RACE RIOT 2 Available Online; Plus, The Introduction to the Race Riot Project Directory (2002)

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Cover of the second Race Riot compilation zine (2002).

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Daniela Capistrano at POC Zine Project, the second issue of the Race Riot compilation zine (2002) is now available as a digital read on Issuu. You can still read the first one too (1997). The introduction to the second issue isn’t in my documents, but I did find an earlier iteration, which included these unfinished paragraphs:

Insidiously, we have found ourselves cited at length to provide a bit of “difference,” while our critiques of such token gestures have been largely ignored and the relations of exchange that govern the production and circulation of fanzines or other texts and the politics of authorship are evaded. What does it mean for a whitepunkgirl to get more play as a theorist or activist when her critiques are built upon the work of women of color?

I am still so suspicious. I am suspicious of inappropriate assumptions of intimacy, of the valorization of poverty, of the appropriation of terms to construct similarity through equivalencies when material histories would indicate otherwise.

But I have importantly learned patience as a teacher….

I do still have the introduction to the Race Riot Project Directory, originally included in the print version of the second issue. This will be available as a digital zine in 2013, also from the POC Zine Project, with its enormous list of POC zines from the United States, and some shorter lists of Filipino and Southeast Asian zines, but I want to publish the introduction now.

I like making lists, compiling things.

I was sitting in front of my computer, looking over old files, when I decided I needed to do this. Make a list of projects undertaken by people of color, in, around, or on their way out of punk rock (in any of its incarnations, hardcore, indie, grrrl, et cetera). Most of what I already had was left over from a previous list I’d made, but it was both cursory and several years old. I wanted to do something a little different, to make the list itself the point.

I told an Asian American punk girl I was doing this, a casual conversation in a local record store. We run into each other from time to time when our circles overlap, if only for brief moments. She scrunched up her nose and smiled. She doesn’t see the point of making this kind of list, because her race has never been an issue.

I never believed that this was going to matter to everybody.

There are at least three stories here, each to explain why I wanted to do this for different reasons.

For one, this is a very partial history, a footnote that we were here. I started reading zines in 1990, so my knowledge only goes so far, as well as my sleuthing skills. Some of the zines and projects listed are no longer around, but I felt it was important to at least note their existence, to recognize the contributions they made – or didn’t. (People of color can turn out crappy product, too, you know.) I wanted to create a sort of chronology, to paint a portrait of our involvement, however fleeting. That fleeting nature is a question in and of itself that begs an answer from punk rock hegemony, but I don’t pretend to begin to answer it here (in the introduction, at least). I just want to point it out, for now. It’s a history that tends toward tokenism and erasure; when most people are asked to name a person of color in the “scene,” only a few “big names” come to mind and the rest of us are relegated to amnesiac arrest. You know you’ve heard it, “There should be more zines by strong Asian women,” and you’re standing right there, a strong Asian woman who does a zine, amazed at the assured authority of the white boy who thinks he’s down. (True story.) So I want to be sure that I’m not an exception, a bizarre anomaly, that there are more instances than are acknowledged.

Another (if related) part of this is about me, wanting to remember, to chronicle my own search for work by other people of color. I wanted a conversation about race in the scene that wasn’t dominated by liberal platitudes, romances with exoticism or race traitors, and reactionary “shock value” racism. I needed it if I was going to justify to myself my participation in this scene. A few years ago I eventually edited a compilation zine called Evolution of a Race Riot to share some of the amazing writing and artwork I’ve found. Along with original writing, I reprinted essays and excerpts from many of the defunct zines below. And three years later I’m working on another issue because I’m still being inspired and still need that inspiration, because I continue to want to have this critical dialogue.  

But this is not to redeem punk rock, to provide more tokens for the “see, there are people of color in punk rock, it’s not racist” argument. This is rather an indictment of punk rock, for forgetting, for conspiring to forget, for posting unwritten rules for entry into the clubhouse.

After all, what does it mean that I felt this list is even necessary, a record of our participation? It means something when Mabuhay Gardens (San Francisco) is remembered as “just” a famous punk venue and not also a Filipino arts center, or when it is, this vexed convergence of differently positioned subcultural spaces is ignored. Or that I’d never heard of Raul’sin Texas, a bar run by two Chicano brothers and whose willingness to host punk shows resulted in a tribute compilation LP. It means something when I didn’t even know V. Vale, an early figure in the Bay Area punk/avant-garde art scene (Search and Destroy, V/Search), is Asian American until I actually met him, face-to-face. I didn’t know that an original member of the Go-Gos was a Latina who left the band to protest their move away from their punk rock roots. And it means something when someone shrugs, says race has never been an “issue,” because she’s never made it one.

It bears asking the question: What is it about punk rock that asks for that kind of erasure? The history of race in punk rock is long, complex, and convoluted, and intimately tied to the histories of gender and sexuality in punk rock as well. (And of course, how punk is conceptualized in Los Angeles suburbs versus metropolitan Manila is bound to be differentially understood and enacted.) No single trajectory of race and punk rock has ever sufficed, and this project won’t be able to either. However, this is an effort to make a history and ask critical questions about the issue of remembering and participating – whose “voices” are deemed seminal, important, inspirational? Whose are ignored? What are the contours of the punk rock hierarchy? White boys over colored girls? Bands over fanzines? The West over The Rest? How do we know that what we remember is true? whole? the “real” story? (Answer: we don’t.)

Again, this is a partial history and a networking tool. Use it and make your own.

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