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This answer was deleted by a mod.

Why was it deleted?

The comments argue that it doesn't address the question. I'd like to argue that it does, although not directly. (The answer concludes that Hermione is white, because it wasn't specified otherwise).

However, that doesn't seem like a good reason to delete the answer. Instead, its merits should be judged by the vote. It clearly isn't spam, it's not rude or abusive, and — as I've argued — it's not that clearly not an answer to have it deleted for that reason.

As such, I'd like to request it undeleted.

deleted answer

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    I agree with @SQB and believe that the answer in question, which is both sourced and well-reasoned, should be undeleted. – Dr R Dizzle Oct 20 '15 at 9:42
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    "That is the point of my answer: there is no example of JKR explicitly saying "Character x is white" because our society and language automatically assumes this." is the only part that is an answer. The rest is a borderline rant. (Note: I did not flag/vote to delete.) – phantom42 Oct 20 '15 at 10:50
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    I don't see why the answer was deleted, as it was clearly well thought out and a lot of work went into it. It seems a bit controversial judging by the downvotes, but it's actually a really good answer to an awkward question. We could ask "Is x really white?" where x is basically any character in fiction where it isn't specifically stated. – Theik Oct 20 '15 at 11:12
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    @phantom42 It comes across as a little rant-y, but that's just the way the answerer wrote it - everything in the answer is explaining the ultimate point of "we assume whiteness", with sources to back it up. It's a good answer in my opinion (although admittedly, not what I would imagine the asker had in mind). – Dr R Dizzle Oct 20 '15 at 11:33
  • @phantom42 I've just edited it to remove the more "rant-y" aspects of the answer anyway. See what you think. – Dr R Dizzle Oct 20 '15 at 11:36
  • hi everyone: I wrote the answer, I obviously have thoughts about it, but I'm not sure if here or now is the time to express them. That said, @DrRDizzle I rolled back part of your edit (the one where you removed the big paragraph). I appreciate how you are trying to make the answer more accessible, but the answer is going to get downvoted no matter what, and I would prefer if it got downvoted with that paragraph in it than without. (I understand that leaving the paragraph in the answer will make it less likely for it to be undeleted, but I don't really care about that). – user1807 Oct 20 '15 at 14:35
  • @Theik I didn't spend that long writing the answer – user1807 Oct 20 '15 at 14:43
  • @DrRDizzle to clarify, I'm fine if you change the wording of anything in the answer, but I would prefer if you didn't remove any substantial arguments. – user1807 Oct 20 '15 at 14:47
  • @Hamlet Understandable, I won't argue with you. – Dr R Dizzle Oct 20 '15 at 14:55
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    I'd be interested to see a mod's thoughts on the matter, but I agree that it should be undeleted. Although I don't think it's good, for a large number of reasons, it does appear to be a good-faith attempt to answer – Jason Baker Oct 20 '15 at 15:00
  • @DrRDizzle I would remove that paragraph if it was included to bring up a political point for the sake of bringing up a political point. But my only goal in writing that paragraph was to answer the question asked by Richard. Looking at the answer a day latter, I would argue that the paragraph is crucial to understanding why Hermione is white. – user1807 Oct 20 '15 at 16:49
  • @Hamlet In my eyes the paragraph in question was extraneous the actual point of your answer, but like I said, I'm not going to argue with you. – Dr R Dizzle Oct 20 '15 at 16:57
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Even though I hadn't read Keen's post, on first reading of the question, I initially thought it fell into this criteria:

...entirely tangential commentary...

Which to me is also grounds for deletion.

But after being prompted by this meta post I'd like to think the answer is not entriely tangential. Especially after Kevin's edit.

I'm happy it got undeleted, and I'm sorry we had to go through this rigamarole.

  • Thank you Pureferret; I appreciate your response. That said, I would feel better about it if you took a look at the answer Jon Ericson wrote in response to the deleting of my answer. I think several mistakes were made by several people regarding the moderation of that question (not just my answer). It would be a shame if the moderators of this site didn't take the opportunity to learn from those mistakes. (To clarify, I'm not assigning blame to anyone.) – user1807 Oct 21 '15 at 5:53
  • @Hamlet - What mistakes do you feel were made? – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 12:15
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    @Richard my answer was deleted about thirty minutes after I posted it. In contrast, there were several offensive comments that were left up for about a day. These comments weren't from a couple of bad apples; they were from people, as Jon said, "who really should have known better". I could get more specific, but I think this is something that the community managers and the moderators need to work out. – user1807 Oct 21 '15 at 15:49
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According to Keen's answer,

(...)
I don't delete anything that's a non-joke attempt at answering the question, even if that answer is buried in a little cruft. If a post is entirely tangential commentary, a comment/reply to another answer, or trolling/offensive/spam, then I delete. But if the post makes some attempt to answer the question, I don't delete it.
(...)

