Boskone is not donating any memberships to “Con or Bust.” I don’t know if there will be any confusion on the issue, but I’m making sure there’s at least one searchable reference on the Internet that says so.
I’m not Helmuth; I don’t speak for Boskone, except in my limited capacity as filkmeister. This is information which I have as a general member of NESFA and a member of the Boskone committee. If individuals donate memberships, that’s a private matter.
Con or Bust sponsors memberships at science fiction conventions using racial criteria. Beneficiaries have to be a “person of color.” Funny, I thought we were all people of some color, except maybe for the Invisible Man. SF conventions usually have an abundance of light-skinned people compared with the general population, but subsidizing members based on their albedo doesn’t solve the problem. It’s remarkably condescending.
I’ve heard the argument that since there are fan funds which bring people from foreign countries, it’s legitimate to have fan funds which bring people from … foreign skin colors? I don’t buy it.
Science fiction is supposed to be about opening people’s horizons. Star Trek had an “interracial” cast when that was a dubious thing to do, as well as the first “interracial” kiss on TV. Early science fiction often reflected common prejudices, and John Campbell’s influence didn’t help, but by the sixties written SF was making big steps toward overturning them. We’re supposed to be able to accept bug-eyed beings with green skin. Variations in skin shade and eye details shouldn’t matter to us.
Actually, talking about “race” at all isn’t very meaningful. Science has shown there isn’t any good way to divide humanity into genetic groups; there’s too much continuity, mixture, and intra-group variation. Some people try to salvage the term by rewriting the definition in terms of cultures and yammer that anyone who doesn’t accept this is “unscientific.” At best the term refers to informal characterization based on physical features, but it’s difficult to avoid it entirely. I use the more neutral “light-skinned” and “dark-skinned” when possible.
The term “racism” is still valid, even if “race” isn’t. Racism, the idea that people should be treated differently because of superficial physical characteristics, builds a fallacy into a destructive doctrine. This includes making “race” a primary factor for any purpose. Some conventions have stepped backwards to a racist allocation of subsidized memberships. I’m glad Boskone isn’t one of them.