If you’ve been affected by European colonialism and globalization in any way, then you know exactly what white people stories are.
They are told to be the most credible stories, praised for their “universality” and “objectiveness”. Because of these attributes, they are also told to make the most money.
All of these characteristics hold true in the white liberal classroom. I’ve taken several writing classes within and outside my journalism studies, and I have learned a very important lesson.
Diversity, now a highly marketable socially conscious commodity, is only acceptable within lanes set by the precedent of white people stories.
Diverse stories, stories that express narratives outside of whiteness, must be the alternative to white people stories – not the opposite.
The readers who seek new commentary on familiar subjects, a window into foreign worlds, a tantalizing tryst with the Other, an opportunity to expand their philosophy without experiencing the grieving side effects of true knowledge – turn to diverse stories. These stories complement white people stories, diving further into known themes and completing the overall picture.
In other words, it serves as seasoning for an otherwise bland dish.
This is what many of my professors were talking about when they told me to use my voice. They wanted my story, and encouraged me to be different and fresh and bold. And so I told my stories.
This is one of my stories for a fiction writing workshop class I took as an elective during my second year of undergrad:
How to be a Weird Black Girl on a White “Liberal” Campus
By Olivia Ashton
Congratulations! You are officially a high school graduate and the difficult decision of choosing University has already been made. You must look past the debt, past the academia, and on to the promise that this White “Liberal” Campus holds, not the promise of vigorous intellect or a well-paying job, but the promise of Acknowledgement and Acceptance.
You will not just be seen. You will be acknowledged.
You will not just be tolerated. You will be accepted.
You – with waist-length twists, septum piercing, Flower of Life tattoo on your wrist, and complete vinyl collection of The Rolling Stones – are a Weird Black Girl. Weird Black Girls never go unseen, no dark body ever goes unseen, but high school proved that while you existed, you were never actually present. At University, you will be more than just present, but actively pursued by White Boyz.
Weird Black Girls are a treasure, a symbol of progress, the gold medal in the “I’m Different Olympics” that all White Boyz want to win.
White Boyz are easy to spot. They often hang around obscure coffee shops, thrift stores, or any spot where sun hits an open expanse of grass. They love a variety of music, especially “old school hip hop” in which they’ve memorized all the tricky verses on the most popular tracks by A Tribe Called Quest.
White Boyz will gladly introduce you to their friends (which may or may not already include a *Token Friend of Color), and be quick to list all the ways in which you are Different and Culturally Diverse.
If for whatever reason these signs are unclear, you will always be able to target one of these White Boyz by any of the following lines in reference to you:
“I love the way your skin looks next to mine.”
“You’re my African Queen.”
“You’re really pretty for a Black Girl.”
“You’re really pretty for a Dark Girl.”
If you hear any of these lines, you will have found one of these White Boyz, a guy that recognizes all the odd things about you as beautiful. You will feel wanted. You will be an accessory, the perfect addition to his alternative universe. You will not be a Real Person.
*Note: The Token Friend of Color will also recognize you. They will not be appreciative of your presence, especially if you out-weird them, as you threaten their valuable position. Token Friend of Color is still united with you in struggle, but you cannot trust Token Friend of Color until you have been told “You’re my Favorite Black Person.”
Eventually you will hear a Real Person say “Reverse Racism” and you cannot punch anyone in the throat or flip over just one table. Many of your peers will believe this generation is “Post-racial” or “Color-blind”, and while you know that to be the very definition of Bullshit, you cannot say “Yo, that’s Bullshit.”
You are weird, yes, but you are a Black Woman first. You will think you’re speaking on level terms when you ask what they mean. You will be aware of the tension in your muscles, the volume of your voice, and the hardness of your stare when you ask for the definition of “Reverse Racism”. You will explain the difference between Racism and Racial Prejudice.
Fellow Peers with Good Intentions will whisper about “That Black Girl in my class who gets angry about everything”. You will be angry, but you must not show your anger. Angry Black Women get nothing. You will show no emotion, but no emotion only leads to toleration. You must smile and show good humor. Smiling and good humor lead to Acceptance.
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