Remember Us Manifesto, v. 1.0

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Title: Remember Us Manifesto, v. 1.0
Creator: Te, "with great thanks to Dawn Sharon and the ebonbird"
Date(s): probably 2004, when the Remember Us? archive was created
Medium: online
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External Links: Remember Us Manifesto, v. 1.0
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Remember Us Manifesto, v. 1.0 is the single essay posted at Remember Us?, a fiction and art archive for fanfic that featured characters of color. The essay is by Te.

Excerpts from the Essay

I've heard the phrase 'reverse racism' bandied about. People asking about how we would feel if there were archives and mailing lists devoted to all *White* characters and pairings.

The snarky response to that is that there already *are*, but yes, I know that's not what you mean.

The fact is, most of us will probably be old and grey -- if not dead and dust -- before race is anything but a hideously uncomfortable issue. Most of us look to Black people for the final word on 'Black issues,' Asians on 'Asian issues,' and so on, and so forth. Ignorance informs fear of being considered racist, if not racism in and of itself. It's understandable.

Does it make you feel better that I'm Black?

Would the discontented mutterings have been louder if so many people didn't know who I was *and* that I was Black? It's an interesting question.

But I'm digressing.

What constitutes a character of color? Well, it's easier to talk about what, for the purposes of this archive, at the time of this writing, does not. We are not accepting stories, art, or other media that feature characters like Worf, even though Michael Dorn is a Black man.

Why? Because he's simply too alien. His character is not of color *and* as a Klingon it's damned hard to see the Human face. Which is why we *do* accept stories about Tuvok, who as a 'Black Vulcan,' is both noticeably humanoid and quite different from, say, Spock. There was an interview some years back where Tim Russ speculated on the racial makeup of Vulcan quite interestingly. If someone can find a link, I'd be vastly appreciative.

In any event, is this policy shallow? Quite. But in order to produce an archive like this, some rules must be established. I understand that some people feel that there's a deep inconsistency here, and I do understand the points being made, but...

Once Russ began speaking about the potential racial breakdown of Vulcan, Tuvok became not just a Vulcan, but a *Black* Vulcan. Supertextual canon, in this case, counts.

[For the record, there have been vague plans ever since the Remember Us mailing list was set up some time ago about making a list and archive for the more alien/visibly demonic/whatever characters, but as yet it has not gotten off the ground. If anyone is interested in taking this on, let us know.]

Also, in my estimation, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African characters have been underrepresented, but Jewish and Italian characters have not. I understand that people may think differently (and it definitely wasn't an easy decision to make), and the whole matter is entirely open to debate, but this is how this particular archive is going to be set up.

Last on the list of non-acceptance, we have those ambiguously-raced anime and manga characters. No, we're not going to get into an argument about who is or is not brown/black/yellow/red/whatever enough, it's simply that the aestheticism archives provide ample opportunity and webspace for those people whose fictive desires go that way.

Everyone else, from characters with more ethnicities in their immediate background than a junkyard mutt has breeds, to characters who are as 'purely' 'ethnic' as anyone in this world (or another) can be, is in.

Are we angry militants out to change the world? Well... no, not really. Is this archive a showcase for fiction about characters of color? Yes, but only in part.

Let me explain.

When Sheila Perez and I first started the Remember Us mailing list, it was in direct reaction to a number of things. One, we wanted more fiction featuring the characters of color we adored. Two, we found that when we tried to talk our friends and acquaintances into writing that fiction, quite often their response was that they were afraid of writing those characters. They didn't feel comfortable with their ability to produce fiction that wouldn't be considered racist.

Three, we looked around our various fandoms and found that people would go out of their *way* to 'ship characters who had little to no visible UST, seemingly just to avoid 'shipping characters of color who did. Four, while many other White characters had showcase archives and mailing lists, the characters of color were often ignored.

So, Remember Us was begun as a haven of sorts for those of us who *did* write CoC-intensive fiction, who wanted to have a place to both post it and discuss our favorite non-White characters, and who wanted to have a group of people who would, if needed, be available for editing work -- just in case there were still fears of the fiction in question being considered racist.

It was our hope that this list would encourage those people with fears to, well, relax a little. It didn't help.

So, in terms of being angry, militant, and wanting to change the world -- that's about as close as we come. We want more people paying attention to all the fascinating CoCs out there, and we want more good writers *writing* them.

It's understood that we can't always choose what ideas come to us, but if there's one thing we honestly wish to change, it's the *fear* people have that keeps them from writing down the ideas they have. Or from producing artwork, vids, or other media, for that matter.

And now there's the archive. Yes, it *is* a showcase, in the sense that I'd love it if people cruised around the archive and found themselves deeply in love with characters they'd never even considered before.

But it's also one, big, static challenge to all of fandom. Is race a sociological construct, more dangerous than helpful? Most of the time, and in many ways, I'd have to say yes. The last thing I want is for this archive to become a lightning rod for future fannish stratification, which is why Hope and I have attempted to make it as inclusive as possible without driving ourselves well and truly insane.

That said, I want people to think about what they're doing when they're cannibalizing media. To consider the reasons -- whatever they may be -- why they leave the darker characters to rot on the big buffet of fandom as they consume everything White. I want people to feel just as comfortable objectifying Adebisi as they do Keller. I want people to acclimatize themselves to the idea of characters of color being valid objects of lust/affection/whatever *period*, and move beyond the terror of the terrible pointing finger.

The fact is, some people will call you names no matter what you do.

Is race a matter of phenotype, geography, and attendant power differentials? Most of the time, and in many ways, I'd have to say yes. If this was a less shallow archive, we might address those issues. As it is... well, we're shallow. And I think that before we move into the upper level sociology courses, there's a distinct need for people to *see* that there's something to talk sociology about.

There is, after all, a reason why the name 'Remember Us,' (with or without question mark) was chosen.

So, if anything, think of this archive as the 101 course, or even the stuff you (should have?) aced in high school. One day, maybe, this page will be filled with people who disagree with me most vehemently on a number of issues.

Like, for example, why this archive is all about the characters fandom is ignoring -- as opposed to the larger issue of race and fandom in general. I'm looking at *you*, ebonbird.

One day, maybe, someone will ask why this archive was ever made and the only answer will be puzzled silence.

References