Let me write anything
I’ve been thinking about culture and diaspora a lot recently — I wrote this guest post for The Golden Nath a few weeks ago — and this morning I wrote to a friend who’s doing research about generational differences within the diasporic community.
I’ve also (finally!) began reading Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.
It’s really driven home the point that brown and black people are expected to and most successful when we write about race and racism; in the same way, women and trans people are most successful when we write about (sexual or physical) harassment and trauma. Pain sells.
Identity politics are important. Identity politics suck.
It’s a classic debate about the internal versus the external world. How we experience the world, how we choose to behave, the things we enjoy doing and saying and writing, are our own. But the way the world defines us, forces us to behave and speak, is by our blackness or brownness. That is the primary lens through which the world views us, and therefore the first and only lens the world expects us to view it.
The thing is, there’s so much more to us than that. No shade to people who do write about race — I know I have and will — but it’s only one part of what we know and love. Maybe some of us wanna write about fashion, or faeries, or teaching; or devote our time to something else entirely.
And it is doable. Shonda Rhimes is a force in US television. Malorie Blackman writes all kinds of stories. There are many examples I could give, but these people remain both the exception and very aware of the expectations of the world.
Writing outside of the box requires that we are either entirely ignorant about racial status and expectations, or keenly aware of them. Only so we can disregard them, of course!
So let’s break rules (and boxes) and write for ourselves, whether that be about race or racing.