The thing is here, in Canada, in lockdown, without a job, I can't really do much else. And that grates on my nerves so badly. It makes me feel helpless and that intensifies the anger I feel.
And I want it well known that Canada has its fair share of this horrendous bullshit, too. We can't let our own problems go unaddressed because our neighbours are one fire.
Look, I have a platform. It is small and insignificant. But I have it, and it's mine, and I could not in good conscience look at what is going on and not use that platform to do something about it. Yeah, it's really uncomfortable to be confronted with this stuff day in and day out.
But here's the thing:
Black folk live it every day.
Indigenous folk live it every day.
You're exhausted about hearing about it all the time. I understand. It is exhausting. It's uncomfortable and confronting and heartbreaking. Now imagine the special hell it must be to live it all the time.
I also understand why so many of the folks in my circles haven't spoken out. There's a lot to lose, you know.
Perhaps they're worried that it might lose them opportunities. I get that fear. I desperately want to be successful enough to be supported by my creative endeavours. I get the fear of losing the opportunities to make that happen.
But, you know, I wasn't really getting those opportunities anyway, so I've honestly lost nothing.
Perhaps they were fearful of alienating their readership. That's legit. A writer without a readership is, well, a sailboat without wind. Well, judging by the number of reviews I have, mine is not huge, and so losing the ones who don't agree that black an indigenous lives do, in fact, matter, while making a bigger dent in my percentages, isn't actually all that many people. Most of my readers are, in fact, kind and loving, and won't argue that what is going on is wrong, unjust and ought to be combated. Moreover, I don't want a fan base that thinks otherwise. I don't want those people associated with me at all. Let them leave my social media and diminish that all-important follow count. Let me instead gather readers who are kind, empathetic, understanding and just. I'm okay with racists and fascists getting away from me and my work.
These should not be controversial statements.
Perhaps some folks are just too damned tired to speak out. I totally understand. This shit, this heartbreak and outrage, this devastation, is exhausting. I've been crying a lot these past few days - as if the world needed more white tears, but I digress. It's exhausting. And I don't blame folks for sitting this one out. I am not upset at them for taking the time they need to gather their strength and take care of their mental health. I've been there. I've been silence because I just couldn't.
But I had the energy this week. So I was duty-bound to speak up.
Perhaps people are scared of retribution. This is a genuine fear. Did you know that organizers of the Ferguson protests have been killed? Their bodies found in burnt-out cars, or their deaths labelled suicides. Right-wing bastards send death threats, and often follow it up with menacing presence. To women especially. This is very real, and very frightening. No one wants that kind of shit on their door.
To be fair, I am genuinely afraid of that as well. But... I don't know. This week, my exhaustion and anger and heartbreak were all stronger than that fear.
Happily, there have been a lot of allies standing up and doing right. Here are some literary agents I admire, actually standing up to be counted:
Kelly Van Sant, Amanda Rutter and Stacey Graham all resigned from their positions at Red Sofa after the owner of the agency, Dawn Frederick, decided to call the police on folk who were doing nothing wrong. They vocally and publicly stood up and said they could not be complicit in such racists rhetoric or action. They got up, and left, losing their agency; their jobs.
Special love to all the unnamed writers who dropped Ms. Frederick as their agent, too. I know from experience that getting an agent is a fight, and it cannot have been easy to drop your entry into the world of publishing. I am so grateful for and to you for standing up. Thank you.
I also want to highlight Dongwon Song of Morheim Literary, who I've been following on Twitter since he was agent guest of honour at CanCon a couple of years ago. He is not just speaking out. He's walking the walk. He's been running supplies around New York. He's re-opened his submissions for Black writers (and only black writers - take a back seat, the rest of us. This is not our moment). You can read the blog post where he announces that and provides guidelines for submission here.
Incidentally, his twitter feed, how much he's willing to speak up and speak out, has solidified Mr. Song as my dream agent long before now. I feel like I would want to be represented by someone of his character.
I also want to give all my love to Ben & Jerry's. Yes, the ice-cream manufacturer. They've published a thorough and thoughtful statement in this moment, outlining their support for Black Lives Matter, and why and what they want done. They have long been on the right side of history, and I absolutely love them for it. Here is their incredibly powerful statement. I will not be buying ice-cream, unless it's Ben & Jerry's. I stan.
My voice is small, and ultimately unimportant. But a thousand voices whispering together can create such a din as to be a roar. And so I add my small, unimportant whisper to the tumult; hurt, and angry and exhausted, but here. But standing.
Lastly, I benefit from my position as a white woman living in Canada. Privilege doesn't mean that one doesn't struggle. I do. Heavens, I know I complain enough about it. But not like this. Not the way folks of colour do. And my heart breaks for you all. I'm so sorry you have to have this fight at all. It shouldn't be.
Here are some things we can do to help, courtesy of timeout.com.
Alright, I've gone on enough for now. Please, stay safe, look out for one another, and be kind.
I love you.