There is a lot of “stuff” going on in the world and many of us are hiding from our Facebook feeds. This is a scary blog to post (and is actually a repost) but I think maybe people need to hear what I am going to say…again.
LIGHTEN THE HELL UP!
It’s life and none of us are getting out alive.
This blog started when I ran across a post from Yahoo, Is America Starting to Target Thought Crime? In the past two years since I originally posted this, the emotions of our world have hit a boiling point. Remember that violence isn’t the only way to let off steam (though some unimaginative people seem to think it is). The other and preferable?
Too Dangerous to Laugh
First, a little bit of history. In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.
The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.
I’ve been blessed to travel more than most people ever will, and not all my destinations were nice places. One thing every police state has in common is that no one has a sense of humor. Even innocent comments can be twisted into something dangerous because one is in a world where everyone is jockeying for even the slightest wedge of importance, even when it means bending the truth. Those closest can become “whistle-blowers” against crimes imagined or real. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
Public Pool Politics
Sadly, I’ve been at the other end of this. I love to laugh and relish in making others smile. Put me in a room and I’ll have them in stitches in less than five minutes. My teaching style has been compared to “If Robin Williams had taught writing.” When I was a kid I studied every comedic act down to the timing and tone of voice.
In 1999 I traveled with my best friend to live in a Palestinian refugee camp. Since my Arabic was less than stellar, it was tough. Syria, like all places, has its beauty. I loved the food and people and believed I’d made some friends.
One day, my guides took me to enjoy some recreation at the women’s pool where the hijab can be set aside to splash around and let loose. Being the only blonde many of these women had ever seen off a television, I was soon surrounded by eager friendly faces asking questions about my home, wanting to know about Texas and if I had a job.
In my broken Arabic I made jokes and got them to laugh. We parted ways and I was happy as a clam. The next day, my hosts warned me that it was too dangerous to return to the pool and to stay away. Apparently, one of the women had spread through the camp that I was talking smack about Assad Sr. (the ruling dictator of the time).
I’d never even mentioned Assad. Yes, I was a naive Westerner but I wasn’t THAT stupid. My last weeks there were pretty scary and I’ve never been so relieved to be on a plane.
One pivotal lesson I took away from this experience is this:
A nation is only as free as its sense of humor.
When innocent remarks, observations or disagreements can be used against us? This is a MAJOR warning we are no longer in a free country. When certain groups are immune from criticism, jest or commentary? Houston, we have a problem.
The PC and EC Divide
I know the original purpose of political correctness was well-intended. I’m sure EC (empathetic correctness) has good intentions as well. But the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I was a child of the 70s and 80s and often think it was a really golden time to grow up. My best friend from the age of six was an Egyptian Muslim (and we are still friends almost thirty years later).
Our neighborhood gang consisted of Charo (Mexican), Ngyuen (Vietnamese), and Regina (African American), Veenah (Indian), Cathy (Jewish), Elizabeth (Mexican), and Erica (Choctaw)…and none of us were aware of that.
We were friends who karate fought in the yard because Ngyuen was Asian and so he was supposed to be a Kung Fu master, right? Veenah helped with science and Charo taught us soccer, because Indians were smart and Mexicans were good at soccer.
Regina made us laugh because she was black and loud and fun and could Double Dutch so well we were sure she was a cyborg. Erica could decorate our hair with feathers and we could play Navy SEAL Indian Princess. Cathy declined to join us for Vacation Bible School because she was going to Jewish Camp (and we never understood why we couldn’t go to Jewish camp because the Jewish pool was AWESOME).
And all of this is racist and utterly politically incorrect.
We never knew we might offend Charo by asking him to teach us to bounce a soccer ball on our knee. We never realized how we might damage Ngyuen by assuming he’d trained in a Shaolin temple and that we didn’t even have the right country.
I didn’t know I should have been ashamed to play Indian Princess with Erica or that I might hurt Regina by offering to share my slice of summer watermelon. I should have been aware that I might harm Veenah by asking for her help with my science project. In high school, perhaps I shouldn’t have asked my best friend and date to the Senior Prom, Donnie (gay), for fashion advice.
I was blissfully uneducated about how offensive I was.
We just loved each other, grew up loving each other and still love each other. Gihan (my Muslim friend) and I are still good friends and have been since 1981 (when Kristen had no Gaydar and was in love with George Michael *sighs*).
I still talk with Charo on FB and meet ever so often for dinner with other members of our gang. Erica invites me to birthday parties for her children. I was Ngyuen’s prom date when I was a junior and we only lost touch when he joined the Marines. I still go by his father’s house when I’m in the area even though his English hasn’t really improved since 1983…but he still loves me. Donnie and I talk long into the night when he isn’t exploring the world.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Loyal, Friendly, Resilient MUTT
We grew up in an America of Mutts. I’m not saying that everything was roses and unicorn kisses, but we were American and America was stronger because we could blend all these cultures and races together. Children had this strange appreciation that we all bled the same color when we fell off the monkey bars. We cared less about the color of your skin and more about the color of your bike. They have BLUE????
We could tell the difference between a joke in love and someone being a racist bigot and Lord help the kid who crossed that line.
We were kids who wanted to roller-skate and who constructed ramps, guns, and swords out of every discarded piece of wood. In the glow of a streetlight everyone was pretty much the same color.
Bullfrogs ran from all of us.
No One’s Laughing Anymore
These days, I find myself less prone to joke or make conversation with others of a different ethnicity or culture because, bluntly, it’s exhausting and I always seem to screw it up. I find myself hedging everything I say, backpedaling, and struggling to remember my proper and approved PC vocabulary.
I once was trying to be polite when I referred to someone as Hispanic…only to be razed for the next half hour how this person was from Argentina and NOT Hispanic and I was a jerk for not knowing this. I referred to someone as African American only to get my tail handed to me that this person was from Jamaica and didn’t like that term and it figured a white girl would be so insensitive.
If someone is mixed race? *breaks down weeping*
When others make comments about me being a racist simply because I’m white and I point out that I actually have probably the most diverse group of friends anyone could ask for…well that’s precisely what a racist would say: “I have black friends.” But *stammering* I do have black, I mean African American I mean…oh, hell I give up.
This Affects ALL of U.S.
This isn’t a phenomena exclusive to “white people,” either. I remember my husband coming home from work distraught. He worked in Corporate America at the time. One of his team members was Mexican (as in her parents immigrated from Mexico and happily embraced the American Dream). Well, on Cinco de Mayo a fellow employee (also Mexican) asked her if she was going out to celebrate with “her people.” She gave him a genuinely confused look and said, “Huh? My people? I’m American.”
The next day she was being written up by Human Resources for being culturally insensitive. Her coworker found her offensive and turned her in. My husband was having to write out her defense. A MEXICAN female was in trouble for not being Mexican enough?
How does this make any SENSE?
The real crisis in the country is we are laughing less and less. Everyone is special and fragile and needs to be handled with care. PC was to make us more sensitive and BOY did it work. Our nation has the skin of a grape. Self-importance is taking over like a malignant cancer. We walk on eggshells to avoid “offending” someone. We no longer can make mistakes. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
For anyone reading this who is a “person of color” please try and talk to a “white” person. They probably aren’t a racist, they’re simply terrified they’ll say something stupid. And then being terrified we will say something stupid…we say something stupid.
So if we do say something stupid, just forgive us.
I AM the Reason for Many Blonde Jokes
As much as I read about theoretical physics, math, politics, economics, I can be…well, an idiot. I drove my Honda for three years and all the while heard this weird whistling that I couldn’t get rid of. One night, I’m in a drive thru line and accidentally hit a button near the steering wheel and discovered my car had a sunroof *head desk*.
I once accidentally drove to MISSOURI.
Kill me now and keep me from breeding.
Just leaving all of this to say we need to laugh more. Because, come on, white people…THIS IS FUNNY!
I mean *sniffs* we do love cheese, but insensitive MUCH? 😛
The world is amazing and fun but we have got to lighten UP. Yes, seek out legitimate injustice and crush it. I’ll be behind you a thousand percent.
But in the meantime….
Maybe we should all go outside and catch lightning bugs and make the longest Slip-And-Slide EVER. I get my lawn bags from Costco, so maybe we could make it reach DC ;).
I love all of you and thank you so much for blessing me with your thoughts and stories. I am a better person every day because of you. And know I was scared to write about this and that should speak volumes in itself.
But, I miss just being a kid. I don’t want to be an adult anymore.
If anyone reading this is an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jew, can we be friends? I don’t have an Ecuadorian Hassidic Jewish friend. Yes, you can dress me up but you can’t take me anywhere 😀 .
