I’m going to say something that will upset some of you and I want you to sit with it.
The only people who complain in earnest about diversity are White people.
Among the things I’ve heard about books, stories, etc that don’t feature attractive able bodied White people under the guise of “free expression” and the dreaded fear or being PC (note this isn’t verbatim because I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus):
- But WHY does X character have to be described as “disabled”
- That can’t be historically accurate. (In the context of a high fantasy story with an explicitly Chinese character)
- I don’t understand the dialect (In the context of AAVE used in a story, this person I recall is an AVID Trainspotting fan)
- Disabled AND Queer?
- Why did you force Black people into this story?
Here is the thing I don’t actually understand about White people who say these things.
Do you not know that there are in fact, actual humans who are disabled and queer and not White? I mean, if the presence of the other in fiction is such a deal breaker, how do you deal with it in real life? If you see someone using a wheelchair on the street do you walk up to them and ask them if they are just being PC by being a person using a wheelchair?
If you see Brown or Black queer people who might also be disabled is your whole mind blown by the fact that they can be those things at once?
If you find out that say a Black lady like myself is SUPER nerd like into space, fairies, Star Trek and sharks does that freak you out?
As far as historical accuracy goes. Can someone please explain to me in a clear, non racist rational way how it is that one can suspend disbelief for talking dragons, fairies, pixies, shrikes, wargs, mother fucking Odin, Loki, etc. etc., but having a not White character who is not just a mishmash of stereotypes, or more than a two dimensional fuckhole for some hero completely ruins the historical factual accuracy of a story?
How fragile must a person be that when they don’t see their reflection in everything, suddenly they just can’t understand anything, can’t relate to anything, it’s all just SO PC to include people who aren’t them…I just don’t understand.
If it’s not based in hatred that is fueled by fear, how does something like the Sad Puppies/Hugo thing take hold like that?
If it’s not panic based on fear of the other why would people still be so up in arms about K. Tempest Bradford’s challenge to try reading people other than straight White Cis dudes?
The people who get so enraged about there being diversity in literature, whether it is SF/F/H or Literary, I know are not dumb. I know that they have probably read books for a long time and are probably aware that especially in the context of the Western Literary Canon it has been overwhelmingly run by cis, straight, White Dudes.
In terms of American writers and readers, especially of the Sad Puppy/WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE MEN sorts, while once upon a time that whole thing just made me angry now I feel pity.
I fully believe that this rage and panic that comes out in these racist, sexist, homophobic movements is a result of not understanding that it is not necessary to be the center of all things at all times in the whole world.
I understand that it can feel intimidating and awful when your voice isn’t the central voice of all things. It takes some work to get used to.
What I don’t understand is this prevailing idea that somehow the inclusion of or even centering of the other equates censorship.
Or that a community saying, hey, this is not the world we want to live in so no you can’t come in equates censorship.
I desperately want to believe that these people who engage in this behavior fundamentally understand the vast differences between censorship, community standards and whatnot.
Ultimately, these behaviors. These indignant responses to the audacity of people not White to demand space, to write stories, to be represented even when they have some unbelievable combo of human traits that seems just so PC- this is what is killing literature.
Literature regardless of genre or level of award being given, it is not a wee tiny box. Art is not a finite resource.
We live in the fucking future man. I mean, right now I can go to several websites I can think of and spend a few bucks and instantly have things to read.
Right now, I can go to google and enter a phrase like “queer science fiction” or “Black author” and find an entire universe of things to read.
Shit does not always have to go to such a shit place White people. It really doesn’t.
And I encourage White readers and writers to do some serious work. Think about the fact that we exist. Yes, all of us weird others with the disabilities, and sexualities and whatnot. We walk around in the real world and a lot of us are walking around in fictional ones too.
Our existence and presence isn’t something to be jammed into a story for PCness.
It is because we are here. We want to be in fictional worlds too.
As much as you might love GoT or whatever fantasy series and see yourself as the hero or the dragon or elf or whatever, we want that too.
Ask yourself and be very, very honest, get deep and go the fuck in, why is it that my face can jar, you out of a fantasy story or make a story unbelievable:
But seeing this in your imagination is totally fine:
Ask yourself why is it easier to imagine a dragon than it is to imagine someone not White in what you’re reading?
Or if you can’t ask yourself. Take this opportunity to explain it to me.
The challenge as I said above is don’t be any of the following: