My stories are centered on intersectionality and the experience of those who straddle the lines of black and woman. They incorporate all the specific oddities of myself that make me, under stereotypical markers of performance, “weird”. And they are located in a space I’m all too familiar with – predominantly white institutions.
While I was told my stories made for a rare perspective, the finished product was subject to tense feedback. Comments essentially asked “Why?”
In reference to “How to be a Weird Black Girl on a White ‘Liberal’ Campus” I was asked:
Why is there no sympathy for the other characters?
Why not give the reader a glimpse at what the “White Boyz” are experiencing?
Why not describe the White Boyz with the same brutal honesty, but sincerity as Junot Diaz’s “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)”?
I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. Diaz’s “How to date a brown girl” was the exact piece that inspired me to write “How to be a Weird Black Girl”.
But the irony didn’t amuse me for long.
Of all the things to discuss about the piece, why are the White Boyz the primary concern? And if I lack sympathy for the White Boyz, that means I lack sympathy for the Black Boyz and Blonde Friend and Black Parentz respectively. Why aren’t they mentioned?
My anger mainly stemmed from the fact that “White Boyz” were not the central character, nor the target audience for this story. Hell, the title says “Weird Black Girl”. Who did my professor think this was written for? Other educated, alternative, clever white men such as himself?
And I don’t blame him for that.
Diverse stories are to be told with his audience in mind. Sure sure, they can be enjoyed by others, by all means! More markets mean more money! But if I tell my diverse story in ways that isolate or agitate his audience, I lose all credibility, both artistic and intelligent. Not to mention dollars.
My professor didn’t disapprove of the piece. The feedback in class was primarily positive, and I could tell that his referral to Diaz was also a compliment. He read that I was tapping into the vein of a brilliant writer. A brilliant brown writer at that.
But his referral also left me questioning what he was implying. Did Diaz really find this balance of critique and sympathy that my professor asked of me? Or is Diaz an “exotic” taste that white people have acquired? Like wasabi or hot cheetos?
Maybe weird black girls (my nuanced perspective on blackness), is still foreign to white writers. I chose to focus solely on the weird black girl to accurately tell her story. It was as much for her representation as it was to save boring accounts of whiteness already explored in countless other stories. No “objectiveness” in my story.
For once, this was just about the black girl. All wasabi – no sushi. Whole bag of hot cheetos – no water. (I like to think that somewhere, some white reader is thinking “I eat hot cheetos all the time without water thank you!”and I wrote this specifically for you.)
But a piece as “daring” as mine needed a cooling aftertaste to an otherwise too spicy meal.
I let him burn – I guess.