What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you, unless you have no sense of humor. Then might I recommend posting on AT&Ts Facebook page…
What are you? I’m a Scandinavian-Scottish-French-Huegenot-Sami-Cherokee. ADD THAT to your diversity portfolio!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
May’s winner will be announced next time 😀 . I know I said this time but life happens and I am a writer and we lie.
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
Again, I am trying something new and offering an open and interactive workshop. Is your first page strong enough to withstand the fire?
Battle of the First Pages
June 16th, 7-9 EST. Cost $25
This is an interactive experience similar to a gong show. We will upload the first page and I will “gong” when I would have stopped reading and explain why. We will explore what each writer has done right or even wrong or how the page could be better. This workshop is two hours long and limited seats available so get your spot as soon as you can!
So You Want to Write a Novel
June 17th, 7-9 EST. Cost is $35
Just because we made As in high school or college English does not instantly qualify us to be great novelists. Writing a work that can span anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000+ words requires training. This class is for the person who is either considering writing a novel or who has written a novel(s) and is struggling.
We will cover the essentials of genre, plot, character, dialogue and prose. This class will provide you with the tools necessary to write lean and clean and keep revisions to a minimum.
Character & Plotting (NEW CLASS!)
June 24th, 2015 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST. Cost is $35
All great plots are birthed from character. The core plot problem should be the crucible that eventually reveals a hero in Act III. This means that characterization and plot are inextricably linked. Weak plot, weak character. Blasé character, blasé plot.
This class will teach you how to create dimensional characters and then how to plot from inner demons and flaws. Get inside the heads and hearts of your characters in a way that drives and tightens dramatic tension.
This is an excellent class for anyone who wants to learn how to plot faster and to add layers to their characters.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!!! And I will be on the Slip and Slide with you while holding my jar of lightning bug!!
I once read that only an Englishman boasts of his mixed race. You have just bashed that one on the head. One of my friends is – well – he’s kind of brown. No – I have absolutely no idea of what his background ethnicity is. He’s non-white, that’s all. This is what he told me. “I used to experience racism a lot. I mean, really, a lot. Then I went on this personal development course where they told me that you will always see and experience what you’re looking to see and expect. So I decided to stop looking for it. You know what? I have experienced absolutely no racism since that day.” I’m not saying it’s not out there; possibly more in the States than over here in Europe and the UK, but it’s certainly a lot rarer if you don’t look for it. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m white, middle class and blonde. Oops: damned whichever way you look at it…
No I see the same thing with other isms like “sexism.” Every man will be evil if you are looking for woman-bashers around every corner. We just all need to give each other some grace. We all say stupid stuff or even just say things that have a neutral intention but can be easily spun. We all need to LIGHTEN UP. I seriously can’t take the tension.
Amen. I’ve been off FB for most of the last year, and off Twitter most of the last month. People are INSANE. They all need the slip and slide.
You nailed it.
I was actually going to make a comment about this. There’s a fandom I’m involved in that has a pretty diverse cast. Unfortunately the writers have made some questionable decisions for the character including turning many of the minority characters “evil” (character development) or having them die for whatever reason (plot devices). It’s become a huge contention in the fandom to where many are boycotting the show.
A friend of mine who doesn’t watch the show, found an article online about it and was angry at all the blatant racism. I made an off-hand comment that the writers were damned if they do and damned if they don’t (she didn’t like that). What I really wanted to say is that people are seeing racism and homophobia because they are looking for it. They see it everywhere. Up until people pointed it out, I never thought about how the two main black characters went “crazy” (another word you have to be careful when using lest you offend the mentally ill–of which I am one and not at all offended by the word) and tried to take over. I did notice that they were both complex characters with motives that made sense within the context of the story even if I didn’t agree with them. I kept wondering if they had been white, would people be screaming about how they both went crazy and did horrific things. I highly doubt it.
Then they had the audacity to kill off the lesbian, but I didn’t like her character, so it honestly didn’t bother me. It had nothing to do with her being a lesbian because I thought that was pretty cool, but she got in the way of the ship I wanted, so… Everyone else started screaming homophobia ignoring the fact that the main character is bi and there is a prominent gay couple on the show (which is the only healthy, stable relationship).
Of course, I said none of this for fear of being labeled a racist. The problem is racism, to me, is systemic and intentional, and I seriously doubt the writers sat around saying, “how can we screw over the minority characters today so that only the white ones are the heroes.” They just wrote stories with plots and arcs that were interesting to watch. Not that I agreed with a lot of what they did the past season. I spent most of it in a “WTF did I just watch” state of shock. But I don’t consider any of it racism. It was just poor storytelling and lazy writing and affected all of the characters, not just the many minority ones.
(Sorry this got long, but it’s been eating at me for days now, and destroying my enjoyment of the fandom because I keep thinking my friends will see me as racist and insensitive if I continue to support the writers.)
If you look at the bulk of material where white writers have cast minority characters for several decades, you will see a definite trend of negative attributes and storylines. There are plenty of articles and such that document the list of negativity applied to such characters from the racist vaudeville down to the trend of killing off black characters early in horror movies. So I feel that people have a right to be concerned and express that concern and have a reasonable dialogue about it- which of course means listening to the opposing views. But there is a definite problem with portraying someone else’s concern as “looking for racism/homophobia”. If someone has a long history of oppression, they get to understand the trends of it, and will react as appropriate. The response should be to listen, rather than dismiss, which quite justifiably causes offence.
But all races have experienced being caricatures and we just need to recognize that if it isn’t comedy (as in satire), it is bad writing. All groups of people face different things. Men get stereotyped all the time and it pisses me off.
I am a blonde and we are consistently portrayed as being stupid, loose, or home wreckers. If I had a dollar for every movie where the mistress was a blonde. Or for every commercial where the moron who can’t figure out how to use tooth whitening strips is a blonde (Oh, But the brunette is smart enough to use a whitening TRAY), I’d have a good chunk of change. We are consistently cast as strippers, hookers, home wreckers and villains and yeah, it gets tedious.
The smart, brainy bookwork is a brunette and the bitchy cheerleader who bullies others to do her homework because she isn’t smart enough is a blonde. Wow, that’s creative.
Kristen, I don’t approve of any of those either. Most of Marilyn Monroe’s movies make me uncomfortable. But I feel people have a right to their concern, discussed in a reasonable way- like I said before. Some will pass it off as bad writing, others will react in a stronger way because certain stereotypes may reflect daily experiences and thus be a trigger. I’m just saying it is not wholly irrational to be concerned or even angry so long as someone can maintain a civil discussion on it with opposing views.
I tried three times to write a response to this, but I just can’t. Now I regret saying anything about it which is why I would never bring anything about this up with anyone online. There’s no conversation. You are either with them or you are wrong. It’s exhausting. As a fanfic writer, it’s made me not want to post any of my stories for fear of being labeled racist/sexist/homophobic. It makes me second guess any plot decisions I have to make.
I just give up.
I get around racism (call it whatever works) by describing most of my characters’ features by their actions, dialog, and sometimes within the scene’s setting. I purposely give very little info about my physical appearance or ethnicity directly; instead, I want the reader to draw her/his own conclusions. This approach, I believe, gives the reader some ownership within the story–I’m not spoon-feeding her/him by telling as much as describing. I have skimmed through dozens of pages of stories where every minute detail was described )e.g. Das Boot). Leaving out the descriptive details makes my stories tighter, faster. Reads. Now, if I can just remember to leave off the dialogue tags … Anyway, hope this is helpful.
I don’t describe most of my characters, either. I give a few little details, but that’s it.
It’s amazing how people will take an off-hand, self-deprecating remark from a character, meant to deflect the tension in the moment (learning his girlfriend fell in love with his best friend while he was out of town, he shrugs and says “I’m French. We fall in love easily.”) and call it racism…
Yep, I agree with you.With six billion people on the planet, some folks will take offense no matter how we write. Heard a news report that there are 10,000 people on the planet who hate me–hair, eyes, attitude, et al, and it wouldn’t matter what I say or do, I couldn’t sway they’re opinion of me. F**k ’em. I’ll stop worrying and just write whatever I want. btw, that statistic of 10k haters isn’t unique to me. Apparently each of us annoys another 10k people. For this very reason, all this teeth gnashing and hand wringing is simply a waste of time.
“I’m French. We fall in love easily.”
LOL! Like I’ve said elsewhere, if you’re born in Britain and have Nigerian parents like me, you’ll be making all the self-deprecating jokes in the world, which I aim to put into my writing. There has to be a family of six or seven, a strict father and jolof rice. Oh- and we’re always cringing when the white teachers and students at shcool mispronounce our names. None of this is offensive, and like I said elsewhere, it’s not a problem for me if a white author wanted to portray this in their work. That’s a world away from prejudiced and or racist portrayals.
