Dark Literature, Somber Stories, and the Innate Appeal of Melancholy.

Dark Literature, Somber Stories, and the Innate Appeal of Melancholy.

Literature is about experiences and being able to experience the depth of human feeling, and because of that there is this sensual appeal of the darkness. There is something uniquely human about exploring the darker aspects of humanity that I only find in literature (and very rarely film and television). As a person who likes to explore society and the human conscious, works with dark and somber tones have quite the appeal. Maybe part of this goes with my suffering from some form of depression or my temperamental upbringing, but I think it is more than that. In my perfectly normal childhood I still found myself drawn to the darkness and its inherent drama.

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From Edgar Allan Poe to he works of Shirley Jackson; from the longstanding popularity of shows like The Wire to Game of Thrones darkness reigns. These works and authors carry depressing, and even shocking themes for their time and in general. Yet these themes are handled with care, resulting in a legion of loyal readers. They are talked about and gushed over despite containing themes that, if oberserved in real life, make us not just uneasy, but queasy. Themes, which haunt our nightmares. Themes which haunt our waking hours. Themes we always fun back to for more, so much so that I simply do not have the capacity to understand people who don’t want any type of darker media ever. It is simply beyond my understanding, but that media is simply undeniably part of what I and so many others thrive on.

There is something irresistibly sensual about the feeling a melancholy ending gives you and the way somber scenes flow from one to the next. This is the underside of seduction. It gives you a taste, a lingering desire for hope, and then like a lover’s teasing it leaves you wanting what you may never have. Sometimes it can still end in a cathartic release, but so often we are left ruined, unsatisfied and yet satisfied in the strangest paradox we can fathom.

 

dark_romance_wedding_51pp_w880_h880I often say the reason I write great sex scenes is because I write great food scenes, and have since I was young. I’ve always found eating and cooking an intensely sensory experience that evokes elements of the intensely sensual. Smooth textures along the tongue, sharp and juicy bites into fruit, chocolate drizzles, and more are inherently physical acts calling for physical descriptions that evoke the same mental dance as anything else. Conveying it is a matter of capturing feeling. In much the same way, darker stories lure us in and then begin to court our sensibilities like Fabio circa 1997 or Ryan Reynolds circa his whole existence. The torture of living, loss, and the drudgery of unhappiness are experiences that captivate your whole being. Like eating or having sex, dreadful bouts of ennui, of unreasonable and frightening anger, and wrenching sorrow evoke an intense emotional response that captures the physical, the pain of what we experience. The rush of chemicals to our brains is the opposite of a high, and yet no less enjoyable, no less sensual.

Yet unlike eating or having sex, the vicarious nature of it makes it so much easier to experience the feeling without a total emotional drop off or consequence. For me, it isn’t that I don’t feel a character’s hurt, but that I do feel it and can recover. Dangerously empathetic people may fee it too much even, and sometimes you get so invested you never recover. Regardless it triggers this romanticism, a feeling that great nobility, sympathy, and empathy comes in those situations of great tragedy; the feeling that uncontrollable rage is igniting our most human and primal fires; and that crippling ennui or melancholy evokes a languished truthful beauty in an otherwise over reactive world.

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The amazing thing is this isn’t unique to adults. Youth exhibit this instinct towards the darkness as well. It’s not so strange one of my favorite movies was Robocop…

This isn’t all blood stains and scattered roses. Sometimes people take the romanticism too far and make genuine personal problems, such as depression and a lack of satisfaction in life, into grand dramas and sour the lives of all around them. I’ve been that teen and I’ve been that friend to those young adults. Both are equally flawed and equally self-harming. Those individuals should get help. I hope that they do. However this fact won’t stop human nature. We make the dark romantic, enticing, wonderfully dramatic. 13 Reasons Why made be a poor reflection of suicide in some ways, but it helped many…and provided that melancholy darkness humans seek out to others. Black Mirror is viciously dark in critiquing modern society, but it sates our deepest need to romanticise the dark, tragic, somber, melancholic, and just plain terrifying aspects of human life.

For better or worse, humans like to explore.
It is simply what we do whether it is on the page or in our lives.

