Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Race and Writing

Okay, I've tried to avoid this topic for as long as possible, but the fact is that there isn't anything to be gained by avoiding it. (There are possibly many people to offend, but... I'll just hope that this is taken in the spirit it's meant.) Everybody knows not to judge by skin color (if they don't they're a hopeless case and I vote for the "eject" button), so I'm going to talk instead about something racially oriented that bothers me.

I feel like a lot of so-called "progress" is really holding us back. For instance, the African American Interest section in all bookstores. Basically what that says is, "If you're black this is where you belong, because you won't be interested in anything that's not about black people, written by black people." It's so limiting. What's next - bookstores divided not into science fiction, romance, and non-fiction, but instead into Chinese, Korean, and Japanese?

I truly believe that the color of your skin means nothing. But I don't want to act like culture is meaningless - If you send an African American from New York and a white person from Louisiana to Africa, who are they going to have more in common with? The fellow American, of course. Backgrounds and cultural norms do mean something, but not the color of our skin.

And those backgrounds and cultures... what do they mean if we can't learn from each other? If this wall of "yours" and "mine" is up, how will anybody understand each other? You can claim that these segregations are to try to cater to the unique needs of African Americans, but that makes about as much sense as a line of books for "Nordic Descent". I personally have on quite a few occasions bought books targeted for African Americans, and let me tell you - people give you funny looks, black or white. I don't feel like I should have to explain myself for enjoying the work of an African American author. Whether intentional or not, these divisions throw up more barriers that need to be torn down.

If we're going to make divides, it would make more sense to me if books were split up in "lower socio-economic class", "middle socio-economic class", etc. After all, a black person from the Bronx is going to have a hell of a lot more in common with a white person from Harlem than with a black person from Georgetown, VA.

Pride in your culture is great, but when it comes down to it: it's not where you're from, it's where you're going.


Emilia Plater said...

I agree that having "segregated" sections in bookstores is weird as heck! Great post, Margo :)

M.J. Horton said...

Love this post! I can't stand the divide either! It does in fact feel like segregation in a way and it's annoying! Awesome post!

Tahereh said...

this is a really important post. thanks for bringing it up.

Bee said...

I totally agree with this post. Segregation of books based on race is so damn annoying!