In my previous blog, I lamented the lack of nuance in everyday society.
Here I am blogging about microagressions--the everyday casualness of racism.
Recently, author Rena Barron on Twitter posted a review of her middle grade story in which the reviewer (clearly white) complimented her book as a good read "for children of African descent."
Imagine the following review--"Harry Potter is a great read for children of European descent." This would never occur. Those with power (people of European heritage) have occupied the position of normal and standard human being and have designated themselves race-less and universal. Their stories are for EVERYONE.
The damage of this labeling is that it tells the audience: "this book/story is only for black people." It limits and racializes non-whites, while conditioning people over hundreds of years to accept only whites as relatable. It alienates, pushes out, and justifies not hiring/using non-whites. Non-whites are 'the other" or abnormal. This lends itself to non-white actors always portraying aliens/fantasy creatures, while whites portray average guys or gals.
I am reminded of romantic movies with black casts that are marketed as "urban comedies" versus similar movies with white casts that are "romantic comedies." Consider the policy of putting books written by black authors in the "African American" section.
I am not a black author. I am an author of Black African heritage. My characters are people, who happen to be black. They are human, written to be read by EVERYONE. I am the girl next door, too. I am the standard human being, too. I am normal, too.
As a Speculative Fiction author, I want my books in the SFF section of the bookstore.
I want to be included in the MAIN SHOW, not the sideshow off to the side. I don't want to be subjected to quotas, "limiting" stereotypes and expectations.
This post is a ramble. To quote Nina Simone, "this is a showtune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet."
I am forever trying to understand my own mind, likes, wants, desires, fears, cares and the whole gestalt of who I am, and what makes me so, and whether I can call myself a good person.
I call myself an empath.
Empathy is intrinsically the base trait of goodness, defined as how we treat/relate to people and living beings around us, even the environment. But, empathy may also leave you vulnerable to abuse, being taken advantage of, being disrespected, and carrying emotional burdens that weigh you down mentally over time.
The moral of this story? Lash out when you're being disrespected, regardless of the consequence.
Over the years, I have worried about the unsaid things that swirl in my mind, what I often refer to as the noumenal locutions that I cannot express, both because I am resentful of needing to do so, and because I simply have difficulty expressing myself, often not being able to find words until well after the fact, and never in the appropriate moment when it matters.
Thoughts and ideas that I struggle to express leave a lacuna between who I am and how i present myself. That Liminal link thins and increasingly makes it hard for me to fully express myself.
Not everyone who claims to be a victim is (and not simply because said person means to deceive-- psychopathy). Sometimes, you can scream and cry that you are right and still not be right.
Lawsuits or tears? Pick your weapon of rightness. We equate tears and cries with victimhood. If you cry, literally or figuritvely, you must be the one worthy of sympathy. But this is not true.
Did Lance Armstrong not sue people who accused him of doping?
As paradoxical as it is, you can like/love a thing and still recognize imperfections and problematic aspects of that thing. I can like Star Trek Discovery, while still admitting that the show has many flaws. Flaws within a thing or person doesn't make them disposable.
I have some thoughts about internet culture, black lives matter, and the frustration of hearing viewpoints dominate the mainstream consciousness that lack , well nuance.
I hate mob mentality.
Internet: you are cancelled.
Me: This is absurd
Internet: Let's get Bill Maher fired
Me: Let's not. He's entitled to his opinions.
Truth: I hate arrogance, vanity, narcissism and phoniness/insincerity. That explains why I hate celebs, which is a generalization (I don't hate all). It explains why I avoid reality show stars, influencers, social media stars, and attention-seekers. And the distaste Prince Harry's wife leaves in my mouth.
Truth: at the end of the day, a person's character matters more than melanin.
My Mind works like this: Nuance
Internet: you're either with us or you're with the terrorist
Me: Here's an analysis of A, B, C, and oh, also, D, E, F, G, H...
Internet: you are blocked/racist.
FACT: Racism exists on a spectrum. You don't have to be a card-carrying Neo-Nazi to be racist or harbor racist sentiment.
Amy Cooper would've voted for Obama a third time if she could.
Internet: only conservatives can be racist
Me: I don't give a damn about your political affiliation
Internet: you give a pass to Justin Trudeau for blackface
Me: I have no power over what Justin Trudeau does/gets
My mind works like this:
Me: Is Lea Michele guilty of racism or bullying/diva antics?
Internet: it does't matter. Her victim is black.
My mind works like this.
Internet: Sasha Exeter is a victim of Jessica Mulroney's white privilege
Me: who's Sasha Exeter?
Internet: Tomi Lahren is racist
Me: I don't care about this person and don't like you putting this person in my consciousness.
Internet: Tomi, Tomi, Tomi
Me: silent pouts, shuts down, shut off device
Critique groups. sigh. These are hard. Your writing/characters are your babies. Hearing others criticize them can be tough.
More than that. It's the type of the criticism that can hit hard. You can give feedback about prose, long, short, dense sentences, or weak verb usage, sure, but when you criticize the essence of the story or who the protagonist is/represents then that becomes a sore issue.
Lately, I have been dealing with criticism that a character from a story I will dub, P isn't likeable. The protagonist is an ailing woman suffering from an unknown illness who's being given the runaround, and who expresses her frustration with this frequently. I have been told she's not sympathetic. She has demonstrated no BAD behavior, with the exception of snapping at her landlady, a woman who says racially insensitive things--and apparently this makes her not likeable or bitchy.
First, let me say that writing black characters, especially black women, is hard. I don't want to write a *strong black woman, angry black woman, or victim. I also don't want to write a character deemed unworthy of sympathy/love. I have received criticism that this character is one, if not all of these.
I have been quite diplomatic about the criticism, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt about their objectivity, even while pushing to know what exactly about this character makes her unsympathetic and unlikeable.
The responses have been --a) she's snappy with the landlady/bitchy, b) we don't know who she is/she's not relatable, c)she's stupid/incompetent.
Part of me cannot help feel that the repeated criticism that this character isn't likeable has much to do with the difficulty society in general has with sympathizing with black women. That said, I am reluctant to make her a sad victim, since society, and the literary world in particular, thrive on black victimhood. I don't want her to be Patsey from 12 Years A Slave, which I often feel is the only type of black women character deemed sympathetic. I don't want to exploit black trauma.
I mainly write characters put upon by the world they live in (in other words, true to life black people). I write characters who grow into who they are and take what's thrust upon them and turn it into magic and strength.
Another bizarre criticism I received was that I have dehumanized my lead character, making her into a magical non-human--a magic negro. The Magic Negro is a character used in fiction to help alleviate the conflicts and elevate the status of the white protagonist, going so far as to die for the white leads.
This character is set up that way but the moral of the story is that she won't any longer die for anyone's causes. My goal for this particular character is to have her turn her would-be victimhood/magical status into strength and power to help herself. In other words, subvert the plot.