From Racism and Science Fiction, by Samuel R. Delany, in Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora:
Racism for me has always appeared to be first and foremost a system, largely supported by material and economic conditions at work in a field of social traditions. Thus, though racism is always made manifest through individuals' decisions, actions, words, and feeings, when we have the luxury of looking at it with the longer view (and we don't, always), usually I don't see much point in blaming people personally, black or white, for their feelings or even for their specific actions -- as long as they remain this side of the criminal. These are not what stabilize the system. These are not what promote and reproduce the system. These are not the points where the most lasting changes can be introduced to alter the system.
References to "the system" obviously harken to Morpheus'/Laurence Fishburne's description of The Matrix, if you're in an SF frame of mind. Which you needn't necessarily be, despite the title of the essay and the volume in which it was (re)printed.
Said volume includes not only this and other essays, but also short stories and novel excerpts by Mr. (Prof.?) Delany, Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Walter Mosley, Tananarive Due and, as the back cover copy says, "many more," including archvillain Amiri Baraka.
Somewhat ironically, given the focus of the book, the essay goes on to say,
I don't think you can have racism as a positive sytem until you have that socioeconomic support suggested by that (rather arbitrary [placement of walls]) twenty percent/eighty percent proportion. But what racism as a system does is isolate and segregate the people of one race, or group, or ethnos from another. As a system it can be fueled by chance as much as by hostility or by the best of intentions. ("I thought they would be more comfortable together, I thought they would want to be with each other. . .") And certainly one of its strongest manifestations is as a socio-visual system in which people become used to always seeing blacks with other blacks and so -- because people are used to it -- being uncomfortable whenever they see blacks mixed in, at whatever proportion, with whites.
[. . .] As such, [the system] is fueled as much by chance as by hostile intentions and equally by the best intentions as well. It is whatever systematically acclimates people, of all colors, to become comfortable with the isolation and segregation of the races, on a visual, social, or economic level -- which in turn supports and is supported socioeconomic discrimination. Because it is a system, however, I believe personal guilt will never repace a bit of well founded systems analysis.
Oliver mentioned the lack of diversity apparent in photos from a recent get-together of bloggers on the East Coast, where he and Tony (apparently) integrated the place, and Hanne touched on the sort'a-segregation (and general lack) of erotica by people of color in a piece in the recent issue of Bitch (he wrote from notoriously faulty memory rather than hunting down a copy to check, or just writing Hanne to confirm, because that would make sense. . .).
Applying "a bit of well founded systems analysis" to either of those situations -- or tying the two of them together, given the frequent appearances of sexualized text/imagery on Oliver's and Tony's blogs -- might produce some interesting results.
Remind me to try that after a bit more coffee.
And Hanne might'a said smut, not erotica. . . can we not have the erotica/pornography terminological debate here? Thanks.
Instead, um, I know I was going to work a reference to R. Gay into this, but have forgotten precisely how. Any suggestions, so it doesn't look like I'm just pushing Heather's sites for no reason whatsoever?