Pocket Guide to some of the claims Tumblr blog medievalpoc IS and IS NOT making
medievalpoc is NOT claiming:
- that in mediaeval Europe, there were lots of people of colour everywhere
- that perceptions of race have always been the same, everywhere
- that fantasy and historical fiction and games should focus exclusively on people of colour, no white characters allowed any more
- that all important inventions and achievements were the work of POC and white people have never done anything cool
- that everything on their blog is about the mediaeval period because the word ‘medieval’ is in the URL
- that everything on their blog is 100% accurate
- that Beethoven was totally black, you guys.
medievalpoc IS claiming:
- that throughout the history of Europe, people of colour have been present in various places at various times, some as visitors, some as residents, and contemporary works of art provide evidence of this. This is because international trade, travel and migration have always been part of human life. There was never a time when Europe was exclusively white-populated and had no contact with other parts of the world.
- perceptions of race have changed over time and are different in different cultures; they are observing from the perspective of an American applying Critical Race Theory to art history and historiography
- 'historical accuracy' is not a valid reason to have no POC characters in fantasy and historical fiction and games. For many times and places, it would be more accurate to include some. It is not fair or honest for white people to claim ownership of Europe’s history and mythology and exclude POC. Diversity makes these genres more interesting, and enjoyable for more people.
- POC have been responsible for many noteworthy inventions and achievements, but in the teaching of history and art history in the United States of America (the blogger can only comment on the education system with which they are familiar), they are frequently minimised or left out altogether. This is wrong and needs to be remedied, because it is unfair to students of colour and reinforces racism in white students.
- their blog started out focusing on mediaeval depictions of POC and then grew; also, terms like ‘mediaeval’ and divisions of history into distinct periods are artificial and applied by modern historians. They can create a false impression in students that history happened in neatly compartmentalised stages. That doesn’t mean they are useless terms but we need to be aware of it when we use them.
- that they are as capable of error as anyone else and accept corrections and clarifications. It’s just that ‘everyone knows’ is not valid supporting evidence for a correction. They provide links to sources for their claims and expect anyone disagreeing with them to do the same. Some of their sources are in conflict with each other. This reflects the fact that the writing of history is not objective and unified.
- some people who knew Beethoven when he was alive commented in surviving documents that he sure looked black to them. There is no possible way of knowing what race Beethoven would be considered (or would identify as) if he were alive today. This is interesting! Nobody should feel threatened by it.
No idea if anything specific prompted this post but I mostly agree with it. I especially appreciate the summary of the whole Beethoven thing, that gets out of hand pretty quickly and no one can seem to stay grounded in what the conversation’s actually about.