I hear you, Jen :). And the truth is there are people out there simply looking to be offended. We just can’t dance around that. Write it as you experience it. Even as a “white” girl, you’ve faced discrimination. Maybe not institutionalized discrimination, but probably some event that was flat out unjust. Harness those emotions. I understand what you are talking about but that is because I have faced the same BS with some of my stories. Thing is though? Haters gonna hate. And it is free publicity 😛
A right to be concerned doesn’t mean others are wrong. Like I said earlier, people should have a reasonable dialogue about it. There is a difference between saying “I don’t think this is offensive because…” and “I think you are just looking for offense.” One is giving a reason and the other is often construed as imposing your belief on others.
AMEN. My best friend in grade school and part if junior high (until she moved to the “cool kids” crowd) was black. We didn’t say African-American in the 70s or 80s. About 70% of my junior high was Vietnamese, and I had plenty of Vietnamese friends. My three best friends over the last decade or so were a woman from Nepal, an African-American woman from Chicago, and a woman who was Native American and Hispanic. Only one of those didn’t have a sense of humor about it, but she was young. I can identify with EVERYTHING you said in the post, and I remember the first time you posted it. Things are worse now than before. The world has gone completely mad.
I wrote a story about a “minority” love affair gone bad (two women) with disastrous consequences, just because I get tired of the “white males are the scum of the earth” crap on the Internet, always followed by how the oppressed can do no wrong. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. They are individuals, and individuals screw up. But, no one liked that ending, so I am changing it. Sigh.
Let’s be careful not to conflate a genuine discussion on racism with “white men are the scum of the earth crap on the Internet”. And no, we are not blameless, but when we’re being oppressed for our skin colour then we aren’t the ones at fault in that situation.
As for your story, I believe in literary freedom and the ending should be as you wish.
Um, portraying anyone as less due to their skin color or gender is racism, and that includes white men, though many seem to think it’s okay to vilify them in any way possible. For you to dismiss the way white men are regularly put down for being white and male sure seems to contradict your desire for a “genuine” discussion on race.
Like I said- in a situation where minorities are being oppressed on the sole basis of their skin colour, they are not at fault. So it doesn’t make sense to infer from that, that I would approve this done in the reverse. I also said minorities were not blameless either, which doesn’t correlate with your conclusion that I am dismissing stereotypes against white men. If my comment did match your conclusions, why would I bother admitting that minorities weren’t blameless? Please feel free to ask for clarification on my first sentence instead of using sarcasm and quotation marks.
Oh, I wasn’t being sarcastic in the least. I meant every word in all seriousness. The quotation marks were there to show your lack of desire for true genuine discussion. After reading all your comments left here it strikes me that you seem to be the poster child for this blog’s theme. You’ve managed to make more than one person feel uncomfortable about discussing their thoughts by your indication that their opinions are wrong and offensive. Methinks you really need to lighten the hell up.
Doesn’t seem apparent to me that you’ve read all my comments and certainly not the main one I left for this article lays out my reasoning on the issue of PC vs respct. I have agreed with points here and I have offered differing views to some comments and others have responded, and I have tried to clarify their meaning if necessary. That is the best I can do. If we live in a society where pointing out how something might/does affect others is viewed as making people uncomfortable then it’s no wonder injustice and prejudice are as strong as they were decades ago.
My dishwasher broke down last week, and I went off to get one. A young black fellow helped me, and he was fast,efficient, helpful, and I got what I wanted in minutes. I put up my hand to “high-five” him, and he looked at me, put out his hand to shake mine. I shook his hand, and added, “I wanted to ‘high-five’ you because you got it all right, and to me you are just a “kid.” someone I expected to not have it all together, but YOU did. The intended “high five” was to be for that. He gave me a “high five.” It didn’t feel the same
On Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 11:28 AM, Kristen Lambs Blog wrote:
> Author Kristen Lamb posted: ” There is a lot of “stuff” going on in the > world and many of us are hiding from our Facebook feeds. This is a scary > blog to post (and is actually a repost) but I think maybe people need to > hear what I am going to say…again. LIGHTEN THE HELL UP! I” >
Oh [*groan*] do I HEAR you 🙁
I recently proposed for a fantasy-scifi-writer conference that we hold a class called ‘How to write People of Color into your stories.’ The program director said ‘but we have panels every year about race in writing.’ I had to explain to them I’d BEEN to those panels, at many different writing conferences, and left each one TERRIFIED to put anybody in any story I ever write, ever, because all I got out of it was that I am white and privileged and evil and can’t possibly understand, so don’t bother because the fact you even try offends POC.
So here I write stories and WANT to depict people of color in interesting and empowered ways, and yet if you dare try to paint a world where the variety of POC are accurately depicted and also happen to be a white author, you get called a racist.
How do you describe a beautiful black woman’s skin color? Is it ebony? Dark chocolate? Just plain old dark brown? Is it offensive to use words that refer to wood or food? What would beautiful black women LIKE to be called? If you dare ASK, you get labeled a racist.
So now that beautiful kick-ass black woman who lives in my head is written in such a neutral way that most readers will see her as WHITE. And ‘culturally sensitive’ people believe this is helping empower POC?
How do you describe that tall, handsome dude from Puerto Rico with the killer chiseled cheekbones and golden glow? If you mention where he is from, and then his curly hair or light Spanish accent, does that make you a racist? It seems so. So now that tall, hispanic hero is described in such a way that most readers will see him as a tall, dark and handsome white guy from England or some place. And how does this ’empower’ POC?
I had a story I was writing where the lead character starts out as homophobic and, over the course of the story, is forced to confront his inner @$$hole. I got reamed out by beta readers in the first chapter and told what a horrible person I am because this (obviously good-ol-boy) in his inner dialogue to himself mentions ‘some of the other guys say she’s a dike.’ Well, yeah, he’s SUPPOSED to be a jerk. But how do you expect authors to write stories that will grip a reader who MIGHT have that attitude, and then pull them along on that journey to not being a dick, if you crucify the author attempting to write something to put a light on the issue. Needless to say, the story got back-burner’d and never finished. If my own so-called ‘culturally sensitive’ friends couldn’t conceive of a fictitious guy in a story from a conservative Christian coal mining family in Appalachia starting out as homophobic, and then becoming not so homophobic, then how do they expect to change the minds of these people in real life?
I’m sure people will call me a ‘racist’ for even writing any of the above. Go ahead. I don’t give a flying rat’s-butt anymore. I’m sick of trying and getting kicked in the teeth because it’s taboo to even attempt to admire somebody who is different than you are or ask.
That is what is vexing (more than the lack of humor). We must “celebrate diversity” to show our unique cultural differences but if you point out any cultural difference then, “That’s racist.” HUH? How the hell does that make sense? We are different and that is special but if you acknowledge we are different, that is bigotry? HUH? And if I am curious and want to ask questions then clearly I am ignorant…but I am ADMITTING I AM IGNORANT BY ASKING QUESTIONS! *head explodes*
Fiction is really suffering for it as well. We can’t represent the world as it is. I had a wonderful short story about a girl from a trailer park living with a racist white trash family. They liberally used the N-word….because you were SUPPOSED to hate them. The protagonist hated them! That was the POINT and it was a stark reflection of reality….but the story went nowhere because I would have had to redact it so much to make the PC Police happy it would have lost its point.
Yes. Fiction is suffering 🙁
Those PC Police are the same ones that want to ban Huckleberry Finn because it’s racist, refusing to acknowledge that the characters are racist, not the book, and realistically portray many white people from the era. You can’t whitewash history (I swear there is no pun intended). I had to reread To Kill a Mockingbird to finish up my degree last year. I read it in high school and had forgotten how bad the language was. It made me uncomfortable, but that’s just the way things were. Several people in the class were offended that they had to read such a racist book. I’m not sure which book they were reading, but it wasn’t the same one as me. Others thought the publishers should edit out the uses of the N-word, especially when Scout used it, to make it less racist and more enjoyable for sensitive people. This was in an upper level literature course. *shaking my head*
I can agree with you there. Literary freedom is sacrosanct and nothing should be cleansed if it reflects history.
The N-word has been edited out of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in some editions. No one will EVER edit “bitch” out of rap music because it would be a violation of freedom of speech, but a white person singing a rap song risks getting fired from a job or expelled from school. In the mean time, the idea that violence on bitches in rap music doesn’t strike anyone as wrong.
Kristen, I think you should just write it as is.
Why not read the work of several other white writers who have written other races into their stories? I’ve not heard anyone lambasting JK Rowling over Angelina Johnson or Lula Landry.
James Lee Burke
But not just white writers writing about blacks. The point is to write real people, period. Not write black people like other white writers. Heck, if a person has the talent to write like Walter Mosley, then write that way even if the writer is white.
