*****WARNING: This isn’t going to be my usual happy blog post. There will be more colorful language and pure raw feelings.*****
My name is Dawn Aiesha Ibanez. I am the daughter of a Puerto Rican Vietnam Vet and a Black Southern Belle. So, if you do the math, I’m biracial.
I write paranormal romance. Sometimes the couples are interracial, sometimes they aren’t. I always have end of the world stakes, action, comedy, and (hopefully) a sense of family.
My characters, my family and I all try to live by Rule #1: the golden rule.
It’s not hard, really. I keep my head low, I do my thing and work hard for what I want. Whatever I can’t afford, I bide my time and then get it on my own.
Currently, I hold a position in the RWA’s Maryland chapter. I love my position. I love having a place to belong. But lately, I haven’t been feeling like I belong. Not in MRW, NEVER get that twisted. I will continue my work with this group until someone comes up to me and pulls my responsibilities out of my cold dead hands. But I haven’t felt like I belong in this new world that I’m realizing has become so toxic because people are forgetting the golden rule.
Diversity in books, in Romancelandia specifically, has become something of a hot button over the past few months. From what I hear, Agents want more diverse voices. Readers and bloggers want more diverse voices. But when it’s time to put up or shut up, publishers only want non-POC authors, voices or whatever you want to call it. If there is a character of color, that person is a caricature of a stereotype, or something else entirely (but still just as insulting).
Now, this isn’t me hopping on a bandwagon. RWA has come out and acknowledged that there is a problem with the RITAs in that they need to find a way to have more diverse books enter. I applaud them. It takes a lot for anyone, an organization publisher or person, to admit that they screwed the pooch and ask how can they make things better.
Does that instantly fix the problem? Hell no.
I don’t have an answer for this problem. I know that last year, I entered One for Sorrow in the RITAs for Paranormal Romance and didn’t make the finals. I was totally okay with that. Better books got in. I am an unknown to the vast majority of people that were judging. I never looked at it as “It’s because I’m black.”
To be 1000% honest with you, I was never comfortable with identifying as a Black woman. I was never comfortable identifying as a Hispanic woman. I’ve always looked at it as I am a woman. Take me or leave me. I could sit here and lament on how I have cousins that have a level of privilege that I will never achieve because their fathers (my uncles) married white women and they can pass as white. But that would be a dick move. We’re family.
I have been the subject of ridicule. That’s also another reason why I don’t identify with a race. I grew up on Staten Island in the 80s and 90s. By high school, the majority of my friends were white. I listened to rock music. I was told that I “acted” white. I was told I was “trying to be” white. I was called “the white sheep” of my black family.
I brushed all of it off because my friends never treated me like I was the token black friend. I was just their friend that loved to write. I listened to what they did. We all got along and while things weren’t cookie cutter perfect, I wasn’t subjected to the same lifestyle as most of my other counterparts in the writing world.
Let’s get back to the here and now. Now, I am a 40-year-old woman with a 15-year-old daughter. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I can’t sit back and hide behind I can’t identify with blank because of how I grew up. The cut and dry of it is simple. I am a biracial woman that has interracial romance in some of her stories.
See Rule #1 and keep that in mind when I say this:
We are ALL a part of this fucking problem and it is up to ALL of us to fix this.
Yes, Authors of Color need to step up and make sure their voices are heard. But know, if you step up, your shit better be in point. People of color, in general, need to stop perpetuating these god awful stereotypes so that if… IF a white author or another person of color decides to write a black person, we aren’t flying off the handle because they got the character completely wrong. (Don’t believe me? Go watch some old school anime and REALLY look at how they view Black people as well as Americans as a whole.)
White authors (for lack of a better title. I won’t call you clear or N-AoC that sounds dick-ish) need to realize that yes, they have privilege. And with privilege comes great responsibility. I’m not saying you have to fall into the white savior trope. Don’t go up to the lesser known black author and give them a handout. I’m saying if someone says “Hey, I’m looking for a new read, any suggestions?” don’t just name your close friends. If you see a book in your genre and there is a PoC on the cover, give that one as many accolades as you would if you saw a white dude on the cover. It’s not that hard. If you want us as PoC to support you, you need to support us as well.
Sitting back isn’t the answer. Saying that if RWA wants Black authors to win the RITAs they should have a separate category for “Diverse Romance” even in sarcasm is NOT helping the problem. Actually, even hinting that Separate but Equal is an answer shows how much you DO NOT know the problem.
Another problem that RWA is facing is the elitism some authors tend to have. And again, this is a slippery slope. If publishers aren’t putting out books about or by PoC, that means that most of these books are self-published. It is 2018 times have changed since 2008. Putting out your own work is hard, but it’s not AS hard as it used to be. Authors don’t have to sell their books out of the trunk of their car. But for WHATEVER reason, self-publishing is still looked at as “Less Than” add that on to the pile of bullshit from those that like to cry “I just can’t identify with a black heroine” and we end up with a clusterfuck that had me realizing that a world that I enjoyed being a part of thought of me like the neighborhood kids that thought I was odd person out because I didn’t listen to Naughty by Nature, but Bon Jovi instead.
Everyone needs to step up. Everyone needs to get in this shit and dig our way out. Every fucking one. Black, White, Hispanic, Asain, Indian, Eskimo, Gay, Straight, Asexual, Every LAST FUCKING ONE of us needs to come to the table. Bring your A game. Open your minds to things that may not be your exact cup of tea and face all of the music. Realize that EVERYONE has fucked up and that the only way to clean this up would be TOGETHER.
*Okay. I think I’ve said everything I wanted to say. Sorry about the long post. But the more I see this topic, the more my head is going in circles.*
And before I leave, I’m going to just remind you. When life gets hard, follow The Golden Rule: