You speak your truth. The following panels, taken from Brian Michael Bendis’ and Sara Pichelli’s Spider-Man #2, irked many—myself included. I’ll be painfully honest, my first reaction upon seeing the panels was to smirk and to dismiss the work as the result of a naïve white author who had once overheard a black man exasperatedly proclaim that he did not wish to be a black writer (or artist, or actor, or musician) and proceeded to weave the experience into a story without any knowledge of the history behind such a statement. The scene rang false to me. Given my own history, I simply could not imagine an Afro-Latino kid from similar stomping grounds as my own who would not immediately recognize the importance of representation. I could not imagine a black kid from New York in the age of #BlackLivesMatter who would not wear his blackness and his heroicness like a badge, streaming across the avenue with all the bravado of Jeezy and the defiance of Kendrick.
And so black and brown blanched at the sight of those panels. Social media quickly ignited—journalists and critics fired back with lists of what Bendis should have done and what he should no longer do. In my opinion? Bendis did what he was supposed to do. He did what countless other white writers who overwhelmingly dominate the mainstream marketplace do.
He spoke his truth.
And his truth is different from my truth. His truth comes from a place where race does not have to matter. His truth comes from a place where one can innocently proclaim that one doesn’t “see color” or question why the world deems it so important.
Because he is white. And no matter who a white writer embraces at night or who he tucks in, he cannot step into the shoes of another and speak as them. He can only imagine and describe what their vantage point must be like from his own.
And that’s okay. And that is what writers are supposed to do. And beautiful works have been produced from that. What is not okay, what is unbelievably harmful, what we have in the marketplace right now, is a massive block of writers from one sole vantage point describing everyone else’s. A truth that is not multifaceted is distortion. A publishing marketplace where black voices are muffled and Bendis, Waid, and other white writers are given heavily promoted platforms to speak upon the topic of race is distortion. This is a long-standing problem. And it is one that will not be resolved with advice to white writers. Because all the advice in the world will not make them black.
I don’t want to be a black writer. I don’t want to be pigeonholed and only (rarely!) considered for stories featuring black characters, stories I will not get to write should a non-black writer have a desire to write them. I don’t want to be told that I can only write for characters who share my vantage point while non-black writers are given free rein to produce work from any vantage point they can imagine—including my own.
And be championed for it. And be paid handsomely for it.
But, oh, do I want to be a writer that is black. Oh, do I want to see writers that are black. I want black and brown and white children to know the worlds that are inside of us. I want them to know the beautiful way the brick and mortar of a brownstone changes the way one can see a sunrise. I want them to know how the heat of the jungle is described by one who knows the heat of the comb.
There is a difference. Another facet of the diamond. And aren’t diamonds at their most beautiful the deeper and more intricate the cut?