There are many, many times that I feel my writing is subpar and simply not good enough to share with others, especially with those who are labeled as writing gurus. Over the years I’ve learned that I’m not the only one that feels this way, especially when we’re talking about writing in academic circles. In that space, it’s often that I doubt my writing abilities, or I am made to feel that my writing is awful based on the rejection letters received from academic journals.
“Dear Dr. Xicana Profe (aka, Awful Writer),
We regret to inform you that your manuscript titled, “The Oppressive Functioning of Teacher Education,” has been rejected for publication with our high and mighty academic journal because we believe your writing to be inferior and the ideas you expressed made many on our (mostly white) editorial board feel uncomfortable and guilty.”
Of course that’s not exactly how the email reads, but it might as well because the message contained feels the same.
It usually takes me a couple of days to recover from one of these emails and especially from reading the feedback from peer academics that can be much crueler than the generic email received from the journal itself.
But after the minor setback, I remind myself of why I write and why I/We need to keep writing, despite our doubts and especially despite the harsh emails from “peers.”
Here are what I see as the main reasons we must keep writing:
We need to keep telling our Own Stories.
First of all, if we don’t tell our stories, others will. How many times have we witnessed the good-intentioned white person tell the story for us? To make things worse, this is often done without any permission or ask of any kind. They just feel the entitlement and privilege of taking on the task of writing for us. We won’t be able to stop this trend but what we can do, is be intentional in flooding the writing scene with our ownwords.
As People of Color who are immersed in the daily struggles against oppressive systems, our positions and lived realities look very different from that of dominant groups. Many might argue that it’s 2019 and we are beyond racism but the impacts of race are real and damaging. This reality has been heightened by Trump. It’s not that racism wasn’t there before his presidency, but now, the impacts are felt 1,000 times over.
We use our words to demand change and justice.
Because of our lived realities dealing with the impacts of race and racism on the daily, many of us direct our writing to demand change and justice for our communities. Writing should not only be focused on what’s published and deemed worthy by dominant culture, but it should also speak to seeking justice and creating transformation across and within our communities.
The way we call attention to continued injustices might look differently for us – e.g. through OP EDs, short stories, articles, poetry, scripts, among other forms. But the common thread is that we aim to not just raise awareness but to demand action.
We tell it like it is.
As Writers of Color, we not only have the responsibility to keep writing our stories from our position in society and the world, but we also tell it like it is. It’s important for us to keep writing and sharing our thoughts with the world because we’re not going to water things down or sugar coat realities as a means to make others feel comfortable. The point of our writing and the words we share speaks to our experiences connected to the intersectionality experienced in our lives – i.e. how our lives are impacted and structured through race, class, gender, bodied norms, among others.
As we write, we must stop apologizing and focusing on pleasing others, especially those who’ve positioned themselves at the top of unjust hierarchies.
We write for our People.
Another major defining point of our writing is that we often write forour People. We do this because we want to represent whowe are, howwe live, and whywe think the way we do.
Much of the time I find that my writing is connected to the love I have for my community and my desire to speak a more accurate representation of what we endure and how often we are wronged by society.
We write for Ourselves.
Last, we have to keep writing for ourselves because for many of us that is a form of healing. Through our writing we heal, create balance, and find more peace. For some of us writing is the main venue we use to remove the unwanted layers and the heavy baggage placed on our shoulders by this oppressive society.
I am not a religious person but writing many times feels similar to a ‘prayer’ or an ask being thrown out to the Universe. As I write I often ask the Universe to hear the message contained in my words with the hope that it will respond in some way.
At the end of it, maybe the writing gatekeepers won’t think my words worthy of their publishing venues, but what is most important is that by writing I am adding to the stories told by our People and this definitely feels as I am walking on the path towards empowerment.