We Need Diverse Storytellers

The_Midnighter_by_Majinlordx

Midnighter is not here for your white supremacy.

 

I am not going to be “civil.” I am not going to be “diplomatic.” I am not going to make you comfortable. I am not going to be silenced. I am not going to tolerate any questioning of my sanity, honesty, intelligence or any other victim blaming garbage blacks and other people of color endure far too often.

I will tell my story. I will speak truth.

You’ve been warned.

We need diverse books. We need diverse storytellers. What we DO NOT need are racist hypocrites like Steve Berman who actively work against me and queer readers of color and then point fingers at others for reasons I’m about to explain.

About a year or two back Steve emailed me and asked if I would consider contributing to a Civil War anthology he was editing. He stated he wanted a voice of a black voice to be represented. While technically I considered him to be a colleague and a friend in the loosest sense (both gay writers in a homophobic industry), I had learned to be cautious when dealing with him because he has pulled some shady shit in the past. But I try to give people the benefit of the doubt for the greater good or whatever.

His request is that while I’m allowed to bring the color to a white anthology, I was to keep the gay to a bare minimum because he didn’t want to frighten the straight market with too much gay. It’s not his call, it’s the publisher’s. A white gay male and a gay publisher of gay books is telling a gay black male not to include gay characters in a story.

My spidey sense flared and there dropped the other shoe. I informed him that while I had no intentions of making it a “gay story” it would include black and queer protagonists I shouldn’t have to explain to him. He agreed.

I began outlining the story and a few correspondences later Steve demanded that the gay must be limited because it wasn’t his fault, it was the publisher. That’s when I knew some bullshit was at play. Because I had seen this song and dance before. That homophobic bullshit that went down when Jessica Verday when she was invited to submit to an anthology and was ordered by the editor to take the gay out of Verday’s story because of publisher mandate. Verday refused and declined and stood tall for LGBTQs.

None of this made any sense, and yet again despite everything I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Being diplomatic, I told Steve that I understand that it was the “publisher” and out of his control but all the same I could not in good conscious allow myself to be denigrated as a human being betray my morals for money and a publishing credit and rescinded his anthology invite. I had better things to do with my time than to waste it on this racist and homophobic bullshit.

But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why Steve insisted on wasting both of our time when he knows me well enough to know I’m not the person to ask to erase marginalized protagonists from any of my stories.

Sometime later I happened upon a comment board where Steve was promoting his anthology. When a reader inquired about the lack of diversity and called him on it, he then lied and stated that he tried to reach out to minority writers but we wouldn’t cooperate.

That’s when he confirmed what I suspected. There was no Publisher. This racism and homophobia was all him. But I couldn’t figure out why all the games and dragging me into his bullshit.

Fast forward to this weekend.

As many of you know the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign went viral. It’s an initiative to shine light on the pervasive bigotry in publishing.

Interestingly enough that same weekend a fellow author posted this article Steve penned.

As I explained to the author and other commenters, the thing that many aren’t aware of is many of those businesses and safe spaces only apply to cis white queers. Those spaces are openly hostile to trans folks and LGBTQs of color. Many of us have taken our money and presence elsewhere.

Also, the other problem is that too many gay publications and businesses promote cis straight white celebrities than they do their own. And shocking they throw their own under the bus. I won’t even mention the shit I’ve gone through trying to speak on issues or publishing a genre piece that reflects the life of a queer male.

See not all these deaths are tragic. Some are long overdue.

Minutes later, Steve replied with some irrelevant whitesplaining about one of the gay bookstores being pro POC.

And at that moment, I decided that was the last act of racism I was putting up with from him.

“Steve that may or may not be true but one exception doesn’t negate my point,” I explained. “Also it’s interesting that you wrote this piece when you yourself all but ordered me not to include a gay character in a Civil War anthology and pulled the same crap that went down with Verday. And to a queer person of color to boot.”

Steve lost it and went on a hissy fit. He accused me of having a personal vendetta against him, that he knows people of color that thinks he’s good ally and threatened to see to it that I would never be published by him. Seeing that he’s never published me and I continue to be published, I’m not losing sleep. But throughout that entire tirade, he didn’t refute a single point I made.

A fact I pointed out to him.

Steve lied and claimed that I submitted for the anthology and he rejected it on the merits (or lack thereof) of the story alone. I then reminded Steve that he never got a submission from me (and never read the story) because I rescinded the invite due to the homophobic and racist demand.

He then confessed to everyone that he did in fact make that demand of me. His excuse, the anthology with the gay won’t appeal to a straight market.

*blinks 50 times*

Let’s review this for a second because this is really important. The same white gay author and gay publisher of gay books who just wrote an article waxing poetics about the slow tragic death of LGBTQ publishing, the same white gay author and gay publisher of gay books who is throwing shade at successful authors like Christopher Rice and David Leviathan and accusing them of assimilating, the same white gay author and gay publisher of gay books who has repeatedly attacked Towelroad.com, Lambda Literary and others for assimilating and throwing queer writers under the bus is the very one trying to assimilate into a straight market and throwing gay writers of color under the bus in the process.

This right here is why LGBTQ publication is dying. This right here is why there is such a huge lack of diversity in media publishing. This right here is why a reader on Twitter was inquiring if there were any other queer writers of color. I can so relate to that reader because I’ve spent many nights and weekends online trying to find other queer authors. I”ve spent many nights and weekends wondering why aren’t there more. They certainly have stories to share. White supremacy.

