A friend of mine recently asked me to explain a little more about privilege and writing and my experiences.
A tall order but I have an example that is pretty clearly privilege at work with a healthy dash of racism and sexism.
Background information. About five years ago or so I joined an online writers group. I did not use my actual name so I couldn’t be googled, I used a very non telling email address. I lurked for a while and posted a small story.
I wish I still had the story. It was mostly (James Frey’d style) autobiographical and about an experience I had with the police that was humiliating and awful and very race based.
The critiques focused not on the actual content of the story but I was informed that my Black character didn’t “seem” Black really, it was suggested that I talk to some Black people, there was the statement that it didn’t “seem” like a “real racism experience”.
Now the thing is, I did not use any kind of culturally identifiable “urban” (as someone pointed out) speech and therefore the Black character was seen as being inauthentic. A lot of responses referenced Hip Hop MTV culture, questioned the idea that a young Black woman would be wearing business casual for a job. Etc.
I with I’d saved the responses, I was too pissed off at the time though.
I did respond at great length but it boiled down to the fact that a.) it was assumed that I was a White man and b.) Black people are not only the people you see on television.
I was asked to cease participating at some point, I was enraged but there wasn’t anything I could do.
However there was a single author who did email me off the list to talk about it. He did the exact right thing. First off he apologized for presuming and asked me to break it down for him.
This quote from Rupaul sums it up nicely-
My goal is to always come from a place of love, but sometimes you just have to break it down for a motherfucker.
That one incident illustrated a lot of what I mean when I’m talking about these things.
On one hand my social justice minded self wants to open up dialogues and all that shit.
However, it’s frankly exhausting at times. I will be honest and say that it’s tiring to me when I read stories full of Sassy Black Lady tropes and Mandingo fantasies. It’s exhausting. Double consciousness is exhausting.
It’s exhausting and emotionally draining to have to explain to someone that X thing comes from Nigeria or how offensive it is to have my ethnicity doubted (yes it has happened).
I wish, far too often I think that I was not conscious of these things. I wish I was one of those people who can cruise through life without seeing the intersections of these things. I wish I didn’t have the drive to address and deal with them.
Lately I’m having problems finding the balance. Writing it down helps a little bit.
I’m not entirely sure why I can’t shake these thoughts at the moment. I would like to think there is an epiphany on the horizon. One of those breakthroughs that get me past this problem and on to the next one.
I just don’t know.
I still have 9 pieces out in the wild. Still very excited about being in the next issue of Scissors and Spackle. I really need to update my website. I have so far sold 11 copies of my tiny fiction collection. If you’d like a copy click on the sidebar. Use coupon code KW99U and get it for 2.20$.
I realized the other day I lost a bunch of work and I’m depressed about that but I will soldier on. Today I’m working on a new little story. I’m not sure what it is yet so I don’t want to say.
Tomorrow I’ll do a link round up of pretty things.
Also, Antonia I adore you.