Essays

I’ve been struggling with race: Inclusive writing for the white writer

I’ve been struggling.

I know my struggle as a white person pales in comparison with the struggles of People of Color in the United States and other parts of the world. But I am struggling. Because I know I’ve been brought up in a racial world, and I want to be a good person who treats all human beings as if they are equal. Because I know – intellectually – that we are. However, it’s hard to know the “right way” to go about this when you’ve been steeped in racist messaging your entire life.

I want my writing to be inclusive, but I don’t know how to accomplish this. I’m trying to learn how. I’m reading lots of non-fiction books on the subject and fiction by people of color (see brief list of recommended reading at the bottom of this post). I’ve also watched in horror as other white writers have been ravaged on Twitter for doing it wrong. What if I mess up, despite my best efforts? What if that happens to me? Or worse, what if I unintentionally hurt people with my ignorance?

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Politics

What if we redistributed the tax dollars we currently waste administering poverty programs into a basic universal income?

If you’re a writer – or spend much time with a writer – one thing you know about us is that we like to play a little game called, “What If.” It doesn’t matter what the topic is, we will find a different way to look at it and say, “Well, what if X happened?” It’s where our story ideas often come from, but it’s also a way that we poor, broke artists often get through life on a shoestring and a roll of duct tape. A writer is basically MacGyver minus the cool 1985 haircut.

Meme: The median adjusted family income for disabled workers is about half of the median for others aged 18-64 ($13,323 compared with $24,487). Source: ssa.gov
The median adjusted family income for disabled workers is about half of the median for others aged 18-64 ($13,323 compared with $24,487). Source: Social Security Administration via ssa.gov

I often find myself playing this game with politics and the multitude of social issues that plague our country. This morning, I had one of those curiosity moments where – seemingly out of the blue – a question reared its head in my head and demanded to be Googled. So, I went to Google and asked, “What’s the average annual income of a person on disability?”

Google’s answer didn’t shock me, but its accompanying information did. Did you know that the median adjusted family income for an American WORKER is $24,487? I was shocked while also somehow not surprised. I thought back to the days when I was supporting two small children on that amount of money and how hard it was. What a huge pain it was to constantly have to find time to make appointments with my local human services agency to apply for food stamps and child care assistance, along with the regular recertifications, blah, blah, blah, flashback after traumatic flashback.

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