Hey there, I’m Sika. I run this blog. Offline, I do work registering voters for Planned Parenthood and today I ran into two African-American girls about my age. I asked them if they wanted to pledge to vote to support the organization since they were both already registered and as one of them filled out the card, the other was talking to me about how people assume that black people either don’t vote or don’t make careful, informed decisions about who to vote for when they do. Somehow we got to talking about the stereotype that black people don’t read, especially not for pleasure, which of course made me think about this blog.
The stereotype of being illiterate, anti-intellectual, uneducated, and general unintelligent is something I was aware of since I was a little girl - I was even aware that it was more intense when it came to darker skinned people than me and even more intense yet for young black boys. [This assumption exists for some non-black POC too, but this is my experience so I’m going to stick to talking about what I know.] On the flip side, if you are recognizably into reading or school or anything like that as a kid, adults get behind you in a way that is both supportive but also overwhelming. You are expected to show that you will not fall to the wayside like those other children, to single-handedly negate the stereotype of blackness, to show that you are taking advantage of every opportunity that those that came before you fought for you to have. That burden rests on your shoulders.
At times, especially when I first started this blog and occasionally found myself googling “black person reading,” I feel uncomfortable using images of people of color In Defense of Readers of Color, turning them into symbols, placing that burden to contradict a long-standing stereotype on a strangers shoulder. Additionally, there’s just a little well of resentment in my mind when the only things I can find to post are explicitly anti-racist literature. It’s something that’s important to me and that I enjoy, but not every single POC is interested in reading about anti-racism simply because they’ve experienced racism.
At the same time, I look at other blogs about reading, about geek culture, about academia, or whatever, and I see maybe one POC in a sea of white faces and it still makes me angry, it still makes me crave this as a safe space. I have conversations like I did today or I hear someone tell a black child “you speak so well” or I see some jackass on facebook criticizing any emphasis made by our government on educating African-American children, and I want to retaliate by celebrating what I already know about POC - our intelligence, our history, our philosophies and stories…
My point is almost everything is problematic one way or the other, which is okay if you are aware of it and acknowledge it and can discuss it. And I guess it’d be nice to have other people’s opinions on this too.