This past fall, my research assistant and I searched YouTube for “black Star Wars fans” and discovered the video excerpted above, an invitation by Amiyrah Martin and her husband to connect with others like them. One of two relevant results, it had fewer than seven hundred views and just over a dozen comments over its three and a half years online. We knew that, even if all things were equal, videos addressing minority identities in fanship would be few. But this experience showed what a disproportionately small sliver they comprise.
Minority fans have needs distinctive from those of their white counterparts, who seem to come equipped with what Peggy McIntosh might call an Invisible Jetpack, a set of privileges that gives them the option to enjoy things in a totally recreational way. Minority fans would like affirmation of racial perspectives, freedom from microaggressions, and respite from intersections of race, class & gender that make engagement with geek culture an additional site of racial labor.
Spaces taken for granted to be nurturing for minority fans actually present them with challenges. You may be the only geek in the extended family, leading to questions about your maturity in racial ways. Friends with similar backgrounds may consider your interests “white stuff.” New acquaintances may want to talk about more important topics before the frivolities of fan culture.
Regardless, even if the mainstream ignores trends in representation, they keep track. Even if dressing up involves justifying their racialized bodies, they enjoy cosplay. Even if fandom gives them a sense of isolation, they “geek out” as deeply as any (as Amiyrah’s video attests). Supportive spaces have emerged on social media, through blogs like The Nerds of Color, Twitter feeds like @blackgirlnerds, and Tumblrs like MCU Fandom Hates People of Color. Still, these give occasional relief, leaving issues of inclusion, representation, and validation bound to the popular culture they love.