Dear White Writers, If You’re Not Qualified to Write About Race…
Okay. I get it.
Race is a topic that is adamantly trending — and we are embodying a time when being a writer means so much more than just being able to piece words together in a way that makes sense.
You have to hope and hope even more that your finished product has the potential to make you an overnight sensation.
It needs to literally dominate the space that millions of users inhabit — and it needs to do this as quickly and as predictably as possible.
When your carefully and purposefully offering goes viral — a venomously rush of validation quickly sets in.
You did it.
You were able to manipulate a feverishly heightened moment by making it even more urgent. All you had to was dutifully extend its life span.
Take for instance — Beyoncé’s overwrought masterpiece — Lemonade.
When I wrote my ode to her latest offspring — I did it right after a strenuous workout.
I was sitting in the outside area of a local Starbucks with the afternoon sun beaming down on me.
I was tired and thirsty.
The goal was to jot down notes of my reaction to the day before.
But my fingers ended up dancing across the page as the symphony of my words held me in a creative trance.
I published my testimony on Medium and hours later — I got way more than what I anticipated.
Yes, my piece scorched the social media landscape.
Also, I was randomly asked to be a guest on two radio shows to discuss why I was so mesmerized by Lemonade.
It was interesting to experience this unexpected response to a diary entry on such a grand scale.
I merely expressed my organic thoughts without a filter or even an agenda.
But, as the days and weeks went by — it became very clear that most of you were desperate to capitalize on the euphoric nature of things.
It was amazing to witness the scope of adherence to all things Lemonade.
It became an out of control epidemic that astutely turned something so profound into an anemic virus without a cure.
I am currently seeking an antidote to help cure the rash that consumes me every time the “L word” is mentioned.
I say all of that to say the rest of this.
Having your pulse beat to the drum of an issue that a lot of us are passionate about can be exhilarating and even inspiring.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are qualified to dole out an in depth thesis that will catapult your status — and give your readers cause to slather you with adulation and gratitude.
When white writers eagerly reach out to black writers like me — hoping for guidance and a lighted compass that will lead them to the fountain of knowledge — as they blindingly navigate the trenches of black vs. white — it can be rather insulting.
First off — it really does depend on the manner of approach.
At times — it’s a genuine need to be assured that the curated words don’t hold any weight of a misunderstood grudge.
Sometimes — it can be a feeble attempt to bask in the twilight of the times.
You’re white, and you’re a writer — and you want to feel relevant.
You also need a hit. It’s either been too long or you’ve just never been that lucky.
Maybe…you could come up with an idea about race that will could be considered revolutionary.
Except — you can’t write it because it’s not your area of expertise.
So, you track down a black writer — who is an expert — of course — because, well, she’s black. That’ll work out fine! Right?
Hello, white writers. This is a black writer earnestly telling you that it’s not my job to educate you on the intricacies and fundamentals of racial politics.
Black writers don’t owe you shit.
It’s not in us to train you or prepare your white minds for the onslaught of artful weaponry — needed to pursue the quest of producing the kind of work that you don’t deserve credit for — because it’s not your damn birthright.
No. I will not work with you to investigate how or why white people are clueless about the racial strife — past and present.
Don’t ask me to assist in making you more vulnerable to the horrors that my people face daily — while you enjoy the most basic tendencies of everyday day living.
Writing about race even in its most diluted form — will almost always get you noticed — but it’s an honor that black journalists don’t relish.
Because it assures us that we are still part of a group that is being oppressed and brutally driven to extinction.
Black writers aren’t amped up when faced with the daunting task of curating pieces that highlight the reasons why white people are assholes to black people.
We do it because we have to — not because we are hoping to be viral superstars.
This is a plea from a black writer to white writers who seem to think that race wars can be conveniently hashed out in literary gems that they can add to their library of achievements.
It doesn’t work that way.
If you want to attack the mechanics of race and country — do it your way.
And if that doesn’t work — stay white and leave the heavy lifting to the ones that earned the scars that will never heal.
Your white privilege isn’t admissible in these parts.
In other words. Stay. In. Your. Lane.