GUESS who is back on their bullshit? YEP yo problematic fave.
I’ve been hard at work and I’ve been digging deep into my archives of fiction that I abandoned for various reasons. As much as I talk about how important to me it is to be writing what the fuck I want to write, I still have reservations and fears in terms of genre and style etc.
For me, reconnecting with genre work has been a long ass hard road. I follow a lot of genre related folks, mags, editors, writers etc. One of the things that I still struggle with is that as much as I read, I often feel like my ideas, the methods in which my Blackness informs my work, is a problem.
It is the type of cognitive dissonance that for me personally is just, so weird. I will watch folks talk and talk and talk diversity but, I still find a lot of places lacking. I have such a need to see a broader acceptance of Black narratives. The narratives that aren’t super comfortable.
Now that I have some distance on writing racial pain porn for pennies, I’ve found an old want and am able to fulfill it for myself. If you’ve been here for a minute y’all know that at the root of my work is the need to create representation. Until now, I have really wanted to find joy in representation, in creating something that is just enough to get me a seat near the table.
I wanted to be at the table.
Somewhere in my quest to provide the representation, things felt grim. Of course I’ve had the Daiyuverse but, things were feeling a bit lacking. I felt kind of constrained.
Representation by itself is not enough. It is great. It is my dream. But, it is not enough to sustain me in my creative life.
So, I let it go.
And then, I started fictioning again and I’ve found my joy again.
I’m remembering that I don’t have to give a certain narrative about or around Blackness. That I can do what the fuck I want and still represent.
To the end of joy and shit I love doing, here’s a bite of the fantasy story I am retooling.
The King came out of the privy still buttoning her breeches, her sword clanking on her hip.“So, I looked at him dead in his Gods Damned eye and said no but I’ll sit on her-“Her ribald story came to as abrupt a halt as she did. Standing right there, one ear turning, tail swishing, was the cat woman. She stared up at the King with her enormous pumpkin colored eyes.
“You’d sit on her what your majesty?”Her whiskers twitched. The King stammered and dropped to one knee, unfortunately her breeches were loose and several men got a good half moon. She was too rapt to feel the breeze across her crack.“I, I oh please a thousand pardons Lady Cat. I hope I haven’t offended you. May I ask, what is your name?”
Recently, I had an essay published in one of my bucketlist magazines. See it here at The Offing. I have a story to tell y’all about publishing and what happens when you are in fact too much.
That essay came about because I was contacted by an editor I am familiar with and they asked if I could do a piece about race and gender. The first version of this essay was more dry. It lacked flavor to me and I felt like I was trying to engage too many things when this story was very enclosed to me. The original version had lukewarm feedback and the editor wanted more.
I did this version and to me this is it. I’ve been experimenting with trying to place more literary styled essays in not lit mags specifically. A successful example of that is here at Wear Your Voice.
Editor #1 had reservations. Some of their feedback:
I lead with fear of death as a Black Man
I refer to my masculine gender expression with a personified phrase “the boy”.
However, the most tap danced around feedback came down to the fact that this work doesn’t engage with gender in the way that they wanted. They wanted Sassy Black Queen and got Terrified Black Femme. The suggested edits stripped specific mention of Blackness to turn it into a #metoo piece without the connective tissue.
A story that is not mine.
I decided not to go further with that editor because the story they wanted was a pastel version of my story with a rainbow on it and not a memory and meditation on a real fear in my life.
I shopped the piece as it appears at The Offing around for a while. Most responses were lukewarm and boiled down to, yes this but not like this.
Much of the feedback was tentative and trying very hard not to say, this is way too Black while saying, this is way too Black. One editor said that they didn’t think it was broad enough. For a memoir based issue of a magazine. I read broad as relatable to White folks and I noped out. The feedback was never about the quality of the piece. Every editor said the work was solid, it was always related to my expression of Gender, Blackness and fear.
The problem here is this. If you are not a marginalized person and you are seeking work from marginalized people, insisting on “broader relatability” backfires. You won’t get authentic work. You won’t get the best work. If you can’t engage with things that aren’t strictly uplift, either mention it up front or don’t seek the work.
