Saturday, October 31st, 2015 12:48 pm
Because it's a complex topic and I didn't want to get into a public conversation with the bigots buzzing around him.

And looking at it again now I see a silly spelling mistake /o\ Also JUST after I sent it [personal profile] mooreeffoc pointed out that you can't "fail" an IQ test. But if I'd kept editing much longer I'd have wound myself into an anxious ball and never sent it.

Sorry to send you an email out of the blue when you have no idea who I am, but I couldn't get this to fit into a tweet and also wanted to avoid a public argument with the sorts of bigots you were bravely poking at. I know you care a lot about social justice, and have a wide voice, so it seemed like a good idea to point out that you'd said something with an unfortunate subtext. (You may begin to see why 140 characters wasn't enough for me ;))

Anyway. You said: "Your Halloween reminder that blackface is an IQ test, and if you wear it, you've failed."

I am 100% behind criticising blackface, it's racist and awful. But I think equating low IQ to racism is a really awful thing to do too.

As a disabled people I'm not entirely against the use of "stupid" as an insult, I think it's meaning can include nonableist meanings like "willfully obtuse". But there's no such ambiguity with "low IQ". Using it as an insult implies that intellectually disabled people (as well as the many non intellectually disabled people who get low scores) are inherently racist/morally deficient. It also implies that people with high scores can't be racist, feeding into that smug middle class white complacency which assumes that racism is a problem for "those people" over there.

IQ tests have been used as a deliberate weapon against those who get low scores since their inception. Not just against people with intellectual disabilities, but against all marginalised people, specifically black Americans. I'm white and not American so can't speak with any authority, but found this article about the test's connection to racism in the US. It also has a strong connection to eugenics.

"You have a low IQ" works as an insult because of this history, and so using it as an insult, like blackface, is much less benign than it superficially appears.

Phew! Sorry to write you an essay there. I know you didn't mean any of that, but there's a long nasty streak of ableist/classist/racist rhetoric in geek culture against those who fail at certain rigid measures of "smartness", and I like to push against it where I can.

Thanks for reading all this way, and happy Halloween from Australia! I actually saw you at Swancon earlier this year and was really impressed, which is why I feel confident in emailing you.

All the best
Sophie alias sqbr
Saturday, October 31st, 2015 06:08 am (UTC)
Aah, I'm sorry I wasn't quicker off the mark! But it's a great email as-is, and this:

It also implies that people with high scores can't be racist, feeding into that smug middle class white complacency which assumes that racism is a problem for "those people" over there. both true and very well put.
Saturday, October 31st, 2015 07:20 am (UTC)
I like this letter. And it's something I've been learning to unpack a lot myself as well (I've used 'low IQ' comments, both disparagingly against myself, and others, to mean things that it doesn't mean - and I'm not happy that I've done that). I think your email was to the point, gently explaining where you're coming from, and with examples, and is fantastic. It's the kind of correction I'd like to get if someone was pulling me up on something and hopefully it's taken in the spirit in which it's intended. <3
Saturday, October 31st, 2015 11:21 am (UTC)
That is an awesome email, and you are brave, and...thank-you.
Saturday, October 31st, 2015 04:06 pm (UTC)
go you!!
Saturday, October 31st, 2015 04:21 pm (UTC)
that's an awesome email-- thanks for posting it here too!