Top 10 Most Depressing Books

When I started writing stories four years ago, I knew, in a very vague but urgent way that I wanted to tell “my story,” or at least the stories that were important to me: stories about the people I knew and loved, black and brown people, first-generation kids and our parents, poor people and working-class people and barely-middle class people trying to find meaning and connection and comfort.

So when I was presented with the chance to write Blacktop, a book series about a group of teenage misfits who find each other through basketball, I felt excited and ready. I’d written about basketball before, and I’ve played since I could walk. One of my earliest memories is of my six-foot father blocking my shot into a patch of wet grass.

The trouble started on the first page. I sat down, ready to catch all the great ideas coming down the creative flume, and instead I got a bunch of questions: Who was this story for, this story about a black kid playing basketball? And isn’t this kind of cliché? Or maybe the assumption here is that black kids will only read if there’s a ball involved? And so am I, by extension, by writing this series, encouraging the idea that black people are only interesting or important or valuable in relationship to our athletic skills?

This kind of thinking isn’t unique to me. Writers are natural parsers and over-thinkers. Plus I’ve known for a long time that as a black person, some white people expect a performance from me, something that might confirm what they think they know about my identity. That’s why “You don’t really sound black” actually means “I’m measuring everything you do and say against my very dim understanding of blackness.” Take all of this as understood. What surprised me was that these questions took up so much imaginative space, and did it so quickly, and were in fact so large and puzzling that they stopped me from writing anything.

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This article addresses something that has been heavily on my mind as I engage with writing interracial love stories and contemporary fiction.

Closer to Heaven

Let there be a memory for her, that’s what they’d say when Damian would bring her body back the temple. They’d dress her body in white, paint over her wounds, and lay her to rest in laurels in the golden fields of tulips just beyond her childhood home. The thought made him sick, as he tried to cover her fun shot wound with her hands and a towel. Blood soaked through the cloth, turning it from white to pink to red in seconds, and then coating his dirtied fingers.

“You can’t, ya know. You just can’t!” Megara was in hysterics beside him. She turned to the men they’d bargained with who seemed just as shocked as they were. One with a mouth open like a tunnel to hell, stood with his shotgun pointed taunt.  “She was giving you what you wanted!”

They looked at the girl in front of them, now covered in blood, and shaking, gagging. The girl was born with a keen sense but unsound mind. They thought the priestess of the Blue Lady would be able to ease her spirit…she did. She helped everyone and now?

The girls father grabbed the gun, and the group’s leader, a tall red wood like man, grabbed the boy. He looked about 17 next to the bearded grown men. Why did they bring him?

“What the fuck did you do?” he asked

“I-I thought the priestess was going to use her…her weird voodoo powers!” The boy stammered. Damian turned away, not bothering to hide his grimace behind a stoic or rage filled face. He felt so tired. These people feared the church of the blue lady, and they feared the “deviants” the church saved, called it strange…wicked except when useful.

“She was supposed to help…” Damian said. His hands trembled, and he pressed down until she gasped. “Honey?”

Her mouth moved, her eyes rolled back and then back to him. She looked like a strange and feral thing when she’d always been so elegant. Long black braids, perfect, flowing gowns, blouses. She looked…mythical. Her eyes were glazed, a vision. The lesser of the powers that boy feared.

“Megara who slayed the child,”  and as though her words were prophecy Megara stood and ran, she bolted through the men, knocking them down like dolls. Damian watched as Cassandra  pushed the group leader away and fired her pistol against the boys stomach. “And sowed the fields and…will always survive.”

“Stop,” Damian said. And she did and her eyes began to roll. “Stay with me.”

She grabbed his collar and pulled herself up, urgency coming.
“Athena will come to luna. They will not listen.” She chuckled and shook her head. “I’ll die. I wanted to not though.”

“Did you know?”

“No…but others did. I told them…they liked my conviction. I don’t know. It was important. Fuck this hurts” The church. The church!

They always knew!

