After the announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death (doesn't that sound nicer than murder? sure it does) of Michael Brown, I spent most of the night sleepless and heartbroken. And now it's two weeks later, and we've seen yet another grand jury decide not to indict yet another white cop for killing yet another black man (choking death! also better than murder, amiright?)-- and I'm appalled and angry and heartbroken. I have the luxury of expressing this outrage here at my desk, in my house, in my tiny town where just about everyone looks like me if not necessarily thinks like me. Where I can reasonably expect that if I get stopped for speeding, or decide to go for a nighttime stroll, or walk toward a police officer for any reason at all, nobody's going to look at me and see Threat. Criminal. Demon.
Yes, a part of that's because I'm a woman and we're not so much seen as threats. And the rest of it, the big part, is because I'm white, and I get a considerable number of free passes based on nothing but that. I spent a lot of my life blissfully unaware of the literal get out of jail free card my skin color was giving me. Privilege was not growing up poor, or having to struggle to maintain a scholarship GPA. Not being afraid to go to a party alone, or a bar alone. The faith that if you reported a crime, you would be listened to and treated fairly. The expectation that you would be given a raise, respect, the right to govern your own goddamn reproductive organs. In other words, privilege was for rich white people and straight cis white dudes of all classes, but not so much for me.
But privilege is for me. There are people that have more of it than I do, but I've got plenty.
That ignorance of privilege is one of the hallmarks of having it. I was always looking at what I didn't have, and I missed seeing what I was born having-- like the ability to motor through my education on the understanding that there really was nothing I couldn't do if I just applied myself, or the assumption, made by any number of teachers, friends, family, officials, strangers, and of course myself, that I had a right to be where I was and to go where I was headed. That the system would work for me. That the police were there to protect me. That the door would open. That the world was mostly a good place. That I was worthy.
That my country was built on fairness, and freedom for all, and justice that was the same for everyone.
Well, it isn't.
It might look like it from up toward the top of the pyramid, when you're one of the ones that the system was in fact mostly built to serve and protect. And I'll admit, some of what has made me so angry was that realization, driving home. It's been years since the fact of my own privilege was invisible to me --even in an industry as insular as publishing it's hard not to see the glaring imbalance in representation of people of color-- but I was still completely shocked by that grand jury decision. By both of them. This wasn't choosing not to convict, mind you-- they chose not to indict. They decided that the shooting death of an 18 year old black boy by a white officer where eyewitnesses offered multiple conflicting statements --which should have meant that the matter warranted further investigation-- wasn't worth a trial. And within a week another grand jury made the same decision about a case with fewer ambiguities and much more supporting evidence. The officer who killed Eric Garner used a chokehold banned by the NYPD, after which he and his fellow officers stood around Garner's unmoving body for several minutes, not rendering first aid or appearing to care. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. No further questions, your honor! We know all we need to, or, at least, all we want to.
There are so many problems these two cases spotlight, so many things we need to think about-- the effectiveness (or not) of grand juries, the militarization of our police, their standards for the ifs and whens and hows of the use of force… our blind idealization of the image of the man in uniform serving and protecting us all, that inspires our entire justice system to look the other way when that ideal is inevitably failed by a flawed, frightened, angry human being. All of these things matter. None matter as much right now as the lives that have been taken, the fact that in 2014, while we lie to ourselves about how much better than this we are, a white man sees a black man not as another flawed, frightened, angry human being but as a magnified, inhuman threat-- and our long and ugly history of racism, and our equally long and ugly silence about it, reply: excessive force warranted. No further questions required.
We talk a big talk in the world about justice and freedom and fairness, about opportunity for everyone, but we're not walking it. The hypocrisy of that gets harder and harder to swallow.
I'm not saying this because I'm the genius who's figured out some magical fix that will make this better. I'm saying this because it's time for all of us to try now, whether or not we're the ones who benefit from the current, fundamentally fucked-up arrangement. Looking the other way isn't choosing not to participate-- it is actively supporting the thing that's wrong. I'm a writer before almost everything else, so my tiny, personal effort to look the right way is this: I point with words, I speak on pages. We all have to point in our own ways now. We all have to speak, with our words, and our actions.
