Try a little empathy

Image courtesy of Janet Ramsden via Flikr
Image courtesy of Janet Ramsden via Flikr

Maybe it’s seeing people get all pissed because Hermione is going to be black. Or maybe it’s because I read a women’s lengthy response to being criticized for identifying with “Lolita.” Or maybe it’s Trump.
The thing is I have had it with being asked to view everything through white male eyes.
As an English major, I was trained to read canon, which means white, male, Anglo-Saxon literature. I learned to peer through the eyes of the (white, male) main characters and understand their thoughts, challenges and joys. Many of the female (white) characters were there for sex, whether they offered it freely or not. Anybody else was often just not there.
Over the years, I’ve been mistaken for Latina, Hawaiian, having black blood, Jewish, Egyptian and Black Irish. With those assumptions has come the expectation that I will read these white texts (books) in a specific way or that I’ll understand other texts from a whole different place. I’ve disappointed those people as well because I am not any one thing. I’m a mutt — a mix and regardless of everyone else’s designs on my provenance, there’s nothing I can do to change the body I was born with.
To tell the truth, being forced to spend my entire educational career analyzing the hearts and minds of those in power has proven useful. And a great deal of what’s out there is art, even if, say the protagonist became my next door neighbor, I’d be forced to turn him in for his criminal acts.
Art is where we can explore anything.
I still like that about art.
But I am really effing tired of reading about old white men and young white men and their desires. I’m tired of them being put forth by lists in Esquire as the best and most important bits of literature.
I read because I can be anyone or anything. I read to lead more than this one life, so, yeah, it’s been great to play at being a white dude, but I’m hungry for something else. I’m after an inclusive canon, where everything can be explored and there is no expectation that I have to match the protagonist’s skin tone or genitalia. But there is the possibility that every reader will, at one time or another, see someone who physically is like them in the position of hero and there is the requirement that others, who do not look anything like that hero, will be asked to look out through there eyes and see the world through a non-white gaze and open their effing hearts and minds so they can gain a little empathy.