“I’ll kill them all,” Damian whispered.
“There will be war. Ares on chariot, weeping for the innocent in vulgar wars with no honor: Nicomachaen Ethics…” Her blood felt so hot, and she began to look pale. “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
He wouldn’t bring her to that church. To those vultures who wanted a martyr. He heard Megara being restrained, and the boy shrieking as though he’d seen the spectre of death looming over him. He should’ve suffered. He deserved no tulips. No white. Nothing, but who was he but them? His people? Who was he but their fear?

“Am I good?” She asked.

“Yes, Cassandra…perhaps I am not.”

—Not gonna continue unless asked, but this isn’t a complete story or proofread or anything…but stray thoughts.

Dear White Authors: Here’s Why You Suck at Writing POC

Lately in my writer’s groups and circles I’ve been seeing a lot of white writers saying that they feel as though they can’t write POC, or it will be inherently seen as offensive. They bemoan POC as being controlling and over sensitive, or even rightfully concerned, but that it shouldn’t be that way. White authors, they posit, shouldn’t have to fear that their work will be taken the wrong way. They didn’t  mean it that way. They are really trying, or they’ll just only write white people then. The story I see is they’re told by friends, editors, etc. that they shouldn’t write POC as a white person. How goddamn un-American blah blah blah. The funny thing is if they looked around plenty of white folk are writing great and enjoyable POC characters that are praised on the page and screen. So what gives? Why can they write POC and be white, while other white authors can’t?

Well, I’m here to tell you why and that reasoning you think is correct can’t be your shield anymore. This one is gonna hurt, and it should.

The reason you are told this is because you talk about POC in a way the demonstrates to those people you can’t present POC without the loaded baggage of centuries old systemic racism and stereotyping. And you never want to listen to that being pointed out. It isn’t just POC trying to stop you from writing freely. We don’t care about that. We care about what you’re saying about us because we’re sick of the same bullshit being peddled as truth. It is POC hearing your words and hearing how you have internalized and attached race to certain stereotypes and beliefs.

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A prime example that is shameful. “some black girl” v.s “little blonde innocent” all implying those things are not what black girls are.

If a POC says you need to stop writing, and think about how you even asked them their opinion then you said something way off the mark. You demonstrated to them your incompetence on race and/or your ingrained prejudices. You say you don’t really like to write black characters, or you begin describing a character idea and it becomes increasingly clear you have tied stereotypes to race. When called out, and people point to this baggage the response is intense defensiveness. No one likes to be implied to be a racist. However, we live in a world of ethnic and racial baggage that crawls into our language and very concept of race.

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This isn’t a conspiracy this is a repeated trend with Blink as a minor exception because the comic character actually has hair that color. Either way the idea is that these are “cool” Asian girls, edgy Asian girls, perhaps even unique Asian girls because they aren’t stereotypically submissive/conformist. The result is the creation of a new stereotype. Even positive stereotyping and depictions are still stereotypes.

An example(not linking because of privacy) would be a recent role playing game forum online where someone asked if their black character would be a stereotype. The asker was thoughtful, but the question was still worded to be concerned with how they were seen, not the stereotyping. A responder asked “why did you make her black?”, and people were sincerely flummoxed that the question would be asked. It didn’t make sense. They didn’t see what was obvious to the black responder, and refused to. The character in question was a sex worker, a formerly teenage mother of two, from the ghetto; described as strong, courageous, and devoted to her kids with a smart mouth and street smarts. Things kind of rambled out from there and the question never got answered. People said don’t put on a “faux-black affect of speech” during the game, and then people started asking why not. To those people, these elements, stereotypes, were inseparable from black people. It can’t be wrong if it is the “truth” and that character was a “truth”. Yet  that character could have easily been any other race.

The question they couldn’t fathom asked why did those traits become attached to a black character, and no one understood that because the baggage is glued to race in their minds.

It’s part of why it is so common to hear nerdy POC be called coconuts, oreos, bananas, etc. The very concept of X race even in creative media is still loaded down, and if an author cannot transcend that it shows.

Humanae

So what of the white writers who can write POC? They listen, they learn, and they don’t just sympathize they do their damnedest to empathize. Because the truth is it ain’t all white people, and the white authors who say they can’t write POC because of POC responding to their works are lost, at best, and willfully delusional, at worst. In America blacks may be a smaller part of the population, but that smaller part still numbers in the millions. Same with latinxs, east Asians, and virtually all peoples. There are sources you can turn to conquer your “fear” of being perceived as racist.

