The Front Porch : Historic and current oppression, Writing, White people telling the story

Discussion in 'The Front Porch' started by Dgudge, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. Dgudge

    Dgudge Member MEMBER

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    I was so thankful to find this forum. It may help me decide what to write or not to write (more about that later). It also soothes my soul to see any community just speaking kindly and making that their goal. I'm white, and unfortunately, I feel awkward asking my black friends too many questions about what it means to be black or white, because I guess I don't want to make it a big deal. We do discuss how it's best to be able to talk about our differences, specifically that there is beauty in diversity. One of my best conversations was when my friend who is mixed (but gets identified only as black... a whole other subject) told me what she has observed about white culture. It was so freeing to be able to analyze openly and respectfully. But those conversations are few and far between.

    Anyway, maybe you can see how that sort of confuses me as I work on the novel I'm writing.

    More context: For many of my formative years, I grew up white in a mostly black and latino community. I acclimated to these cultures, though most of the friends I bonded with were black. When we got to jr high, it was as if some invisible line was drawn, and everyone just went into their racial groups. It was really annoying, and none of us talked about it with each other. I haven't been close to the same elementary school friends since. Since, I've lived in a lot of other cities with diverse elements of these "lines" that get drawn depending on the city. The most discouraging for me was when I lived in Pasadena, CA. There's an area called AltaDena that is almost completely black, and that's where, I hate to say, the white people I was friends with would say, "Don't live there." Of course, it's always said that it was dangerous, and that's why people don't live there. My experience growing up told me that their quick description had sooo many layers to it, and most of those layers were jacked up. I am now familiar with the ugly things rich people (usually white) did even after civil rights to strip the last chances of dignity the black community had, in many cities. I know that the topic is way more complicated, and that danger is an unfair way to describe a community. I'm ashamed for my own race, just admitting to you what I've been told and that I even thought of researching it and not just yelling at each person right then and there. I'm so sorry for it. It's awful. I promise you'll see I have a good heart in a sec here (at least that I'm trying).

    I just moved to another city (Austin, TX), and I heard the same things again. This city is mostly white. Pasadena at least had more diversity so I'm slowly dying inside; I swear. There is, however, a whole area of town -- "the east side"-- which has a decent sized area where mostly black people live, and then there is an area where mostly latino people live. My husband and I talk about moving there all the time, and we might. There's a bigger movement in white circles to stop segregating ourselves from these type of communities with the "danger" or bad schools excuse. I do not endorse the gentrification stuff by the way. Not into that either. (Again, I'm sorry to even admit conversations like this happen in the first place.) I was told so many times again when we moved here, "Don't move to the east side: bad schools, crime, etc." This only pissed me off even more to see a people's home area described so generically, and the devastation in black communities (I grew up near Compton, for instance) still makes me confused and unable to admit that we are passed racism, or at least we are clearly not past the effects of it.

    I got so pissed, I started writing a book, geared toward white people, since I'm white. The main girl character is white. The town is similar to Austin, separated by color still. Right now, I've worked it so that a fire on the east side has the other colors (for lack of a better way to put it) move to the the rest of town. Maybe it would be way cooler if I made the white people get taken care of by the black/latino people though (like they have to move to the east side of town). That may be way better. Anyway, I think you see my beginning: something crazy happens that forces people to mix worlds. Obviously, I cannot just write a white person in this story because the context requires diverse characters. I wouldn't consider myself so uninformed and silly that I cannot write other human beings which happen to have different color skin and culture. On the other hand, I've heard often about white people writing black characters which black people don't like. (Like, I'm pretty sure more white people liked the Help, right?) That is really scaring me, because I don't want to be THAT girl. I am pretty good at putting myself in someone else's shoes, and my role in writing the black characters would really be to humble white characters in the story, so maybe that should just be my only goal, because I can really only speak to my culture about this, in my view. So many thoughts...

    So, if you've stuck with my in this LONG post, would you mind giving me your feedback? ANy feedback is welcome about anything I said above, but here are some questions off the top of my head.

    1) What do you have to say about why white people don't move to black people areas? Why don't black people move to white areas as much? Especially tell me what I seem to be misunderstanding or needing to be informed of.

    2) If I were writing from the perspective of, say, a black family who had to live with a white family after the fire, what would you want to see discussed? Or if I did the opposite (white family has to live with black family), how would you want the black community represented?

    2) Is there a desire in the black community to decrease the segregation that still remains in cities? (Obviously, I'm not talking Jim Crow stuff, but I still cannot help but notice that somehow many cities still have separated-- segregated-- areas, by race, and people on both sides are keeping it this way.) Is this separation ok?

    3) Do you even think this is an issue worth talking about? If so, why? I'm having such a hard time even thinking of how I'd end the book because I guess I don't know what the ideal is that I'm working toward. I think the ideal I'm working for is to clarify understand, but I guess I don't want to move forward until I know I've taken the chance to understand the culture I myself don't represent.

    4) What do you think about this: It's not bad for people to live within their own culture so I don't want to say everyone would ideally have to equally integrate and disperse, but... is there something that still needs to change, specifically as it relates to city districting and what it represents?
     
  2. Omowale Jabali

    Omowale Jabali The Cosmic Journeyman PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I am only going to answer question no 1 for now. I think that blacks do move to white areas more if they can qualify for a loan. I did myself when I first moved to Texas. I have other family who moved to mostly white communities to get away from gang violence.

    In some communities blacks move in whites move out. In some whites hold their ground. I grew up in mostly black then mostly white neighborhoods. This varies according to region. I am sure even those whites in Pasadena are on average more liberal than the whites in Austin which is one of the more liberal cities in Texas.
     
  3. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    Dgudge ... Welcome Welcome Welcome ... :wave:

    Thanks for joining us and sharing.

