The Black Experience 2.0 Writing For The Black Perspective

Hello and welcome to The Black Experience 2.0: Giving White Comfort The Backseat.

The Black Experience 2.0 is the second edition of The Black Experience which held last year in February. The Black Experience is a month long blog series held in honour of Black History Month, which features Black authors and Black bookish content creators and aims at highlighting Black stories and experiences.

TBE 2.0 is especially about giving Black people the space to be fully them and share their stories while centring themselves and their experience of Blackness and without care for the white gaze.

Today on TBE 2.0, author and bookstagrammer, Viano Oniomoh (she/her) talks about writing for the Black perspective, for yourself and the joy in reading characters just like you.



I remember, clearly, the first time I consumed a piece of media featuring Black MCs front and centre. It was a romance novel published by Harlequin called SAVING GRACE, written by Angela Winters. I recall the slight sense of displacement and disbelief I felt at seeing someone like me not only depicted on the front cover, but proudly and lovingly described within the pages.

In the five years before this moment, I was already an avid reader, ever since I picked up my first romance novel—and first full-length novel in general—at six years old. All the books I’d read focused unsurprisingly on allocishet white characters and experiences. In fact, every single piece of media I engaged with was so saturated with white people and whiteness that when I picked up SAVING GRACE, I refused to believe that that could be my reality; that I could live and love and laugh—that I could simply exist—without changing anything about myself in order to fit into the faux idea of “perfection” white supremacy tried to violently force down my throat.

Predictably, not only did the overabundance of the White ExperienceTM in all the media I consumed affect how I saw and interpreted the world, it also affected my writing.

When I launched my semi-professional writing career on wattpad in 2011, whiteness and white supremacy made me believe that if I wrote books with Black characters and experiences front and centre, no one would want to read them. Whiteness touted itself as The Universal ExperienceTM, and if I dared deviate from that experience, my work would be deliberately vilified and misconstrued; “I can’t relate to this”, “I’m just going to imagine Harry Styles as the MC xD”, “Black people have FEELINGS?”

Fast forward five years later; I’ve joined writer circles on social media (or “book twitter”) in 2016, and slowly, agonisingly, began to wean myself off of the harmful lies I’d subconsciously internalised. I picked up the FIT series by Rebekah Weatherspoon in my early days on book twitter, and was brought nearly to tears when I saw a close reflection of myself in those pages. Unlike my first experience with Black representation, I was now in a position where I could recognise how harmful white supremacy had been to my perception of myself and my worldview.

But even as I grew hungry for more of the euphoria I felt at seeing myself represented, the fear of reducing, decentring, or even completely eradicating whiteness from my works lingered pervasively. It was only as I began to practically drown myself in arts and literature that were unflinchingly Black, that I began to question why it was so important to cater to whiteness in my work. Whiteness certainly didn’t need me to help flaunt its supremacy, so why did I need its “support”, or exist in fear of its condemnation?

At this point something in me just—snapped. The whiteness of it all became so overwhelming, so frustrating, so damn exhausting, that I decided I just did not care anymore.

Whiteness asks why a Black author would choose to make a main character Black, but doesn’t offer the same uncouth courtesy to their white counterparts. A Black author who writes books with ONLY Black MCs is seen as having “an agenda”, meanwhile Karen McKaren can write twenty books featuring the same pale skinned, red haired and blue eyed MC, and no one will bat an eyelash.

Whiteness will make you believe that no one but white people or white-centred experiences can be multifaceted. A book about Black joy is seen as unrealistic because whiteness has stated that pain and suffering is the One and Only Black Experience.

Whiteness was doing so damn much, I decided I no longer wanted any part of it.

No longer will I “stop describing skin colour” because it makes white people uncomfortable. No longer will I downplay my language and culture, because white people just wouldn’t understand. No longer will I write a single white character ever again, because a cast full of POC just might feel “alienating”. No longer will I cater to whiteness, both in my works, and in the way I live my life.

I write now for the eleven-year-old me who picked up her first book featuring two unapologetic Black MCs loving each other, and couldn’t believe she could possibly be depicted in a romance, because whiteness told her that Black people weren’t built for love. I write for the seventeen-year-old me who was afraid to write even one unapologetically Black MC, because whiteness told her no one would “relate” to that.

I decided that whiteness would take the back seat. In fact, whiteness could go right ahead and get out of the damn car. Because for every ONE story written for, by, and about Black people, there would always be thousands written to cater to the white gaze.

Why did I need to be one of the thousands, when I could be part of the one?

About Viano Oniomoh

Viano Oniomoh is a passionate reader and writer, who was born and raised in Nigeria. She spends fifty percent of her time writing, forty percent reading, and the other ten listening to BTS. She may or may not use magic to get everything else in her life done. She also has no idea how to write about herself in the third person.

Stay in touch with Viano via her social media pages:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Patreon


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5 thoughts on “The Black Experience 2.0 Writing For The Black Perspective

  1. Goosebumps reading this. Think it also rly speaks to the importance of art? More Black books being given the spotlight they deserve, more Black writers realizing they can have it all, more broke me…but I’m ok w that ;_;

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed the post. I’d read so much fantasy as a kid but never with a Black protag. It was a revelation when I read my 1st fantasy with a Black protag (happened too late, I was in my early twenties).

    Like

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