Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Immortal History of Textual Colonialism

That was the original title of the op-ed piece which I wrote some months back and pitched to The Washington Post which was gracious enough to publish it in yesterdays issue as well as in The Herald Sun under their chosen title:

Black Writers in the Ghetto of the Publishing Industry's Making

Now, I knew exactly what I was opening myself up to as Author Carleen Brice had pioneered this particular frontier with her December 2008 essay Reading Too Much Into Race

I remember sitting here at my computer reading the numerous, nasty, racist comments that readers left in response to Carleen's essay - and and I felt as if I had been transported back to a time and place where someone of my color could not sit at a lunch counter or ride in the front of a city bus. It was frightening. Yesterday, I relived that moment.

While these readers felt their comments would disgrace and discredit my claims - they actually justified them:

"While I'm not familiar with Bernice's work, I can tell you why I don't read novels by most black authors. The fact is that many and probably most are not written in standard English. (I'm not talking about dialog from characters sprinkling in vernacular, I'm talking about the whole darn thing."

"What I would love to find, sometime, is a novel written by a black person which succeeds on character, plot and writing quality alone, and is not somewhat polemic-based. Maybe I have read such a book and just didn't know it - in which case, great! But as long as most black writers are depending on their race as a primary determinant for "success," however they choose to define that, they are competing on an uneven playing field of their own making."

"It is certainly racist, immoral and irresponsible to blame all of your troubles on someone else. Why is profiling bad when it's applied to blacks, but profiling is just fine and dandy when applied to whites as the imaginary source of problems for all troubles in the black community? Maybe more time spent in school and less time having children out of wedlock would fix a few of your issues. Maybe less time "celebrating diversity" and more time adhering to the rules of civilized society would fix a few of your problems. Maybe less time looking for scapegoats and more time being responsible members of civilized society would fix a few of your problems."

"What a bunch of slef serving pity me crap. Write books of universal interest and they will sell universally. Write ethnic tripe in a vernacular that is repulsive and filled with obscenity and it won't sell, at least not to me."

There were a number of comments that accused me of not being able to string a sentence together or being a racist, bitter and whiney ---- (shrugs shoulders) Someone even felt the need to remind me that Africans sold their bretheren off to European Slave Traders - what in the world does that have to do with the essay?

And this comment tickled me to no end:

"Perhaps she should consider joining the American writers section. Self segregation stimulates a segregated response. How about just being an American author rather than an African American author?"

I thought that's what I was trying to do???? LOL

In other news, Knitting and Sundries is giving away 3 copies of SUGAR!!!

Onward and Upward!

  • Bernice L. McFadden

    Anjali said...

    Loved the piece, Bernice! Congrats.

    Shevi said...

    I read the comments too, and I see they still don't get it. Loved the article though....

    Karen L. Simpson said...

    I had to stop reading the comments. Thank you for putting the truth out there.

    Carleen Brice said...

    Because I knew better I didn't read the comments to your essay. I spent a good week feeling sad, angry and burned out after mine ran. I hope, though, that like I did you get lots of emails from sane, rational, nonracist people who get the point you were trying to make. It's worth the ish we have to take from the crazy to reach those who ARE interested in reading books from a variety of authors, but just don't know they're there because of how we are marketed. Kudos and brava to you!!!

    Vérité Parlant is Nordette Adams said...

    Congratulations on the op ed at WaPo. It was very well done, but we already knew you could write well. :-)

    I read it and your post here and the only thing that came to mind as I took in some of the comments was not only are the remarks more evidence that we are not "post-racial," but they also serve as examples that people believe what they want to believe when presented with evidence that contradicts those beliefs. Furthermore, I question the reading comprehension level of some of the people you quote at your blog.

    BTW, Laina Dawes wrote a post at BlogHer recently that may interest you, "Reading While Black or White: Do Readers Prefer Books Written by their Own?" Her comment section reminds us that some white people do not aspire to be racist jackasses with gated minds, which may give some writers of color hope.

    Kimberly said...

    I enjoyed the article. Thanks for speaking out on this topic.

    pittershawn said...

    Truth requires no argument.

    The angry, name-calling and irrationally argumentative comments prove your point.

    What is sad is they are not smart enough to see themselves in a mirror, and therefore cannot see that they did exactly what you were trying to bring to the fore as a problem in the world of literature...and in the world in general for that matter where race is concerned.

    Jada Bradley said...

    I was alerted to your essay by a tweet posted by a Washington Post editor that used the verb "complains about" to describe what you'd done (instead of something more neutral like "writes about"). That plus the chosen title indicate, as had already been stated, that we have a looooong way to go.
    So kudos to you for braving the storm to say some things that (sadly) need to be said over and over.

    Earth Angel said...

    Thank you. I read some of the comments on your and Carleen's articles. I agree with Verite @ how they are proof we are not living in a post-racial society. A book about black people written by a white author simply must be better written if it is marketed to a mainstream audience, while books about black characters written by black people are examples of black people writing exclusively "about race," which is of no interest to the average white reader. It boggled my mind to read comment after comment about how white folks are simply not interested in reading black people who "write about blackness." And these same folk never address why it is so interesting to read white people who "write about blackness." Amazing.

    evelyn.n.alfred said...

    Wow...the comments that they left about your saddens me. On a low day, it would make me cry.

    What's worse, is that I bet the folks that made those comments, are representative of the rest of the American population.

    Deseree said...

    I've learned over the last decade to never read any comments to any article on the web. Anonymity just fosters nastiness of all kinds.

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