1-b3gb4CL6R1NuqIzwgegU8wIn building this blog I’ve stumbled upon so many posts about people of color and how to describe them. At this point dozens if not hundreds of easily available blogs talk about describing POC like Writing with Color, Springhole ,  or words from reflective authors of color like N.K Jemsin . Yet it seems like there are more people wanting to complain or ask the same questions ad nauseum. And asking this question isn’t a problem, but one begins to wonder about how isolated white folk are when this comes up.

As a person of color in America, my life has been drowned in consuming white culture because white culture is mainstream culture. In a few days I’ll have a post that goes into more details on this, but the short version is POC in the west can’t escape learning everything about white culture as simply existing, neutral. White isn’t just white it is beige, khaki, and as a result I’ve learned a lot about it. I’ve worn it and studied how it’s shaped. Yet as a black person my culture has been whittled down to pockets based on kernels of truth filtered through white perceptions of my body, my life, who I am, and what blackness means. Even in the black community that filter has traces everywhere.

I have countless examples of not only white friends and lovers, but the whole of the film, television, and literary industries to inform my white characters. The depictions of black, brown, yellow, and everybody in between is historically and currently limited. But before you go saying “Well, D that’s why white authors shouldn’t be judged or penalized or critiqued,” that still isn’t an excuse in 2017.

There are authors of color online on every platform. There are Meetup.com groups, universities with POC students, and essays like this that can inform you. If you choose not to listen, to continuously defend yourself before listening to what POC are telling you– that your words are filled with old stereotypes– then the problem is you. You can choose to change, to learn, to be open to listening, and to know that it isn’t POC’s job to educate you all the damn time…or you could not, but you don’t get to use the same excuses anymore.

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Some choice descriptions of color that are wonderful.

I know tons of white writers who ask these questions about how to portray POC better. They seek out POC and POC writers and learn from them. These writers, if they can, travel and live with the people they wish to write about. If they can’t they find resources, meet people near them, and explore the many cultures of the world and how race impacts perceptions. They don’t come in with an attitude bemoaning POC telling them they need to learn better. Of course all humans can be defensive…but they still try to really listen. In the end they learn to listen to themselves because they begin to notice how odd it is they tend to use “savage” when talking about black folk or African inspired things not just as a colloquialism. They notice how odd it is that they keep writing Asian characters as though Asian cultures are interchangeable; or like all Asian parents are the same and not just of a particular cultural background. They notice how they keep making innocent characters white and light, and cast antagonists as darker from hair to eyes to skin.

The white authors who listen have the courage to actually challenge themselves, and learn how to navigate stereotypes and their own prejudice. They accept they will make mistakes, and listen enough to try to learn from them in order to become not only better writers but better people. They know they have baggage, picked up from society, that they may not even realize is racial baggage because it is their normal…and they realize it shouldn’t be normal, and it can’t be allowed to flourish unintentionally in their writing.

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POC, educated in literature by white influenced literary classes and texts also have to unlearn the standard food and object descriptions to reach beyond to something richer and less objectifying than always saying mocha or chocolate. We all have to work, and if you choose not to then that’s on you.

But second to all this is, you have to accept that POC can criticize you as much as we please. This may surprise you because you choose not to think about it, but I’ve meant hundreds of white folks in my short life who truly deeply are offended that POC would dare have negative opinions about them. They aren’t even aware of how differently they respond to, usually, immigrants and dark people. They don’t hear the patronizing or condescending attitude that accompanies their defensiveness. The insinuation that POC just don’t get it, isn’t racism…it’s just anger? But it usually ain’t and people of color, especially black people, have been forced to learn the difference over the centuries. POC aren’t stupid or hysterical. The critique of a POC, especially an immigrant or a dark person, has been coded in our society as doubly insulting, a diminishing of character or intellect. (And let us not forget that other POC engage in this behavior as well against black and dark people)

This attitude doesn’t just belong to the 90 year old grandmother whose racism is excused as “that’s just grandma”. It’s the 20 something year old white coworker who sees my critique of their plan as more insulting, who denies that they treat black coworkers differently when they have a tendency to try to report them to their boss for “unprofessionalism” or acting maliciously. So let me say this:

If you are more afraid or mortified by the thought of a POC saying your work is disrespectful or stereotypical than actually dealing with why you created a problematic and racist work then the problem above all things else is you.

