I’ve heard it said that white is a color. Meaning, we need to rethink the fact that if race is not named in a story, it’s assumed the writer and the characters are white. But if the character is a person of color, then that color is named, right? Why not name whiteness so that it, too, can be examined rather than operate as the water we swim in?
I am white, and in my latest book-length work I have called that out. I am attempting to write what whiteness is for me, among many other things. It’s tricky because it also means that I might be centering the white experience. In fact, I am. Well, my white experience. Also, my female experience. Also a writer’s. A Leftie. An Emma Goldman fanatic. A pb&j eater. Bleeding heart animal lover. Joke teller. Raconteur! Okay, you get the picture (or a picture, anyway).
Is this a brave act, confronting race as a white person? I don’t know. But I want to pivot here to an amazing interview with Tiphanie Yanique by Namrata Poddar at Kweli Journal that digs into race and its role in storytelling, also among other things.
“The first thing I tell my students is that they must write bravely. That means writing towards the things that most make you uncomfortable—and part of why that is brave is mostly because it’s not easy. Brave writing means failing a lot of the time—even when writing well, there will be failures in the work.”
Are you willing to fail? Are you willing to take on that which makes you uncomfortable? Either way, please do read the full interview. It is rich with insight and will urge you toward writing what you’re afraid of.