The Enemy Within

Storm-Halle Berry

Neither Storm or Halle Berry are here for you misogynoir.

A talented bard by the name of Zora Neale-Hurston shared some wicked truths when she stated, “All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

Several of you emailed me out of concern after I mentioned online a few days ago that I ended my friendship with Ankhesen Mie, following some sick internalized racist and homophobic attacks. I’ve decided to discuss what happened because it touches on a much bigger issue that PoCs must often contend with; being attacked and cannibalized by traitors within our ranks. Traitors who have adopted the Master’s tools and agenda.

It started with an email. I had just posted the West of Sunset Dreamcasting post.

Shortly later I received an email from Ankhesen complaining about all the white characters featured in my book and she wanted to know what gives.I explained to her that there are a number of reasons I have white characters in a story. Sometimes I may be tackling issues where the focus will remain on the issue if the players involved are white. Sometimes I may be making a statement on white culture. Sometimes they may be based on loved ones of mine.

I also explained that sometimes I like writing white characters because I like getting into their heads as I do my characters of color. Sometimes I like white characters because I get to explore a character and not have to deal with the baggage and BS that I deal with in my day to day as a queer person of color. I like the escape and honestly, given all the crap I endure in my day to day, my sanity needs that escape. I also like exploring characters completely different from me.

Part of my decision to feature white characters is influenced by the number of predominantly white shows I’ve watched like the Vampire Diaries where an amazing yet token character of color like Bonnie got shortchanged. So this is my chance to “write” that wrong (see what I did there?) by having the story and the focus be on the black witch while the white cast treasures her as opposed to the inferior white female antagonist for a change.

And yes readers, Elena, Bella Swan, and Sookie Stackhouse are the villains of their stories.

If I feel moved to write a story that’s an entirely PoC cast, I have no qualms writing it if the story calls for it. But if I want to write stories that are predominantly white, I should be able to write that story and my blackness shouldn’t deprive me of that opportunity.

As I told Ankhesen, when my narrative begins reinforcing a white supremacist mindset, then that’s another story (again, see what I did there) and then I need to be checked. But in the meantime just as I absolutely refuse to whitewash and straighten my queer/PoC characters, I also refuse to write a PoC-only narrative if that’s not what I want to write. I’m not being true to myself and more than that, placing that expectation on a marginalized writer is a form of bigotry in and of itself.

Yes, forcing PoC authors to write only white characters is racism but so is this expectation that we must only write about racism and characters of color because in those instances, the writer’s creativity and our voice is being muted and dictated by our ethnicity as opposed to allowing us to share our art and our truth.

Furthermore, it a blatant and disgusting double standard. We don’t demand Stephen King diversify his cast or Stephenie Meyer and don’t get me started on all of the excuses that get made for Orson Scott Card’s bitchass by liberal gay “allies.”

Ankhesen proceeded to lecture me and inform me that she felt that I wasn’t writing what I truly wanted to write and that I was being controlled and manipulated and once I self-publish, I’ll finally be happy to write the stories I truly want to write.

*blinks 200 times.*

 

Blade_WTF

I’m sorry, HAVE YOU MET ME? I’m the guy whose arguably made an art-form, a national pastime, an Olympic event, out of delivering epic takedowns and asskickings to evil white folks both online and in person. Been doing it for nearly a decade now. I explained I don’t know where in the hell she got that idea especially given that I’ve repeatedly mentioned publicly that I’ve had nothing but support from my editor and publisher.

I also cautioned Ankhesen to be careful because too often and far too quickly PoCs come for each other unreasonably when we wouldn’t pull this crap on a white person.

Whether self-published or traditionally published, I would still be writing stories like West of Sunset, majority of white characters and all. More than that, Ankhesen was missing the bigger picture here.

I wrote a novella with two stories with a black gay male protagonist who is the main character in both tales. No subtext, no innuendo on his gayness. Gay black male protagonist who is a wizard and in many respects a superhero. How often does that happen? More than that but in both stories the main heroines are both black women who kick ass, take names, and are a force of nature in their own rights. Sadly enough, this is virtually unprecedented and groundbreaking and yet I’m getting questioned, because I have white folks in the cast and my PoC quotient isn’t high enough?

