Last night Facebook fed me a thumbnail of Alanna Bennett’s buzzfeed article “What A ‘Racebent’ Hermione Granger Really Represents.” Today I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and they had an interview with George the Poet, and I have so many thoughts and feelings about both of these pieces of media, I’m having trouble knowing where to start.
#1 “Bravo!” Also, “Yes! Keep going! Keep telling your truth!” “Thank you!” And, “God bless you” (in a totally secular way) spring to mind. And just plain “Wow! Way to get down with some real shit and make it simple and accessible and timely and honest.”
#2 “Racebent” is a term I need to learn more about. I absolutely understand it syntactically, it’s completely logical (see “gender bending”), but at first glance it seems like it could get the conversation off on the wrong foot. Or that it is sort of preemptively self-deprecating in a context when something boldly positive seems more appropriate.
#3 What should I do about all this?
The two pieces knit overlap to cover the following themes: being ‘the only,’ mostly in school; yet not feeling like one belonged in either world -where one was ‘only’ or one was ‘every;’ relating to/interest in culture/cultural icons that were not “mirrors” of oneself (all three of us -Ms. Bennett, George, and myself are all people of color).
This is the story of my life.
My current set of pretty much all-white friends, mostly don’t know the previous generations of pretty-much all white friends, but even with their limited view they could offer a pretty accurate testimonial of my “no mirrors” life.
Ms. Bennett makes her point with two well-chosen quotes from Junot Díaz. And it is possibly this fact that is really making these themes spin round in my brain. Junot Díaz was my first college writing teacher. And when we conferenced, he talked to me about the fact that I wasn’t writing mirrors. At the time I really didn’t understand this feedback, and I took it the wrong way.
Today, I both understand and support the argument that without a narrative you don’t exist. The proof is in every history course ever taught. But I still struggle a lot with what this means for me personally.
I genuinely feel that true diversity in the stories we take in, from news to social media to television to books, is an important battle in a war against time and culture that won’t be won while any of us are alive to see it. True diversity = all people equally expected and equally depicted in all circumstances. I do what I can to support and promote this.
Simultaneously I am despondent that people are narrowing their own or attempting to narrow others’ choices based on never having seen a woman, man, homosexual, transsexual, person of a specific race, age, ability, whatever do ______.
I know that my stubborn universalism is Pollyanna. I am trying to keep it from being naive. But I believe you can also fight ignorance by expecting better and helping people meet that expectation. I also don’t want to be angry all the time. I can’t do it.
I don’t belong anywhere. I’ve understood for years now that if the some honest-to-goodness skin-deep racist bullshit boils up I might be an early casualty, probably walking home through some cracker neighborhood from my hillbilly folk dancing class.
I have no narrative. I have read hundreds of books and I have never appeared in those pages. Not in whole cloth. Not in the people who were supposed to “mirror” me. So I am both dead and invisible. And yet I have a job, and drive a car, and leave little impressions in many places. I must be a ghost.
And what are ghosts but the energy, and maybe the dust, being pushed around the universe by and from all the people and things now and before. So I’m back to my stubborn universalism. My nothing is the future of everything, so I am everything and everybody.
I have no ‘people’ so I am all people. I have no story so I am all stories. I have no mirror because it does not have enough facets to reflect all of who I am.
I wish everyone saw themselves that way and worked to make it true.