This is the same problem I talked about in this entry, When in the Wear Your Voice piece I talk about being denied humanity, this is what I am talking about. I am talking about the idea that work from marginalized people must be palatable to whiteness is to deny us our humanity. When folks insist that, my story about gender expression and sexual harassment end on a more chipper note, that is a denial of what actually happened.
To demand this shiny version of someone, the happy ending, the creator is turned into a 2d version of themselves and that is erasure and it feels shitty. You can’t ask for the realness of talking about identity, and then say, no not like that. It just don’t work.
Back to the piece at the Offing. Chanda specifically told me they loved it and it made me cry. I’d put it on Etsy for a minute because y’all know that’s how I do. If I can’t sell a piece to a magazine I’ll do that. Or put it on Medium etc. Or tuck it away for later. Here’s the thing.
My experience with gender expression isn’t theirs and yet, they still enjoyed the work. I’ve heard from readers who are White cis folks who felt something and enjoyed the work. Some folks who read the piece thinking it would just be a nice read because they are not Black Femmes and found some part of themselves in the work.
And it is, what it is.
A note for editors.
If you want to feature or highlight marginalized folks, take what they give you. Don’t try and plasticize it or tone it down or make it nice for non marginalized folks to read. Be uncomfortable. Be willing to let your readership be uncomfortable because, isn’t that what art is.
I’m anxious today and as is my habit I turned to an old fave audiobook for comfort. If you know me you probably already know that the Gunslinger is one of my favorite worlds and I put on the audiobook as done by one of my favorite narrators.
Until as with so many of Kings other books, somebody had to go on a nigger rant. In audio it’s fucked. There was another of the series I was listening to and it was a good solid five minutes of nigger nigger nigger and y’all. I took a deep breath and turned it off.
This is the type of moment when being a fan of color really fucking sucks. This is something a lot of fans, especially White fans just will never know the depth of pain this brings up.
With King in particular, almost anytime there is a Black character magical Negro or not, somebody has to be a racist. The constancy of this across his books is tiring.
I wish Uncle Steve had stayed in his fucking lane. Yes, we know there is racism. Yes, we negros even us magical negroes know that since time immemorial, some angry White person is gonna go on a slur filled rant. We been living it and we really don’t need it in ALL of the stories.
This is also why way back when, I had such an issue with the GOT books. How many times do we need to hear that Brienne needs to be raped or somebody needs dick or someone else needs to be raped, or that the Brown people are spicy or whatever.
I reviewed some edgy horror book a while back and part of the big scare was the unnamed scary Hood Negroes.
As get older, my coping mechanisms get fewer and far between. My tolerance for the lazy reliance on racism whether overt or not, or true to a region or not, or “historically accurate” (cause dragons=totally real, not being racist=whoa there) is shrinking with every disappointment. Every revisit to something I thought I loved and that I realize yet again, these aren’t worlds I am allowed to sink into without being put in my place.
I have some things where I can find some comfort. I’m just finishing the amazing Children of Blood and Bone. I have authors I follow, I save their short stories on my Kindle, I listen to some great fiction podcasts.
And yet, even with all my savvy I can’t always avoid these sinkholes of pain.
And I fell in one today and now I’m just sad and tired.
The partner Uniballer and I almost have our wee fambly moved.
SO Imma talk some shit.
Buckle up babes.
Lately part of me decompressing after doing move related stuff has been research and note taking on what’s going on in the freelance world. Something I keep seeing is bothering the shit out of me.
If you are an editor for whatever publication and are seeking to diversify what you’re doing asking for what you want is great. It is amazing.
How you do it matters.
I’ve seen no less than about ten calls for QTPOC to contribute around places. What isn’t great is when the same editors can’t seem to name or come up with a single QTPOC they’ve published to serve as examples of the work they want. I feel like it leads to some of us side eyeing said editors because, if you have really not published us, why would we trust you with our work?
