshua James said...

And how many of those people have you met or do you know?

What do you know about this world that you can call yourself an authority on it?

I actually know a few of people who make the decisions you're speaking of - I've met Oskar, at the Public, on the night he presented Palestine Voices series and he spoke about how we need to and have to search for those voices not heard from . . .

I know some of the people at Louisville, which, I note, is in Kentucky and not New York or LA . . . the Humana Festival is big, gets coverage all over.

I've met Craig Brewer, who spoke to meet about getting his movies shot and made in Tennesee, where he's from . . . he wants to stay in Tennessee and use his films to show the world the state he loves.

I met Marcie Kersey, founder of Kersey / Warner Televison, who's produced more television shows than we could count, and had a lovely talk about the business and what people are looking for and what they're not . . .

I've actually written about strong issues, issues of race and cultural, these things are important to me, sample here

And I strive to work to examine these things, that's part of my personal private mission.

I don't know everyone, nor do I wish to or claim to . . . but I know enough people, the kind you're speaking of, to know that your claim is not really based on anything other than your own wishful thinking.

I know that you're sitting in your office, secure in your neat little job with benefits and security and feel you can lecture the rest of us on how to do what we do, without actually risking anything on your own . . .

If you REALLY believe what you state, put your money where your mouth is and do something about it, take action.

danielle wilson said...

Wow. When I read the very first post on this subject of geographicism I thought, "how interesting I never really identified geographical stereotypes, but they do exist, I'll have to start paying more attention to them."

Here is what I have gathered and observed from reading the discussion here and on some of the related sites:

1) stereotypes as Scott defines them do exist

2) everyone gets offended when they are lumped into a category

3) nobody has vehemently defended the vibrancy and variety of the LA arts scene or the vibrancy and variety of film (or television or magazines.) the only thing vehemently defended has been NY theater

4) generalities are no good. ever. please give specific, relevant, current (within the last 5 years) examples to support your position.

5) humor is not permitted.

6) people who feel that they have been attacked will not change their mind.

7) rational discussion is possible but hard to come by.

and here are some things that I believe to be true:

1) geographical stereotypes do exist. One of my graduate professors told my class point blank that we were not allowed to do our internships in a city smaller than Chicago or New York because our work would not be taken seriously anywhere else. (the professor in question is a fairly well known international designer who is not an American) I see this as an example of the pervasiveness of the stereotype--it exists even beyond the borders of our own country--I expect the argument against my example to be "he's one guy and not even an American, what does he know." I have no rebuttal. I just know I felt pretty depressed being told I could only do theater in a few urban locations.

2) there are no levels of evil. racism, sexism, classism, are just as wrong as geographism. I realize many people will not agree with this, but I believe that a little evil is just as bad as a lot of evil.

4) We discuss the ideal world, but we don't live there.

5) I am tired of this discussion now and would like to move on to something else.

Please don't shoot the messenger. These are only the observations of a young, white, female, Orthodox Christian, lighting designer and ATD, working for the University of South Carolina, currently living on 5 acres with some animals, who once lived in NYC.

danielle wilson said...

So I was just thinking I signed off as a "young, white, female, Orthodox Christian, rural, academic" so that readers would know where my comments came from. But it could also be read as an apology.

Why should it be read as an apology? Just because I am all of those things doesn't mean that my observations aren't valid. If everybody had to talk about only what they were expert in, there wouldn't be a lot of ideas exchanged.

I believe there is a place for the voice of the outside observer. And that in the case of geographical stereotypes in particular, the examining the perceptions of the outside observer is worth doing.

ok. messenger riding off....

Travis Bedard said...

Longer response here.

To sum it all up: I think you're largely right, but the overbroad reach of your net is causing a lot of the confusion (and animosity).