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Speaking of undertones…

Repeatedly, the undertones of the defensive remarks from white writers frustrated at the responses their works– filled with passive veiled racism– is that they shouldn’t be critiqued this way. This in part goes back to the first problem of connecting a stereotypes being part of how different races are defined. They believe they shouldn’t be critiqued because they don’t see what’s wrong or erroneous about what they’ve made. There’s a voice going “But this is true!” or “But this is just how black folk are described” or “Well I think Asian guys who break dance are cool!”. They destroy the conversation by rendering POC into being inherently wrong, liars, or fascists opposing their creative freedom.

 

 

This I one of the most insidious legacies of racism because it seems so harmless. No one dies. No towns get fire bombed like parts of Tulsa. Generally no one gets denied usage of anything public. It simply relies on one socialization, one life lesson, one gift from the past to white descendents who can be as liberal or as nice as they want. That one thing is the belief that POC don’t know as much as white folk even when it comes to the experiences, the trends, and the linguistic/creative issues surrounding race or ethnicity. So they should not be questioned, and this thought isn’t necessarily conscious, but it is pervasive because of that very reason. If you don’t acknowledge it or disarm it then you won’t challenge it. Then when you encounter a black person saying, “It’s very odd and racist that you made this character black and then also have her be this series of walking stereotypes even if you perceive some nobility about those stereotypes” it becomes a personal attack deeper than a standard critique.

The result is half of ya’ll seem stuck here alternating between using ignorance, denial, and defensiveness as a shield. Sometimes using other POC as a shield because a handful agree with you as though we’re a monolith, and they come rolling out not realizing how you just used them as a tool or a dog to be summoned at your leisure. The other have are still having to explain this shit, and look at us POC like “I’m so sorry.” and experience an iota of what it’s like to be a POC because we get that fairly often(especially if you’re in the south in a “nice” part of town the other ethnic family acts up and all eyes fall on you. It is total bullshit). And it isn’t. It’s an observation, a critique, a perspective, and if a hell of a lot of people are explaining why and saying why your work is deeply flawed in a racist way then something is probably actually wrong.

But there is all this other shit in the way, bogging down your writing and your life. Being nice to a POC or even other POC doesn’t free you from prejudice. I grew up in the southern U.S, sweetheart, we bleed nice and that ain’t NEVAH stopped racism or prejudice. Plenty of people were nice to my kinfolk when they cleaned their houses and talked shit in the next sentence. Plenty of writers can create amazing innovative worlds loaded, unintentionally, with the stereotypes and associations of the real world. It doesn’t make a difference. A person can be nice and talented, and that has nothing to do with if they’re capable of showing people as people, or if they write hurtful, lazy, and incredibly problematic aspects to their imagined species, cultures, and real world races. Whether it is Earth or Nabu, a human colony or Vulcan, if your characters read like caricatures or have dubious elements you will be critiqued. POC , like anyone else, can critique you how ever the hell we like…and I can assure you POC know a lot more about racism than you. It is an entirely different experience to be white in the world, and in the U.S, than black or dark or yellow or what have you. The slights inflicted on others are taken for granted as truths, but they are not.

You can be more than wrong. You can create and incorporate out right racial lies and prejudices in your work. IF you’re called out on it you can either be a coward or not. You can listen and consider….or not. You can get an attitude….or not. But if you keep writing X race and it sounds eerily stereotypical you should question yourself. You shouldn’t get mad that people noticed.