I had an editor with a call out contact me and on the face of things I was a little titillated. Largeish byline, good money. What I wasn’t so thrilled with was that the subject matter suggested to me had zero to do with what I do. This is an editor I know somewhat casually through friends and when I asked them why contact me with the request and after two weeks now no answer.
Something else I keep seeing is in um, groups of women and women id’d folks and femmes, I keep seeing white women big upping each other or trying to grab at opportunities being offered to QTPOC specifically. Stop.
If you are someone interested in expanding who you publish there are things to think about before you start taking work from folks or asking for it.
Don’t come out of the gate patting yourself on the back.
If you aren’t already publishing QTPOC for example, maybe think about why.
Let’s stop there for a second.
#2 means you have to be about some shit and not just in it to say, LOOK AT THE BROWN PPL I HELPED or whatever white saviour bullshit. #2 means, you have to get very uncomfortable with your own biases.
Let me look at my own back catalog of ghostings and rejections.
I have a longer essay that is written as both memoirish, exposure and an object lesson in how we folks in the Black community MUST do better in order to save our children. I use myself as an example. One rejection said that it was “too focused” on Black people and that I should rework it to try and make it more universal.
I said no thank you and how dare you.
Another rejection came after some go rounds with other editors who were not comfortable with some of the subject material. Was it the childhood suidical ideation? Nope. It was me framing the religion of oppressors as part of why my community is fucked up.
Got a note to submit to a magazine “something really intense and personal that you do so well” (not a direct quote) I did. Ghosted for um, let’s say four months now.
Here’s the thing. Don’t ask for Blackity Blackness, or make it known that you are open to it and then be too uncomfortable to deal with it. I had one editor reject that piece because they “didn’t know how to edit it without coming across racist”.
If you are familiar with a writer enough to say, YO I WANNA PUBLISH YOU. Don’t be shook when they deliver.
I’ll be honest and say the piece I’m talking about needs some extra work but y’all, shit is good.
It is rough.
It will make non Black folks uncomfortable and being uncomfortable is okay.
If you are really into diversifying and using your privileged gatekeeping ass position for the good. You can’t just publish the Nice Negroes/Queers/Brown folks.
On one hand, I suppose that when a lot of our most famous voices write in very particular ways, it is very easy to use them as the measurement of what’s good in terms of stuff outside of your lane. It makes sense.
However, stopping at reading the most famous among us is not going to really help you out in the diversifying your editorial stuff. Some of what you find will in fact hurt your feelings. Some will come from folks who might not seem like the type of folks you want to just hang out with or squee about.
So at this point the decision is, is what do you really want?
Do you want the cachet of saying, you published X famous marginalized writer?
Do you want to really start dismantling the whiteness that is the publishing world?
Do you want to take a risk?
That is where you should start before you ask for shit you ain’t ready for.
Experiences like the one above are really a huge part of why I don’t freelance in a more ambitious way.
Frankly, y’alls. I am not famous enough to be acting up like this. I’m not. I’m not famous enough to say no. I’m not famous enough to be so choosy and so mouthy.
I know I am likely as has bee prophecied by others ruining my tiny career. That’s okay. I’ve accepted my role as Purple Lipstick Wearing Loudmouth.
I’ve got a story in the works that is as I said on facebooks:
A thing i’m working on is a little post apocalypse, a little sf (very soft) with a little sauce of horror. I feel like it is spec fic. Perhaps even a bit Afrofuturist ish. A thing that I’m almost done with and after that will likely have ZERO idea where to submit because I’ve never read anything quite like it AND it has cis people upsetting things like gender fluidity as the norm and as indicated with spelling and punctuation, disabled people and no portal to or from Whiteness.
Now this is a departure from stuff I normally write but I had this wild ass idea I wanted to play with. I started with the question, what would some working class brown queers do in a post (unspecified) apocalypse where capitalism had resettled itself? I wanted to present a world where there are monsters and things are dark but not one where humanity has been regressed to clubs and grunts and learning to poop in the woods.
I also wanted to play with this idea of a sort of future tinker. But tinker not in a disparaging way, more in the holy shit you are amazing way.
