First I’d like to clarify, that I truly do not believe we live in a post-racial society. I don’t think that such a thing exists in our time. Maybe a few more generations, but not yet. The Civil Rights movement may seem like it was just a page in history of long ago, but my Mom still remembers being in a segregated school. Which means the people who wanted those schools to remain segregated are still alive, probably had kids and tried to teach them their ways. Isn’t that how racism is passed on?
Remember the quick scrambles to try to change the voting laws for all of these different places to stem the democratic Black vote? Also, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in racism in my general dealings since Obama has been in office. It seems that people are more overt. There’s more hate filled glares than ever before. As though I alone with my nappy hair and cocoa skin elected an official, who looks like me to run this country. Even online I notice more people being comfortable saying very negative things about Blacks, but it’s disguised as discourse against our president. But I digress, and will probably come back to this idea in a future blog.
To give you some background, read this New York Times essay: The Good, Racist People and check out this Youtube video:
These with the addition of other things I’ve been reading, had me thinking about being a Black writer in America. As I was writing the poetry for my collection, “The Shaping of an ‘Angry’ Black Woman,” it took me a while to decide to write about race. I sometimes feel like it’s my obligation as an “intellectual” woman of color to try to educate my readers, friends, etc on being black. As if I somehow have the power to write a guidebook on being an African-American. You know how people are said to be a triple threat: being a singer, dancer and actor? I remember being told I was a triple loser: being Black, a woman and fat. There are no Tony Awards for this and no one thinks this a boon for their career. So I had to think about these questions as a writer, because being a writer of color is never just as simple as “do your own thing.”
- How do I deal with race issues?
- How do I discuss my disgust with the racism and the trappings/ bearings it comes in?
- If I write fiction, do I always have to write about Black people?
- Can I write about White people too, or is that less authentic? Though I’m from West Virginia, so only knew so many Black people growing up.
- If I write about Black issues, race relationships, stories about Black people will my readership go down?
- Will I be seen as a “typical Black writer?”
- Do I become a stereotype?
- However, if I don’t discuss race relations, am I denying a part of myself, my family, my past, my culture? Is that my true authentic self?
The video above talks about issues that were going through my head as I was giving my book its title. I felt a general disgust in always being considered an “angry” black woman. I am more than just that paradigm, even if that’s how an African-American woman of my size and stature is usually shown in media. (Oh yes, and the Aunt Jamima, who loves to cook and always has some gems of wisdom.) I need to write about anger, sadness, betrayal, happiness, intrigue, etc. I wanted to show that I am a many-faceted woman. Just focusing in on my anger, denies me my humanity. What kind of person is angry ALL the time? Yet I, like anyone else, am justified to feel anger. It doesn’t have to be the only side I show.
Are these issues that writers of other races face? How do you deal with race issues in your writing? Do you avoid them? Tell me more in the comments.
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