But I doubt that many of you will. Instead you’ll do something else, something better writers don’t do…

You resent. You justify. You assert in a thousand different passive to overly aggressive ways that your work is correct, valid, and even reflective of POC. It can’t be racist or come from stereotypes, you say, because there are blacks like this. She just sort of happened to be black, right? You’re a good person, and a good writer, and all of those nasty POC don’t know what they’re talking about, right? They don’t get what you’re saying, and you just have to make them understand. Now you’ve tried, and they still don’t change their tune? Oh well they just don’t get you, right? Who cares what they think about your work! After all you have those two or four black people you know and they like you? They get you and the nasty ones are just not capable of understanding your genius and even if you did mess up it doesn’t matter because it wasn’t intentional maliciousness! You spout shit like that, and then wonder why POC don’t want to deal with your trifling ass writing anymore.

In short you don’t give a damn about POC. You only care about looking good, and anyone with a lick of sense can tell the difference.

For the Last Time, Not all Blacks are Christian.

Why?

Why do I need to say this again and again? It drives my agnostic spiritualist ass batty. The hardest thing about being a black writer, often on a good day, is looking for groups/blogs/meetups for other black authors. I have joined plenty of white majority workshops, but I want to also hear from people of cultural backgrounds like myself. Why? Because maybe they’ll fall in love with fantasy or know someone who wishes they had books in speculative genres that look like themselves. Also because I just want to. But time and again black writing is associated with black Christendom. Plenty of Christians will read my stuff regardless, but there’s this unspoken expectation that if you’re a black writer who doesn’t write about “urban” things then you’re a Christian and your books will have Christian themes. Black women are the single most religious group in the USA, according to Jamila Bey. of host of The Sex Politics and Religion Hour: SPAR With Jamila  Even if the book has nothing to do with religion people expect that your story will still have those themes, much like a Nicholas Sparks novel.

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“Where’s your church home?” 

Black agnostics and atheists have always been an unspoken hot topic, unspoken because as I was once told, “Atheism is for white folk and Asians”. Yet more and more African Americans and blacks all over the world as getting turned off by church. Black atheists have always existed and always been part of Black social movements, but their beliefs like others homosexuality or non-black spouses were downplayed for the comfort of their comrades. Yet through art it survives…

I remember being in high school and finding myself jaw dropped as I watched Raisin in the Sun, which featured an African American woman, Beneatha, who rejected Christianity as another idea that she simply couldn’t believe in. This moment changes the dynamic between her and her mother forever. Lorraine Hansbury captured the struggle between up and coming black women rejecting the traditions of her mother and the reactions to it in one pivotal slap. The matriarch doesn’t care about belief. She cares about pretending, about beating god into her “uppity” daughter who, shocked and teary eyed, relents. It isn’t just about control, but a mother who loves her daughter…and loses that daughters respect in an attempt to save her soul. That moment encapsulates so much of the black non-Christians experience. The secular beliefs of black authors writing for black people can, for no good reason, become the barrier to advancing our scholarship.

As Siviku Hutchinson said,

“As Lena’s violent rebuke of Beneatha is a caveat to all the uppity Black female atheists who’ve been rendered invisible Lena’s violent rebuke of Beneatha is a caveat to all the uppity Black female atheists who’ve been rendered invisible — both by a white secular culture that only sees atheism through the Islamophobic lens of Richard Dawkins, and a black religious culture that uses heteronormative Christian respectability politics to silence and police women. Decades after the literary slap heard around Black America, to be female, beyond belief and Black (to recast Hansberry’s iconic phrase) is still the ultimate betrayal of the race.”

To be black and voice doubt, sedition, in faith is to be a traitor or seen as abdicating a right to be a voice for black people. I’m sorry but that’s bullshit, and I’m sick of it. The assumption that all black folk are Christian has got to stop. Don’t make me awkwardly nod as you talk about god. Don’t make me coon for other black folk because they think if something isn’t overtly christian somehow its less black…

And stop thinking black authors are black Christians.

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Ellen Weinstein

I respect the church in theory. I respect all religions in theory. I just have a profound lack of respect for the institutions of religions and how they’re run. See Rev. Creflo Dollar, a con artist to black Americans everywhere as to a reason why. But there’s a particular irritation that comes with people putting another identity on to you because black atheists have been systematically erased, ignored, or rewritten throughout black history usually by those in the churches because those were where black history and interests were cultivated over the last century.