Anna, stop pussy footin’ around. First, sit down and read James Lee Burke. He is one of the finest writers of all time. He writes people. You can see and smell the places. You can feel the laughter and the pain. Start out with In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead and Burning Angel. Stop asking how to write a black person. Write what you know and if you don’t know, find out.
I’ve got a black woman in a story I’m working on. People will read it and say I’m racist. She goes off on a person screaming, “I’m going to f__kin’ KILL you!.”
Where did I get the scene and the line? I had writer’s block. One in the morning on a weekend night. Put my shoes on, went for a walk. Got three houses down from mine and a black guy in one car is screaming at two black women in a second car. “Just turn your f__kin’ phone on.” Then he peels out. She turns around in a driveway I’m crossing and almost hits me and I exclaim, “Hey!” And she looks straight at me and screams… no… she SCREAMS. “I’M GOING TO F__KIN’ KILL YOU.” Then another car came along and almost hit her and she got distracted from me.
So, am I racist for using the real dialogue in a scene? Heck, I went to integrated schools growing up. The president of our junior class was black and it was normal. Everyone got along. (Don’t know how that happened… just did.) I was in college and being terrorized by black students brought in from Chicago before I had a clue as to what racism was.
Now I live in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, with blacks being part of the demographic. It’s gang territory. A couple of Korean neighbors and my white roommate and I are definitely in the minority. Except for the recent gang disputes we mostly get along.
What I’m sayin’ is, you need to let go of other people telling you how to write black people. Get out there and learn. You seem to want to make the black person sympathetic and sometimes that’s the case. Sometimes that’s not the case. But just don’t do it because you think you need to help things along.
I’m older than you — but had the same experiences as a kid… sat in the balcony with my black gal pals in Jr High, thought it was cool to be up there — then one day my friends stated that they ‘couldn’t sit downstairs’ in the theater. I was stunned — clueless that any such rules would exist…and why they would be tolerated or allowed.
Now, many many years later, I can find myself stumbling over what I say to a cashier at my grocery store, the gal who slices my cheese at the deli, the guy who stands in line at the post office…I want to just ‘talk’, but now am almost painfully aware, and confused, about just how to do that.
As a writer and editor, I work every day to express things clearly and to help authors present their message/story clearly. There is no stumbling in those situations, as I consider these attempts at communication target the entirety of humankind.
ah well — I can also attest to the power of humor. A husband who suffered from severe mental illness, but was a genius-level intellect, had a glorious sense of humor. When times were darkest, we would watch Monty Python and it always broke the spell. We discovered one night, as he held a knife to my neck and explained how he would handle killing me, that humor could occur any time — I took a humorous tone, made fun of the situation, and the absurdity of it…and he laughed, put away the threat and earnestly said: Wow, that was close.
We need to see where the real pain is and be respectful. We need to see how absurd life can be and laugh at it. We need to acknowledge that communication is the only way to ensure understanding and cement bonds between us all.
I’m so glad you re-posted…
Thanks for sharing. I’m involved in social justice work, trying to be an anti-racist white guy in a world that can be unfair to People of Color. But I do agree that sometimes we go too far with the PC. My biggest issue being appropriation. I’ve had long arguments with people about what is and isn’t appropriation or how to combat it. I’m sharing your story on my FB, and I’m sure I’ll get a few comments, but I feel it is necessary for discussion to be open for everyone in the fight for equality, even white people, or straight people, or non-transgendered people. But that’s me.
Cultural appropriation is a WHOLE other bugaboo. Cultures get upset no one represents them or highlights elements of their culture, but when we do we are appropriating it? Humans have been doing that since the DAWN OF TIME. Humans=Crows.
Study the Vikings and you will see all kinds of Oriental design, Persian influence, and on and on. They saw something pretty and they appropriated it…because THEY LIKED IT. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. So long as we give credit where it came from? Lighten UP! I am actually part American Indian and Sami (a Norwegian version of the Native American). I am really not offended to see elements of my “culture” being highlighted in fashion or whatever.
I am actually far more offended when they get Texas wrong 😛 .
“WHAT??? That is a GEORGIA ACCENT not TEXAS!”
The key issue is respect for the original culture and its context, and giving credit to where it came from. Elvis Presley is a key example: white radio stations refused to play black artists (where the rock ‘n roll originated from), and so marketed Presley as the acceptable face of this music. He also got writing credits on songs he didn’t write, which came from African-American artists. He was considered the King of a genre that was pioneered by African-Americans. White audiences would listen to him, but ignore the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Do you see the problem?
Me? I’m boring. English and Irish. That means the sun isn’t my friend and I have high lobster potential. One grandmother came over from England via Scotland in 1904. I knew my great grandmother on the other side when I was little. She came over from Ireland and was the sweetest, funniest, and shortest woman you’d ever meet. Some of the family came here via Canada. Some days I want to reverse that migration.
We need to revel in what each of us has to share. Mix it up. I find diverse backgrounds fascinating, but these days you don’t dare ask. How sad. We humans are supposed to be so smart, yet we’re too often unable to grasp that varied ethnic backgrounds enrich us all AND we’re all human beings of equal worth. Is that so difficult? Too many people are obsessed with being better than someone else. Good grief.
Ah, another Brit. *waves* My parents are from Nigeria though. If I hear an Irish/Scottish/Welsh name or accent, I usually ask about it in conversation anyway. There are many people happy to discuss their ethnic background, but I do understand some reluctance from others because there are those who seem to feel that we racial minorities can’t be British simply based on colour. This sentiment is pervasive and should be criticized a lot more than the odd person flaring up with PC rage.
Excellent post! With much mirth, I concur. Many Americans have lost their sense of humor. We no longer laugh as we once did. Political candidates have been getting meaner and the jokes have been getting uglier. However, I believe we can make America laugh again. That’s why I’ve thrown my hat into the ring to represent the people of Florida’s 4th Congressional District.
I envision an America with a thousand points of laughter, all over this great land of ours. This laugh is your laugh, this laugh is my laugh. Life, liberty, and laughter – these are the values that will bring our country back together. Ask not what your country can do to make you laugh. Ask what you can do to make a fellow American laugh. Give me laughter, or give me death!
For more information on the campaign to #MakeAmericaLaughAgain check out http://dannymurphywriter.blogspot.com/2016/03/make-america-laugh-again-campaign-for.html.
I dig it! I have noticed as we laugh less the people are just getting MEANER. It is SCARY!
Here’s a link to a bit I wrote last year that you might find entertaining. Wit Privilege and America’s War on the Witless. “Wit privilege refers to societal privileges that benefit witty people in ways that are unavailable to the witless…In the interest of fairness and decency, if an equitable solution cannot be found, the laughter must stop.”
Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/06/wit_privilege_and_americas_war_on_the_witless.html#ixzz4B7kp2kkJ
Dear KristenI’ll be your friend. I identify as black because African American takes too long to say. Dorothy w/a Yasmine Phoenix
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Oh THANK YOU! *weeps* It really is pretty tedious to say, LOL.
Reblogged this on authorkdrose.
Kristen, I totally agree that we all need to laugh more and I plan to share the link for this post, though not reblog, since it doesn’t exactly fit my ‘pet information’ theme.
I’ve often observed that cats and dogs get along better than humans who look for their differences instead of their similarities.
A voice in the wilderness. Thoughtful, provocative, well said and on point. Put a feather in your cap for this one. Enjoy your posts.
Another EXCELLENT common-sense post! Thank you.
Message in a bottle from the UK…..
You can identify an open minded, socially aware and progressively thinking person in the UK; they hate Christians (for being narrow minded) suspect all Jews for being supporters of the Israeli Government (which opts them out of being anti-Semitic); loath Islam (but are not racist); blame everything that goes wrong in the world upon the USA and reserve the right to speak in profanities about anyone who disagrees with them.
And watching them tying themselves up in knots while explaining & justifying all this would be really funny, if they were not so hateful in their speech.
(Oh yes, they also deplore the sense of humour we had back in the 1960s for being insensitive and crude….and don’t recognise ironic satire).
That’s why I quit social media and settled in WordPress. Folks is Folks.
Keep up your good work;
Copious generalizations here. I’m as British as you are- and black (is that the “they” you are referring to?) and you might as well be describing a alien from Mars, because I see nothing in there that represents me. That being said, please don’t claim that all 60’s humour was satirical. A lot of it was downright racist.
I was making reference to a particular set of usual Caucasian (like me) apparently left wing (I consider myself socialist) people who whereas they claim to be progressive and tolerance display a great deal of intolerance towards people who do not fall in line with their view. And so their own sweeping generalisations are as blinkered as anyone on the far right.
In short they meet around the other side.
I have no time for their brand of intolerance, no more than I have for those on the right.
I wearied of trying to get a dialogue with either side. In consequence my anger spills out.
