What the “M” Word Means to Me

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in General Discussions, Guest Posts, Race and Ethnicity, The Blog | 2 comments

“What the “M” Word Means to Me”

by J.M. Blackman

 

I’ve always felt like the word “minority” is a loaded word. It seems to ask people to get up in arms, to demand some sort of awkwardness. I attribute most of this to the fact that “minority” has had a less-than-positive connotation.

Because, if you’re a minority, you’ve been singled out as being the less-than, as being an underdog. Or you haven’t gotten any attention at all.

But being a minority—whether it’s related to race, sex, orientation or ability—is a factor of all of our lives. Even if you’ve never felt like a minority, the fact that there currently are, and will always be, minorities is still one of the many things that shapes your existence, your mindset; it is one of the many things that helps to form the context of the world in which you live.

Which is where “minority fiction” comes in—or out, depending on the way you look at it.

Not only does minority fiction open the doors (and windows and closets) of the issue, but it also continues to compound the problems around the word “minority” as well as the people identified as minorities. But have no fear—this complication is both natural and necessary. It gives us the ability to more easily access the things we are too inexperienced, too unaware, too afraid to talk and think about.

Here is where the fiction part of “minority fiction” is important. Writers and readers have used fiction to discuss, dissect and devolve societal issues for longer than I can accurately guess (or research).

It’s through fictional characters and situations that I find I can best deal with complex matters; matters that qualify both me and the people I know and care about as minorities.

Like being a woman—and what that’s supposed to look like, supposed to feel like.

Like being black—and what that means in everyday life.

Like the overlap that being the both of these minorities makes and what that means, if anything. Like what kind of lens those qualities give me, and whether that lens is misshapen or cracked or just right.

Because being a minority, for me, has always meant questioning. Questioning myself, those around me and the majority. Hell, I’ve questioned my frequent use of the word “minority” in this post more than three times already.

Then, again, perhaps my “issues” have been compounded by how I was raised: an army brat, moved/shipped/flown from here to there every 2-3 years, where family “back home” questioned why I “talked white,” why I read all that “nonsense” (read: fantasy and science fiction).

[Not that I wasn’t raised well, because I was; I was given so many opportunities because of it and I wouldn’t be who I was otherwise, but there are other effects as well.]

Well, let me address that. I read that nonsense because I could get lost in it, and still find things and people that reminded me of…me. And it’s because of these books (and my parents and teachers) that I speak (and write) the way I do.

In books about werewolves that adhered to strict familial norms, I found that even the coolest monsters felt the bonds (no matter how elastic) of day-to-day family ties.

When a vampire fell in love with a human and it just wasn’t meant to be because they were so different, but they fought for each other anyway, I thought that a black person and white person weren’t nearly as different as vampires and humans. And then years later, I married a white man.

Ghostie girls, who felt like nobody could see them, understood my angst loneliness before I did.

And it’s in these very same books that I began to build the belief that being a woman and being a black person has shaped me. But they don’t define me. In fact, I define them. I make them (these sometimes narrowly confined categories) more inclusive, more understanding, more me and less everyone else.

Fiction gives us the ability to talk about and think about the things that are outside of our reach, but minority fiction can extend that ability. It makes it possible to share and talk about issues that remained inaccessible before.

And that is just the beginning: the smallest pinprick of light that minority fiction can create.

——————–

J.M. Blackman is a teacher and a writer. She’s a little off her rocker and enjoys a variety of stories, as long as they have a bit of madness.  This ranges from YA Fantasy to adult Fantasy and Science Fiction and the many genres that slip between. As long as its speculative. She likes to find stories that offer a different point of view, whether that’s on a certain topic or trope or if it’s in the characters themselves.

Jalisa’s own writing is pretty much the same. She is currently work shopping an Urban Fantasy tale about a kick-ass werewolf with Gina Panettieri at Talcott Notch. Jalisa is happily married to an awesome man named Jon. They have a dog named Harley Quinn and a cat named Ororo. She love slushies, jalapeño poppers and comics. And she’s a huge Batman fan.

You can connect with J.M. Blackman on her blog, Twitter and Goodreads. She also runs an interview series called “Minority Report” on racial diversity in speculative fiction.

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful post–I especially enjoyed J.M.’s insightful point that “Fiction gives us the ability to talk about and think about the things that are outside of our reach, but minority fiction can extend that ability. It makes it possible to share and talk about issues that remained inaccessible before.” Great food for thought!

  2. Lovely, thoughtful and simply (where simple is the highest compliment)written piece. Thank you for sharing your story, your thoughts, and helping me to think.

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