The fact that the black gay writer with an extensive track record diversity/social justice/equal rights is coming out with an urban fantasy novella with a black gay hero and is the one being condescendingly questioned and told that he’s not writing what he wants is problematic and inconsistent.

Let’s look at this for a second.

How come too many white folks is never a deal breaker when Merlin, Suits, Game of Thrones, Thor, Vampire Diaries, Walking Dead, Dowton Abbey or any other mainstream media from white creators is being consumed and money is given to their art. If people are going to criticize me, then I’m going to need folks to be consistent in practicing what they preach. People will make excuses left and right for white storytellers but then they want to place unreasonable expectations on me and other storytellers of color. Because if you’re still tuning into white media, giving them money and not losing any sleep, then you have no right to tell a storyteller of color that they have too many white folks in their story. It’s hypocrisy.

This goes back to the point I was making about Halle Berry a month ago and how everyone wants to vilify her for playing Storm. She’s a black actress and a working mother doing her job. Why does everyone want to attack her and not the producers who hired her and gave her no material to work with? Nevermind the fact that she’s main and sole black actor in a franchise that is an allegory to the Civil Rights movement.

“Oh but Catwoman….” Some of you say readers say. You know what fuck you. Nevermind the fact that she wasn’t the first actress attached to that project which had been in development off and on since Batman Returns, let’s talk about the fact that she repeatedly stated in interviews that she fought for the project because she knew it could lead to doors being opened for women and PoCs in summer blockbuster action/sci-fi films. So for all of you liberal fauxgressives who complain about the lack of diversity in media, she was on the frontlines fighting for us. And rather than a nod or a simple thank you. She gets scorn. Yet last I checked Van Helsing didn’t star Halle Berry and that movie was infinitely worse and for that matter so was Ultraviolet.

Or Kevin Greyvioux. This brother created the Underwold film franchise and caught shit from certain PoCs because the PoC quotient wasn’t high enough but then when he wrote Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel, these knee-grows were nowhere to be found. Heaven forbid he just write the stories he wants to tell without being policed on his blackness. Especially when not a word gets said to Christopher Nolan or Michael Bay but PoCs have no problem seeing their films and handing over their money.

Ankhesen continued with her fuckery throwing shade at Greyvioux and the black creator of Married with Children stating how white folks don’t support them and they weren’t writing what they wanted. I reminded her that she was missing one important fact. The guy created Married With Children, one of the most successful and longest running sitcoms to date. That’s an achievement that can never be taken from him. Whether he writes about white folks, blacks, or whatever. He’s doing what he wants.

PoCs don’t owe you shit.

Same for Mr. Greyvioux. And again, if you’re watching marathons of Star Trek, Suits, Vampire Diaries, Merlin, and other predominantly white media (and not walking the talk), you have nothing to say to me.

Ankhesen asked me why I had so many white folks? I asked her why didn’t she ask me why I don’t have more LGBTQs?

After all, if I’m black and I’m obligated to have more PoCs in my work, shouldn’t the same be said for me being gay?

The e-crickets…..were deafening.

She then concern trolled, that she was only looking out for my best interests….“But I’m going to trust you and promote you and hope that someday, you will publish your own books filled with entire worlds of powerful POC, because I know the moment you do, they will be legendary.”

To which I replied, “My LGBTQ and PoC characters are formidable whether they’re in a world of all PoC characters or in a world of white characters, their merits are never diminished.”

She then proceeded to talk about the Blasian Narrative and how contrary to popular misconception it’s not a fetish site where black women fawn over Asian men. I warned her that while I‘ve seen firsthand the legions of trolls who hit that site for the sake of ass-waving, a lot of that misconception is on the Blasian Narrative’s end. Case and point it was about a year or two ago, one of the mods/co-founders announced that the BN was looking for more writers and contributors. I considered applying since I was a regular reader and commenter until the mod stated that you have to be a black woman or an Asian male. Between that and being told repeatedly to go start your own Blasian group for gay black men and Asian men, I silently disengaged and stopped reading without leaving a comment. That’s their space and I don’t force myself to be where I’m not welcomed. I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want me. But if a former regular reader like me was feeling a kind of way about the heterosexism and homophobia, then other LGBTQs who BN claimed to be allies to might also feel the same way, including Asian males and Black women who don’t fit neatly into the heterosexist/homophobic paradigm.

