If you've been conscious and in the vicinity of fandom in the last week, you've probably heard about the daily_deviant community's sudden notoriety over a fic prompt. If you haven't, go here, read everything between July 30th and now. Everyone else: onward!
It seems to me that white fans who were able to acknowledge their privilege, and open to criticism fell vaguely into three camps. The first seemed to immediately get on board. They were commenting in withchqueen's journal, doing link round-ups, and telling their f-list about daily_deviant's (then) stone-walling. The second were people who didn't see why the term 'miscegenation' was offencive, or didn't understand why fans of colour were so upset, but were basically willing to ask questions and were interested in knowing, and were generally polite (not to be confused with concern trolls who tried to impersonate these people.) The third camp I merely postulate the existence of: they never posted.
I think there's no question that the first example is the best kind of ally. While there is a danger of white people dominating discussions, or taking credit for ideas stated by fans of colour, I didn't notice that happening. (Then again, as a white person, my privilege may have blinded me. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) I think it was encouraging to see the number of people who immediately stood up to declare themselves allies of fans of colour. Also, I know I saw some coordinated attempts at corralling trolls, and at productive discussion led by these people.
One of the things that makes it so frightening to post about race on the internet is not only the fact that one worries one may alienate one's f-list, but also that it inevitably attracts trolls. One person can't really police an entry for trolls. The poster may not have the emotional energy to handle the directed hatred aimed at them, or simply to respond calmly to all of the comments. Allies can be handy here.
I know, personally, as a white person, I'm reluctant to step in with my opinions (no, seriously, stop laughing), possibly taking up conversational space which belongs to persons of colour. But that doesn't have to happen. I don't think it's ever inappropriate to post to say you agree, or that you agree, and would like to offer your help. Goal: Be these people!
The second type of reaction I noticed where the fans who didn't understand why the issue was so important. I count myself among these. The danger with these fans is that they look exactly like a troll, at first glance. One common trolling tactic is to enter a discussion in progress, and ask for an explanation of what's being discussed. This means the discussion must stop until the troll is up to speed, and naturally, the troll proves remarkably difficult to bring up to speed, frustrating everyone. Another tactic is to negate the other person's reality, demanding proof of their experiences. Because racism is generally a trend rather than an isolated incident, the troll will insist on treating each incident separately, and dismiss each as inadequate.
So, when you're a fan looking for an explanation, the fan of colour who's explaining things to you doesn't know if you're genuinely trying to understand, or a troll, until you prove yourself. I actually think the best approach is to find someone you trust to tell you the truth even if it's unpleasant, and ask for an explanation privately. Our education is our responsibility.
The third kind of person is silent. I understand this. I've been this person. But I want to point out, that racist asshat? The daily_deviant mods? They think we're on their side. When you don't say anything, you're complicit. If you don't feel like you know enough to talk, educate yourself. This week is going to be full of resources. Here's my del.icio.us list tagged with racism, which is only a tiny start.
What I've learned from this:
Speak: when you're silent, your silence speaks for you.
Learn: knowing what you're talking about is important!
Also: Stop calling it race-wank. When you call it wank, you're saying the entire subject is, by definition (1) inherently unproductive and (2) generally something civilized persons don't do in public. Onanism hurts no one, and is pleasant pastime. Confronting racism is awkward, painful, tiring, and will expose you to metric tonnes of stupidity. But it needs to happen. Racism isn't just going to give up and die on its own.
(I'd like to thank my flist for helping me with this post. They are all very shiny people.)