There’s some other stuff but that is the gist.
I fucked up. I did something I have not done in a long time. I joined a small loose crit group and sent over the WIP in the post your WIP conversation.
Shit went fucking sideways.
The cis hets were pretending like it is impossible to understand gender fluidity being signaled by language and punctuation.
The white people (most of them in the group) couldn’t understand that these are Black people because I didn’t put neon signs and AAVE in it.
None of the crits I got were based on weird punctuation I was using, nor was it based on me signalling my main characters using ASL and me denoting it with special punctuation, none of it was based on my hella soft sf and non disclosure of what the monsters are exactly.
It was entirely gender and race.
*Insert the longest sigh here.*
None of them commented on my use of language, or remarked on me asking about the use of X punctuation vs Italics or something.
…………….crickets on literary shit.
Lots of opinions on why my scenerio is impossible that don’t involve shit like zombie references.
THIS is why the fuck I stopped joining such groups. I left a note for the mods and left.
I am close to done with the piece and would like to see it pubbed somewhere good. For to steal a Deadpool phrase, dick kicking revenge.
I dunno. Shit is exhausting y’all.
I am reminded that there are reasons things like VONA exist even if I can’t participate.
Want a bite of the thing?
Here ya go:
“Let’s retire and have some babies. Bae, really? You want to make babies with me?” They hadn’t really discussed the idea, people in their position in life generally didn’t. Babies were a time sink and not really something people who grew up in the Dirty districts of the cities thought about. Sure, they happened sometimes but it was never something to be planned, never something to be cherished. Khalid/a smiled, feeling Viola rumble and yammer her pleasure. Their head turned slightly, one slim brown hand gesturing. “Sweetie, I can’t hear you.”
My move is still full of fuck and terrible so, posting shall remain erratic until life is less bullshit.
Recently (again) someone is not supervising a very famous white writer and their use of social media and she has been (again) showing her whole ass.
This time it is presumably over the concept of sensitivity readers.
Every time I see (usually) some white writer get their drawers in a wad it goes like this:
OMG I WRITE WHAT I WANT!
HOW DARE YOU CENSOR ME!
I’M NOT RAYCIST UR RAYCIST OMG U RAYYYYYYYYYYYYYCIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIST HOW DARE YOU!
OMG HOW DARE YOU SAY THIS RACIST ASS RACIST THING I WROTE IS RACIST HOW DARE YOU CENSOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!
OMG Y DON’T U FUCKIN BROWN PPL GO DO IT URSELVES GOSH!
Brown (or other marginalized people) do it ourselves:
OMG THIS IS NOT INCLUSIVE!
HAHA SO CALLED DIVERSITY HUH!
OMG UR SO RAYCIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSST!
OMG HOW DARE U DO………………
Let me tell you a thing.
Ahem. Marginalized people being pissed off about racist/ableist/homophobic (pick however many) material being published is not the product of the SJW internet super takeover. Nor is it a result of triggered millennials. If you say that, you obviously have not paid attention to marginalized people for the last I dunno for fucking ever.
The difference now is that we can be heard. We can be in contact with each other and solidarity, when it is not for you is a mother fucker ain’t it? Big publishing houses getting scattered letters from hurt marginalized people is way easier to ignore than an army of us saying, no this is bullshit. Fix it.
I know for a lot of White writers it may be shocking, but most of us others know what you are saying when you refer to us as bullies, when you judge our often very deep and well thought out writings about whatever bullshit is going on as “knee jerk” reactions and you point to other famous white people who have no stake in the game who say it’s no big deal or identity politics ruin everything blabablalba, we see you.
We see you and we know what you mean.
And those who are in the gatekeeping positions, when you outright or low key cosign this shit, we know.
And when you wring your hands and publicly lament the lack of diversity in your magazines and whatnot, well you made that bed booboo.
I will say again that censorship is not made of simply being told that you’ve done/created something that is a problem.
Censorship is not made up of folks seeing what bullshit you’re on and talking about it with or without your participation.
