I am a tad overwhelmed. I’m very tired of clearing messages (
fifteen er twenty today) telling me how racist I am and what a shitty poet etc etc. The best though was the accusation that I am bullying the Paris Review.
Because obviously a relatively unknown Black writer from Seattle has the power to bully the Paris Review.
Okay so here’s the thing and I want this to be absolutely clear because I think some folks have got it twisted.
I don’t actually give a hot shit about Seidel’s work. After I read the piece on PR I read some of his other work and frankly it is just not my jam. I don’t give a shit.
The thing I care about is the usual response to Black people’s pain. White people running us over to make their own pain the focal point. I care about a publication I have read for most of my life when I have been able to, doing the same shit again.
My hope that a highly visible publication would take the opportunity to say to everyone these are the voices we need right now has just been dashed. No fuck that. My hopes that the mainstream literary community would step up in a time of such great need has been shit on, set on fire and tossed.
This was a chance for an organization to say loudly and without qualification, Black Voices Matter right now and we are here for it.
Now is the moment.
Now is not the time to make White voices the voices. That is how everything is all the time. Literature is now and has been the outlet for every White opinion ever about everything.
And yet, people keep telling me that those are the voices to be given primacy right now.
Because that’s how it always is.
I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing that if we damn loud ass Negroes want to be heard to do it ourselves. And when we do that, White people run in to make sure they get their piece. Or when we have the audacity to hint that maybe we know a little something something about an issue, we’re “reverse racists” and oppressing the White Voice.
This is me and I am fucking exhausted.
Why at this point in time, in 2014 when so many White people want to claim to be anti-racist is it so goddamn hard to admit that sometimes, their voices are not the ones that need to be heard?
That maybe Black Lives Matter is a.) something being said, because clearly culturally America doesn’t believe it and b.) such a controversial thought, that Black people specifically matter.
And before anyone busts in here with that “all people” bullshit let me shut it down.
If you would not walk into a Breast cancer awareness event saying, ALL CANCERS. If you would not walk into a stranger’s funeral and say, BUT I KNOW DEAD PEOPLE TOO, shut the fuck up and work it the fuck out. If you cannot abide the idea that Black people need and want to make it clear that we matter, you have some racist shit to deal with and I am not here for that.
We live in the fucking future. It is 2014. Even a publication as old as the Paris Review knows this. They have a social media person I’ve followed them (I have unfollowed).
It took me approximately two minutes on google to find over a thousand amazing poems written by Black people young and old, known and unknown. THOUSANDS.
And they chose Seidel.
I took to facebook and searched the hashtag #BlackPoetsSpeakOut.
THOUSANDS OF POEMS.
How is it that while working my dayjob, writing a fiction piece and eating I could find current amazing poetry by Black people that could fill forty five Paris Reviews and they picked an old White Man.
That is what this is about.
It’s not about the quality of the poem. He can write whatever he wants to.
It is about the gatekeepers of the literary canon in this case the Paris Review isn’t coming through.
It is about how disgusting it is to me that organizations that wield power in the lit world in a real big way, didn’t do shit.
This happens over and over again.
Don’t get it twisted.
I don’t care about how that crusty ass old man writes his poems or what he writes about.
I don’t care if EVERYONE writes about Ferguson.
I care about representation and the missed opportunity to show that that Black lives and Black voices matter.
Understand that White folks you can write a million poems about Ferguson, Eric Garner, lynching, racism whatever. Just remember that when you prioritize your own voices over the voices of those of us living this shit, you are upholding White Supremacy and taking the easy way out of owning your own racism.
And we see you.
We. See. You.
For those of you who want to see what Black poets are saying I’ll make it easy for you. Check out this tumblr project and listen to every single poem.