A brief note to myself, on the verge of publishing my first novel.
Even if you consider yourself an ally of the Black American movement to end the systematic slaughter and oppression of Black people, and you support this goal’s achievement by any means necessary, as you do, your writing might be just as racist as the country you grew up in.
Because it produced this:
Disproportionate death by coronavirus among Black Americans
Systematic police violence against Black people
And it produced you.
Now, 24-years-ago-you wrote a tale about a man from a country in West Africa who comes to America and gets exploited by a corporation. How can I go wrong? you thought. Aren’t I celebrating diversity?
That’s because you were a dingbat.
It was invented in your head, and you were born into a culture addicted to a corporate-entertainment-complex entrenched in white supremacy, not to mention the sexism, ageism, ableism, and heteronormativity. So did the book turn out racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and heteronormative? You betcha.
We’re gonna save our white woman tears for another time though, because grow up.
Here are just a few of the mistakes you made as a writer within the kyriarchy.
- The magical negro trope
- The book had a male and a female main character but the male character got all the air time
- You did include moms as characters in the book and not in servitude to their roles as mothers, then didn’t give them any speaking parts
- Heteronormative depictions of sex with cursory inclusion of a homosexual long-term relationship that doesn’t advance the plot, the bullshit literary version of that last scene in the final (or most recent, I don’t know what the future holds for that franchise, probably 10K more movies) Star Wars where two women kiss for .004 seconds
- Ableist terminology around a quadruple amputee
In fact, you were so ableist in your writing and thinking, that you thought it would be easy to get a quadruple amputee to do a sensitivity read of your novel. Because, of course, what does a “disabled” person with no arms or legs have to do with their time except read your book in exchange for a nominal fee?
The ableist thinking is built right into your mind and your book, just like your constant use of the word “crazy” to mean just about anything bad. Which is bitterly ironic for you, because the book is about mind-scaping and systematic mental programming. It’s also about genocide to incite the apocalypse, a civil war in America. And it was supposed to be fiction. I hope you see more and more every day how it’s based on a true story about your own mind.
Let’s talk about next steps.
Dismantle the racist publishing industry. Support black authors. Challenge all the oppressive assumptions in your book and be open to the idea that it hides in your work the same way it hides in city planning. Look at how your words commit oppressive acts.
And after you publish, and somebody sees your work for what it is, a racist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative product of its environment, don’t hide from their words.
Because you deserve to feel shame. You have to have the difficult conversation too. It is not up to Black people to do all the work while you sit back and lead the privileged life of the white moderate. This is the death of the movement.
You’ve considered stalling publication, scheduled for 15 days from now. You don’t want to advertise in the middle of the revolution. You don’t want to take up space with your own privilege. You want to support. You want to be an ally.
Are you being an ally? Not acting at this point is categorically the same as the violent White reactions to Black progress. Worse, even. Because it is less visible and produces the same effect. It is not the oppressed individual’s job to educate the oppressor, though that’s what happens over and over again.
All I’m going to say to you at this point is, whether you publish now or you publish later, or never, don’t be a coward. Don’t hide. The streets are full of revolutionaries right now, risking their lives for justice. If you don’t actively work against oppression, you are the oppression.