I am sorry if I caused you personal offence. None intended.
I agree with you. The far side of both wings make me NUTS. Tolerance breeds a weird brand of vicious INTOLERANCE.
Oh yes, indeed. You are so correct
My UK politics are quite left wing (Sort of ‘Bernie Sanders…nice guy, but not left enough for me’…… it’s a European thing)….However some of the recent antics by some of the UK ‘very left’ are based on visceral unthinking hate and prejudice and I’ve dissociated myself from a few groups.
I now belong to Socialist Let’s Get a Life Party; our by-words are Compassion Respect & Tolerance (I am currently the only member, so chances of a split over policy are unlikely and our meetings are quite cordial)
Oh, no problem. Yes- an extreme of anything is dangerous for rational and objective thought.
In complete agreement with you.
We must always be on our guard. I try to reach a conclusion or opinion on a group or person on the basis, are they displaying Compassion, Respect & Tolerance? It is not a perfect system and I am often a poor example, so I read some more history and try to learn what happens when, as you say, ‘extreme of anything’ takes hold.
I love this. Political correctness has had a chilling effect on speech in this country. How many people don’t express an opinion because they’re afraid to be shot down? And I am an American of Italian, German, Greek, and French descent and my kids can add Polish, Russian and Austrian. That we know of. Reading “My Brilliant Friend”, which takes place in the 50’s in Italy, a friend, a good friend, asked me if it ‘really was like that back then?’ I answered, how would I know, the Italian side of my family has been in the US since 1887. Oh wait, I just offended someone. Apparently calling America the US is offensive because other countries have states and we act like we’re the only ones. Yes, let’s laugh. And cultural appropriation makes me crazy! As my mother would say, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’. Don’t tell me my mother is wrong!
And calling it America or us Americans is also offensive because there are other countries in the Americas. We can’t win either way.
Well those complaints are definitely lowest on the importance spectrum and I don’t know anyone here in Britain who hasn’t used the US. Just because one person/one group claimed X was Y doesn’t mean it reflects on all people as a whole. The whole issue I have with PC is that it has become bogged down with tiny things which doesn’t do anything for the reality of injustice and prejudice around the world. I am more concerned about respect.
And yet this country’s proper name IS the United States of America. Go figure.
On the issue of cultural apprectiation/appropriation, I usually make two distinctions: 1)- Using part of someone’s culture with respect, crediting the original owners and promoting understanding and 2)- Using an element of that culture without crediting the original owner, or using it to promote harmful stereotyping (i.e I despise the way that people living in ghettoes are constantly dehumanized as thugs), or using it in spite of holding prejudiced and objectionable beliefs towards that same group of people. All culture has a context and an often painful history behind it. An easy example is how white Amerians used to flock to the music clubs in Harlem to hear jazz and blues, but then refuse to allow the black residents to sit with them, or even use the same public facilities or enter through the same doors. On the other hand, I saw a lovely video of a Nigerian woman and her white husband doing traditional dance. He was obviously enjoying this immersion in Nigerian culture. Big difference.
Or take, for instance, how the British got rid of slavery before America, but ran the blockades and continued to trade with the self-serving South because they wanted the south’s cotton. LMAO
I enjoyed this post. I strongly believe in the power of laughter, especially being able to laugh at myself and how serious I can find myself getting about things sometimes. It’s very true that we’re all going to die, might as well enjoy laughter in the meantime. Many comedians (some even take roles resembling present-day jesters) also provide insights that are fairly truthful and help wrap our thoughts around difficult and sensitive issues. I’ve always appreciated this from the comedy sector, though sometimes it isn’t done in a style of humor that is for everyone or isn’t always as successful as it was intended or the comedian just has a different opinion. There are so many styles of humor too, like dark humor and dry wit.
As for my make-up, I look very white/brunette lol and that would be because I’m Hungarian-Romanian-German-English-American. My grandmother’s family moved to America from Hungary, but a good chunk of my lineage has been around in America since before the civil war, but before then mostly Eastern-Europe. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some Austrian, Russian, or Bohemian influences too somewhere in there. My grandmother seemed very proud to be Hungarian though, she’d constantly pick out features like my cheeks or hips while I was growing up and claim that was my Hungarian blood showing through. It made me want to travel and visit Hungary one day. :3
My husband’s Polish family taught me all the Polish jokes I know. They sounded an awful lot like the Svedish jokes my Swedish neighbors told. And now blond jokes sound like them. I don’t know who is next on the carousel. Oh, I know. Kristen is.
Kristen, I never thought I’d say this outside my marriage ever again: I LOVE YOU! This post is sooooooooo to the piint! Somebody had to say it y’all! Great post!
Love, love, love this post. Thank you for bringing levity and insignificance to life. I am Scottish, Welsh, English, French and American Indian. Can we be friends?
Reblogged this on Erotic Vampire and commented:
Love this post.
Aw, Kristen, I was thinking (just this week) as more and more people from around the world come to live in America, maybe the color predjudices would begin to disappear. We could all live peacefully. Then, you wake me out of my dream and remind me of PC. Yeah it sucks. At work, being new, I got into trouble again and again, because I was misinterpreted. I was warned I could be written up. Now, that they are getting to know ME, they are more trusting and laid back. What happened to grace?
whoops ! meant that to go into comments my bad lmao
This is really timely. I was actually just talking to my friends about this the other day.
Spot on. Thanks.
Definitely going to repost.
Reblogged this on Hilarity is and commented:
Not to toot my own horn, but this is why people need my blog…er…humor blogs like mine…um…funny in their lives.
You nailed every thought I’ve had on this and did it much more diplomatically than I would have. I personally have had it with being called a racist because of the color of my skin. Which is fantastically ironic when you think about it.
I still think you should drift into the eastern seaboard states and come eat lunch here. You’ll get barbecued ribs (unless you don’t eat pork and/ or are vegan). collard greens (unless you’re allergic), corn on the cob (unless you hold to the recent corn-is-the-new-gluten theory), and watermelon (oh, come ON, you gotta eat that!). And fresh frozen peach daiquiris to drink, unless you don’t drink, in which case you can soak up some iced tea.
You’ll also get total permission to say/ joke/ crab/ pontificate about whatever you want, because our sense of humor in this house is still intact. Life is too freakin’ short to waste on being pissy, you should excuse the language, and I think those who are in a state of chronic offendedness just haven’t lived long enough to understand that.
….I’ll keep the praline sweet taters warm and the latch-string out for you, Kristen. Come on when you can.
“We cared less about the color of your skin and more about the color of your bike. They have BLUE????”
Love this article! A badly needed breath of fresh air.
Posting a link to this on my FB page. Thanks, Lynne.
Yes! Bring in the jester, bring in the clown, bring in the fool. Where is Coyote when we so desperately need him? Great post, Kristen. Keep it up, keep pounding away at the insanity that grips this nation and the world. Keep fighting back with humor. –Curt
Hi Kristen, I AM LIVE IN MISSOURI AND I RESEMBLE THAT REMARK! LOL. I would tell you a funny story about my (then) six year old son and a boy riding a bicycle in Rolla, but someone might be offended.
Cannot tell you how much I love this post. Yes, yes, yes, YES.
Excellent post and very on point.
I am German and Russian. I lived most of my young childhood on the edge of suburbia where there simply wasn’t much diversity. When we moved to the west coast, my best friend was from Hong Kong. I loved her hair, and I would try to get invited over to dinner whenever I could because I loved the food they ate. Telling anyone how beautiful I thought her hair was would probably be racist now. Funny thing was, we never noticed race as much physical differences. She always liked my blue eyes.
My daughter is in preschool now, and I was terrified what she would say to the boy in her class who was the only non-Caucasian. Didn’t have to worry as a year later she still hasn’t noticed.
No idea how to deal with this. Myself and many others we know avoid diversity because we don’t want to be insensitive and we don’t know how to act or what to say. So, we play it safe.
As a white person, I would never dream of having a person of color in my work. Or someone gay etc. I have simply heard too often only they can write their stories. Not sure if I believe it or not, but I don’t want to be insensitive either.
“No idea how to deal with this. Myself and many others we know avoid diversity because we don’t want to be insensitive and we don’t know how to act or what to say. So, we play it safe.”
Seriously? You do realize we of the “diversity crew” can hold a basic conversation with white folks, right?
Some can, some are downright hateful. No way to tell. Ive dealt with both and trust me I love everyone…except tailgaters.
I’m British, of Nigerian parents. From my perspective, I am not so concerned with PC speech (which I sometimes find tedious) as I am with basic respect. Getting bogged down with dodging around the word “black”, “fat” and so on is time-wasting and will not solve the basic problems of injustices that many people suffer in this world. But demanding a basic quota of respect is not a massive ask.