So if that's in line with this stack's or even SE's policy, the answer shouldn't be deleted.

  • My only guess based on this is that somebody flagged it as offensive for some reason. – Theik Oct 20 '15 at 12:22
  • I can see why this answer is on borderline. On the one hand, there's some good, relevant points, backed up with relevant links - it begins as an honest attempt at an answer. On the other hand, it goes way beyond those into off-topic socio-political soap-box territory. I'd say edit, then if (as has actually happened) it's rolled back, delete reluctantly, and encourage someone else to make a variant of the "in literature, the most common race of the work's setting is the default" argument – user56reinstatemonica8 Oct 20 '15 at 15:16
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    @user568458 encourage someone else to make a variant of the "in literature, the most common race of the work's setting is the default" argument -- that might be right, and it might not be. I'm going to do some research into non-western literature to see if that is the case. However, you should consider that (a) the majority of non-western countries have experienced colonialism, which is always accompanied with white supremacism, and (b) race is a social construct, which means that other cultures think and talk about race differently. – user1807 Oct 20 '15 at 17:15
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As soon as I saw the title of the question, I recalled a quotation from Ursula K. Le Guin on the protagonist of her Earthsea stories:

The fantasy tradition I was writing in came from Northern Europe, which is why it was about white people. I'm white, but not European. My people could be any color I liked, and I like red and brown and black. I was a little wily about my color scheme. I figured some white kids (the books were published for "young adults") might not identify straight off with a brown kid, so I kind of eased the information about skin color in by degrees—hoping that the reader would get "into Ged's skin" and only then discover it wasn't a white one.

. . .

I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don't notice, don't care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being "colorblind." Nobody else does.

Agree or disagree with her politics, I hope you can see the important point this author makes about the art of writing and, in particular, the importance of leaving some details open to interpretation in order to engage readers. (As an aside, I did not notice the color of Ged's skin when I read the novels as a young adult. It would very likely have bothered me if I had.)

J. K. Rowling, however, is a different author who had different concerns with her characters. Unless she says something explicitly (either in the novels themselves or while talking about the novels) the answers to the question must be guesswork. Even something seemingly clear as cover art can deceive. Here's Le Guin again:

Gradually I got a little more clout, a little more say-so about covers. And very, very, very gradually publishers may be beginning to lose their blind fear of putting a nonwhite face on the cover of a book. "Hurts sales, hurts sales" is the mantra. Yeah, so? On my books, Ged with a white face is a lie, a betrayal—a betrayal of the book, and of the potential reader.

I get that questions like these can be a fun way to explore the universes that we love and wish to inhabit as readers. But it's very dangerous to encourage guesses of one sort and delete guesses of another. Agree or disagree with the proposed solution (when using English, the unspoken default race is white), it functions the same way as the other answers on the page. I think it a positive result that the answer has been undeleted.

Let's talk about race and this site.

A few years ago, when I first started work as a Community Manager, I ran across a controversy on this site about race. It was notable to me since I never thought that a site about Science Fiction would have this sort of incident. In the years since I have learned I was utterly naive. For whatever reason this topic is a hotbed of controversy about race. I would not have predicted such a thing.

The comments surrounding this question are, unfortunately, yet another example of a mean-spirited debate about race on this site. Thankfully the comments have been deleted, but not before the targets of the comments saw them and received the message. I won't republish the nastiness, but I will say that lots of people who really should know better left comments that fall short of the standard set out in our be nice policy.

I don't know much about this community or the questions asked here. I'm probably seeing the worst examples that get pointed out to me because of my position. But my impression is that this community is unable to hold a civil conversation about race (or, for that matter, gender). I would suggest that this community decide to not put up with this sort of embarrassing behavior. That may very well mean closing questions about race. (Not, I should hasten to say, because they don't belong on the site, but rather because the site lacks maturity when it comes to the topic.) It probably means timed suspensions for those who are unable to control their comments and say regrettable things. It definitely means aggressively deleting content that is not welcome on Stack Exchange sites.

This site is supposed to be fun. Nobody is paid to answer questions. Our moderators volunteer their time to keep the place orderly; they wouldn't if they didn't enjoy caring for this community. If you are having fun, I'm glad for you. But just be sure you aren't having your fun at the expense of others.