And that’s when she lost it. She told me I was acting entitled. I reminded her that entitlement would imply that I want to join, I told her that I have no desire to which is why I didn’t say anything previously. I kept it moving. Which was also why I wasn’t going to do a guest post for BN because of the problematic issues. It’s kind of messed up that I’m good enough to write a guest post, but I’m not worthy to join their group. Yeah can’t have it both ways.

She stated I wasn’t a true member of the Blasian movement and just because I’m attracted to a few Asian men doesn’t make me a true believer of the movement and some other batshit crazy that makes one smile nervously and back away slowly to the nearest exit.

But not before the viper showed her true venom?

“I’ve been reading your blogs, Facebook posts, and dreamcasts, literally, for years. I’ve read your original fiction and paid close attention to your taste in men”

First of all why was she paying close attention to my taste in men? What does that have to do with BN’s homophobia/heterosexism. After all they aren’t a fetish site? So what does my taste in men have to do with anything and why is a straight woman bringing it up? Other than the fact that she has an issue with the fact that I date white men. Why is she looking so closely at my dating life/relationships and not her own. That is of course assuming she has a dating life herself……no……wait.

But she wasn’t done.

“You’ve asked me for precisely one round table and one interview in the four years we’ve known each other. I’ve never guest-posted on any of your blogs, nor have I been offended for not being asked.”

I then had to remind her of the countless times I reviewed, beta read her books, reposted posts, helped boost the signal on her publishing company’s fundraiser or any other endeavor of hers. And those roundtables, there’s only been two.

And at that point, I was done with her. I can abide much but malice, treachery, hypocrisy, bigotry are four things I cannot, especially all at once. But then to pretend that I haven’t helped you. I’m sorry if you’re not further along in your writing career, but it wasn’t from lack of trying on my end.

A few years back I recall having a conversation with Witchsistah and Shawn and my Internet Wife made a very profound point. Often the folks who hate black people the most are the self-proclaimed pro-Africa militant ones.

Ironically, there’s a meme on Tumblr called Beware Negroes with Ankhs.

When she said that it reminded me of a popular black online forum, that you would’ve thought would’ve been run by the Klan the way they dehumanized and cannibalize other blacks over the pettiest shit, like what hairstyle they have or their choice in music. I shook my head in disgust because these uber militant wannabe Soul Po-Pos don’t even go after white folks with the same ferocity.

I’ve come to learn you will know the sellouts/cannibals/Judases/house slaves by the fruit of their labors. Rotted fruits of their labors. They aren’t always Black Republicans, often they’re corporate owned rappers who push harmful stereotypes and ideas on impressionable young black minds, they can be the militant black activists who are rancid in misogyny and queerphobia.

I used to think this was something exclusive to black culture but I’ve come to learn that these dynamics generally play out in any marginalized group and it makes sense when you think about it.

Part of institutional oppression and dismantling it is learning to unpack internalized bigotry and self-hate. We live in a society that hates and oppresses women, PoCs, LGBTQs, so of course we’re going to be brainwashed to an extent and hate each other as well as ourselves.

Truth is, previous examples aside, blacks, other PoCs and PoC run spaces have generally been supportive and protective of me in all of my identities, certainly more than most white allies/spaces.

But progression isn’t a hobby or a jacket you can put on and off at a moment’s convenience. If you’re an advocate for social justice then that means standing by the principles that you claim to champion whether it’s convenient or not.

The astute long time observer may have noticed, I rarely go after PoCs or LGBTQs, at least not without cause. There’s a reason for that. As long as they aren’t on some Lee Daniels/Tyler Perry/BET level ish, I believe in letting them be. I don’t begrudge or judge PoCs who aren’t active in social justice because I know the mental, physical, and emotional, monetary, and spiritual toll it takes. Which is why I fight as hard as I do because I get that everyone isn’t in a position to speak out or fight back, so I do it for those who have to remain silent to survive.

I wasn’t always the man I am today, not completely. I had to embark on a journey to be who I am and I’m still on that journey. And, I kinda like me, a lot, which is something I wasn’t always able to say. In fact, I’m kinda of cool, a badass even. Even if I wasn’t Denny Upkins, I’d wish I was. And I’m wise enough to know that my path isn’t the universal standard. I’m confident in my path because I don’t have to force it on others. I believe in my truth enough to let it stand on its own merit.