This isn’t about resenting the church or being hurt by anybody as other blacks have suggested to me. Truthfully this attitude is why these Black Christian Authors groups turn me off besides making me wonder why everything in black culture is forcibly tied to religion in 2017(which is also the problem with modern activism, where black LGBTQA+ and women refuse to step down). A lot of black culture has promoted this belief that an atheist or agnostic is broken, and just needs the right home, and is alienated from good black folk. I’m not.  That’s the nicer story than simply black folk like me aren’t black and hate being black. Even typing those words makes me feel sick.

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This is about how hurt I am by the church or someone in the church. See the tension?

Black success should not be tied only to the opinions of church folk, relationships to a church, or expectations that black people are black Christians….but they often are. The church is the place where book clubs meet, and where black authors are often invited to read. The church has always been the heart of the black community, launching careers long before Oprah or In Living Color ever got a platform. Tyler Perry would never be big if it weren’t for black churches and Oprah, his ham fisted religious ( and sexist and colorism filled) themes reinforce the traditions of the black community for better or (mostly) for worst. It is worth noting Mr. Perry is also a giant undercover nerd, who seemingly has shown no interest in truly supporting other black creators in making their visions or battling color the barrier by producing black science fiction or black fantasy. I can’t help but wonder if this is in no small part because he knows many in his audience would say it wasn’t “black” and far too many others would say it was “too black”. Why make millions when you could make billions? The chruch fuels his billions even if he doesn’t really pay it forward.

 

Also because so many non-black spaces don’t give black authors the same opportunities as whites the  church is where the most opportunity to present yourself and your work can be found…so long as you keep that Christian context. To the secular person, this feels like a total shut out…to a game of trying to hold your tongue until you earn approval. It feels like black secular writers are pushed even further towards the margins. And when we make our own spaces so often blackness comes into question, our relationship to the black community at large becomes suspect.

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All Athieists

The assumption itself creates a distance, often hidden, but very real. It isn’t Christianity, but the inherent racism of assuming ones beliefs based on race.
As Jenee Desmond-Harris of The Root noted:

Your frustration is a reminder that being stereotyped doesn’t feel any better just because the offender thinks the assumption he or she is making about you is a positive one (even the most positive one possible, as Christianity likely is to many Americans). And it doesn’t make it any better when the offender is the same race, either.

It isn’t Christianity, but the inherent gate keeping creating this false divide between black and atheist/agnostic. It isn’t Christianity, but Christians who come to invite me to their writing groups expecting Christian literature or themes only to find I write about dystopian space epics, psychological thrillers, and African, Haitian, and African american influenced fantasy far more often than traditional literary black stories. I tell them what I write. Their cheeks thin, their mouth jobs, their eyes glaze to disinterest, and I see them thinking “that’s not really black, but ok” before they remember Chronicles of Narnia or something more Christian…and when I say I’m not a Christian their mouths close, they cut the conversation short, and say–to be polite– “You’re still welcome”….

So they can convert me.

And Heaven forbid I tell them about conjure or voodoo or any alternative that is available to black people to try.

I know they mean well, but seeing every other writers group of facebook be labeled simply “Black” and it’s overwhelming books, posts, and expectations be about Christianity is tiresome. It’s disheartening. It’s annoying because you know it will be just that much harder for you, and that you’ll have to justify that Christ doesn’t necessarily fit into your themes or beliefs or life. Their eyes will glaze over, and you’ll feel exhausted.

So stop assuming all colored folk are Christian in America.

That’s all I ask.

quote-whether-we-are-christians-or-muslims-or-nationalists-or-agnostics-or-atheists-we-must-first-learn-malcolm-x-249343

Resources for black non-religious folk?

Christianity Ain’t For Everybody: Resources to Navigate Being Black and Non-Christian  

Living Openly Secular in Black Communities: A Resource for African Americans

Black and Not Baptist by Donald Barbera 

African American’s For Humanism

Black Non-Believers

The Black Agnostic

** A fair warning the AA Athieists and Agnostics group on Facebook is honestly massive and filled with homophobic hotep ashy misognegroes who use atheism as an excuse for their bigotry and stupidity. I do not recommend it. The foolishness of it is stifling.

