***NOTE: I am about to be really politically incorrect so if that offends you, leave now***
You're still here...Good.
A few weeks ago, I decided not to get involved with any more drama within this genre. All I was going to do was focus on the writing, and the amazing people I work around. But the other night I was shown something that had me so upset, I couldn't think. At first all I said was "Oh. Hell. No!" But as we talked about it I got more and more upset with the more information I found out.
Before I go further, I thought my anger was just too much. So I asked people from different cultures what they thought. The consensus was the same - What happened was NOT cool.
This whole thing started with me and a few of my friends on facebook talking about the "whitewashing" of Hollywood. Yes child, don't get me started on that. Actually, it began with me laughing at Marvel trying to make an excuse for casting Tilda Swinton as the Mystic in Dr. Strange. For those of you who don't know, the Mystic in Dr. Strange was written originally as a male, Tibetan. But in this new version, Marvel decided to cast Ms. Swinton a female in a an Asian role. No surprise there. But let's move on.
I've never heard of Amy Lane before until that night. And what I've read about her so far, is not impressive. The passage I'm referring to is that whole deal about a black guy being referred to as a "Dark chocolate monkey of love."
Hold up? WTF?
Wait, did Ms. Lane not think anyone would notice this? I mean, how dumb did she think everyone else were? Even if a few people did not notice this, black folks read too!
Now, usually things like this I walk away from because stupid people, says dumb things all the time. And usually, I would give Ms. Lane the benefit of the doubt and said she isn't really a racist because she may not have known the historically racist views of referring to black people as Monkeys. Forget for a second that she should have researched this topic before writing it. This whole offensive crap goes all the way back to the Middle ages. It was messed up then and it is messed up now.
Then I would still walk away thinking, stupid people says dumb things, even after that. But when you find out that this is not the first time Ms. Lane has gone out of her way to offend a race it changes everything. She's done it before on one other occasion I can find with a Mexican character.
A few of you may wonder why I'm so upset. Aside from the fact that I am an educated black woman who knows the context this monkey reference has been used under for black folks for generation. I am upset because once this was pointed out, Ms. Lane and her publisher decided to pacify the situation with a lame apology. Suddenly, they are the victims which makes no sense. You do something like this, there are consequences and you cannot expect people to just pretend it didn't happen.
Here's what I think:
What we write, though it is fiction, is a part of us. Most of our beliefs, are spread in thinly veiled words within the content of our books. I see an author, get to know the author through his or her words and usually when things like this happen out of context, which means racism for no reason--the author is a racist. Plain and simple.
There is absolutely, no excuse for this.
I write interracial couples all the time. I've used Arabic, Mexicans, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Jamaicans and the list goes on and on. But I don't simply write these characters - I visit the websites, read the books, talk to people from these cultures, listen to their music, shop where they shop, eat what they eat, learn enough of the language to get me through the writing process. It may seem extensive but it is important. The knowledge I gain helps me in understanding the people I write about and gives my life a little more richness. It is not a waste of time, to step back and know who you are writing about and for.
Secondly, as much as we'd like to heap all the blame on Ms. Lane's head, her publisher and editors and proofereaders and betas (if she used any) should share the blame as well. So many people going through the MSS should have seen this line as a problem. If not, they need to now look within themselves and figure out what is broken that they didn't recognized this.
Thirdly, no black man anywhere would refer to himself as a monkey. Trust me. That is the most offensive thing you can say to any black man anywhere. While I don't condone violence, that would be something to get you punched in the face for.
Next, I wouldn't have said Ms. Lane is a racist except, this is not the first time. It has happened before with a different race. Doing it once is a mistake, twice is a habit and that makes you a racist.
Now there are talks about people being afraid to use minorities in their books because they might offend someone. That is NOT the point we're trying to make. What we're saying is if you're going to have a character be a racist that's fine. It's the personality of the character. To to use racial slurs for no apparent reason--not to move the plot forward, not to show a character's flaw, not to do anything but because you think it's clever is wrong and should not be tolerated.
Use minorities in your books. Have fun with them. Build worlds that are rich and colourful and full of love. But do it with some respect to the cultures you're writing. If you're writing black person, ask questions. I would be happy to answer any. I would rather you ask than do something like what Ms. Lane has done. I'm a woman writing MM - I had no clue how it worked. But I educated myself. I asked question, read books, sat my friends down and made them explain things to me over pizza and beer, I sent emails, participated in PRIDE, I did my digging. It is not too much to ask that authors do the same amount of research they do if they were writing a Marine or a doctor.
Getting someone's culture wrong happens. We get it. But grow a pair and face it, own up to it. You were caught, say you're and mean it. This lame-ass "sorry YOU'RE offended" bullshit is not going to cut it and shouldn't be acceptable to anyone.
Racism in any form is wrong. It's disrespecting people and where as some don't mean to do it, it happens. We cannot turn a blind eye because this is coming from a celebrity or someone we love. We have to stand up, even if it's not our culture and speak the truth. Ms. Lane did a bad thing. And instead of owning it, she tries to glaze over it as if "I'm sorry, not sorry." That is when I think she knew what she was writing was wrong and just didn't care. There seem to be no consequences to the actions of some authors. Especially when they dig so deep to rip so many people a new one. Their editors and publishers and those in their corner look the other way because their name is something that gets around and bring more sales. But in the long run who is that truly helping? When you look deeper, what is the point?
What really worries me, is the silence around this situation. Sure, there are a few outraged people but more people were yelling when they found out that a few of us MM writers have vaginas and not penis. That is the kind of bullshit that gets me all the time. We write what we love but we have to be true to the people we're representing. No matter the race or the sexuality of the author, we must show some respect and do it right. There is no such thing as a dumb question--you ask them because you don't know. Not because you are stupid. If after you get the answer you ignore it and carry on with the wrong thing, or you don't try to find the answer, THAT makes you stupid
I'm not trying to be overly sensitive--as I said before, dumb people says dumb things--but this seem to be a recurring trend with Ms. Lane and she's not getting any better. She hadn't learned from the last time people cried foul and I doubt she will get it this time. That's is also another issue.
That's my thoughts.