I wanna be better.
…I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 14, 2020
The Stephen King tweet above about diversity got me thinking. And I think that’s a good thing. Whether you took (or didn’t take) offense to his tweet, whether the context is right or wrong, I read a number of the responses and had one initial take that I had to go back and reevaluate.
I’m a white guy in my forties. I’m all for diversity in the world. I find myself rolling my eyes at dumb white guys who can’t see that white privilege IS a thing. When I first read King’s tweet, I saw it from my side of the fence. I pointed out to a responder that I believed King was just talking about being authentic in your art no matter who you are or what your background is.
As I got a couple of responses, I started to step back from my own initial feelings and thoughts and look at where I was coming from. I told myself, I don’t write a lot of diverse characters in my own work because I don’t want to misrepresent a culture or way of life I know nothing about. And that’s right, right?
Well, then I stepped back even further and looked at some of the many things I dare to write about that I honestly don’t know tons about. I will willingly write about police, police procedures, murderers and murders, criminals that do things I’ve never come close to doing, and a billion other things that I either research or completely makeup.
It turns out I may have been lined up next to my white privilege buddies…and that bugs me.
With that in mind, how do I then use that old excuse to not write more diverse characters into my stories? What is preventing me from doing the research? Can’t I just as easily offend a law enforcement officer that reads my work as say, a black man or Japanese woman that finds my book? Yet, I don’t let it stop me in most areas of my storytelling.
I think my goal for 2020 is to brave the waters of diversity. I have friends I can reach out to with questions, I have books I can read, documentaries I can watch. The resources are out there, and as a white writer, I just have to stop stopping myself from using them. And you know what? My writing will probably be better for it.
Whatever comes from the King tweet, let’s try to look at it from other people’s perspectives. Let’s try to use it to make what we do better. Even if that is just discussing it and opening a dialog with one another.
Thanks for listening, and stay positive.