Friday, December 05, 2008

I'll hold my own, thanks.



Elephants at Disney

LK Hunsaker

Pointing to the dismal economic forecast, Brown sees Obama’s success as an exception, not the beginning of a trend. "Obama was able to put together a team that could make his presence felt," Brown says of Obama’s literary and political success. "But everybody who wants to have a book published can’t put together a team like that."

Certain black authors are looking for an extra shove to the top of the publishing game. Why? Because we’ll soon have a black president who wrote a couple of books.


Um, hasn’t pretty much every president put out a book or two either before or after his service? Why is this getting made into a "hey, maybe we can get extra help now" issue? I do realize not all black authors would lower themselves to seek extra assistance because of their race. I believe most would not.

I’m left wondering why those spouting this sentiment think they need extra help. I don’t get extra help. Heck, I get no help other than from a few loyal family members and good friends. And I’m an indie. Shouldn’t I be able to ... oh, I don’t know, apply for a government grant to fund my writing since I’m an underdog in the publishing world?

No thank you. If I get there, I want it to be on my own merits, on my own hard work and time. Do these authors not see how they are debasing themselves? Why do they need extra help when none of the rest of us get it (other than celebs and politicians, who are pretty much the same as celebs these days). I walk into a bookstore and see a whole separate rack for African American authors, making their books much more visible than most of the other books in the store.

Wait. If we want actual equality, shouldn’t things actually be equal? All we’re doing is telling a certain group that they need extra assistance because they happen to be of a certain race. That’s so extremely degrading to them.

If Obama has taught us anything, it would be that blacks certainly don’t need an extra hand up. Heavens, they can become president if they work at it (and have that certain ’team’ that all politicians have to have to get anywhere).

Several members of a writing group and I were talking about this issue before the article came out. One of the white ladies mentioned the guilt she carries for her ancestor’s actions. Another said no way did she feel guilty because she did nothing to anyone else. I have to agree with the latter. None of us should have to take on guilt for something we didn’t do. If someone’s father or grandfather goes to prison for murder, we don’t convict his whole family.

My ancestors are Christian northerners who fought to end inequality based on race. Of course, one of my ancestors also worked for Al Capone and I would imagine several of my ancestors from Sicily could very well have been mafia. Does that make me part of the mafia? Not hardly. I’ve never in my life caused physical harm to another human on purpose. Many of my ancestors were Scots-Irish, the ones treated like non-humans when they came to America. Should I push for extra help based on the fact McCain has Celtic ancestry and ran for president and ... doesn’t he have a book out also? (not sure on that one)

No. I don’t want extra help. (Good thing since that won’t happen!) I don’t want anyone telling me I need extra help because I can’t do it on my own. I won’t allow anyone to degrade me that way. I won’t be looking for grants for women or for indies or for any other separatist type thing. I’m not afraid of the competition with everyone else of all genders and races and creeds. I can hold my own. So can anyone else in America if they’ll stand up and do it.

It’s a very unhealthy thing, this white guilt attitude that’s going around. It’s bad for our children to think they are innately evil and need their hands slapped for what happened in the past. And yet, that trend is being propagated. White kids in inner cities try hard to act "black" so they can be "cool" and try to alleviate their guilt at being white. Very sad. Our children, any of them, should have guilt only for things they have done personally, and only to the extent they become responsible for their actions. They should never have to be responsible for the actions of people many years ago. It is unhealthy. And we wonder why so many of them are becoming such unhappy people.

Do we not realize that there were black slave owners in America? Or that many of the slaves sent over here were sold by black slave traders? Do our children hear this in their history books, also? I don't think so. I didn't.

Do we not remember that there were Native Americans who sided with the whites against other Native Americans to help decimate the tribes? Do we not look back and see that slavery and injustice toward certain groups has gone on from the beginning of time? It didn't start here, by any means. It started to end here. Maybe that's what we should be focusing on. (more of that in another blog)

Equality will only happen when we stop giving extra help to those who are really quite capable of standing on their own.

One of my writer group friends is white and has black and bi-racial grandchildren. It makes her and their parents furious to think that anyone sees them in such a low value that they need special help. They refuse to allow it or to let their children think they do. Those kids will do well and go far.

While we’re at it, let’s abolish the "ethnic" genre. It’s separatist, based only on race. But think about this ... we are all ethnic. Every one of us. So what? Let’s stop making an issue of the whole thing and really start moving ahead.

Authors, if you want a hand up in publishing, look for it at the ends of your arms.


People weren’t talking about Barack Obama’s own books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, which both sold over 100,000 copies in less than one week after the election. No, the Obama effect that many authors of color, myself included, are hoping for is much more personal. Bernice McFadden, the award-winning author of Sugar and This Bitter Earth, posed the simple question on her blog: "Will a black president help me, a black writer?"
(link above)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read this--I've been so "out of it" lately with all my family issues. I totally agree with you! Glad to see you put this all into words. This was a great blog post--sorry I didn't respond sooner.