So I make a distinction between an opportunity for cultural education and widening horizons and an approach which reeks of arrogance and prejudice. Plenty of people in the comments section here are giving the impression that you need to walk on eggshells around racial minorities- folks, this is simply not the case. Many of us are un-PC as well. I can’t remember the last time I used the word “Caucasian”. I simply refuse to use the copious term “people of colour”. The word “plus-sized” makes me roll my eyes because I had many fat friends at school who didn’t see the word as a big deal. You may hear Latino’s using the word “negro” casually and so on.
When it comes to a white person asking a question about my culture/racial background and I can see the desire is for education, then I am happy to answer such questions. This is because I am proud of my Nigerian ethnic background. And I will often ask about theirs in return and we have a good chat. This is not a problem. Some white people have never seen kinky hair and even though I’m a little tired of the “It’s so cool!”, many are happy to discuss their hair as well. Some assume I know everything about Africa, which prompts an eye-roll. I am British! But I am happy to spread more knowledge and awareness of Africa as well and I have had some great conversations about this with no issues.
On the flip side, I have the right to react to comments/questions that are rooted in prejudice and inexcusable ignorance. I dislike stereotypes because many of them were made during centuries of historic oppression. I know that black Americans were often the subject of racist cartoons during the last century where they were depicted as devouring watermelons and fried chicken, so I can perfectly understand sensitivity over that. I can understand why a Jewish person will be suspicious over a non-Jew associating them with money and power, because this was used as a tool to enable anti-Semitic persecution here in Europe, costing millions of lives.
I don’t hold with assumptions of my being an athlete or musician (I’m a linguist), or surprise at my being academically-minded, or being bombarded with the same demeaning spiel about Africans being poor and miserable and corrupt. It’s one thing to be interested/curious in a culture- it’s quite another to impose prejudiced views on that person.
As for writing- I’ve written many stories with white characters in them (I’m a huge fan of the English medieval period), so that point amuses me. If a white writer with relatively little contact with other races and cultures wants to ask me about black charcaters in their book then my rule is simple: portray them just as you portray white characters. Three-dimensional and not cardboard cut-outs. Not only does this avoid credible offense, it also improves writing. If they want to ask me questions about Nigeria, ethnolects, culture etc., then I have no issue with that. Better to ask than to assume and stereotype. If they want to write a story based on a historical period, then go ahead as long as it’s well-researched- just like any good historical fiction.
I got stuck in the PC rut because I’m writing crime fiction and some of the criminals will be black. I was fretting about whether this would incur criticism for feeding into a stereotype. I had to sit down and decide firmly that my job is not to please everyone, and to remember that I created a black female detective to shatter said stereotypes in the first place. Not all PC is essential, but respect is.
“Plenty of people in the comments section here are giving the impression that you need to walk on eggshells around racial minorities- folks, this is simply not the case.”
I think the difficulty is that it is so easy to lose one’s livelihood by offending the *wrong* minority individual. Of course people will be gun-shy when they can get fired or ruined because of one joke that was overheard by a particularly litigious member of a minority group. Or one refusal to bake a cake. Or one contribution to the wrong cause.
Hubby works in a Fortune 500 company… and they know very well that he’s amazing at what he does, but even he could be fired for offending the wrong person. So, yes, walking on eggshells is entirely warranted, in the working-stiff world.
I have more flexibility. I’ll just lose potential readers, so I can piss people off all I want. He would lose everything… his career, his house, his pride, his sense of self (very wrapped up in his career… which yes, is a choice people can criticize, but it is what it is).
Dismissing the reality that the PC crowd has created for the average white working-stiff is pretty insensitive. And honestly, the fact that one can lose everything based on someone else’s willingness to take offense is pretty oppressive.
Reality dictates that walking on eggshells is entirely justified.
Agreed. I actually talked about this in a recent post. A white male was at a tech conference and made a whispered joke to a male colleague regarding tech equipment. She overheard and assumed it was a sexist joke. She took a pic on her phone and tweeted about how she was having to endure his sexism. They burned that guys life to the GROUND. By the end of the week he had no job and was unhireable. So yeah, there might only be a handful of yhses folks but the danger that they pose us VERY real and VERY terrifying.
If I’m right in assuming they were making phallic jokes about tech equipment (as most men do), then the reaction was definitely unwarranted. Come to think of it, there was a case recently where a male scientists said that women weren’t good scientists because they cried and then fell in love with men. I wanted to smack my head against the desk that he could seriously make such a sweeping and stupid generalization, but I think I would have been happy with an apology rather than him being fired as he was.
But isn’t this the point of this entire post? It was a whispered joke to a male colleague. None of her business but she still unleashed the Thought Police and ruined him. People should have a right to even “distasteful” opinions and not get their lives torched.
I will refer back to my comment to respond:
As I said right at the beginning, I don’t believe nit-picky PC terminology helps fight injustice. As a logical extension from that, I don’t believe that examining the minutiae of what a white person says is forward-moving. Ergo I wouldn’t approve of a scenario where someone was unduly punished IF there is CLEAR evidence this is unwarranted. For example, poorly-judged jokes and systematic racial discrimination in employment are two different things altogether.
Part of the trouble is that there is almost never CLEAR evidence. It becomes a case of “I said this. It was a joke.” vs. “I heard this. I am mortally offended.” And to avoid lawsuits the company punishes the innocent guy who just made a freaking joke.
Your being individually against that scenario doesn’t really do the guy in the crosshairs of the PC police any favors, does it? Are you speaking out in his defense against those who persecute him? Are you defending him as viscerally as the mob who wants him destroyed?
I wouldn’t blame you if you’re not. It’s a damn scary thing to go against a mob. I went against a class of my peers in 8th grade, then again in 12th, and let me tell you… they didn’t want to destroy me, but I still had cold fear snaking down my spine when I did it. I just couldn’t sit there and watch them be assholes to the teachers. 30 kids is not an internet mob though, and I rarely go out seeking that kind of battle any more. I’ve had my share of speaking out in internet forums. Got the emotional scars to prove it. But I was younger then, and a hell of a lot more passionate about defending the theoretically-indefensible. Now, I usually am resigned to letting the world go to hell in its handbasket, while doing my best for me and mine. Mostly these days, I keep my tongue, unless I’m pretty sure the forum owner is open to differing opinions. And even then I keep my silence more than I actually respond in writing.
It really comes down to power. The perpetually aggrieved can not admit that they actually hold the power now. If every white male in this country is brought low, at long last vindicating every wrong ever done by the white race, would that finally end the constant nit-picking? No… because 100 years down the road, the descendants of those brought low are going to still be carrying a hell of a grudge against those who destroyed their families.
So, basically out of control PC has set us up for a perpetual motion Hatfields-and-McCoys war of all against all.
Amen. Its why love is the only action that stops the cycle.
And being willing to be tolerant of those who live a different experience and have a different framework, rising above it, so to speak… in order to demonstrate what a more enlightened stance would look like. AKA: Love.
As long as one isn’t being physically attacked, there is the opportunity to recover an honest and loving relationship, without verbally smacking down people who make mistakes.
Of course, in the event of physical attacks, all bets are off. But I don’t need to elaborate on that with a Texan. 😉 LOL
(Sometimes, I really miss Texas. But Indiana suits me too… we are just as armed here, but a little more subtle. 😉 )
Thanks for your perspective. It is not sufficient for me to individually be opposed to Internet/workplace Salem Witch Trials, yes. On the flip side, it isn’t sufficient for an individual to say they are against racism etc. when there are significant masses still perpetrating it. A joke must actually be a joke. I’ve been on Forums where people have used despicable racist language and I have been shot down and treated like an intruder for presenting an objection. That kind of attitude can be transferred from the Internet to work. So I am not always convinced by “it was a joke”.
As for being “perpetually aggrieved”- we are as aggrieved as the seriousness of the situation of prejudice, injustice and intolerance. Rather than shying away from the “angry black woman” stereotype, I embrace it where I feel the need is there. Like I have continually said in the bulk of my original comment, poor judgement doesn’t- and shouldn’t- cut it.
Cathy, I wanted to look at your blog, but apparently need an invite.
Oh, right… I’d forgotten that I used that blog address for the account here.
I had it under construction for a major re-design in anticipation of a changed focus to a writing blog. Everything else went away. It sat there completely empty for quite a while, while I worked on it, trying to make things reasonably consistent across platforms, so I locked the doors “temporarily.” Then wandered off, somewhere, forgetting I’d closed up shop.
There’s not much there, at the moment, but I can unlock it, now that the framing is basically done. (Need my son to help me with one little glitch, when he gets a chance, but since he’s in Oregon and I’m in Indiana, it may be a while.)