That’s also why I don’t take advice from people who try to force it on me. It tells me that even they aren’t comfortable and confident in what they’re selling. And often they’re projecting their own baggage onto someone else.

To quote Dick Gregory, “When you’ve got something really good, you don’t have to force it on people….They will steal it.”

And that suddenly explains why black and other PoC culture is so heavily appropriated.

I catch grief for this from other gays but I don’t believe LGBTQs are obligated to come out of the closet if they don’t want to do so. If they want to live a closeted and/or heterosexual lifestyle, that is their life to live, if that’s what they want. I fight for freedom of choice. The moment you start imposing your choices on someone else’s freedoms, then you’re fair game and I will deal with you in the same way I deal with straight white oppressors: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

As I’ve mentioned previously while betrayal never loses it sting, it is a tutor to whom the wisest student should pay heed. When naysayers, critics, and haters insist on throwing shade on you and your progress, you need only ask yourself why. What’s their motivation? If you’re so inferior then why are they acting so threatened? If they are so confident and happy with themselves then why is said happiness contingent on attacking others?

To paraphrase that Slayer of mine, Buffy Summers, “It’s about power. I have it. They don’t. This bothers them.”

But more than that, I’ve found that betrayal and jealousy is often a sign you’re on the path you’re supposed to be on to true greatness or at the very least maximizing your full potential. And that makes people uncomfortable. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable and feeling threatened. Because you did the internal work that they refuse to do themselves.

It goes back to a passage I read a decade ago, almost to the day in Ultimate Spider-Man #38 written by the ever brilliant Brian Michael Bendis.

“Oh Peter. I have all these things in my head, things I think as your father you’ll need to hear. You’re going to find there are people who you are going to look at and say: why is this person like this? Why did this person do that to themselves?

And I swear to you, if you stare at them for 50 years, you’ll never understand why they are the way they are. I have people like that in my life, people who are just their own worst enemy.

And instead of dealing with it. Coming to terms with it, all they can do is lash out at you. Blame you for their own problems, for their own —- whatevers.

Don’t let them, Peter. Don’t let other people blame you for what they do to themselves. I feel that as your father that I have to warn you of the chaotic mess you are growing up into. And it’s a mess. People everywhere reacting without thinking. Lashing out. They don’t even know why. 

Everyone trying to be more than they are, which would be fine if they actually earned it. But more and more, that isn’t the case. And that’s what drives me nuts. I find myself surrounded by people who will do or say anything just for the appearance that they are better than they are. More than they are.Never for a second do they actually try to be better. They just want to appear better. They want to be special without going through the trouble of actually earning it.

And if you have millions of people running around like this, well then what do you have? What kind of world is that? …

It’s been a rough year, Peter. But I tell you, no matter how crappy things got with this whole mess, I found myself not really caring all that much. Because, end of the day, bottom line, no matter how bad the day is — I get to come home and see you. I get to watch you grow up. So how bad can my day be?

Just knowing I get to watch you become the man that I know you will grow up to be. All this other stuff — it doesn’t matter. All that matters to me is you Peter. You and your mom. And I can’t wait to see how you turned out.””

You can try for my wings but I’m still going to fly.

 

mad

 

 

Tip your waitress.

 

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By Dennis R. Upkins

3 comments on “The Enemy Within

  1. Pingback: The Enemy Within | Ars Marginal

  2. Viola Davis spoke the truth when she told Tavis Smiley, “That very mindset that you have, that a lot of African Americans have, is absolutely destroying the Black artist. The Black artist cannot live in a place–in a revisionist place. The Black artist can only tell the truth about humanity, and humanity is messy. People are messy. Caucasian actors know that. They understand that. They understand that when you bring a human being to life, what you want as an artist is to show all the flaws as well as the beauty. We, as African American artists, are more concerned with image and message and not execution. Which is why every time you see our images, they’ve been watered down to a point where they are not realistic at all. It’s like all of our humanity has been washed out. We as artists cannot be politicians. We as artists can only be truth-tellers. […] It’s what August Wilson did at his best. He told stories about illiterates, thugs, ex-slaves, and Arthur Miller did the same thing, and Arthur Miller is elevated as being the greatest writer in American dramatic theatre history.”

    (The whole thing is something everybody should look at.)

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