This Is Why White People Can’t Have Nice Things

This Is Why White People Can't Have Nice Things

Years ago when the Carl Brandon Society first announced the formation of the Octavia E Butler Scholarship for Clarion and Clarion West, I got into a heated argument with a white, male friend over the need for such a thing to exist in the world. At the time, I was surprised–shocked, actually–at his vehement objection to this scholarship. It wasn’t right, wasn’t fair, excluded people like him, and was likely some reverse racism. We argued, got nowhere, and stopped talking for a while1. It was my first time engaging with a person on an issue like this, it was not my last.

Just last month I found myself in the position of explaining the need for a scholarship specifically for People of Color yet again after the announcement of the Writing Excuses/Carl Brandon Society retreat scholarship. If you scroll down to the bottom you can see my very long response to several comments, most of which boil down to:

This isn’t right, it isn’t fair, it excludes white people like me, reverse racism!

And then today I looked at the comments2 of the io9 post about the Con or Bust auction to see yet more white people complaining that such a thing exists. Giving people money to go to a con based on skin color! What about all the white people like me who can’t afford to go! I haven’t noticed a lack of diversity at the one con I go to! Reverse racism!

It makes me want to facepalm and headdesk at the same time.

Since it seems that this is going to keep happening over and over until the aliens arrive to solve all our problems or take a select few of us off to an otherworldly paradise, I wondered if it would be useful to put together a general FAQ. Instead of battling the seven-headed hydra that is the comments section on any post of this nature, why not crowdsource answers to the most common questions/complaints/ridiculous screeds? Then when someone is Wrong on the Internet, you can drop the link to it and mambo away DJ Older style.

FAQ topics could include:

  • Rebuttal to any comment about how it’s about “skin color”
  • Reverse Racism!
  • I’ve never noticed a need for this, therefore there is no need for this
  • I’m poor and white, how come no one is offering to give me money to attend cons/workshops/retreats?
  • What about women/LGBT/people from outside the US/any other group I can name? Why doesn’t your scholarship/grant cover these groups? Aren’t they minorities, too?
  • Not everything is for you, white people

Please do add any others you can think of. Suggest a FAQ topic, answer, or both in the comments. Your answer can be a condensed version of an existing blog post you wrote or found to be useful. Be sure to include a link for further reading.

Oh, and: get ready for the Con or Bust auction! There are so many awesome things!


  1. That particular friend later on realized his error and apologized to me and we resumed our friendship. []
  2. I heard tell that Will S showed up in the comments but don’t see him now. He might have gotten moderated into oblivion, but be aware that he may return. []

7 thoughts on “This Is Why White People Can’t Have Nice Things

  1. oooh! ooh! I’ve got one..

    Q: But but but

    A: No. Just shut the fuck up. You are not a precious snowflake. You are not the center of the universe. Everything was not made with you in mind. Want another facet of humanity catered to? This is a scholarship, go and make a business case for the scholarship you want to see, fundraise, get people on board.

    You know how THIS scholarship happened? It didn’t just arrive on a fart of rainbows and unicorns. People campaigned and worked for it for YEARS after building on DECADES of consciousness raising. You feel left out? Then dedicate several years of your life to actively making scholarships happen for groups you care about. This scholarship exists because of a fuckton of work by people who care.

    Before you open your mouth to complain or whinge for one second consider how much work you have put into creating scholarships for people experiencing disadvantage that you think is more pressing. And, in the highly unlikely instance that you have spent years on a scholarship you care about open your mouth to say “how can we be allies in this?” If you want to whine and complain, just keep your fucking mouth shut.

    And before you whine and complain about how angry folks of color are, know that a white person wrote this. A white person who is tired and embarrassed by how fucking embarrassing some people can be with their knee jerk reactions against making the world a better place. You are not a precious snowflake. But you are much much better than this, so go put on some big girl trousers and lets make this world a better fucking place.

  2. Pearls before swine, Tempest. I’ve just given up on pushing back on that type, choosing instead to focus my energy on building up our own. I mean, all respect and love to the people who can engage with trolls like you’re doing, but I just can’t anymore.

  3. I remember facing these exact same questions back when I worked for the Ford Foundation Fellowships for Minorities. I’m having flashbacks.

    Two ideas for the FAQs

    Skin Color/Reverse Racism charges:

    Providing personal testimonies about being a PoC in a convention/genre writer.

    Providing con/genre statistics (if available)

    “I’m 1/4 Mexican-American; am I eligible?”

    “It’s about how you self-identify.”

    I’ll think of more later.

  4. I’m so sorry this is still an issue. It is mind boggling and deeply disappointing. Sometimes I just don’t understand how some people just don’t understand.

  5. I’m poor and white, how come no one is offering to give me money to attend cons/workshops/retreats?

    Uh, have you looked? Many cons offer scholarships or financial assistance to anyone who wants to attend but can’t afford to. Same with workshops, retreats, conferences, and related entities. It’s not always obvious or widely publicized, but a cursory search of the website should reveal the existence of such. There are also grants and such offered by third party organizations aimed at helping artists with their professional development by helping them attend events. Yes, even cons.

    Finding grants, scholarships, and related money is time-consuming work (trust me, I’ve applied to many) and lots of people just don’t have the energy for it. I get that. However, that doesn’t mean these opportunities don’t exist and they don’t exist for you.

  6. I came up with a couple:

    I’ve never noticed a need for this, therefore there is no need for this

    You know what’s awesome about having privilege (white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, etc.)? It means you don’t ever have to notice things that don’t impact your life directly nor have to consider other points of view because our society is constructed in such a way as to make you think that the way you see things is normal, correct, and the default. That’s what privilege (in this context) is. If racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other oppression doesn’t affect you, you’re less likely to notice it’s happening or to take note of it AS oppression.

    Guess what? That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and oppression and prejudice isn’t happening.

    The people who do experience these problems say that the problems exist. And, in many cases, are working to erase the negative impact of these problems on people while also addressing the root cause. The scholarship/grant/financial assistance in question is one way of addressing, and thus it is needed.

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