Why Do I Have to Write About Being Black?
I don’t want to.
It’s really annoying when people ask me to why I don’t write about being black. Sometimes they don’t even ask, they make suggestions:
“You should write about being black in Canada. I bet a lot of people would love to read about that.”
“Why don’t you tell that story you told me about the time that teacher was racist to your brother?”
“If you want more attention, just talk about being black. That’ll make everyone’s head turn.”
On and on they go trying their best to convince me that the only way my writing will get noticed on a grand scale is to talk about being black. (Insert eye roll emoji here). They say that’s what makes me different. They say race is one of the hottest topics of the day and that I should use every advantage I can to be heard.
People actually say these things to me. Some people can even be pushy about it. But isn’t limiting me to writing about race defeating the purpose of the equality we’re fighting for? As I see it, we’ve been fighting for equal opportunity and that should include the opportunity to write about whatever inspires me. And just because race doesn’t happen to be the thing that fuels my writing doesn’t mean I’m any less “woke” than my peers who allow race to dominate their storytelling.
The Black Experience Is Much More Vast than Is Being Shown
When people mention telling stories about the black experience, what they really mean is telling the negative stories of the black experience. They mean I have to talk about growing up poor and not having a father. They mean someone has to be in jail or selling drugs. They expect someone to be holding a gun and someone else should be on the receiving end of that bullet.
That’s the “black” experience they’re talking about.
Like if all black people come from struggle. Like if all black people are accepting of criminal elements in their families. Like if we’ve never grown up with any kind of privileges or had parents who not just dreamed of our success, but expected it.
And that’s assuming we want to narrow our stories to the real world.
What if we want to imagine? What if we want to tell stories like Djinn by Sang Kromah and Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi. Stories that have the essence of our culture interwoven into imagined worlds and characters that resemble our tone but look nothing like how we’re regularly portrayed in pop culture.
These are the stories that excite my imagination. These are the stories that tear down the walls we’ve been confined to when it comes to expressing our creativity, some of that self-imposed.
That won’t be me. Not ever. I live with being black every day. I really don’t want to write about it, and I shouldn’t have to in order to get attention. My writing will always be driven by my imagination. By what inspires me or hurts me or pushes me to share these stories. I’ll never sacrifice that because it’s apparently more popular to tell “black” stories.