Gaslighting Racism, Part 2

When I was in high school, I wrote a story inspired by the work of the Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor. I was going through a Southern writers kick back then. The story was about the friendship between two women, one white, the other black in the deep South. The white woman became friends with the black woman because her out-of-wedlock pregnancy made her a pariah in her small town.

I submitted the story to the school literary magazine. I went to a small, mostly white Episcopalian high school in the DC suburbs that was moderately conservative. The vice principal rejected the story as being “immoral” (there was no sex in the story, it was just two women reminiscing, like a two person play).

The next year, the literary magazine published a story by a white girl about a homeless black woman who kills a man in a robbery and uses the money to feed her kid. The first line in that story, I’ll never forgot, had the would-be murderess’ child say, “Momma, I be huuuungry.” (Of course, the mother in the story presumably also “immoral” in the same way my piece was).

That was one of my first experiences with blatant bias and revealed how White Privilege works. A literary story by a black boy was “immoral” and “filthy because it alluded to illegitimacy;” a story by a white girl, full of violence and stereotypes (and poorly rendered African American English), however, was acceptable.

Thirty years later, we’re still centering white voices over people of colors’.

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