Co-opting pain for profit
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I’m usually a political blogger in this space, but something has happened that aggravates me to no end and so I feel the need to share my anger with a wider audience. So, this woman writes a memoir about her life as a poor, half white, half NDN foster kid running drugs for the Bloods in South Central. High drama right? Right. Except, she’s a pretendian that grew up in a two parent household and went to private school who made up the story and kept her lies going for 3 years. She got a $100,000 advance with a story that was so full of holes it boggles the mind. The level of mind boggling stupidity just gets higher when you read this ridiculous interview where she actually refers to her friend OG Homie, living with Big Mom and other fun bits of random stereotypes used to bolster her claims of being “real”. I find myself angry beyond all reason to know that even if she (as she claims) was somehow affiliated with an organization devoted to ending gang violence she chose to steal the experiences of others and to co-opt their trauma in order to make a buck rather than actually focus on the work she was ostensibly there to do for the the good of the community.
It gets even worse when you see the picture of her looking “hood” with her daughter and her dog. Not only is she a thief, she’s played off a host of racial stereotypes to make herself successful and she’ll more than likely wind up with another book deal out of this mess. She’s busy making herself out to be someone with good intentions that made a bad decision and there are people busily trying to defend her in comments to the various news stories outing her as a fraud. Somehow the fact that she’s betrayed the very people she claims she wanted to help doesn’t matter as much as being nice to the “poor misguided soul” after she’s been busted. And she’s not the only one to pull this crap and get published. It happens relatively often and generally the consequences are fairly minor.
Meanwhile the legitimate work of POC writers that have survived adversity like Felicia “Snoop” Pearson barely rates a mention from the critics and certainly doesn’t get the author a $100,000 advance and a book tour. Just once I’d like the acclaimed voice of the poor inner city kids to be a poor inner city kid, and not some white person looking to make a buck off the community. Is that so much to ask? Can the fabulous writers that come from our communities be the voices of our communities? Or does White America really need appropriation in order to connect with the reality of life as a POC? We’re here, we can speak for ourselves and if you can’t manage to listen? That’s your problem. Our work might not feed into all those comfortable stereotypes that this book did, but then there’s a reason this book is little more than the fantasies of a privileged white woman looking to for bigger and better ways to stroke her own ego.
Karnythia is a writer, a historian, and occasionally a loud mouth. In between raising hell and raising kids she usually manages to find time to contemplate the meaning of life as a black woman in America.” Her posts on any topic can be found at her Livejournal.