Afraid, you’ll have to settle for an old barn in Nowhere, TX today. But we are back in #ReconciliationTX. With Will and Mercy.
Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be fifty-six. Over five decades on this planet. I was three when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. And as I have said before I was raised racist. Of course, if you ain’t guessed yet, it didn’t stick with me. But as you get older, you begin to see things differently. And this past year especially, I have struggled with how far we still have to go.
Will is by far my most controversial character. I have been told to kill him off. I have been accused of ‘making’ someone racist because I ‘forced’ them to read an interracial story (if I could force anyone to read my stories, I’d be a best seller by now). But the one that got me the other day was another anonymous. Why do people always hide behind that? It was supposedly from a person of color. It is not that I have reason to doubt that but how do I know if they are anon? But it did make me pause. And think.
Will’s anger makes us uncomfortable.
You know what? That’s okay. We need to be uncomfortable. And we need to sit with that for a while. We need to ask ourselves – why? What about this fictional character makes us so uncomfortable? Is it whiny to ponder the inequalities and injustices of this world? Is it wrong to be angry about them?
Sebida, TX first appeared in Shared Burdens. It was the place where Sergeant Mike’s true love Esther Samuels lived and where his friend and her son Tommy had grown up. Mike was angry. Damned angry about the way that town treated her and his friend. Oh, and no one complained that I made them read an interracial story when it was a white man with a mixed-race woman.
So what’s the difference?
Why must Will be absolutely perfect? Why isn’t he allowed to make impossible decisions? Why was the life of rainbow haired, Wilson green eyed Grace more valuable than Bebe? Or half-Latina Mercy? Let me do the math. One white girl is worth more than a black girl plus a half-Mexican, half poor white trash and an unborn baby of mixed heritage? Even when Will was willing to lay down his life, never see his child, to protect her? Though he had already saved her life once by enabling their escape?
I’m not giving any answers to those questions. And frankly, I don’t care what color your skin is, we live in a white supremacist world. Anyone can internalize that racism. One of the most racist people I ever knew was a black attorney, who grew up in the same Fifth Ward that Will did. He worked a senior (but unnamed) partner at one of the most prestigious law firms. He was slated for top leadership in the Bar Association. And there was nothing he hated more than someone ‘who sounded black.’ I don’t remember what or how the topic came up, but I remember the tirade in his posh Harvard accent. And the words, “There is no excuse. If I can do it, then anyone can.”
But that doesn’t stop people from being pulled over for ‘looking suspicious’ (i.e. black/brown) or ‘Driving While Black.’ Though to be fair, I almost bet there was some note on in the computer system on that man’s tags that warned any Texas cop not to pull him over. But that wouldn’t have worked in Alabama or South Carolina. There he would be just another…..
If you think I’m angry too, you’d be right. I’m fifty-fucking-six years old tomorrow. I thought we’d be past this shit by now. No, honestly, I did. And to know that in all likelihood, I’m gonna die and leave this shit for my kids to deal with is….
Depressing. Discouraging. Shocking. And just flat out wrong.
And uncomfortable. It makes me damned uncomfortable. And I sit with that shit a lot. Then I get up off my fat, lily white, used-to-be pooh, ass and I fight with words mostly, but any way I can to do better, to make this world better, but most of all to be a better human being.
Okay, my birthday rant over. But like I said, I thought about this one. A lot. It push my button. What does the fat, middle-aged, white Karen know about being black in America? Probably loads more than many middle-aged white woman. Because not only were many of lovers black, but we actually talked about this shit. And yes, I’ve been in Mercy’s shoes, ‘guilt by association’ and a ‘traitor to my race.’
But no, I can never truly understand Will. It may seem strange for me to say that while defending him and swearing not to change the way I write him. BUT how I write is character driven. These are real people. They just run around inside my Crazzy mind driving me insane unless I tell their story. Their way. Oh, and likewise, I’ve never been a gay man, in the Marines, or kidnapped by three hot Norwegian fishermen. But if I’m true to those characters, how can I not be to Will?
Which brings me back to why? Why Will? And I leave that in ya’ll’s heads and hearts. Cause at the end of the day, the only way anything is gonna change is when we all deal with that person in the mirror.
Privilege. It was a word that was thrown around a lot. And yes, the color of her skin might have bought her some privilege, but in some ways, his life had been easier. While Walt and Etta Mae were never wealthy in capitalistic terms, they had enjoyed a level of comfort beyond many in the Fifth Ward. And more so than his woman, too.