Before I begin, I want to preface this by saying that I am speaking from my own point of view and my own observations. There will be many who agree with what I point out, and some that will not. But that is how conversations work. Opposing ideas provide an opportunity for growth. If we all agreed with each other on everything, then that would most likely mean that we are not individuals, but carbon copies of a very faded original.
Culturally and socially, there have been an assortment of complaints about the lack of African-American imagery in media. When compared to the vast array of televisions shows and movies produced in the United States on a yearly basis, anyone would be hard pressed to find two handfuls of African-American characters, who are not side notes; who represent an authority figure or who carries the entire program on their shoulders.
Some might say, well, there’s Scandal and a few others that are holding strong, what’s the fuss about?
The fuss is… That it is 2017, and some believe that the banner of equality between the races should be flying much higher than it is. In truth, the quest for unity, despite, gender, creed or color, seems to be getting lost among the weeds. We are more divided than we ever have been and the crevice between us is steadily expanding.
At this point, everyone is riddled with distrust, on the border of loathing, and no one is willing to take a risk; not politically, not socially; not culturally; not even for mindless entertainment.
Let me give a tiny speck of my background to express what I mean. I love to read. I have loved to read since the fifth grade, when I spent 4.25 on my very own paperback; a Nancy Drew mystery. From that point forward, I consumed anything that caught my interest and it never mattered who the author was or what they looked like. I have evolved to the point where I write books, not just read them, and I still read books the same way. Most authors are going to write from their own point of view, pulling from their own backgrounds and experiences, which is understandable. But they also have the power to search, research, imagine and conjure up things way beyond their scope and our collective realities. Unfortunately readers are not always that diverse. They will read the fantastical as long as the hero and villains are something they have never seen before, or if they look just like them.
That leaves 12.5% of this country in quite the conundrum. They are open to explore and enjoy anything produced by the majority, but that patronage is not reciprocated. Even though, African-American authors, artists, and film makers are creating from their own points of view, the sheer fact that they are representing and expressing the many facets of the black experience, means that they will be immediately alienated by the majority, no matter how universal the content may be.
For some, they may not be consciously aware of what they are doing; preferring to use personal tastes as a scapegoat.
Example: Those types of books are just not my cup of tea.
Truth: They’ve never ever even given “those” types of books a fair chance.
Example: A bookstore lists in their criteria that any self-published book must be vetted to insure that it is suited towards their clientele.
Truth: Bookstores are about discovery. Put the book out there and let your clientele discern was is and is not suited for them.
Where does that leave us? It is difficult enough to be picked up by a traditional publishing house; and then if you choose to bear the burden and publish it yourself, you are derided for it, and if your happen to be in that 12.5%, then you are relatively invisible. A wealth of creativity bound and cloistered due to unconscious fear of the other. We are all more alike that anyone realizes; one must take a chance and see what comes of it.
There once was a time that African-American’s could take solace in their local black owned bookstore; to find the gems they otherwise would not discover anywhere else. But with the expansive horizon of technology and the internet laying ahead of us, brick and mortar businesses like the local black owned bookstore, have become a thing of the past; less than 100 remaining in our fair United States. Even your non-multinational books store, on the many corners, of many a main street are suffering due to technology, but for some bookstores, this makes them more exclusive rather than more universal.
Sometimes taking a chance on the other is not a bad thing; neither is it wrong, nor a cause for concern; it’s an opportunity for people to pick up a book, view a work of art or sit down to a movie, and realize that there are many lessons to be learned from the experiences of those who are various shades of brown. Seeing the beauty in our differences will reveal the truths of our sameness.
For those who are like myself and value a good story because of the story, and not the preconceived notion that the characters are just like me; I applaud you and I appreciate your love of the long held tradition of storytelling. Share it, teach it, pass it forward.
No matter what color I am, or what color my characters are, I write for everyone, and I want all the world to enjoy my stories and feel as deeply for my characters as I do.
-If you have enjoyed my commentary or my short stories, then please check out my youtube channel, The Wicked Orchard; where you can listen to me read my short stories
-And don’t forget to check out Comparative Reasoning here on wordpress for written commentary on a whole hosts of topics.
-If you’d rather listen than read, definitely check out Comparative Reasoning on youtube, where you’ll hear of earful of social, economic and political commentary.