So it happened, I woke up opened my book and began to read as I do almost every single day. Reading is what I do. I consider myself more than anything to be a connoisseur of books. Sometime during the trips of my eyes from left to right across the page of my current read I got that feeling. The one I get where I know that I won’t be able to continue reading the book without doing a little research.
I tell myself not to. To at least wait until I’ve completed the book and have a true opinion about the story before I go internet diving for clues. But I don’t. 7.5 minutes later I’m looking into the face of a white appearing woman or man, standing next to their white appearing spouse, with their white appearing children in their suburban or gentrified ass white appearing neighborhood.
I know as you read those words you’re probably coming to conclusions so I should say here, I am not angry. If I am anything I’m bored.
I’m not angry that a white appearing person has written yet another bestselling YA novel about yet another African American teenager. Nor, that they have taken liberties with this teenagers life and given them the crackhead parent, the absent parent, the problems in school, the job that they HAVE to work in order to contribute to their family because of the crackhead or absent parent.
But, as I continue to do research on this person: looking up their parents, researching their childhoods, the cities they were born in, thinking maybe just maybe their best friend was black, looking for stories in which they describe where they got the idea for this story, looking for anything to help me feel better about the fact that yet another of our stories is being told by other people while we’re still not given the equal opportunities to tell our own; I do get a little annoyed.
See, as a writer I know that we have the creative license to write whatever we want about whatever we want however we want and that we don’t just have to tell the stories that we know. But, as I look at how stereotypes are developed and perpetuated and have been perpetuated for years and years I can’t help but wonder why a person who took ALL of the creative license with a story would continue to write these lazy stereotype ladden stories.
When I read a story about these issues that do in fact exist for some black people written by a black person I know that most likely they have experienced these issues or that the issues are at the very least in their orbit. But, when these stories are written by white appearing people I can’t help but question why if they felt the need to write about black people, why they didn’t use their creative license to write about magical black girls or as Danez Smif requests black boys playing with dinosaurs in the hood.
Social Media airways, news and media outlets for once in our history are being flooded with Magical Black Girls and Black Boy Joy and Black Super Heroes and yet television, movies, and books are still full of the same stereotypical stories about food stamp dependent, thugged out, drug abusing black people.
There will always be these stories to be told like their will always be a new movie about slavery. So, I’m not asking white people to not write stories about black people. I’m asking them to give us the whole stories. Like they do for white people. I’ve yet to read a story about a white crackhead teenager without being informed that she was a jock who broke her leg, had surgery, was placed on oxycodone, and became addicted. They’re humanized. So can we be humanized in these stereotypical redundant ass stories? I’m just asking if you must be creative with our stories then how about you be creative or at the very least, tell the whole story.