I have a love/hate with the diversity conversation. In the past few days that feeling, all of the uncertainty and irritation that comes with it, has come burbling to the top.
While I think that quality representation of marginalized voices is vital to good craft and is vital for young minds, I realize that it’s completely inconsequential to those in the majority.
Meaning: white straight able-bodied people don’t have to give a single fuck about representation. Not one. They already win without even opening their mouths.
I’ve spoken out a lot about diversity and representation. This past year was basically me saying to the world “I see your bullshit and it isn’t okay.” But at the same time I’ve seen a lot of other bullshit, some of it from people fighting the same good fight as I am, and it’s made me take a step back and think “That isn’t helpful at all.”
There has to be a way to have the conversation without chasing away every single ally. And I worry that we haven’t figured out how to do that yet.
Yes, I know that any ally that bails at the first sign of trouble isn’t a real ally. But at the end of the day, in order to change publishing, in order to push for change, we need white, het, cis allies. Not the allies that are going to parrot the same sentiments that people of color have been vomiting out into the ether for decades and take credit for being clever, but the ones working quietly behind the scenes.
I think I need to spend more time working quietly behind the scenes. I need to recharge. I need something. Because this conversation is going nowhere fast, and it’s upsetting to see people who are trying in good faith to help get burned to the ground.
That doesn’t mean I think white folks should appropriate the stories of the marginalized carte blanche. I will still always champion an authentic voice over one who writes from a position of privilege. It means I think we need to do better at looking at representation and seeing nuance (if it exists). There’s a difference between trying and failing and just failing spectacularly. A lot of that gets lost on Twitter and the like. But maybe what remains, amongst the yelling and fingerpointing and soapbox stomping, is a more essential truth.
If so, I’m not sure it’s one I like.
I often say that it’s a thin line between social justice and self-interest, and I’ve been feeling that more keenly than ever. I’ve always been willing to talk to those who have an open mind. I still am. But I feel the need to put some distance between me and those more concerned about RTs than changing the conversation and improving representation. Because the reality is that getting underrepresented voices to the table is hard, and none of that happens without allies who are willing to pitch in and help.
No battle is truly won if the war is lost, and I feel that over the past month more people have stepped away from the diversity conversation than have joined it. And that’s something that scares me. A lot. And I can’t help but wonder if I have something to do with that. For me, that is more unbearable than any other thought.
So I’m stepping back. Stepping away. I’m going to reevaluate and reassess. I’m going to write words and read books and live my life. And maybe when I come back it will be with a better sense of direction.
Because right now I’m lost. And that helps absolutely no one.