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    Deleting whole questions because of the comments of some immature people seems very heavy handed. Also I don't appreciate you painting the whole Sci-FI SE community as unable to discuss race or gender, based on the actions of a handful. Better just to correct and, if necessary, punish those individuals. – Reinstate Monica Oct 21 '15 at 9:15
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    @Wikis - From what I've seen, it's certain users who seem incapable of having a civil discussion about race, either because they have a radical agenda they're seeking to promote ("race doesn't exist!!") or because they're offended by the mere suggestion that their favourite character might not conform to their own headcanon ("Hermione can't be because I don't think she is!!)". In neither case should we be considering closing questions that ask about race because individuals can't discourse appropriately. – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 12:11
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    @Wikis - I'm in complete agreement with you. Aside from a couple of individuals who seem hell-bent on using the comments to advance their own personal agendas, the answers received have been of a high quality and the question itself generally well-received by the community. – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 12:17
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    @Wikis: The deletions I was talking about were the comments, not necessarily whole questions. If this were the first time such an incident had occurred here, I'd say that the bad apple theory is most likely. But it's not. The pattern I've seen is that people tend to engage with escalating comments rather than just flagging stuff and moving on. Of course, as I said, I don't really know the community. I'm just dropping in here because I ran across this question by chance. If there is a problem, I won't be able to fix it. But I can (and hopefully have) convinced y'all to consider the possibility. – Jon Ericson Oct 21 '15 at 18:01
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    @Richard: Since you mentioned your question, it seems like the question itself was probably more antagonistic than you intended. I personally think the "Hermione is a person of color" theory is based more on what people wish were true then anything to be found in the books or Rowling's comments on them. But the way you phrased the question runs into what I call the stump-the-chumps problem. I don't think it's a fatal problem, but it does increase the odds that people will react poorly. – Jon Ericson Oct 21 '15 at 18:07
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    @JonEricson - I think the issue here is the implication (intended or otherwise) that the question was being used to advance an argument one way or another. I would have been delighted with an answer that conclusively confirmed her racial origins either way. – Valorum Oct 21 '15 at 18:12
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    @Richard I don't think Jon was talking about your intentions when writing the answer. I think he was talking about how other people responded to your question. I believe you when you say that you didn't intend to advance an argument, but I think it's also possible that some people interpreted your question that way. – user1807 Oct 22 '15 at 2:39
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    Damn. Couldn't you split up your answer into 2 halves please? You say some very wise things in the first half that are begging for an upvote (too bad you didn't mention Heinlein and Johnny Rico being stealth-introduced as Philipio). Then you go ahead and follow it up with utterly disagreeable and downvotable proposal that doesn't seem in any way, shape or form informed by the answer's first half. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '15 at 17:07
  • @DVK: I did happen to see that question while researching this answer: good stuff. I'd like to see more of that sort of question. It helps that the question springs from the text of the novel itself and not from some random post on the internet Skeptics-style. But the fact remains: lots of people who should know better said some inconsiderate things on this question and it's not the first time I've witnessed the problem. I see the two halves as linked: the content visible on the site is great; the parts deleted are appalling. There's no reason not to have the one without the other. – Jon Ericson Oct 22 '15 at 17:59
  • @JonEricson - when I posted my questions about Blechdel test, half the people (all high rep, respected site members) rudely disliked that I posted anything that takes Blechdel test seriously; and half disliked that I was making a mockery of Blechdel test (ignoring the fact that my questions had solid explanation why the specific movies being asked about warranted the question) - up to and including rude chat comments. People are just naturally nasty when things involve their pet politics, in any direction. The fault wasn't with the question, it was with the response to it. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 22 '15 at 18:36
  • @DVK I had a similar experience with my answer: several users, including some "respected" and high-rep users left insulting comments. That said, what made me upset was that while my answer was deleted about thirty minutes after I posted it, those comments were left up for about a day. I personally would say that the moderators of this site need to rethink how they approached their moderation of the question. I think it's possible that the wording of the question may have contributed to the vitriol, but the people who left comments should (ultimately) be held responsible. – user1807 Oct 22 '15 at 22:03
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    @Hamlet - I have no idea why timing was what it was, but FYI, as far as technology goes, the comments on a deleted answer aren't visible to anyone who can't see the answer itself (most users on the site) so they are as effectively gone as the answer itself. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 23 '15 at 1:01
  • @DVK Still, comments can be hard-deleted so that they're visible only to mods, while deleted posts are visible to anybody with 10k rep. – Rand al'Thor Dec 14 '15 at 14:13
  • @randal'thor - did you just comment on this to get a secret hat? :) Seriously, that's correct, but there's so few 10K+ users that I'm not sure it makes much practical difference in most cases (since the concern is mostly how the site comes along to a mass of users) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 14 '15 at 17:24

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