Show me a woman of color who has a readership but doesn’t touch on the touchy social fact of race, and I’ll show you someone who made a decision to appeal to white sensibilities before her own sensibilities. I’ll show you a performance artist well-versed in the art of shucking, and jiving.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this post on Safy’s always excellent blog since I first read it a day or two ago. As the number of followers for this blog has grown, I’ve increasingly become aware of how I write and why I write the things I write. There was a brief period where I was afraid to actually write about issues as a black person – as a black woman in particular – because of that fear that people would not only not understand, but ultimately be put off by my stories or anecdotes. I’ve eventually come around from that idea for a number of reasons. The only way I can write honestly, to write the way I want to write, is to write about those experiences. To ignore them would be to ignore a part of myself. To ignore them would be to pretend that people are not interested in those stories and that those stories have no value. I know for certain that is not the case.
In a follow-up response to a response to her original post, she wrote:
The day an ordinary-ass girl of color comes out with a memoir rife with boring existential woes will be a day to look forward to. I’ll throw a BBQ. We will finally— at the very least!— have a token representation. As it stands, women of color writing in the so-called confessional genre that are taken seriously/visible are in the domain of whiteness, or they’ve sold their memoir(s) on the basis that their life has been tough. Bottom line: published women of color memoirists HAVE TO HAVE AN EXCEPTIONAL story of rags to riches. We have to fit into some narrative of what it means to white people to be women of color.
And I could not agree with her point more. It reminds me of this controversy and why it made me, not upset, but ultimately disappointed. I wrote then:
I don’t find what I’m reading or seeing to be bad or wrong as a subject, but I also don’t find it to be brave or different or unique. I would never say that it should not be written. However, I am saying that I would like to read something new and from the perspective of a racial/ethnic/cultural/sexual voice rarely seen.
I’m still of this same belief. But sometimes I wonder if it’s impossible to write from a perspective of Average when others consider you the Other. Or maybe it’s not impossible, but it’s a challenge to overcome the perspective of those who think in terms of the Other. It’s a challenge when my Average can not be relatable. It’s a challenge when others refuse to think of the Average of the “Other” as just that, average.