I don’t currently have any stories published, so I’m not big into the marketing phase of things, as yet. So it sits there, with a little post about Chasing Muses that I used in order to give it a test drive, but no other interesting stuff. But it’s pretty looking, I think… 😉
Anyway… I’ll go ahead and open the door and put the coffee on for the stray passerby. 🙂
I took one of your classes, and I had a lot of fun because of your sense of humor. It’s a horrible thing when people lose their sense of humor.
I grew up in the 80s, too, and things that never once went through my mind when I was in school is a “big and serious issue” with my kids who are in elementary school. It’s just sad.
Vote Kristen Lamb for a future you actually want to live in! 😀
LOL. Those of us who probably would be good at it are smart enough not to run 😛 .
Frankly, I am hoping for Z-Day and then WANA can rise as the new world order. A WORLD, RULED BY WRITERS!
Which means were are going to have to save the therapists and the coffee and cocoa plantations, LOL.
Count me in!!
Count me in too!
WONDERFUL post. Every word true and it kills me that we have become so PC and EC that we are no longer allowed to be ourselves without some stranger taking offense. Your title says it all.
Thanks for reposting this article! You’ve described EXACTLY how I feel as the child of an Argentine immigrant, who speaks Spanish but who is obviously “white,” not Hispanic. Huh?
I’m Puerto Rican on my mother’s side and I just always say I’m a white Puerto Rican or a white latina since race and ethnicity aren’t the exact same thing.
But those forms that specify “white, non-Hispanic” make me roll my eyes.
Another layer to this is that some unproductive backlash against something comes from people who aren’t part of the community that is being represented. There are examples of this in fandom culture and it sometimes gets to the point where, say, a well-meaning, socially conscious straight person decries a same-sex relationship or LGBT+ characters for not being good representation to the point of arguing with and dismissing actual LGBT+ folks who thought the author or creator did well. In other words, it can get to a point of speaking over the experiences and opinions of the people who are actually of the race, ethnicity, gender, etc. in question. By intending to dismantle and call out the -archies and -isms we all navigate on a daily basis, we run the risk of becoming overzealous and perpetuating this underlying notion that, say, all black people feel the same way about x or that all trans people have the same opinion about y. To be sure, there are major issues that each of these communities face and certain language or actions that we should definitely avoid. But when we spend to much energy talking about what we think is offensive to a group we’re not a part of, we’re not listening to the folks who are actually part of it, even when they’re opinion counters what we’d expect their opinion to be. And as with anything, there are multiple opinions in tension because people are people.
Basically, a lot of it comes down to folks just not listening or showing grace, particularly in cases of nuanced terminology or discussions of representation in fiction. Important things for sure, but also everyday things that need to be learned–no one popped out of the womb with all this awareness.
I’ve definitely seen this in action. I was reading the comments of a blog once about Men’s Rights Activists, and someone called them nuts, which I agree with, but they were slammed for being insensitive for using “enabler” language like crazy and nuts. Apparently it’s insensitive/offensive to the mentally ill to use those terms.
I was sitting there like, “what?” I have bipolar and it felt really strange to have someone (especially the many commented without mental illness) tell me what I was offended by. I refuse to stop using the words or making jokes about my mental illness. Sometimes laughing about it is the only way to make sense of it all.
Yeah, while I understand that it’s legitimately not safe or accessible for some people to do anything besides Internet activism, a lot of times I feel like a big part of the solution is distancing yourself from the Internet and actually talking to people in person. Otherwise, I think it becomes easy to…misdirect our energy.
The internet just brings out the loudest of every group. Activism is great, educating people that are ignorant is awesome, but some people get so wrapped up in the fight (I guess you could say) that they lose sight of what they’re actually doing and who they’re fighting for. At least it seems that way. A lot of times I’m left feeling like, “it’s great that you’re being supportive and proactive, but I can speak for myself and know what offends me.”
I try to be one of the “loud” ones by commenting on any article that pops up on Facebook about mental illness. There is so much misinformation that needs to be corrected from the ignorant and the supposedly informed supporters. It’s crazy because I’ve actually had people argue with me about my actual experiences as a person with mental illness like I’m misinterpretation my own feeling or something. I live it every day; I know what I’m talking about.
Old black American woman here. I loved your post–with a caveat. We do not live in an easy world, but we do live in interesting times. “Lighten the HELL UP” only works when I’m comfortable with the person or situation. The truth is, there are some people who would use humor to hurt. Everything is NOT funny (never heard a rape joke that amused me). It does trouble me to think that writers are censoring themselves for fear of offending. Write your stories, children. You can’t make everyone happy; you are not bacon. People are not racist (only institutions and systems can be) but people can be bigoted, thoughtless or simply uninformed. Life works better when we accept and forgive. And for your commenter who wasn’t sure how to describe POC–Sweetie, you can describe me as food anytime! 🙂
Loved your comment. I’ve wondered about the food thing since I’ve noticed article after article online saying it’s wrong or offensive, but how else do you describe the nuanced variation of brown? I remember when I was a kid, when I started to notice people had different skin colors, that black people had to most awesome colored skin–so many pretty shades whereas I noticed white people had pale and paler as colors. Of course, I learned pretty quick that it was wrong to vocalize those things. I’m not sure I’ve even ever told anyone about it except maybe my own kids when trying to explain racism and political correctness and help them make sense of everything.
I also have a thing for Asian eyes. Is that the correct way to say it? I’m probably offending someone, but I think they are beautiful.
I agree. I feel that way with blonde jokes. I tell them and I can take them but some people???? Might wanna get to know me a bit better or maybe stop telling them ALL the time. I can laugh at myself with the best of them but sometimes? ENOUGH.
I guess what scares me is that people can’t learn if they can’t make a mistake. We used to gently and privately correct. Social media has turned into the new witch hunt. So the person makes a rape joke and it falls flat. Maybe they are a horrible person. But, maybe they are an introvert and panicked or don’t get social queues. Maybe they didn’t get what the joke was REALLY about. I did that when I was younger. Told a joke I thought was silly and I TOTALLY missed the sexual entendre.
But back then, others could say, “Kristen, NOT funny. Don’t quit your day job.” So long as I didn’t persist? I learned I had oopsed. NOW? You tell the wrong joke, say the wrong comment and suddenly there is a Twitter lynch mob demanding you be fired and your home torched. There is NO grace.
Like the girls in Arizona. Young teenagers who spelled out the N-word in a photo, but it was for the boyfriend of one of the girls and boyfriend happened to be black and GOD only knows WTH they were thinking. Stupid? YES. Insensitive? Of course. Ridiculously stupid? 1000%.
But there were people calling for them all to be expelled, for it to go on their permanent record, that they should never get into college or ever be hired. For them to be charged with a HATE CRIME.
“Ruin them!” was a common cry. People didn’t even wait to get the entire story, just assumed the girls were the HS KKK.
SERIOUSLY? WTH is WRONG with people? Adolescence is full of stupidity. We are learning to think through what we say. That is the time we are learning words and actions have consequences. And I get that it was in bad, bad taste but is that REALLY worth laying waste and salting the earth of their futures?
So yeah. We do need to correct people who cross social boundaries, but no need to use a thermonuclear strike as our first option.
And on a lighter note 😀 ….
I love the food descriptions too. We are describing ethnic women with all we writers love—coffee, mocha, chocolate, LOL.
Mari, you have very kind and nurturing insights. I agree with your caveat. The movement for more sensitivity came about for a very valid reason. Those of us with privilege can’t forget that.
Wise, wise woman here. Love the comment about bacon. — Mi sweet potato casserole es su sweet potato casserole, anytime!
I said the n-word while sitting in a van full of us multi-national kids. My comment was made in reaction to some idiot who swerved out of a side street and narrowly missed smashing into the side where I sat. My comment was borne of confusion and fear, and it was the only word my shocked brain rushed to my mouth. Never, and I mean NEVER, in my life have I ever uttered that word. I have been color-blind my entire life, and I remain so.
My children are all adopted, but so what? one is from Guatemala and is obviously of Hispanic descent; two are from China, born years apart, with one having familiar Asian features, while the other is mixed race; and our youngest is our boy from here in the U.S., and he is a lovely shade of dark brown.
Oh yeah, my husband and I are white. He’s gone blind, and I use a walker to get around. Who gives a flying fig about any of this? None of us do, and neither do our friends. It’s all about friends and being a friend. Unless someone mentions how are family came together, none of us dwell on our differences–we accept difference as being a normal facet of life. And, life goes on–whether we choose to be bigots, racists, narrow-minded, or a friend.
That day in the van, so, so many years ago, I lost two friends And one was my prideful self. It never occurred to me that any part of me would react so hatefully and arrogantly to use a word locked away, deep where no one would find it. Yet, in the blur of an irrational moment, out of reaction, I spewed the one vile word I abhorred.
