As a writer and an artist, I’m always trying to grow. Some people get caught up in a word count, feed the beast mentality, and presumably they’re thriving. Many of them do a lot better than I do, so what do I know?
And really, what do I know is how I keep trying to approach my writing better. Smarter. Not just in technique. We all can play the word games, trimming adverbs, varying sentence structure, mechanics. It can make us great technicians, but it doesn’t always make us great writers.
Or great allies.
There’s always a bit of a rift in m/m romance. We are an uncomfortable marriage of queer and straight perspectives where reader desires often trump queer identities. So it’s not a shock that racial minority perspectives are also often written over by the majority.
It’s always been this way, with white writers guiding other white writers in writing diverse characters as white people see them has been the norm. But it’s never been right.
So I’m surprised, but not surprised, at some of the backlash against the idea of sensitivity betas.
As a writer, I want to do better. I want to learn more. I know that understanding another culture in which I am writing for will deepen my perspective, give my characters better depth, and help explore avenues and ideas of life in which I had never considered. I guess that’s why it breaks my heart a little to see the defensiveness in regards to sensitivity betas and trying to get it right.
I mean, I get it. No one wants to think of themselves as racists. I’ve seen people with Nazi tattoos deny that they’re racists. I mean, personally I think you went to the pain, expense, and trouble of getting a Nazi tattoo, you would probably be pretty proud of the label, but whatever. We’re all heroes of our own stories.
But what if we’re not the hero? What if our story with the excellent and brave Latino gardeners and cleaning staff is kinda tone deaf? What if it’s saying something about you and your attitudes that you don’t mean to say?
And I get it, I mean, I turn the TV on and stereotypes run rife. Entertainment everywhere marginalizes and whitewashes everything. It’s a tall order to ask a writer in MM to stand up against all of that… and yet… if not me, then who?
As someone who has written IR romance, I know I probably committed ALL of the deadly sins out of sheer ignorance. I also know it wasn’t exactly my best-selling book. So while maybe there’s a fortune to be made out there for diverse books, I actually believe that most writers are going into this with good intentions.
I mean, that’s the way the road to hell is paved… but you know what I mean.
I don’t think the bulk of white people writing diversely are doing it to be damaging. Quite the opposite. So it’s really hard for me to wrap my head around why you wouldn’t want a sensitivity beta.
Sure, there’s always a chance that your beta won’t be offended by something others are offended by. Even in that recent poll of Native Americans, apparently 9 out of 10 aren’t that upset by Redskins. But… why you wanna be the person saying Redskins if you know it’s hurtful to someone?
I’ve seen a few authors complaining about this new era of sensitivity, with others commiserating and saying, in a rather encouraging way, “You write your book.”
Usually, I call this sound advice, but all I could think of was that Radiohead lyric. “Those people aren’t your friends, they’re paid to kiss your feet.” Obviously, they’re friends and probably not paid but you know what I mean here. Tea and cookies is a great way to show support to someone, but if you really care, you gotta be honest.
You don’t have to be a dick about it. As I said, the person probably has some great intentions going in. They’re at the finish line. Now is not the time to encourage them to fuck up their good thing by letting their defensiveness get the better of them.
And if the entirety of the story can’t be told because racism lay at the root of the plot… well… maybe…don’t tell it? The only thing harsher than unpacking your own internalized racism is doing it in front of the internet.
I’ve had a lot of personal back and forth regarding writing diversely and Own Voices. I think a lot about Craig Ferguson’s bit, “One, does this need to be said? Two, does this need to be said by me? Three, does this need to be said by me now?”
I keep asking myself that about this post. But the bigger point is, yeah, I’m trying to read and expand, but when the call comes out, “We need diverse books,” do they need to be by white writers? And if they are by white writers, are we taking a spot from someone who could be speaking with their own voice? And if we are, then are we being anybody’s friend?
It’s good to write diversely, but to do it well, I think you need to read diversely, find those people with their own voices and promote their work. I’m trying to be better about this myself. I’m barely competent promoting my own work.
But I’m going to try to do better…on all counts.
if allyship is conditional on never being accountable for their inevitable mistakes, they were never an ally to begin with @scixual
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) June 10, 2016