Heyo! Welcome to today’s Monday Muse, possibly the last before the United States collapses under the weight of its own fears. I could be coming to you from deep in an underground cave or something next time, which begs the question: how am I getting WiFi in an underground cave? Do the Silurians have WiFi? If so, why isn’t it password protected? People like me are just free-loading off of them and slowing down their service. I should be ashamed of myself. Shame on you, future-cave-dwelling C! SHAME ON YOU!
Anyway, all that aside… I want to talk to you about not being a righteous asshole. Seriously. That’s what I want to do. It’s been bugging me all day, and I think it needs to be addressed.
If you are at all acquainted with the writing community on Twitter, you know there’s some shit going down. (Oh yeah… this post will definitely have swear words… sorry.) There’s a… very, very problematic book coming out (or out.. .I’m not sure/don’t care) that features such classic hallmarks as White Saviorism, the Fetishizing of Eastern Cultures, and the whole “brown people are savages” thing. Yeah… that’s how bad this book is. And it definitely needed to be called out. In fact, it should have been called out a very long time ago… like when the author submitted it to an agent/publisher. But it wasn’t, and now it’s being published, and, understandably, it’s getting a shit ton of negative feedback.
Negative feedback, I want to add, it definitely deserves. This book should not have been published. I’d argue this book should not exist at all, but I’d settle for it slowly dying in a cupboard somewhere, never to see the light of day. Really, in the world we live in, that would have been enough for me.
But, alas… the writer submitted it and a publisher — a major publisher, I should add, which makes a lot of difference — decided to back it. Like… really back it. Like, you’re going to see this shit featured at your local Barnes and Noble soon. And, though I’m leaving the book nameless, you WILL KNOW which one I’m talking about as soon as you read the blurb. Seriously. Anyone with any awareness of the world around them will see what’s wrong with it.
But, and I know there’s a lot of that in this… the reaction on the internet was just as problematic as the writing of the book in the first place. Oh, don’t get me wrong… the author deserved to have her sheer block-headedness pointed out to her (and should probably have just admitted it was problematic instead of hiding behind the rudeness of her detractors), but the internet broke down into a shit storm of awfulness. It’s kinda like voting for Trump, you know? Not everyone who voted for him is racist/bigoted/prejudiced, etc, though a decent number of his supporters are. Some people are just voting based on what they know, what they have experienced, and what they think is the most important thing this election cycle. But, instead of looking at these people as basically decent (in most instances), but maaaaaybe making a decision without considering all the ramifications for people who aren’t them or people like them, it’s easier to put it down to prejudice. And, you know what? I’m not surprised people are getting defensive and buckling down. Because PEOPLE DON’T LEARN WHEN THEY FEEL ATTACKED.
Let’s say it again for the people in the back: PEOPLE DO NOT LEARN WHEN THEY FEEL ATTACKED.
If you start to attack a person, if you make it about their moral compass or their decency or their humanity, they are not going to listen to you. And, you know what? They’re right not to. Even if you have the moral high ground, you give it up the second you start chipping away at a person’s being. Now, I’m not talking about your KKK members or your Westboro Baptist Church-types who are so entrenched it doesn’t matter (though, no, you don’t get to treat them like shit, either because part of moral superiority means not being a flaming asshole to people even if they’re a flaming asshole themselves); I’m talking about people who, my God, probably just DON’T NOTICE what they’re doing. They don’t know better or they tried and got it wrong. People who are good people at heart — and I truly, truly believe most people are good people — who need to be given the benefit of the doubt. People who, if shown the error of their ways respectfully and in the spirit of forgiveness, learning, and forging of strong bonds of togetherness, will get better. Attacking them makes it about their personhood, not their ideas, and I am not at all surprised when people don’t learn in those instances.
A person who writes a bad book like this is not automatically a bad person. They are ignorant of certain things, but they are not necessarily an ignorant person. When dealing with problems like this — problems of race, economic disparity, culture, society, etc — we need to be sure to see the distinction between a person and their mistakes/mistaken beliefs. We need to realize that the end goal isn’t punishment, but growth and learning and a better fucking future for humanity. Because when we punish, when we conflate a mistake or a bad decision (and, yes, I am willing to believe that this poor woman really was that unaware of what she was writing; a lot of white people are due to the circumstances of their upbringing) with the worthiness and goodness of a human being, all we succeed in doing is tearing ourselves apart. I know because I spent half of last night trying to reassure a fellow writer that it’s OK to write diverse books even though she’s white, that people are fundamentally decent and will support her so long as she is willing to listen and research and open her heart to voices and perspectives of other people. She was ready to give up, questioning her gift, questioning herself because what if she got something wrong? Would the internet, would the writing community, turn on her?
I reminded her that of course they wouldn’t because, really, most people are capable of seeing an honest mistake for what it is. But, dear God people… we need to grow the fuck up and start being decent to one another. Because otherwise, we’re only going to tell people that they need to live within the borders of their reality. That a white woman can only write white characters, white stories. That a straight man can only write straight man’s stories. And that is fucking bullshit. Bullshit that leads to nothing but more ignorance, more divisions, and total intellectual segregation.
Which, despite this mess, I am going to continue to assume ISN’T the point of telling stories.
I’ll be back on Friday with Boozy Books. Seeya!