Race in our fictions

Race in our fictions

At this point in our project:

We generally try to avoid race in our writings.
We usually leave out skin color.
And we don’t give our speaker’s dialects that would signal some specific ethnic identity.
Names too we try to keep generic. But here we are a little stymied: use generic Anglo-Saxen names? Or make up names that fit a character’s place in the work? The latter worked OK for the comic-book sensibility of “Superhero Novella”, but is otherwise a little weird. So then, for example, with “John of Charles” (in First Loves) we — after the fact, since eight years ago when we first began this project, the question of race was less on our radar than nowadays — gave one of those two eminent Pure Love researchers an Asian surname. That didn’t feel quite right since what we really want is to avoid race and ethnicity altogether, but having all Western-sounding names seemed inadequate too. Anyway, it was a thought; we thought maybe that changing one of the two surnames to a non-Western name, combined with a general lack of surnames, would be a reasonable way to broaden the picture in our reader’s minds — to give them a vision of a multi-colored Pure Love institute of higher learning, without us having to particularly identify the characters with specific races. We left in the line about the “blond beastie” since it momentarily directed our daydream towards a glance at Nietzsche and his power-worshipping nonsense, and we thought that added an interesting dimension to the piece.

Why do we try to avoid race and ethnicity?
Because we are interested in metaphysics, philosophy, art, and people.
And our copyright holder’s name is “Andrew Mackenzie Watson”, so nobody wants to hear him talk about race and ethnicity.
Overtly discussing race and ethnicity would invite scrutiny to areas where we don’t particularly want to venture and where we are not particularly wanted.
It would hurt the ability of our stories to fill our readers’ meditative spaces.

Now let’s let the copyright holder speak:

I feel bad about blitheness in my previous approach to race and ethnicity.
In the last several years I’ve had a few conversations where I realized that other people had spent their whole lives feeling these matters on their skin all the time — had been scarred and worn raw by topics that I only ever gave a passing consideration.
I decided it best to not talk much about race and ethnicity.

I feel that the time is coming when the “color of a man’s skin is of no more significant than the color of his eye”, and perhaps in some moments and spots it is kind of here already — more so than in the past. At any rate, barring disaster, I think the sheer weight of people from various backgrounds having to deal with one another is going to help the world grow in wisdom in general, and especially as regards issues surrounding race and ethnicity. There is a debate between how much we should forget about race and ethnicity and so meet each other as just-people versus how much we should honor and address the gash that racism and ethnocentrism has driven into our shared world. This debate is healthy and must continue. But if one is considered a “white male”, one has to either work really hard to balance one’s unique perspective against the prevailing sensitivities of “non-whites” and “non-males” or, if one believes one should focus primarily elsewhere, not say too much.
It’s not that I think I should say nothing; just that I think I should keep my contemplations general — particularly in my creative live. At least right now that seems the approach most likely to allow me to explore in thought and art in a way that is accessible for as many people as possible. A writer seeks fellow travelers; that is to say: an audience.

The topic of gender is harder to avoid than race and ethnicity.
Like with race and ethnicity, we are embarrassed by our lack of consideration for other people’s feelings and experiences with gender. However, unlike race and ethnicity, we have spent years obsessing over our problematic relationship with the opposite sex, and these issues constitute one of the primary threads of the unconscious and semi-conscious exploration of this conscious space the Fates have assigned us. That is to say: we can’t avoid gender.
Our general approach here has been to let the characters (and our narrators are also inevitably characters) speak. Our characters and narrators are not enlightened beings, and we want them to live and bustle and sometimes blunder about as non-enlightened souls must. Sometimes we’ll find something we’ve written too problematic, where not even the irony inherent in a specific character’s voice seems enough to avoid upsetting today’s norms. So then we try to cut that part out.

We want to be read and considered — not blindly embraced or rejected. And so it seems prudent to avoid controversy as much as possible.
Basically, we want people to read our works and let us into their thinking/feeling. We don’t want to offend and so clamp them up.
We ask the standard indulgence for artistic license and for being limited perspectives attempting to explore beyond ourselves.
We pray for a world where everyone can reach their full potential and where we can all together grow in joyful creation. A world where we learn, grow, play, explore: have fun together. That is the only sustainable future: a future for all of us together.

You may notice that the “I” of copyright-holder AMW has been lost.
Why won’t he stand up and take credit for his work in the first place?
Well, he feels himself falling away from everything all the time; he understands that for practical and legal reasons, this collection of body parts, hopes and fears, ideas and so on has to be given a coherent identity. He accepts those standards, but he can’t go so far as to believe in them.
Is this a Buddhist thing? A disassociation thing? oh gosh i dunno but there it is

Anyway, we pray again for the way forward for everyone,
and slip back beneath the waves.
These looping scaly yellow-eyed, long-fanged, tidily-bearded sea monsters
will wind their way through the dark depths
lonely and worried
aware of the shortness of time
the tenderness of safety
the weakness of happiness
the brittleness of daylight.
Let them go
let it be
it’s okay like that.

Democracies damaged
Environments collapsing
Still-reverberating evils born of power mismatches as previously separated continents met each other centuries ago.
And yet
so much beauty around
so many possibilities blossoming
so many chances to put the so many ingredients together into interesting and worthy configurations of art and thought
so many neat things going on
so much shared Light

The Something Deeperist’s wager is this:
Life can only mean anything to me if the following inner sense is basically correct: aware, clear, honest, kind, joyfully-sharing thought and action are the way, and we can grow in them by following them with the help of our innate wisdom; and we’re all in this together, equal partners in the Light shining in and through all things that alone knows what is really going on, what really matters, and how we should really move.
Accepting the Something Deeperist’s wager amounts to trying to better and better follow that inner sense of things, while simultaneously working to better and better understand that and in what way it is basically correct.
From this it follows that race and ethnicity, along with all the other notions and textures that we daytoday define ourselves by, are to be regarded as basically illusory. From which it follows not that they have no import, but that their place is not primary: the primary Reality is the One Light, the One Truth, the Shared Origin, Purpose, and Destiny; the primary Good is us working together in a way that allows us all to grow in wisdom as individuals and groups.
Identity is an outfit we wear for the nonce. Reality is the Light that overpowers everything, that is advancing, that will win, that has in fact already always won.
This is our position.
We don’t ask others to agree with us on all points, but we do maintain that a workable shared reality requires the general acceptance of the primacy of awareness, honesty, clarity, competence, kindness, and shared joy: any human philosophy and/or religion is only meaningful to its adherents to the degree it helps them think, feel and act aware, honest, clear, competent, kind, in and through and with shared joy.
That’s the project: the God help us.

Authors: Various Committees
Copyright: AMW
Written on Monday, January 20, 2020 — MLK JR Day

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