This past weekend, I was attending Convergence at the Minneapolis Downtown Hyatt Regency hotel. This will have been my sixth year attending the con as I always have a fun time hanging out with friends, wandering around in cosplay and taking lots of pictures. Whenever I attend Convergence, I try to choose a couple panels to see that peak my interest. This is what inspired me to write this post because it’s crucial to have diversity among the panelists.
Me and my friend’s husband sat down for a panel regarding antagonists we sympathize with in pop culture. The white panelists immediately dived into discussing Killmonger from Black Panther which led to a discussion about race. It’s not that white people can’t talk about race, but it looks really bad especially when there’s no person of color on the panel. There were a couple audience members who chimed in regarding race who were part of a minority group and their points were thought provoking and educated. The fact is being white eliminates us from understanding racial bias since it’s something we don’t experience. This racial bias is what contributes to Killmonger’s story and why he wants Wakanda’s resources. Diversity among panelists would have avoided this issue entirely along with providing the audience a well rounded discussion.
Besides the problematic discussion of race, there was another instance in the panel that left me feeling irritated. A female panelist was discussing a book series she liked, but had given a content warning for the sexual assault in the book. The discussion went as follows:
Female Panelist: This is a book series I really enjoy and the female villain is put through tremendous trauma, so I’d like to give a content warning regarding sexual assault for any female audience members.
Male Moderator: I didn’t think the book was that bad.
EXCUSE ME?! Of course you wouldn’t think the book was bad. As a white male in our society, you may never understand the concept of using rape as a means to hold power over women. Reading the passage in the book may not be harmful to you, but as a woman whenever I read a rape sequence in a book, a content warning is rather useful to me. I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to this male panelist because he did seem to backtrack after she made a response back to him. However, it goes to show how some men don’t necessarily understand our struggle with sexual violence especially when it’s specifically isolated to our sex.
Overall I had a great experience at Convergence, but I will say this panel left a bad taste in my mouth. This could have been avoided if more persons of color and women were added to this panel. If you happen to be on a panel where the panelists are one dimensional, I would involve more audience participation to retain an adequate discussion among certain topics in society. Let me know in the comments section if you have ever had an experience like this with attending a panel at a convention, I’d like to hear about it.