It isn’t even when a bunch of angry people take the internet to tell publishers that we don’t want the shitty shit you made that is harmful to us released.
Why is this not censorship?
Nah. I’m not doing that today.
Also honestly I feel like I’ve written everything serious about this that I want to.
OH I have a new feature at Patreon. I’ll be posting writing craft essays that will appear here later on. The versions here will not usually have whole stories or things attached so, for some crafty goodness come drop a buck a month and get the Daiyuverse AND writing shits.
This post is brought to you by me having to navigate the Default and Correctness of Whiteness in my literary life this week.
A few things.
I’m very low on spoons. I will not link to any of the trash I discuss, you’ll have to google first. Also if you don’t know what I mean by default Whiteness, or Whiteness as a concept and destructive construct, do not comment and be mad. Either google or go watch this puppy video cause shit is about to get real.
There are a few articles going around that are anti-sensitivity reader and I’ve been involved with three very distinct (as in zero overlap) conversations about it with White people who have all made the same assertions that sensitivity editors/readers are:
Looking to profiteer off of censorship.
Will change the voice of the original author.
Don’t know what they are doing.
Are “forcing” identity politics into writing.
Are actively trying to as a whole rook poor White people out of money basically.
AGAIN for the cheap seats. Some things are censorship other things are not. Things that are not censorship*:
Being told no.
Being critiqued and dare say I fucking DRAGGED and publicly read for filth due to writing, editing or publishing fuckshit.
Being told that you’ve written, said, produced or published something actively harmful.
Being called an asshole (taken from a real comment to me by someone RE: the Paris Review post/s I made way back).
Not being given primacy in writing about a thing.
These are things that come up constantly in my lit life. Most of the time cries of censorship begin when White authors feel threatened by POC talking to them about their use of their Whiteness when it is a problem.
By that I mean things like, saying hey just because you can write about something, doesn’t automatically make yours the voice. This is what I was talking about in this entry. And in saying it, I spent months being harassed and often the first “criticism” was that I a writer am pro censorship because I said they could have used the opportunity to feature a Black Poet during such a time of historic Black action.
Here’s the thing. I am against censorship. Censorship as enacted by religious concerns and the government.
Publishing is not magic, it doesn’t happen by vote and publishing companies are not the government. Nobody is entitled to publishing. Nobody is entitled to be the primary voice on an issue just because they can talk.
I go on at length about this because over the past, let me be generous and say five years specifically, it is only White people who apparently lose all ability to think critically and if I a Black person, dare to correct or instruct them, or even just talk about Weaponized Whiteness (and by extension using Whiteness as both Correctness and the Default) suddenly, it is censorship. That is not how censorship works.
Now in the context of a sensitivity reader, the conversations I was a part as if the very idea that they, Paragons of Correct Whiteness they were, could ever fuck up writing something.
Okay look. I fully believe that you and everyone else in the world can write what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want.
I also believe that is you say, write a children’s book that portrays a slave child as a happy little worker yeah, you deserve to get dragged.
Now, what amuses and frustrates me in these things is the assurance that oozes from the assertions of how terrible “identity politics” are and how, if only those people could see, Whitey Whitepants writer didn’t mean to write a racist polemic that would give Lovecraft a boner, GOSH.
Of COURSE a White writer or a straight writer etc who is trying to create or delve into the world of marginalized peoples is going to likely not always do a bang up job. No wait let me put it into a different context.
If you are a nerd like me, you probably see stuff in TV or movies are like, WHO THE FUCK GREENLIT THIS SHIT, THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS…
That’s reasonable right? It’s reasonable to expect that something presented as a professional thing, was researched beyond wiki.
So why would it be any different than writers who are writing say Black folks in their stories to check in with real live Black people to see if they are doing things wrong?
If your voice is so fragile as an author, it can’t withstand something like:
Hey Whitey Whitepants writer, here in chapter 4 you have X character seeming to have an “urban” meltdown calling the one Black character homie over and over again and doing their MTV showed me what Negroes be doin schtick and it is not great for these reasons:
That is how it works. This is a professional service, that is not designed to censor or ruin your precious work. It’s to help you uncenter yourself and your experience and have a moment to connect with your readership on a far deeper level.