We should be better than this. We must be better than this. We must bear witness, we must look and keep looking, and speak, and keep speaking. The silence is deadly.
Serious is not so much my thing, but bear with me. There's a lot I want to say about the insane decision not to indict Darren Wilson, how horrified and outraged and sad I am, but I'm saving that for another day, because this isn't about me. This is about the people in Ferguson protesting this travesty and getting gassed and arrested by police who may or may not be making threat assessments based on the color of their skin; this is about Michael Brown's parents and family and friends, mourning not only his loss but the loss of hope for justice; this is about millions of Americans of color who were slapped in the face last night with yet more evidence that they live in a nation that sees them as less, as not as good, as not as deserving of justice and fairness. As other.
Today I just want to list some things you could do to help.
And you can listen. There are a lot of angry, grieving, hurt, heartsick people speaking right now, who for all our sakes must be heard.
SO GUESS WHAT YOU GUYS.
My book has a cover! An amazing, gorgeous, shiny, kickass cover of saucy awesome. And I'm so thrilled with it I'm giving things away, because that's totally how we roll up here in Vacationland.
(Okay, so that last bit's not so much true: actually we tend to be practical, thrifty types up here where the lobsters paddle and the fiddleheads grow, due to heating costs and a not so great economy, but whatever.)
BUT ANYWAY... the cover for my debut YA fantasy SWORD isup over on the Book Smugglers' site, where you can view it in all its gloriousness, and also, if you wish, comment to be entered to win an ARC of SWORD. Which hey, you might read and like. Who knows?
And if you want other pretties, I'm giving away two bookish things as well:
You can enter by:
So here it is, below! Have at. And may the odds be ever in your favor.
Not because I have nothing to say, so much as I don't really need to say anything: this speaks for itself.
Oh coffee! My coffee! our groggy trip is done,
the cup has gone from steaming black to empty, and the sun has risen now;
I must allow the clock to rule my morning,
and brave the road to drudge and toil, though it be long and boring.
But Oh nose! brain! tongue!
O the steaming drops of dark!
the cup is drained; my coffee's gone;
and I must go to work.
You know you're eyeball-deep in an effort when your brain starts clinging to minutia; in the case of writers, also known as crazypeople, it means we can pick away at a particular collection of words endlessly, messing with sentence structure, flipping events and dialogue around, fussing over word choice, and agonizing over the placement of a single comma. (Though in our defense, sometimes the placement of a single punctuation mark makes or breaks a sentence: see the Facebook Favorite dude, commas are super important for reasons.)
Or, hey, just this pic here.
Anyway, nitpicking is a pretty natural part of the process, but it's also, when you're dithering on larger issues, a kind of procrastination, as it rather is for me right now. I have one more scene I need to finish, after which I'll do a final pass for polish and then this sucker will be ready to send back. One more scene. Not even a long one, though it's likely to turn out that way, considering how much I planned to shoehorn into it.
There are whole months where I can write a scene in half an hour, fergossakes. I've been at this one for a week.
The last bit is harder, because it's actually craft-related: I wrote this book the first time six years ago and the second time two years ago, and while I love it now just as much as I did each time I wrote The End, I'm not the same writer-- or, hell, altogether the same person I was when I wrote those words.
Matching voice is hard, yo.
It'd be nice if there was some kind of autotune program for this. :P
I write. I also read, eat, sleep, sneeze, work, cook, bathe, watch TV, and go out to bars.
It really is a very exciting life, but you have to be looking closely.
90s Hair Was Cray
Amazon Gift Card
Amy Is Bored Can You Tell?
Barnes & Noble Gift Card
Best Halloween Costume Ever
Big Girl Pants
Creative Writing Mfa
Death By Bic
Distracted Writer Is Distracted
I Got Started Early
Reading Your Work Out Loud Can Be Interesting
Revise And Resubmit
Rhinos Are The Bomb
Show Vs. Tell
Sometimes I Write Things
The Song That Never Ends
Things You Can Do To Help
Win ALL THE THINGS
Write Or Die Is The Awesome
Writers Are Crazy