Call me naive, but this shit is hard.
I've been writing about race and racism for....shit, since I was 17 or so. I've had my share of critics, but in comparison to many of my race-baiting colleagues I've been pretty lucky.
However, I do have my faults: I never back down and I almost never apologize. I'm stubborn as hell but what I've found is that in the past year I've had to curb my usual knee-jerk reaction to responding to negative commenter's - only those who contact me directly - with "go fuck yourself." Its not like I do not want to listen to criticism or can't take it: but when it is based not on what I write but the fact that I wrote it, I have a problem.
As an author who will be pimping my book for most likely the rest of my life, it is not the most professional way to approach things.
I had a conversation with a good friend last night. We do the same kind of work. He was telling me a story about why he feels strongly that his voice will never be repressed again, and in hindsight, I have reasons why I react so violently in the assumptions that I should not share my opinion on certain things.
I grew up (and no, this has little to do with my immediate family) under the silent understanding that my voice didn't and never would mean much. No one would be interested in my lived experience and my opinions based on those experiences. I was under the assumption as a kid that unless I was white and pretty or at least white, that I didn't mean shit. I've spent a lot of time trying to unpack that baggage.
I think that my upbringing was extremely beneficial, despite the frustrations. I observed a lot, I saw firsthand how others were received, admired and treated, and was very aware that I, as an individual, didn't always receive the same treatment. I vowed at an early age, just like my friend to never to let my voice be silenced. I am willing to take the lumps, but I will soldier on.
However the past couple of weeks has been hard. I won't get into detail but it is unbelievably frustrating when I get called out on writing about something that makes people uncomfortable. In the past few weeks, I've had two people imply that by....well, actually a lot more than that - that I'm causing more of a problem writing a book on Black women in metal - granted, by people who haven't read the book because I am bringing up the 'race' issue.
What has really bothered me (more out of my reaction than really being surprised) that there have also been a few people - people that I considered friends - that have demonstrated behaviour in which maintaining the statu quo for personal gain is more important that challenging behaviour that is detrimental to a great number of people.
Here are my question(s):
a) Does that make any sense? No, it does not and in all reality, I guess I should just ignore it, but I can't and I won't. What bothers me is the delivery: the people who write in and despite that fact that they do not know me, haven't read the book and haven't factored in that the book has been out for over a year, received good reviews and more importantly, contains the experiences of women who discuss other things about racism, feel that they should tell me that I'm making a bigger deal out of it than I should. I should also mention that most of the commenter are men.
b) What is the alternative, and is the alternative, realistic? The alternative would be, obviously, not to write about things that make people uncomfortable, most notably, racism at all. That would mean that people would have to repress their stories and their experiences, experiences that might help others feel that they are not alone. But that would be repressing one's right to express themselves, to allow their voice to be heard. It would also signify that for some reason, there is some justification that people, especially people who are directly affected by racism are not worthy to talk about it. The insistence that the status quo must be maintained is more worthy than those who have a justifiable right to express themselves. So we really aren't important enough to have our voices heard.
Obviously, I reject both. WE ARE important. And we need more voices, more stories, more measured analysis, more people willing to question the status quo. Right now I'm feeling exhausted, a bit hurt and stressed......just give me some time to bounce back. There is no way I'm going to let the naysayers win.