At work, I was talking to co-workers about what kind of books I write and like to read. One of these co-workers was an older white man, we’ll call him Tim. I said the words,
I like writing and reading about Black women characters and characters of Color in fantasy fiction and romance. There is a real deficit of those kinds of characters in the media because people don’t see us in the those genres because the market is still white-dominated.
Tim said he understood what I meant and liked reading anything that was engaging. The comment sounded innocent but translated as Race doesn’t matter or We’re all human. Which, to me, is hardly ever an appropriate response to what I said because it sounds dismissive and like something a colorblind racist would say. But I dropped it and moved on.
The next time I came around that day, Tim said, “I hope this doesn’t sound offensive (Me:<__< *gives side eye*) but don’t you think things have changed? There are more Black people and people who aren’t white everywhere” as he gestured around the office at all our Mexican and otherwise non-white co-workers.
…Which is ridiculous to even utter because we work in a city that’s predominantly Mexican@.
No, white Tim did not just go there with the “White people are becoming a minority, white people are oppressed” argument. So you notice more People of Color than you’re used to? So you’re a minority now? Smh. Lose any degree of privilege, any little inch, and the complaining starts. White people, overnight, in an instant, become just as oppressed as everybody else.
Tim, my white co-worker, engaged me twice more that day, asking if I watched shows like Luke Cage and Empire. Or films like 12 Years A Slave and Roots, which he said was educational to him. To which I replied–
Some people get educated. Other people get reminded.
The fact that these are the only shows and movies he can name SPEAKS IN VOLUMES.
Tim went on to say that, “I know a lot of Black people. None of them really like fantasy fiction like that.”
To which I replied,
You’re talking to one right now. People think we don’t exist but we do.
We get corralled into certain genres by a white dominated industry, that tells us we’re not marketable in this area or that genre. Yet we’re just fine in some dark broom closet of academia at a university constantly explaining ourselves to them in thesis papers and quirky little cultural awareness workshops. Or playing football and rapping. Or writing ratchet drama and slave narratives. As a result, this is what happens: White people treat me like I’m a [magical, instigating black] unicorn when I come around.
Everything Tim said to at work that day me came off as confrontational. Argumentative. And it reminded me of the situation I’ve been placed n so many times. That situation–
When white people act like they want to talk to you about your experiences and views but they really just want to argue with you about it
Likely to make themselves feel like the society white conquerors built and continue to enforce has changed more than it actually has. And to make themselves feel better and like we live in a just society.
Ultimately, I felt like I was put on the spot, Like I, once again, had to be “the Black voice”. It was tiring and anxiety-inducing. And totally infuriating.