 

How to Love a Man.

How to Love a Man.

How to Love a Man,
I do not know,
But I know how I try,
So let me try to help you,

You love a man,
When he’s too busy to check his phone,
By reminding yourself he just fell into the zone,
That you’re just looking for,
Or to make,
A show,
And the feeling of suffocation,
Gives you a youthful rosy glow,
When he feels like it,

You love a man,
By patching up his pride,
With patience,
By keeping hope alive,
Swallow your frustration,
And wait for that pin to drop,
Because he’ll either destroy himself within,
Or pop.

You love a man,
Why?
Why do you love a man?
Because he’ll drive you mad,
Hell make your rhyming scheme turn bad,
He’ll make you need and want and more,
And always he could go out the door,
You’ll wrap each other in insecurities,
And you’ll think of hanging from a tree,
He’ll say stop,
And you’ll say go,
And then he’ll treat you like a ho,
And then you’ll like it,
Yes, you’ll see,
When he holds you close or lets you be,
You’ll want to stop and do not know,
Where the hell you’ll fucking go,
When he doesn’t treat you like a ho,
When he makes room for you,

And tries to show he likes you, loves, you
“Don’t you know?”
He’s crazy about you and you’ll go
“Love me slow,”
And, yes, he’ll do it.
Yes I know,
I’ve lived it twice,
I’ve been let go,
And you’ll like it, patience or no,
And you’ll take whatever to go with the flow,
And just so you know
That is how you love a modern man,
With your time,
With your hands,
With your mind,
With all that makes you good and kind…
And then you’ll love a man.

Flash Fiction: Looking for Kansas

The depths of the cave seemed endless, as she trudged through the knee deep slime that coated the floor. She tried not to look directly down too often. Instead she focused on the bright light illuminating the footprints in front of her from her cell phone. Truthfully she hadn’t known that cave existed before. Of course Kansas would find some rinky-dink little hole. Why did she encourage her to play adventurer? Ah because she believed in dreams. Stupid.

The sound or rain became a distant memory, and soon only the sticky echo of her steps filled the air. With each step the mud got deeper, reaching her mid calves and she wondered how the ten year old would have managed. Hell, how was she managing when her legs were beginning to feel so strained? Worse, the sloping ground made every step harder than the last. She chuckled as she imagined herself on a plane nose diving towards the ocean floor. She breathed again and coughed. She stopped, swallowing a gulp of damp wet air that choked her throat. She never should have let Kansas play outside. She never should have encouraged her. That sort of thing got Amelia Earnheart killed probably. Why did she think it was a good idea?

Regaining her bearings with a grimace, she got back to moving. Nervous sweat trickled down her neck until her curls clung to her flesh. Down and Down to the hungry bowels of the Earth, but that wasn’t a cheerful thought. She’d find the girl and chastise her for exploring too far from the cottage. Then they’d have dinner. The haddock should’ve been defrosted by then, but that girl wasn’t getting Mac n’ Cheese at this rate. Mac n’ Cheese was for good girls. Her palms stung with sweat.

“Kansas?” she called.

Further and down, with bats fluttering above, leading her to descend, into the hungry bowels of the Earth. She hadn’t seen her niece since lunch, but she saw those prints and she was a good auntie. She had to be even if fear sank into her flesh, even if her shoulders twitched every time she heard a bat, and even if it felt like she’d been walking way too far for that cave. She was a good auntie.

But then the prints stopped dead in the middle of the cave. The mud sat perfectly undisturbed.

“What the hell?” She nervously forced a foot forward through the mud, praying she wouldn’t hit anything hard or human shaped. She shone her light around only to see more tunnel.

But she hit nothing, and confusion began to ravage her thoughts. Should she had gone back and called the police? What would she say? A gentle huff of air rolled over her shoulder, and she almost jumped out of her boots. She started to call out, her finger hitting the 911.

All she heard was silence.

All she saw was amber eyes and a red raincoat on the cave’s ceiling.