How Fiction Kills: Disarming Violence With Truth, And Why It Matters
“You can’t speak truth to power, if the power speaks truth by definition.” — Michael Lynch
I sometimes sit in coffee shops and write because I want to feel like an authentic New York writer. That is my truth, as ugly and clichéd as it may sound to readily admit and put down on paper. I want the legitimacy that comes with the portrayal of being considered “literary.” I like the performative aspects of it, in both look and feel- the excitement of watching someone else watch me, write. I will hide my screen or notepad with my arms, hands, and body sometimes, all the more to hopefully have them, the viewing audience, work harder to watch. This action may seem innocuous, innocent enough. But, in context, it is bigger than just being seen. This is a thing, a dance; the dalliance occurring when a hand and body, especially a hand and body owned by a Black writer or artist (or, Black person, in general) chooses to seek inclusion, to be deemed redeemable by the powers that be, by the authorities that hold the keys to the spaces that I, and countless other writers, secretly want and crave approval from and admittance into — the publishing world controlled by cisgendered white men. I said this out loud to Gioncarlo yesterday, and I write this out loud, now. There is a freedom in truth. A freedom in the ownership of a truth.
The truth is neither relative, or subjective. To make the truth a philosophical argument, or a line to be bent and swayed, has become the crux of the fake news narrative that has dominated the brunt of 2017. With the climate of our world today, we may ask, how much of our truth do we own, and how much of it is projected onto us, levied upon us, shoved down throats? How much of what we deem to be correct and true is attributed to, is in direct response to, the appeasement of fragile male whiteness as the standard for all things intellectual sound, as the base and foundation for all things holy and worthy of worship and idolization? How much of a truth is actually true when those yielding power use the true as a means to create divisiveness, appealing to those who would rather use hate as a weapon as opposed to a platform for discussion? Re-positioning truth, examining then reexamining, the needling of its contents under a microscope, is the basis for all things considered righteous and “American.” It is the exploration of the truth that allows us the authority to also combat false narratives, or idea systems and opinions portraying themselves as truths. It is when ideology is adopted as doctrine, when anything showing opposition to a power structures beliefs disguised as fact, that we also invite the violence into our homes, our mouths, and our lives. When a Roy Moore can correlate drive-by shootings with animals and use the theory of evolution as means to condemn a community, and it is allowed to go unchallenged and he, almost unscathed (“almost” because, Black women showed up, as always, in Selma) it is here we see, ostensibly, the nature and potential of violence on full display.
There is a restorative power that lives in recognizing and reconciling the truth of our world and our present reality, with the duality that exists in the gray and in between of the world we are faced to deal with and live in — that the truth is, our reality and experiences are indeed our own, but that does not give us the unequivocal right to disarm another’s truth because it offends us, without properly digging into why that truth is offensive in the first place. Truth sets standards; truth holds governing bodies accountable — when someone argues net neutrality is not a need, one can point to Cingular Wireless, run by AT&T, which “bars access to PayPal because it has struck a deal with another online payment service, which pays Cingular for that privileged status.” Within that same context, it is our responsibility to call out the falseness of someones owned truth that lives in direct relation to the irreparable harm that can be done to other communities, when said communities version of truth is shaped, steeped and steered in the utilitarian power in that community’s voice (i.e. — southern white male republicans or, the inherent black male phobia of the LGBTQ community that becomes centered around transgender hate and violence against their bodies.)
There are certain truths that are irrefutable. To refute them is to also ignore the biases that lie in attempting to negate the power of those truths; to ignore the white male privilege and supremacy that lives in the multiple cases of living and walking Weinstein’s alongside the more likable and approachable Franken’s, or the alternative of a seemingly less vicious, yoga-loving Russell Simmons, is to also ignore the harm in what ignoring that truth does to countless other women; to ignore that feminism we tout as exemplary has far too often excluded Black women from its narrative, is to also turn a blind eye to how the Dunham’s of the world have continued to propagate (and, prop up) a certain kind of idealized feminism that does not necessarily include Black female voices at either the front or center of action or dialogue; to disguise hetero-Black male violence to gender conforming and non-conforming bodies, transgender and the like, as nothing more as a “gay is wrong” arch, is to also go along with the story line that allows the breaking of bone and body as a justification for the closet and secret stereotypes and tropes that exist within the Black male community, of what is and isn’t acceptable to do or be, in both the dark and light.
I recently watched a man — the man sat on a bench, and began mumbling outside of the train I sat on, about “whitey making it hard for black men.” The man looked disheveled and drunk, possibly homeless and/or was suffering from a mental health disorder. One could look at that man, and ignore what was being said, with a focus on the appearance of the person saying the things being said. However, in context, none of that mattered. None of that mattered because he was still right. It was still his truth. It was still “a” truth, a truth held by countless other Black men, both alive and passed, both present and past. We are living in a time where it is become increasingly more difficult to discern opinion from truth; to be able to separate fact from fiction. Ownership of truth disarms violence. The freedom that an acknowledgment of truth proposes, dismantles any power that a lie can attach itself to. It is transformative, to sit with a you or a person like you (even more transformative to sit across from someone unlike you) and say “here are my truths and biases; here are the layers and context in which I operate and function within that truth.” A decree such as this creates, not just room for an honest dialog, but room for definable action, action with meaningful intention and purpose.
Identifying and affirming truths is as imperative as deconstructing myths. Challenging those that cling to falsehoods, that attach themselves to certain fallacies with no real circumstantial evidence on which their ideas and thoughts lie, whether they be in relationships, in politics, in conversations involving gentrification, race, intersectionality and the like, helps us to navigate from the kind of dangerous rhetoric that propaganda and hate speech users promote under the guise of “free speech.” I sit in coffee shops and write because I want the authority of what sitting in a coffee shop conveys to the rest of the world — that yes, I am a writer and you should want to believe in that for me. Owning that truth, as performative as it is, makes me no less egocentric or negligible, but it does make me less dangerous. And that matters.