Hello, fellow book lovers!
Today, I’m back with another hot topic or two for discussion on the blog.
Originally, this post wasn’t supposed to be made or even written today. Actually, I didn’t even have the idea for this issue until earlier today, but then again thanks to the internet (which people seem to forget is so vast and accessible to anyone), I ran into something online and I just couldn’t with how annoying, disrespectful and narrow minded it is.
As shown in the banner, today I’ll be talking about entitlement & ethnocentrism.
These topics, like the last one, are not new in bookish communities, but surprisingly and at the same time not surprisingly are still prevalent.
Like the last and the next God-knows-how-many topics on the this blog series, the focus of this topic is still the same, culture and the narrow ass perspective of some white readers.
Now, I can’t begin to comprehend or dissect the sense of entitlement of some white readers, because that’s the only way I can explain the whining and raving and self righteous anger these readers have when things are not written the way they’re used to or the way that’s ‘right’, entitled.
Things have to be written in a particular way, with elements of a particular culture and if it deviates in the slightest way, the author has to go into a long ass explanation to point everything out or explain why everything is the way it is…and really what the fuck?!
Its like we can’t let authors of colour be, because they or their books aren’t of the preferred culture. Because I certainly cannot understand why after in a book clearly inspired by certain culture, with characters who, again, clearly have names from said culture and there are, again, clear and very obvious elements of said culture and someone would say something annoying like “what culture was that about?” or “omg, the world building was inexistent, if my best friend hadn’t told me its about x culture, i wouldn’t have known.”. Sweetie, the culture was evident since the synopsis, the first page and every subsequent page after that and with all the characters names!
For example, in an obviously Asian inspired — even if you didn’t know what specific part of Asia, it was clearly Asian — book with characters with Asian names and with bits of Asian culture on every page, and someone would still say they didn’t know it was an Asian inspired book! How did you miss all of the obvious clues?!
With bits of Asian culture popular in our every day world and especially in pop culture, I’m sorry, but I find that impossible to believe.
I really confuses me, what more do these people want from authors of colour? For them to explain every single, obvious details? For them to say “Your Highness, because you, of course, can’t be bother to think or research different cultures on your own, here’s everything that is already obvious in x book. This book is inspired by Chinese/ Indian/ Arabian/ Zulu culture or lore; the government is a monarchy/dictatorship, because you somehow missed that fact when I wrote Emperor/General repeatedly in every scene the leader was in (yes, I saw this nonsense too 🙄. I mean there was Emperor x in every 15 pages and you ask about the system of government?!); and oh, here’s a large and elaborate reason for magic to actually exist because, of course, magic cannot simply exist in other cultures but those that are Eurocentric!”
And even though to your favourites, a magic system just consists of an elaborate boarding school set unseen from the regular world, pieces of wood and some bibity bobity boo, authors of colour can’t have a world were magic just exists, no, not without an explanation because you must have that elaborate explanation.
Well, guess what, they don’t have to do that. They don’t owe you anything than what’s written already in their books.
This brings me to the second topic of this issue, ethnocentrism, because that’s where this all begins. Placing white characters and Eurocentric cultures as the standard for everything and when anything deviates from the right, white standard, an explanation, which is honestly not due to anyone, is sought and this is what brings about the entitlement.
This lull ethnocentrism creates, that your culture is the standard, the be all and end all of things, goes hand in hand and is a precipitant of the false sense of entitlement that makes it feel as if you deserve an explanation for things that don’t quite fit in your book. And the truth is that you don’t, for a lack of a better word, deserve, nor are you entitled to an explanation from authors of colour, just the same way I and other POC aren’t entitled to an explanation from white writers — except when they write out of their marginalisation, which is when they do owe POC an explanation.
White writers write with the expectation that you understand them, as it should be, but for authors of colour it seems the opposite. Why can’t we allow this freedom we allow to non POC authors to POC authors? Why can’t we allow them this dream? To write their culture and stories as if everyone could understand. Even if we know it isn’t true, that unlike Eurocentric cultures that have been pushed to us and normalised, POC have our culture torn down for years.
Is it the words/language? No one taught me go through the French dictionary when I found a French word I didn’t understand or google them. No one taught me to spend time with my English dictionary or improve my vocabulary to the extent that I’m more eloquent in English than my first, second and even third languages, while this is also due the propagation of the language and culture, wanting to understand the books I was reading was a large part of it.
Is it the mythology/beliefs/lore? No one taught me to read up Greek and Norse mythology to understand the dynamics of these beliefs, and in extension understand these books more.
Is it the living parts of these culture? No one taught me to search and read up dresses, food and every other thing.
Everything I mentioned and more, no one taught me and other POC to look them up and understand on our own, even with each others cultures, we learnt it all on our own. It shouldn’t be any different for non POC. You have to learn things on your own, which is actually really fun, rather than whine and rant in reviews or everywhere, which is both unethical and immature.
Bottom line is no author, irrespective of their race or ethnicity, owes any reader an explanation of their culture and its elements. Its the job of the reader to find out, which is a great avenue for learning and mental exercise. If you run into difficulties when reading, like I say to my younger sister when I’m not in the mood for her questions, which is often by the way, Google is your friend! Its free and very resourceful! And if you have friends who won’t mind answering your questions, for God’s sake, ask! While its not the job of POC to answer your questions, some people would absolutely love to help you!
Today’s take home point is, isn’t the job of authors, especially those with marginalisations, to teach you, its your job to teach you; ethnocentrism, while it may have its uses, can be evil; every culture is beautiful and none is superior to the other; hydrate, take care of the earth, be kind and stay happy, and don’t cause others pain too.
If I have been disrespectful to any groups of people in this post, I apologise. I tried to make this as free of offensive content as possible (except from a few cuss words), if someone missed anything, I apologise again.
Till the next issue, stay happy! 💗
‘Things White People Should Stop Doing When Reading Diverse Books’ is a new blog series that discusses some of the ‘mistakes’ and attitudes non POC readers exhibit when reading diverse books and all the reasons they’re wrong and hurtful.