I hate it when I run into white folks who seem like they’re all about equality and totally get where you’re coming from, despite being white, but who then turn out just to be smooth talkers like car salesmen and those cell phone people at kiosks in the mall with scripts like a teleprompter?
I admit, Beverly Diehl almost had me won over, because I’m gullible like that. But something just kept asking me every time I e-mailed with her at the back of my head, “What’s she really doing here?”
I met Beverly Diehl through the Romantic Friday Writers, a weekly blog fest that I participate in. I was alarmed at her well-crafted but still rather racist excerpt from a book she’s working on. We both commented about it on her blog a little, I even consented to reading a chapter from the book she wants to publish and gave up time to offering her my personal thoughts on it—the one about the same interracial couple she posted for the weekly blog fest group. I tried to enter an acquaintance with her on a positive, helpful, and constructive note though cautiously.
I thought, “I’ve had some bad experience and she doesn’t seem THAT bad. Give her a chance”. With this allowance on my part, Beverly Diehl and I corresponded then planned to do interviews concerning racism in writing and the so-called “post-racial” America and cross-post them on our respective blogs.
But after the e-mailing with her a few times, I realized the whole thing might have been benefitting her more than me, especially when her answers to questions of mine started reading a little bit like “I don’t think we really live in a post-racial society but in my mind we do and I’d like to write books based on the fact that we don’t”. Eventually I got frustrated, so she suggested we take a little break from interviewing. I knew it was over and wasn’t going to e-mail her back except to tell her it wasn’t going to work and to thank her for her time.
This is my read of Beverly Diehl after interacting with her:
- Yet another white woman/person looking for lessons on how not to be a racist [writer] from a mammy (that would be me in this case).
- One of those white folks who says, “I totally understand where you’re coming from, Black person”, who all the while really wants to say and is probably thinking, “Why can’t Black people get over it, so I can watch and read ‘The Help’ and publish my multiculturalist, Blaxploitation erotica in peace—OMG, GOSH!”. I’ve seen it before and this was eerily similar, only milder and thought to be more well-intentioned than usual.
- “Let me tell what you should be doing, as a Black person with half-a-brain, to improve your community because I know your situation better than you do, naturally.” Politely offered yet condescending unsolicited advice is truly one of my pet peeves.
- Skill as a writer trumps racist writing and other forms of bigotry—the good old argument of bigots and bigots alike over the centuries.
My friend, who is white and understood that while she might have been well-intentioned she was testing my patience, pretty much told me to leave Beverly Diehl alone from the beginning. Then…her response to my expression of frustration with the very concept of a published work like ‘The Help’ at Ms. Queenly’s Blog was about it for me. She and only one other person dropped by and/or e-mailed to convey displeased opinions about what I had to say about it (the other being Tosh Fomby from totsymae.com, who I had another negative run-in with previously at SheWrites). My friend back home in GA suggested I write about it, after asking me what happened with the whole thing, knowing that I have a tendecy to blame myself for the shortcomings of others. And here I am, a cathartic reflection.
I’ll probably edit this post later to include some of our correspondence, but right now I’m just trying to put the weight of yet another experience with polite bigotry behind me and focus on the here and now of another strenuous chapter in my life.