TW: mentions of racism
Why POC leave fandoms, an essay that for some f**king reason needs to be written
There is one thing that a person thinks of when entering a fandom: "What can I do in order to consume more content related to this piece of media that I enjoy?"
A fandom, at its core, is a community of people from all walks of life that happen to adore the same thing. First and foremost, there is pure, unadulterated excitement. What comes next depends on who you are and what you consume, and unfortunately, depends on what kind of people are in a particular fandom.
When I say "what kind of people", I don't mean demographics. I mean the kind of people that are either decent or not.
You might be surprised that I'm implying that there are indecent people in fandom. You might be thinking, "Media now is so much more diverse than it was years ago!" And thus you might additionally be thinking, "Since it's so diverse now that means fandoms attract diverse people! We're so inclusive now and so accepting. Everyone is decent."
Well, if you are one of those people, I envy you.
It's correct that media is more diverse and that more diverse people are active in fandoms, or at least are more open about being a minority in the general population. What might be hiding underneath all that? Racism.
Repeat after me: Just because a piece of media is diverse doesn't mean that its fandom is inclusive.
POC are being more represented now than they were in recent years, but there is a constant exodus of POC from the very fandoms they helped to cultivate.
Their cultures and practices are being white-washed, twisted to fit the benefit of fanfic authors or fan artists, and terribly misunderstood. POC characters are written or drawn in such a way that their identity as POC is eclipsed by the fact that they are suddenly someone they never were. And while it's OK to not know everything about ethnic groups and other minority groups, it isn't OK to ignore what they say when they point out that you are wrong in their portrayal.
Not everyone will be right about everything. Not everyone has the resources or the patience to research things, but there is something so wrong about pushing POC to the side and telling them that their views on their own cultures shouldn't be taken into consideration because it might not be part of the content creator's original plan. This is even more messed up when the original piece of media that the content was created for was either heavily researched or created by POC for POC.
That's not even the last of it. How POC react in fandom to media versus the rest of fandom is different and often criticized.
Take the storylines in media for example. (Spoilers I guess.) For this I'll highlight two:
Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Fire Nation takes control of parts of other nations, perpetuating a war for 100 years. They try to wipe out other kinds of benders that aren't firebenders, and try to colonize.
- POC often see the Fire Nation for what it is. That being a colonizer nation. They recognize the effects of cultural genocide, i.e. near-total genocide of the Air Nomads and the near-genocide of the waterbending culture of the Southern Water Tribe. Meanwhile, POC have been criticized and bashed for pointing out the Fire Nation's flaws, and for not loving the enemy nation the best.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - Sam refuses to become Captain America at first and takes a whole journey to finally end up in a place where he realizes he can be.
- POC, especially BIPOC, point out the significance of Sam's journey. He realizes the trust and enormity of Captain America's shield. He refuses it not necessarily because he doesn't think he's worthy, but because he doesn't feel right. He believes America isn't ready for a black Captain America, and that maybe, they don't deserve it yet. POC are criticized because they see this story and empathize with Sam. Meanwhile, the rest of the fandom hops on Bucky's side and claims that Sam had no right to do what he did because it wouldn't be what Steve wanted and Bucky understood this etc. while refusing to understand that Sam's reasons were because of the backlash and racism he thought he could face. (By the way, it was explained explicitly in the show that Bucky understood later on why Sam couldn't do it at first.)
This all ultimately leads to things like gaslighting, blatant name calling, and you know, actual f**king racism.
"You don't know what colonialism is," a fan might say to a POC fan in the same fandom. "You just don't get that XYZ character has a lot of mental health issues," another fan might say to a POC.
This leads to tone policing.
A POC might say something in a conversation like, "You're being racist and disrespectful. Stop it." But others in the same conversation might say things like, "I think we all just need to be nice. Can everyone calm down?"
All these things are a part of a complicated problem, a problem that is being ignored, just like POC are.
POC leave fandoms because of all of the above. They leave because no one listens to them, and even when they are listened to, they are threatened in a DM. They are tired and angry and hurt.
POC are afraid to speak out because when they do, they are sent triggering pictures in their inbox, asked to leave, told to hurt themselves, told to direct their frustrations with a racist individual elsewhere and not where everyone can see.
Just like everyone else, POC enter a fandom because they want an escape from real life. Yet, they are being confronted with issues that they already face on a daily basis in their real lives, and in many cases in a worse form.
POC stop wanting to speak out. Allies sometimes want to stop too. Why? Because it becomes dangerous.
It becomes a vicious circle. People say that there are no POC in fandoms. POC try to join fandoms, get harassed out, and then people repeat that there are no POC in fandoms. They want content from POC, input from POC...and then this happens again and again.
What exactly does a fandom want? Diversity? Because it sure doesn't feel like it.
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