To the Speculative Fiction Community:
We at the Carl Brandon Society are writing this open letter to our community regarding the recent incident involving Harlan Ellison and K. Tempest Bradford. Mr. Ellison, mistakenly believing that Ms. Bradford had criticized him on her blog, wrote a post on his discussion board that included the following passage:
She is apparently a Woman of Color (which REALLY makes me want to bee-atch-slap her, being the guy who discovered and encouraged one of the finest writers and Women of Color who ever lived, my friend, the recently-deceased Octavia Estelle Butler). And she plays that card endlessly, which is supposed to exorcise anyone suggesting she is a badmouth ignoramus, or even a NWA. Ooooh, did I say that?
Mr. Ellison has subsequently apologized to Ms. Bradford and she has accepted his apology. We do not wish to address what has now become a private matter between the two. However, since the problematic post was made in public and thus was published in full view of the SF community, the Carl Brandon Society wishes to define some basic principles of discourse which were put into question as a result of this exchange. We hope community members will consider and respect these principles in future debates and disagreements.
These principles are as follows:
1) The use of racial slurs in public discourse is utterly unacceptable, whether as an insult, a provocation, or an attempt at humor. This includes both explicit use of slurs and referencing them via acronyms.
2) Any declaration of a marginalized identity in public is not a fit subject for mockery, contempt, or attack. Stating what, and who, you are is not “card playing.” It is a statement of pride. It is also a statement of fact that often must be made because it has bearing on discussions of race, gender, and social justice.
3) Expressing contempt for ongoing racial and gender discourse is unacceptable. Although particular discussions may become heated or unpleasant, discourse on racism and sexism is an essential part of antiracism and feminist activism and must be respected as such. There is no hard line between discourse and action in activism; contempt of the one too often leads to contempt of the whole.
The Carl Brandon Society assumes in this letter that everyone reading it shares the common goal of racial and gender equity, and general social justice, in all our communities. We hope for a quick end to arguments over whether or not unacceptable forms of debate should be allowable. These arguments obstruct the process of seeking justice for all.
The Carl Brandon Society
Candra K. Gill
Please feel free to add your signature to this letter in the comments.