    I started reading The Help without knowing who the author was ... took it from my Daughter's book shelf ... and was immediately put off by the unauthentic attempt of portraying Black People ... I knew the author could not have been Black ... the Ebonics (which i happen to love) made me cringe to read. I quickly went to the author page or whatever it's called, and my thoughts were confirmed. I never picked the book up again (nor did i see the movie).

    You're asking us questions ... from the outside looking in ... that we're trying to find answers to, and we're in it.

    Why stop at city and state differences for your book ... look at the world ... Black People are mistreated all over it.

    You talk of a fire, where the folk are displaced ... Black People are displaced every day on this planet ... and very few (if any) move in with the rich White People ... lol ... yeah ... that oughtta be a good story!

    I suppose your interest / concern for us should be appreciated ... and it is ... to the degree it deserves.

    Again ... thanks for sharing and good luck with your endeavor.

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  4. Dgudge

    Dgudge Member MEMBER

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    Thank you SO much. I just ordered the book. I'm really excited to read it.
     
  5. Dgudge

    Dgudge Member MEMBER

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    Thanks. That's helpful feedback. If you feel comfortable answering any of the other questions-- or just giving me more of your honest perspective-- I'm all ears. I realize my perspective is naive so it won't hurt to be honest with me. :) Thanks again for even writing.
     
  6. Dgudge

    Dgudge Member MEMBER

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    Thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it.

    1. That's exactly what I heard about the Help. White people, including me, were sucked in, but not so much on the other end. I think my community is working out some guilt still... or we are still out of touch. We'll read books that take place in the 60s, but what about now? That's kind of why I ended up choosing a modern day setting. Do you think that any of the reactions to the Help are a sign that reconciliation still hasn't happened between the two communities? Or is it just poorly written ebonics that is the only issue?

    2. "You're asking us questions ... from the outside looking in ... that we're trying to find answers to, and we're in it."
    The truth is... because of where I grew up, I'm not really at home in primarily white communities. I feel more at home in areas that are diverse, especially including the black culture that I grew up around. Is there any hope that I could ever be included as someone somewhat "in it" if I put myself in it? Sometimes I think I won't feel at home in either community, and that's probably what makes me instinctually think that a lot of racial aspects are still a part of the current reality. Shouldn't I be allowed to interact with something I have had first hand experience with? But it feels like I get excluded because I'm white. I know, I know... no one is going to feel sorry for me. I'm not asking that. I just think saying that I'm not "in it" is not exactly the most accurate assumption.

    3. Definitely into looking at the world. I'm one of those who has focused way more on Africa, doing lots of non-profit work in East of Africa... so I'm kind of trying to understand stuff within my proximity right now. I'm sure if I ever even get a handle on this book, I could integrate worldwide elements into it as well. Thanks for the recommendation.

    4. GOOD POINT. My story would be pretty naive if I had black families live with white families. Right when I read what you said, I thought about hurricane Katrina, where most families went to live with their family elsewhere, right? Thanks for giving me a dose of reality. I guess that's part of what I'm working through though; how much of the obvious separation in cities is just a matter of naturally wanting to be with the people who are similar to you? I wonder if I make the separation more dramatic than it is, but I really don't know. I'm sure there are as many answers to that as there are answers to any big questions. I'm sure it depends on who you ask. What do you think?

    Thanks again for your feedback. In my little imaginary writer world, I can go directions which just aren't realistic, which is why I wrote here in the first place. Any other feedback is greatly appreciated.
     
  7. Destee

    Destee destee.com STAFF

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    In #1 it is your community, and in #2, it is not?

    There are many examples of white people telling the story, add your imagination, and anything is possible.

    Have Fun!

    :heart:

    Destee
     
  8. Asomfwaa

    Asomfwaa Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Writing a book for White people. I never thought of that.

    Your first question tells us that you should do more research. Housing discrimination is a common phenomenon. As well as "loan" discrimination. You need a loan to get a house unless you're really wealthy and Africans are not at all wealthy.

    Your second question mocks of comedy: the hilarious clash of cultures. If you are requesting a serious discussion then the purpose of the dialogue is unclear. Are you trained in novel writing?

    Your second second question asks an honest question that requires you to understand that by and by there are two Philosophical schools attributed to African people in America: Integrationism and Separatism. Really, I think that by and by, today, African folk don't care--they just want to live better, possibly, preferably without White racism.

    Your third question is about whether the book should be written. Personally, I do not know your Philosophy. It seems that you're pro-integrationist, but it also seems like you do not understand the separation. People of European descent (Europeans) lived in inner-cities, then African people moved in and Europeans moved out. This is called "White flight." I'm sure you know this, but housing discrimination made, for instance, realtors not even show European areas to African buyers and so on and so forth. It's deep. As to whether I would write such a book--No. It seems like it's about attracting gentrification (what you say you are against but look like you are interested in.)

    Your fourth question kind of reminds me of this time that I was in an African bookstore and a European woman walked in asking if we had a poster board for community events. She then began to lecture us on how she has a program for neutering cats since the poor strays are overpopulating the city and dropped her literature over. When she left, the Brothers picked up their jaws. Of all the problems in the world, that European woman wanted to focus on whether cats were having too many children . . ..

    Really, everyone creates their art in their way and they do their best and that's fine. But personally, I think that you'd be better off hitting the books rather than writing one. Otherwise, you might end up like that cat lady pushing a project that just seems . . ..
     
  9. Clyde C Coger Jr

    Clyde C Coger Jr going above and beyond PREMIUM MEMBER

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    In the Spirit of Sankofa,

    .......Welcome Dgudge, let me assure you...you will be accommodated, enjoy your stay here at Destee.com.

    Peace In,
     
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