The other problem I have is this.
Aside from perambulating around for about 40 years in a Black Queer body, I have been studying, writing about, talking about, dealing with racism for about that long. Depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes (as y’all know if you read me regularly) I use very academic language, sometimes I don’t. I code switch like a mother fucker.
That said, for the last two weeks or so here’s how those conversations have gone. Without rancor on my part.
Person posts link to shitty article about the terrors of Sensitivity readers/editors or posts a link to a blog post by a semi famous White lady writer: OMG They are going to censor us and ruin our work! How terrible! We can’t stand for this.
Me: That is not what sensitivity readers/editors are for. They do (insert examples of stuff they do) nobody -has to use them- dude you’re fine.
Random other White people: fall all over each other to “correct” me (not that they use or have acted as sensitivity readers), explain to me how having this option is automatically censorship, how it is an attempt to co-opt or otherwise fool innocent White writers into being SUPER PC.
Me: ………..no it is just like asking an expert in a field you’re writing in.
Them: NO IT IS NOT.
The problem isn’t the arguments. The problem is that even in instances where I am/have shared my work/thoughts on these things, Whiteness is always given the immediate trust that they are correct. Even when they are loudly proclaiming something that is dead ass wrong.
Then, regardless of what I say or how it is said, it takes another White person to come along and occasionally repeat what I’ve said verbatim and then, OH WOW I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY.
I’ve spoken with MANY poc about this. 90% of the time, we are thought to be wrong. People say things like: knee jerk, bullying, mean, trying to “turn” someone PC, that we’re silencing, pro-censorship.
If the people speaking up happen to be Black women, the language is carefully not overtly racist but, the impression is always either that Black women are mean and aggressive or liars or otherwise are the perpetrators of violence even when what’s actually happened is that folks have been given some high level major education on anti-Blackness.
Intent and impact are vastly different and White folks, men especially if your first instinct is to “prove” someone wrong, maybe it’s time to examine that. More so if part of your remarks are to say that you don’t actually know about the thing and don’t use it.
Now, I could have posted this in the spaces I was talking about but it is easier for me to leave them. As I’ve said many times in the last year, y’all I have written about this shit so fucking much. And you know what the actual worst thing is?
It’s not the Default and Correct Whiteness.
It is the fact that it doesn’t matter how I talk about these things, because I am Black and use words, I’m put into the ANGRY NEGRO corner and then White folks who don’t like what I have to say can be like, oh well you’re so angry I can’t listen to this/take it in.
Tone policed to fucking death.
And I’m not mad. It’s painful.
It hurts to be dismissed out of hand because White is Right.
It hurts because writing and literature have been my driving passions since I read a book about a pregnant dog when I was 3 years old. It is my blood and my bones. It gets me through bullshit ass days at my dayjob. It has led me to meeting some of the most important and most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. It has led me to my chosen family and to a place in my actual soul that feels free. It is my passion and my companion and the work of my heart and I love it so much.
And my love of literature and writing is the only reason why I keep talking about these things. I don’t try to change shit I don’t care about.
And yet, all this passion and there have been moments where I’ve literally said hey, person you are causing me harm right now or I’ve said that I’m hurt and you know what?
I’m not a White woman so White folks are relentless. Harm to me doesn’t exist because I’m always perceived as angry, aggressive and scary.
And after so many years of trying so hard to be a good literary citizen and use my knowledge about these issues to help- I’m just kinda done.
This entry wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a migraine and need to keep my brain busy at work and I needed to get out some hurt without yelling at folks.
The take is this.
When used as the only measure of calm, competency Whiteness will fail. Not only will it fail but in the context of the literary community, will drive folks out and if that’s the point hurrah! If that’s not the intended consequence, then think about how you interact with POC before you decide they are wrong about the thing you don’t even know about.
*There are times when these behaviors are rooted in the spirit of censorship and are actual censorship as in done by the government but we’ll talk about that later.