This past week or so, there’s been a great deal of discussion about what’s been going on in SFWA — okay, what’s still going on in SFWA. After months of vitriol and worse, the controversy over the SFWA Bulletin continues. As I said yesterday, I’m not going into it here. Instead, check out Kate Paulk’s take on it at Mad Genius Club, follow the links and look at the comments. No, what prompted this post was seeing a comment on the Facebook wall of someone who isn’t supporting the current SFWA “editorial oversight” (coff: private censorship and don’t bother coming in and trying to argue only governments can censor:coff) by another author asking that both sides discuss the situation and not keep throwing insults at one another. Since I happen to agree that the issues have been hijacked by the name-calling and by personal agendas, I think that comment is spot on. But there is more to it than that. It appears that there is a very vocal segment in SFWA right now that is as guilty of judging the “other side” — and condemning them — as they claim the other side is and they are doing so based solely on age, sex and race.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated attitude. I hadn’t really thought about it until earlier this week when one of our local sportscasters, Dale Hansen, did a two minute “Unplugged” bit on the ABC affiliate about college football star Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay. Hansen is a long-time fixture in the DFW area, having spent something like 30 years as a sportscaster here. He has the reputation of speaking his mind, being more than a bit irreverent at times and never backing down. He can be over the top and he’s made more than one coach or team owner walk out of an interview by asking the hard questions.
Now, sit back and picture this: a balding, white guy, self-described as old, who grew up in a small Midwest town who comes across a “one of the guys” says he’s about to go “unplugged” on the Michael Sam announcement. What is your immediate reaction?
From comments I’ve seen on the internet, especially on Facebook, a number of those same folks who have been so vocal attacking anyone they don’t see actively supporting their touchy-feely, everyone is equal but there are some who are more equal than others for whatever reason position were automatically assuming Dale was going to come out against Sam’s announcement. Why? Because he is an “old white guy from Texas.” Now, some of those who admitted to that presumption did actually bite the bullet and watch the video.
And they were more than a bit surprised by what Dale said. He called out the NFL, from the players to the powers that be, for its double standard of openly accepting folks who should be (or have been) in prison and yet not wanting — gasp — a gay in the locker room. I can’t do Dale’s comments justice. You can view it here.
I applaud Dale for what he said. I’m thrilled to see his almost child-like awe at the attention it has gotten him. The e-mails he’s received have been, for the most part, supportive and heartfelt. Sure, there have been a few that have said he’s going to go straight to Hell for supporting the gay lifestyle. In typical Hansen style, his response was basically that he always thought he’d be going to Hell anyway and he doubts this would have anything to do with it.
My point in bringing up Dale in all this is that the reaction to just hearing that this white, older Texas sportscaster was going to discuss the Sam announcement sent folks scrambling into their red zone of anger. They assumed he was going to say something when, in truth, he was going to say something completely different, something they could support. There is a lot of this going on in SFWA right now. There is a group — possibly several groups — that are making assumptions that just because you’re an old, white guy — and not gay — you are now irrelevant. You are out of touch and need to be silenced.
Comments are taken out of context. Personal prejudices are given full rein and discussions turn into name-calling and worse.
Are there some in SFWA who need to have some “sensitivity training”? Hell, yeah — on both sides. But, more importantly, everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath and then listen. Put agendas aside and listen. Listen to what the other side is saying. More importantly, listen to what the readers are saying. You have taken this dust-up public. That has brought it to the attention of your customers, the people who read your books, and guess what? You aren’t helping yourself or your cause. All you’re doing is driving readers away with childish behavior.
I wrote the other day about acting like a professional. SFWA is supposed to be a professional writers organization. So, for SFWA leadership – act like it. Act professional and represent the best interest of WRITERS. For SFWA members act professional and quit putting personal agendas ahead of what you are supposed to be doing — writing stories readers want to read.
Most of all, everyone start following Jim Baen’s rule and quit being buttheads.