Today Waxwing published my essay “White and Working On It.” The essay comes from my manuscript of the same name, a project that seems more and more timely with each passing news cycle. So to have this first published part of the whole in a magazine dedicated to “promoting the tremendous cultural diversity of contemporary American literature, alongside international voices in translation” is a perfect fit.
I tend to shy away from using the word “woke” because I’m not sure if it’s my word to use, and also because I believe I’ll work for the rest of my life on waking up. But I know that I was once asleep, filled with good intentions and love and a desire to “help people,” but fast asleep. Faulting people who have to yet learned what I’ve learned is unproductive and will never wake other up. So every time I see that “white women elected Trump,” I see no purpose in #notallwhitewomen. I know I’m part of the 40% who didn’t, but so what?
If we as a country truly wish to confront our systemic racism, then we in the majority race need to reckon with our own identity. White people need to talk to each other about being white. And I’m trying to reach the biggest audience I can.
So what do you do with a large project that has defined purpose but no defined delivery method? Which to say, what do you do with a literary work that could be any number of things–a book, a serial web column, a workbook, etc…? Especially when said project challenges the identity of the largest book buying demographic? Which is also to say that agents and editors send me the most complimentary rejections.
So “White and Working On It” the manuscript is looking for a home, and I don’t know what kind of home it needs. But it is wonderful to know that at least this first seed of it, the essay that starts the whole project, has found at a place where it fits and can thrive.