I reive that moment in that van frequently–playing that same old scene over and over with crystal clarity. Although played relentlessly, the pain and ache aren’t from my bruised pride, but for the sweet young girl who, up until that moment in the van, had been one of my dearest friends for years.
I deserved to lose her friendship, even though I it was a terrible mistake, and some mistakes are built to last. I immediately apologized profusely that instant to her, but the damage was irreversible and deep. The look on her face wasn’t anger or bitterness, it was a look of crushing sadness–for as a result of my callous remark, I, with one word, stripped her of her dignity, her sameness with the rest of us, and shoved her into a subservient, degraded position. She teared up, and I realized that i’d lost her.
What sucks, too, was from that moment on, I was labeled a racist, and one by one , I lost the friendship and respect of the other kids in that van. This reputation spread, and it only stopped following me when our father got a job transfer that moved us to another state. Yes, I was given a clean slate, but to this day, I wonder if that school friend still plays that moment over in her head. I pray she’s forgotten about my insipid word choice and has forgiven me. I hope she is surrounded by loving family and friends.
I guess. I think character is demonstrated by repeated actions and decisions not one heated moment. And if the word is so horrible, then how about EVERYONE stop using it? And this argument that it is okay for one race to use it and another not to? That is like saying it is not at all demeaning for me to refer to another female as “whore” or “slut” or “c&nt” but if a man does it, it is verboten.
Friendship and all relationships are based on grace. Frankly, if that was the biggest screw up you’d ever made in the friendship and a million other acts of kindness and love didn’t count for anything? As far as I am concerned, they can pound sand.
Being a friend isn’t about expecting perfection. You deserved better friends.
Thank you for your grace. I expected a backlash, as I have whipped myself for decades. Yours was a kind reply–one that reminded me that we were all children, those who are the Innocent. I suppose you are correct that true friends should be a tolerant bunch, but what early teen isn’t a raging, boiling pot o’ hormones and insanity? Some of the cat fights I participated in back then where over much less volatile issues. Still, I can’t and won’t shake the memory of my cute, sweet friend having to deal with my horribly derogatory comment. Her reaction was to something “I” said, not someone else. The decades have provided no comfort to the reality that I was the reason for her pain.
I don’t always agree with you but this time i do. My latest book is a politically incorrect history of Fairyland and i had a ball writing it. I think it just might appeal to you http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DPVB4M8
Well, I belong in the same *do not breed* category because I swear I couldn’t figure out how to comment on this wonderful post….
I’m pretty darn white. I think my heritage is German, Polish, Scottish, Welsh, English and maybe some Native American thrown in there somewhere (probably a few others that I don’t know about). I grew up in Chicago, in working class, immigrant neighborhoods. They were predominantly Mexican when I lived there. It never even occurred to me that I was different than my friends. I still remember when it hit me that I was one of only a handful of white kids at my school. I was in 6th grade and looked around our class of thirty and saw that there was only me and one other girl that were white. Everyone else was Hispanic. I was shocked by this new information. You think I would have noticed before I was 11 that I was the only one of my friends that didn’t speak Spanish.
I keep reading stuff that says we need more diversity in YA novels, but I’m not going to write them. I don’t think I could ever do it right. Even if I based them off of people I know/knew in real life, I’d probably be labeled a racist or something.
Curious question- how can it be harder to create a three-dimensional black etc. character than a white one?
If I may answer for Jen… It might be different overseas, but here in the US we get caught in a double bind. If we have all white characters then we are whitewashing fiction. Okay, fair enough. But when we try to write characters of color, we are lambasted that we cannot possibly understand the POV of someone of another race because we are white. And round and round we go.
Of course this argument is ridiculous. I write male characters better than female characters. Why? Any number of reasons, but the deal is I have EMPATHY. But the PC Police have seriously gotten out of control. Diversity claims we are to highlight and celebrate cultural differences, but if you acknowledge cultures are different, that’s racist.
Whether the PC Police like it or not, cultures ARE different (even among “whites”). Scandinavians tent to be stoic, austere, and OCD. Italians talk with their hands and argue and are loud and passionate. Blacks (here in Texas at least) tend to be vocal and loud and funny and high energy and they socialize and have big groups of family. They are also generally matriarchal and treat their older folks with a high degree of reverence in comparison to other cultures. White people? We have ONE kid and all our friends are on FB and our grandparents in nursing homes. There is good and bad to ALL cultures.
It isn’t racist to point out how things exist, especially if the goal it to eventually change that.
I think the answer is to just write the characters we love or hate and write good stories and people will always fond a reason to be offended.
Just these days it is getting particularly dangerous to offend others.
Oh okay, fair enough. I don’t know anyone who finds discussing cultural differences offensive let alone racist- in fact those of us with Nigerian backgrounds are pretty used to discussing this in Britain. We all come from big families, with strict fathers who make us study all the time and tell us how they used to walk ten miles barefoot in Africa to go to school. And us girls always wore braids during middle school which the white kids always wanted to touch. Like I’ve said, not all PC is essential, and neither does it address the root causes of prejudice and injustice. I do appreciate, however, that black and Native Americans are rightly very sensitive with regards to their histories. My rule is that as long as someone can justify their care and research and fairness, then offense will be water off a duck’s back, because not everyone gets their news from Facebook.
I think a lot of it is not falling back onto stereotypes. I have no experience being a black person. I have no idea what it’s like to experience racism, although I’ve seen it directed at people. I can try and imagine what it would be like, but I can never really know. How do I write that and be authentic with no knowledge?
And then I’ve seen authors being accused of writing black characters as “too white,” whatever that means.
I don’t have any black friends, so I just have no frame of reference at all. I just don’t think I’d do a very good job at writing a main character that wasn’t like me. I’d have to find someone to pick their brain, I guess, but my idiotic mental illness makes stuff like that hard.
Interesting, because plenty of white writers have written other ethnicities into their works no problemo. J K Rowling’s Angelina Johnson from the Harry Potter series has always been a favourite of mine. Personally, I love head-hopping; I’ve done first-generation Brits of Nigerian parentage (like me), and I’ve done Lords and Ladies in Medieval England.
I guess I was talking more as major characters where you’re going to get inside their brain or their actions are going to be a plot point. I just don’t think I could get the voice right. They would sound, as I’ve heard being said, “too white.” It probably has more to do with lack of experience. As I said, I have no black friends, and I didn’t have any growing up.
But there are also writers who have been skewered too, so we can’t just look at the success stories. Those might be the only ones you happen to see. And actually the whole “Black Hermione” thing has landed Rowling in the crosshairs of haters so not nearly as rosy as one might first think. She is just a big enough name with enough money that it won’t tank her career like a new author. Also, Rowling wrote her characters over a decade ago before people were just looking for reasons to get their panties in a twist.
Hey, I know that supermarket! That’s here in New Zealand, where a cracker is a flat baked thing used to transport yummy stuff to your mouth. (Or a thing where you pull both ends and it goes ‘bang!’ but those tend to be less cheese-related, in my experience.) What is a cracker in the US?
Here in NZ the biggest issue at the moment seems to be not so much race as gender. It is suggested that you ask people you meet for the first time what their preferred pronouns are. Personally, I haven’t dared, because I think the majority of people would take it as an implied slight.
By your wording, it is a “suggestion” and is probably impractical in some circumstances. I think the person themselves should provide this info. To be fair, if you haven’t even tried, how can you assume the majority would take offence? An issue I have is assuming certain groups no longer can be talked to because of PC, when many of us (I’m black) are un-PC too and can talk to people easily whilst also reserving the right to call out prejudice and demeaning portrayals of us. This is a clear distinction and the sum of a few poor experiences shouldn’t make someone else seem suspect and self-important if they discuss something that concerns them.
I don’t mind people asking me to use certain pronouns for them (though I have not had much experience of this). But I don’t want to use it as an opening gambit for everyone, for two reasons: a) a lot of people won’t know what I’m talking about, and b) some who are clearly male or clearly female may take the question as an offensive insinuation. Yes, this is supposition, as I haven’t actually experimented on people, but nor do I feel the urge to. If I’m not sure I’ll ask.
“Cracker” can be a derogatory term for Caucasian person.
I have recently become very aware of the preferred pronoun situation. It is difficult to remember who wants to be referred to as he, she, or they,, but I try because I don’t want to upset anyone and identity is important.
I don’t know if I should call anyone black or brown or white or any other color. Last year I had a roommate who was a young woman from Africa who had very dark skin.. (I couldn’t call her African-American since she was from Guinea-Bissau.) Usually, there was no reason to talk about skin color. One day when we were talking about complexions I told her that I am beige. She told me, “No, you are white and I am black.” That was simple.