Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Taking a stand

I have spoken about the need for masks and social distancing during the time of COVID (here and here).

I have spoken out about the differences between the BDSM lifestyle and abuse.

I have Marched for Science and I've protested at my Congressman's office more than once (although I did not write about them here).

The only reason I haven't spoken about what's happening right now? I've been at the cabin and my Internet is spotty at best. But I don't shy away from taking a here:

I was once asked by a student why all my protagonists were white - why I didn't write any stories about people that were her color. I told her it was simple: I am white, of Irish and German descent and so those are the people who populate my books. My husband is of French and Italian descent and, after so many years of watching his family, some of those traditions (and characters) also show up in my books.

But I am not Black. I am not Asian. Nor am I Native American, Indian, or any other race. And I would never wish to insult anyone by writing a character whose culture I don't fully understand. At best, I might get some of it right; at worst, I'd fall into a stereotype. I also don't want to relegate any of those races to the role of best friend - that's been done far too often and with deleterious effects. I encouraged my student to write the stories she wanted to read. That's what I had done in exploring the BDSM lifestyle - since I couldn't find any books (at that time) that showed a loving relationship and not an abusive one, I wrote my own. If she wants heroes and heroines that look like her, then write them!

But what about fantasy, you ask? You don't know those cultures - the culture of made-up worlds and peoples. Yet you're comfortable writing those!

Sure - because it's totally made up. I make the rules. I decide how people act, I decide how they greet each other in the morning and if it's different from how they greet each other at night. I decide when someone's crossed a societal line. When things need to change, I change them as I want. My story, my imagination, my will at work.

That is not the case when writing of real cultures. I don't know what it's like to be a Black woman in America. I don't know what it's like to grow up Asian. And I will not insult them by pretending I do. Because using my imagination to put myself in other cultures and passing myself off as knowing and understanding is a form of racism. To pretend otherwise is to foster that racism.

When I was younger and full of self-righteous ideology, I often spouted the mantra, "I don't see color when I look at a person. I only see the person." A very wise woman took me to task when I spouted that in a conversation one day. She said, "You better see my color! My color is a part of who I am. You don't see that I am Black? Then you are denying me who I am."

I have never forgotten that most glorious take-down. She could've dismissed me as just another white girl spouting her ignorance, but she didn't. She educated me. I will always be grateful to her. My students of color should be grateful to her as well, because I learned to stop preaching and start listening.

So no marches this time around, no protesting from me (COVID is still keeping me home). It is time to listen. It is time to learn. Those who are protesting have much to teach.

Black Lives Matter.

Play safe,


P.S. I just read Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara. It follows several of the participants in the days before the American Revolution. HIGHLY recommended. In fact, reading the first three pages was like reading the headlines from today's newspapers. If you think we're NOT on the road to revolution? Read this. You'll change your mind.