The background: former SFWA presidential candidate Theodore Beale is known for rather over-the-top screeds. To this day, I can’t figure out if he actually believes the stuff he writes, or if he’s doing some sort of whiny white male supremacist performance art.
Normally, I wouldn’t waste my energy on this. Free speech is a thing, and he has the right to take a dump in his own little corner of the internet. The rest of us can carry on and leave him to play in his filth.
But Beale is also a member of SFWA. We’re already struggling with a few black eyes over sexist content in the Bulletin, among other issues. The last thing we need is for the smell of Beale-droppings to taint the whole organization.
Today he not only wrote a racist attack against author N. K. Jemisin, he then had it automatically tweeted to the SFWAauthors Twitter feed, which is used to promote relevant and appropriate content for SFWA members, as spelled out in the Twitter feed guidelines.
SFWA reacted exactly as they should have. When they became aware of the Tweet, they removed it, and Beale no longer has the ability to submit content to that feed. But once again, his actions have stained an organization I’m a part of.
Amal El-Mohtar has screenshots of Beale’s post “A Black Female Fantasist Calls for Reconciliation” here.
Trigger warning for racism, sexism, and general fuckmuppetry…
Now, Jemisin did refer to Beale’s candidacy in her Guest of Honor speech at Continuum, so I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for him to respond.
He begins with his usual routine of accusing John Scalzi of being a rapist. Because man-crush, I guess. He describes Theresa Nielsen Hayden as a “fat frog” for good measure. Not sure what this has to do with Jemisin’s speech, but maybe he was warming up for the main act, wherein he explains:
…it is not that I, and others, do not view [Jemisin] as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we simply do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious historical reason that she is not.
Jemisin mentioned “Stand your ground” laws in Texas and Florida. Beale responds:
The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self-defense laws have been put in place to let whites defend their lives and their property from people, like her, who are half-savages engaged in attacking them.
The awkward sentence structure here offers two interpretations.
- When “half-savage” people like Jemisin (i.e., Black people) attack you, you should be able to shoot them.
- Jemisin is a half-savage engaged in attacking Beale (via a speech), so Beale should be able to shoot her.
I’m guessing he meant the former, but either way it seems to come down to describing “Stand your ground” laws as legal protection for white folks who shoot scary dark-skinned people.
Beale goes on with more gems like this:
Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence to be found anywhere on the planet that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support from those white males.
You can read the whole thing if you’re feeling masochistic, or want to see other bits, like his comparing Jemisin to an “illiterate Igbotu tribesman.”
Beale is a member of SFWA. He has been held up as the reason people refuse to join, and I have a hard time arguing with that decision. Why would I want to join a group where I know there’s at least one person who will take a steaming dump of hate, play around in it, and start throwing it at anyone he doesn’t like.
Ten percent of SFWA’s voters supported this man for president. Given typical voter behavior, I have to assume a good chunk of voters didn’t read anything beyond the presidential platforms, and weren’t aware of Beale’s history. But even so — and even with Beale getting so thoroughly trounced in the election — I agree with Jemisin that it’s disturbing he got even that many votes.
Beale hurts the organization. I’m assuming this is a deliberate effort on his part, a mix of a fun game and a plea for attention.
I don’t believe he should be kicked out for his views.
I’m not sure whether his comments and behavior in the discussion forums or toward other members violate SFWA policies. (See update below.)
I do know that SFWA should not be an official platform for anyone’s foaming diatribes. And I know that while Theodore Beale is indeed part of SFWA, so are many, many people actively working against racism and sexism and discrimination.
Yeah. This sort of ignorance, bigotry, and hate still exists. Often it’s more subtle. Sometimes it’s even worse.
I also believe it’s fighting a losing battle. For every sexist rant in the Bulletin, we see hundreds of people speaking out in protest, demanding that women be treated not as “beauty queen lady editors,” but as equals. For every racist screed, far more people speak out to denounce that bigotry.
It’s a long battle, and like Jemisin, I don’t expect to see it won in my lifetime. But I also see rants like Beale’s as an increasingly desperate cry of protest as he and others who share his hatred slide further and further into irrelevancy.
ETA: Thank you to those who pointed out Article 4, Section 10 of the SFWA By-laws, which state, “The officers of the Corporation may, by unanimous vote, expel any member for good and sufficient cause.” While the by-laws don’t specify what “good and sufficient cause” means, I personally think we’ve cleared that bar with Beale actively using a SFWA resource as part of his personal attacks on members, as well as the reputational damage he’s done to the organization as a whole.