As Steve illustrated, not everyone in social justice is fighting for equality. Some are selling out their own for scraps and a seat at the oppressor’s table. As my friend Zahir phrased it once, “there are some of us who are fighting because they hate slavery. Others are fighting because they hate that they aren’t holding the whip.”

Make no mistake, Steve’s actions were homophobic, racist, hypocritical. You invite a black gay writer under the guise of diversity, when its actually tokenism and order him not to include gay characters. He pulled the very same shit the editors pulled on Verday.

And that’s when it finally hit me. That was the whole point of this elaborate ridiculous ruse. That’s exactly what he was hoping for. Steve never wanted me for the anthology. Even if I had met his sick and disgusting demands, he would’ve pulled some other bullshit. Like countless other white liberal fauxgressives, he wanted the illusion of being an ally, without actually having to be one. That way when readers inquire why aren’t there any writers of color, he can proudly say that he tried so hard but us coloreds are just so uncooperative.

Which is exactly what he did. He’s not the first white bigoted editor to pull this shit. And he certainly won’t be the last.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and countless others have alluded to in the past, whites are more concerned with a negative peace and looking good rather than doing the right thing. Very few actually have any genuine interest in changing things but they look like they really care. Don’t get it twisted, whites see exactly what’s going on. They don’t care. They want us to suffer because white supremacy dictates in order for one to ascend, they have to step on others in the process. Ever wonder why the only times most whites care about racism is when whites are being called out on racism or they don’t approve of the PoC’s tone. Hell even when Steve confessed his hypocrisy, none of the other white commenters said or did anything. Because now the issue was real and they had to address it. Or not. But at least I didn’t get victim blamed or gaslit so I guess there’s that.

One thing I’ve learned, never mistake for ignorance that which can be explained with malice because when it comes to most whites, it’s almost always malicious intent.

That’s why #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is still trending. That’s why #NotYourAsianSidekick is still trending. That’s why #WeNeedDiverseBooks is trending and oh so very relevant. We need diverse books. We need diverse storytellers, we need our own spaces, our own resources, we need to reclaim our own power independent of oppressors.

 

It’s about power. It always comes back to power. It’s also about change. To quote one Jack Harkness, it’s the 21st century, everything changes. There’s a shift going on. The internet has provided the exchange of information and other resources, ideas are flowing between like-minded individuals and those who were marginalized and silent are now reclaiming their power and prospering independent of mainstream straight white shotcallers.

Notice all the diverse web media? What about all the successful kickstarter programs? Did you know about Onyxcon? What about Steamfunk? Sword and Soul? You don’t know about these cons and these PoC centric-genres of speculative fiction? Do you read the website Chronicles of Harriet? That’s okay, this among many reasons is why Google is your sister in Christ.

Despite all of the impossible odds, many queer PoCs are coming into their own and embracing their power, working hard, putting purpose to practice and slowly making white supremacy presence is putting white supremacy on blast in the LGBTQ “Community.” George Takei, Margaret Cho, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and my good buddy Monica Roberts. Actors, activists, comedians, community leaders, who have overcome impossible odds and are making history and changing the world. They’re now the faces of the LGBTQ movement done right and it is terrifying many bigoted whites because they are losing their power. The same attacks I’ve endured, they’ve weathered as well whether in regards to Redefining Realness or Speaking to the TRUTH!

And then there’s me. While I’m appreciative of my blessings I’m not one to rest on my laurels, I’m always looking for areas of opportunity to step my game up. So sometimes it takes a moment for me to realize the obvious. I’m a gay black published author whose name is growing. More than that, I’m now running in circles with writers and artists whose radar I would’ve never been on only a few years prior. Some of these folks I’m proud to call friends. I have a long way to go, and I’m only getting started but the hard work and sacrifices are paying off. More than that, I took my power and did it without white privilege and essentially made these bigots irrelevant. And this is why they come. They know they’re losing, they know they’re failing and they’re doing everything in their power to hold on to their white privilege. This is why in almost every situation, it’s some white bigot, emailing or contacting me and going out of their way to reach me.

They have every right to hold their bigoted views and be hypocrites. Regarding assimilating and/or selling out, Steve and any other writer has the right to make that choice, that’s their business. When they attempt to attack me or mine because they have a deep seated need to take the uppity colored southern boy down a few pegs, that’s not going to end well……for them.

 

 

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By Dennis R. Upkins

4 comments on “We Need Diverse Storytellers

  1. Reblogged this on The Writing Engine and commented:
    This is an amazing and important piece. While I honestly do want to make a name as an author, I never want to do it at the expense of another artist. Divirsity is important for all of us, consumers and producers of art, since it brings us unheard stories and ensures that we can find the very best of the very best since everyone is included.

  2. It is time Berman is called out across the board. He thinks his white gay money can buy him a kingdom of ghettos for writers who don’t look like the twinks on all his covers. A whole lot of white people constantly discuss how he is unprofessional, manipulative and bigoted, then cash his checks.

  3. ” A whole lot of white people constantly discuss how he is unprofessional, manipulative and bigoted, then cash his checks.”

    #NoLieDetected

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