Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stop the GR Bullies: Defending the Indefensible "Save the Pearls"

We have spoken about Stop the GR Bullies and their awful site before. As can be clear, we not only think this site is highly reprehensible, we think the people behind it are pretty damn awful as well. But, perhaps from some shred of naivety, we kind of thought they would have some limits. Then we found the latest author they are protecting from the legions of us nasty nasty reviewers. Yes, it’s Victoria Foyt’s racist Save the Pearls. She is being bullied by being called a racist, according to STGRB

Yes, we were naive. They have no limits.

Save the Pearls (read: save the poor oppressed White people from the beast like Black people) flew under the radar for quite sometime, until Foyt paid for and received the Eric Hoffer award.  Suddenly, people who never would have heard of her racist novel were forced to pay attention.  I watched with pleasure as reader after reader took to Goodreads to register their dissent.  Some were angry and some were thoughtful, but what they all had in common is a righteous reason to declare Foyt’s work racist.  This must having been shocking because prior to the revelation of the award, most of the reviews on Save the Pearls were positive.

Some took their criticism a step further and not only declared Save the Pearls racist but the author as well.  Of course Stop the GR Bullies could not let it stand.  To be clear this is a woman who  proudly claims to live in a colorblind world, erased the comments from POC on Facebook who challenged her, and she questioned whether or not an African-American community exists.  Even before reading her racist novel, her statements alone would be enough to understand that White sheets are one of Foyt’s favourite items.  Establishing the degree to which Foyt is absolutely drowning in her privilege, to the point where her work is blatantly racist is not difficult.

Let us be clear here, we reviewed Save the Pearls after we read it. All of it, all the way through - and I apologise right now to all of our DNFs because, while we didn’t like any of you, at least you weren't this offensively racist. STGRB loves to push the idea that most of the people criticising this book haven’t actually read it, because that’s such an easy way to dismiss them (and STGRB seems very eager to dismiss POC). No, we read it and we hated it.

And we have to remember that Victoria Foyt, with her blackface promotion videos and her racist blog posts means that people don’t have to have read the book to know to avoid it - and to spread the word warning for others to avoid it. Victoria Foyt, with her own words, already made it clear what kind of book it was and her own racism. Foyt said on Facebook, “Judging A Book By Its Cover Gives Birth To Racism,” this highlights the fact that not only does Foyt have no idea what racism really means, but after all of the criticism her book has received, she still cannot understand why having a White woman in Blackface on the cover is problematic.  At this point, choosing not to read Save the Pearls absolutely comes down to an act of self care.

STGRB has also pushed the idea that people should avoid labelling someone a racist because it is supposedly “slander” (note: it can’t be slander because it’s written) and “libelous” (note: it’s an opinion and you can say anything as an opinion as long as you are not asserting a fact.  An opinion cannot be untrue)  More importantly, it is not liable if what you’re saying is true, and judging from the promotional video, and Foyt’s various responses, Foyt is unequivocally a racist. Stop the GR Bullies seem to feel  a book review is not the place for this sort of accusation, and to that I say that there always seems to be some reason why White people should not be held accountable for their language/actions. No one forced Foyt to pen such a racist tome and no one forced her to engage in further racism to defend it. Contrary to popular opinion, living with racism is much harder than being called a racist.  In fact, being called a racist is something that is easily avoidable, whereas living without being affected by racism is absolutely impossible if you are a POC.  For a website so determined to hold reviewers accountable, it is absolute hypocrisy on the part of Stop the Goodreads Bullies to fail to hold an author publicly responsible for the hatred that they knowingly and willingly put in this world.

If there is one part of this hot mess that stands out is this wonderful line: “calling the author racist (when she has clearly stated that she is not)”. That’s right, folks “am not” is sufficient defence against accusations of racism.

Stop the GR Bullies, by your standards we live in a world completely devoid of racism. In fact, we may even live in a world where racism hasn’t existed for the last 50 years. It may shock you to learn, but the vast majority of racists out there say they are not racist. There are very very few people out there willing to stand up and say “Yes, I’m a racist”.

A racist denying they’re a racist doesn’t mean it's true. I’m honestly stunned that I have to say this. The best case scenario is that a person is so wrapped up in white privilege, so utterly self-absorbed and clueless and so unwilling to listen to the criticism of POC, that they don’t realise they’re racist. The worst case is that the racist just knows that their fellow racists are more than happy to take their word for it and insist that POC be silent in calling them out - after all, it worked with Stop the GR Bullies.

Many of the commenters on this article have criticised how hostile and angry the critics of Save the Pearls are - how they’re shaming Victoria Foyt and how there’s no reason for Victoria Foyt to engage with them. This shows one of the many misconceptions STGRB has about reviews. These reviews are not about engaging the author, they are not for the author and they sure aren’t to educate the author. Anyone reading the author’s blog posts is probably already convinced that any attempt to educate this woman is time better spent ramming your head against a brick wall (it would probably be less painful as well).

These reviews are for readers. These are to warn readers what an utterly vile hot mess this book is. These are to send a message clearly that this kind of racism is not okay, that this kind of racism cannot be accepted and this kind of racism should - must - be challenged. And it’s a warning to readers who not only don’t want to read something so utterly racist, but who could be actively harmed and triggered by the racism within; this book can be a mental assault to so many. This is  especially important to note, since the fans of this book and Victoria Foyt herself, regard themselves as anti-racist.

STGRB seems to think there is a flock of bullies who are sadistically enjoying attacking the poor, innocent Victoria Foyt. By calling her a “racist” they are launching a witch hunt against her - something which is already grossly offensive, given that witch hunts were persecution against marginalised people by the authority of the time. Calling out racism is self-defence by POC who are constantly being attacked by privileged White people. No-one enjoys calling out racism (or homophobia, misogyny, transphobia et al), it is rarely safe or easy to do. When people use these words it’s not to play a “card” or to attack a poor, innocent, privileged person - they use these words because they are hurt. Because they have been attacked. Because they are trying to defend themselves, stop the attack and, hopefully (and desperately) stop these attacks happening in the future.

No-one is gleefully invoking racism when calling out Victoria Foyt. Being oppressed is not fun. The fact that STGRB is discounting and trying to silence POC criticising a privileged, racist, white author makes it clear that STGRB’s agenda is about anything but fairness.

With this attack on the critics of Save the Pearls, not only does Stop the GR Bullies do anything to convince us the book - and the author - are not racist, but they convince us that they, themselves are racists as well. And no, that’s not libel (because it’s true). And no, saying “we’re not racists” doesn’t mean a damn thing.