Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Am I A Black Writer Or A Writer Who's Black?

Lately I've been indulging in classic episodes of Law & Order via Netflix, and the episode that spawned this post was a take on the Tawana Brawley case (NYers know the deal) from back in the day, which caused a lot of racially-charged moments in NYC and on this particular episode. Basically after A.D.A Robinette was called (yet again!) an Uncle Tom, he asked A.D.A Stone if he thought it was true. Stone replied, "That depends, do you see yourself as a black lawyer or as a lawyer who's black?"

CHILD. Deepness!

A.D.A Robinette had to deal with that a lot on the show, and I appreciate the Law & Order writers for keeping it real. When you're a colored person in a position of authority, especially in the legal system, it's just a given that Uncle Tom will be your new nickname. People are just ignorant like that.

But all of that got me thinking of me and my identity. We all know and accept that I'm a kick-ass writer, but am I a kick-ass black writer or just a kick-ass writer who happens to be black? Am I supposed to be the voice of a whole race, as well as one for my whole generation?!

I think of myself and my stories as universal. I truly believe you can change the names of the characters from Carmen to Callie and the essence of what I wrote would still be there. But I also write what I know, and for a long time much of my world was filled with more Carmens than Callies. Sure, there are certain stories that see things from the eyes of my very specific subset of human being: female, first-generation Dominican American, Brooklynite, Generation X, bilingual, raised Catholic, college educated, professional, mother, divorced, mentally ill. But I think all of that adds to the universitality (YEAH, I made up that word. DEAL.) of my storytelling ability. There's something for everyone.

I watch A.D.A Robinette struggle with his role in the (fake) NYC legal machine because there are all these black faces yelling "INJUSTICE!" "HELP US!" "FIX IT!" and I feel his pain. I'm also inundated with critiques about how many black faces are lacking in the literary world or on TV or in film, and I wish I had the power to fix it all. I wish I could yield a BLACK WRITER sword and set everything right. But unlike A.D.A. Robinette, I consider myself, first and foremost, a writer who happens to be black, and my first order of business is just to get words on paper.

I can always figure out the audience later.

*smooches...digging deep on a Wednesday*
even my bio reads: a writer from NYC. that's it. no more, no less. all that other shit is just gravy.