Pondering Over My Keys

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The Difference in Skin

last night I had to really think about posting this and so it may be long. After feeling such unity in the children's section of the Barnes & Nobles I walked into the real world and was smacked dead in the face with the way the world judges me and will now doubt, until way beyond the day I die (because I will be remembered), judge me by the same standards. I was walking down the romance section just looking at titles when I ended up in the African-American romance section and my mind was like 'what'? At the front of the store I went to the table labeled 'regional writer's' or something like that and browsed the titles, reading the backs. One I looked at was titled 'Lynching to Belong' -foreigners in America lynching Blacks so they could be accepted in society, one a history of Beaumont especially the southend of town and one about a woman and the 'white' men that had passed through her life. Out of the three books this was the only one that had a little white label with the hand written words 'African-American' on the back. Why? You could tell by the cover it was written by a Black woman. None of the other books on the table had this little label. It gives me little slap to realize even as a writer I may be shelved because of a prevelant prejudice. I tend to wonder how many people sweep pass the section with such a label. If I were a person of a different race I just wouldn't go into that section because I would probably (could be wrong) think 'they' are writing about something that would not relate to me. Has anyone every noticed bookstores are not sectioned off by 'race' except when it comes to being an African American. As a writer I want to be known as a writer, not just as a Black writer. I definitely do not want to go down in history as an 'African' American writer. Never been to Africa and know no one in my family that has. Truth be known they probably wouldn't accept me because of my skin color, too much 'milk in my coffee' as my mom would say. It is terribly sad to know that as a person you will always be labeled by the color of your skin. It doesn't matter the color of skin or the race within it, if you are the one standing out in a crowd as a minority you feel the isolation and you wonder if people are really seeing you.

We all have preconceived and home grown prejudices and we use them within our own races. As a new born child we are born empty vessels, unpainted canvases and all it takes is the imprint of our families, extended families and society to build the foundation of prejudice and discrimination on our hearts and sometimes our souls. It is horrible how racial discrimination has stunted the moral and psychological growth of America.

Me, I ask what is 'race'? Just a word and so I choose to have my race labeled 'human'.

Mark 9:23 If you can believe... all things are possible.


Holli said... Best Blogger Tips

I struggled a bit before writing this comment. I think a lot of times, because I am white, I feel that my voice has no place in a conversation about race. I won't say that I totally understand what it feels like to be you and go through the things you go through. But, I can say that I understand what discrimination feels like. Because of my religion (I'm LDS), I have felt the pain of prejudice, the embarassment of rude jokes, questions, inaccurate media portrayls, and just the general barage of insensitive comments.

However, I do feel that such experiences have been beneficial because it's made me more aware of prejudices I might not have noticed otherwise.

I'm really sorry you had such an experience. Isn't it amazing how painful one little label (whether literal or metaphorical) can be?

Also, as a side note, I want to say that I appreciated your commentary about the use of the term "African American." I think that often times, white people, in general, want to use the most sensitive, politically correct term to avoid offending someone. And, personally, I've used the term because I thought it was more polite to make observations based on culture rather than color (black). But, your commentary about it made me re-think using that word.

The Voice said... Best Blogger Tips

Uhmm... I had never thought of the title as a culture. I had always felt like it was a way to categorize. When I fill applications and they ask for race I always write in 'why'?. When they ask for religion I leave it blank. All prejudices seem like such a waste to me. I honestly see people as people first and I thank God for that. I usually take note of clothes, hair, facial expressions, the way they smell, and the way I am treated before I register color and once I know a person's name the color no longer matters to me. If I'm angry or hurt by someone I want to be hurt or angry at them and not the race.
As for your religion...to each his own. I just know what I believe.

Thanks for reading my blog. Your Gabi is a sweetie.

Debra Harris-Johnson said... Best Blogger Tips

I would love it if bookstores would do away with those kind of labels. How would one get into the African Americans section? Is it because the characters are African American or are they referring to the writer being African American or is it the reader that is African American. They may never know what part of the store to file my book in. Maybe they will have to come up with the Heinz 57 section (for those that don't easily fit in the African American or White section.

jess said... Best Blogger Tips

Well, here's the deal: I used to critique with an African American friend--and she prefered the term African American. I asked her. :) We critiqued for several years and became close. In fact, we roomed together in Houston at our first ACFW conference. When I saw all the African American romances/novels grouped together at Wal-Mart, I took offense on her behalf but she set me straight. It's a marketing ploy. She told me that absolutely no one would be able to find her book if it was tucked away in the hundreds and hundreds of romances--that are also delegated to their own shelves. The Silhouettes are grouped together. The Harlequin Intrigures are grouped together. And so on and so on.

African American books are booming right now. They want them where they can be found and sold. I think covers have a lot to do with it too. Author Tracey Bateman has written about interracial relationships -- her's are bigger books. Another African American friend writes smaller romances -- her books are only available through Heartsong bookclub. So... it all boils down to marketing.


I'm also invisible. I'm a gray-haired old white woman. I've seen people look right through me-- Black people and white people. I can't help but wonder when I started to be invisible. I've been shown prejudice by other faiths--after all, I'm a Baptist and you know how weird we are. I've been ridiculed because I write Christian romance. I have to ask --what does it matter? I know who I am and what I am.

My African American friend taught me a lot. She thought she'd never be published but we encouraged each other, prayed for each other, laughed and cried together and she sold eight plus books.

I know it's easy for an old white woman to say not to let prejudice get you down and ruin your life, but I'm saying it. We all have our challenges--some have more than others. Nancy, you are smart. You have a beautiful soul. Go for your dreams no matter what they are. Don't get sidelined because of something that will probably never change. Prejudice. It won't be fixed in my lifetime or yourse...maybe never. But, it is better than it was a hundred years ago.

Personally, I think slavery was America's most horrible sin. We will all answer for our innermost thoughts and prejudices. God has everything under control.

Nancy, it's so good to be back in the GTWG with you. You have friends who love you and I'm one of them. So... concentrate on that!


Debra Harris-Johnson said... Best Blogger Tips

Jess is so right. Concentrate on being with a great group of writer friends. Unity begans one group at a time. The more I thought about it the more I realized some writers might enjoy the niche of being categorized as African American. I could imagine removing that category from book stores would cause an uproar. Whereas I called it labeling others look at it as a category. The glass is half empty, the glass is half full. It's about viewpoint. I guess we writers should know that, duh! I want to say I admire Holly and Jess for having a race dialog. Don't ever be afraid to take on dialog with people outside your own box. This is how we grow. This is how we will eventually merge into the human race, one conversation at a time.

The Voice said... Best Blogger Tips

I thank you all for your comments and I too admire Holli and Jess. After I thought a while this morning I remembered that when my books were in Books-a-Million they were not in the African-American section they were in regional without a label and so I guess it just depends on the store or person in charge.

I'm not letting it get me down. People will find a prejudice for any and everything. I'll just shake it off, get over it and move on over to the next trench.
Thanks for the encouragement.

Those Feeling My Voice