not as simple as a box of crayons ~ Brandon Witt: Outside the Margins

Join us as Brandon Witt goes Outside the Margins.

Brandon Witt Outside the MarginsThere’s many things I’m excited about as I transition to my little bitty house. The biggest is that it will hopefully allow me to write full time while being supported by my two part-time jobs. Besides that, there are a host of other reasons I’m thrilled at this new adventure. One of them, as un-PC as it may be (and if you know me at all, very few things annoy me as much as PC culture), is the racial diverse neighborhood to which I’m moving. Honestly, it’s made a few people uncomfortable in regards to possible safety, although, I believes more due to socio-economic factors more than actual race.

Confession time. As excited as I am about this particular aspect, now that I’m coming more face to face with the daily interactions, I must admit, I’m feeling a bit trepidations. Granted, I’ve long ago left my farm-boy, mid-west, lock-the-car doors when you see someone with skin that isn’t snowy-white. (Remember, I said I’m not PC, and I tend to say things how they are. I grew up in an Ozark town of 3,000 people. You do the math.) And, while those days are far behind me, the people of color that I’m around (yes, every color) are either friends, co-workers in non-profit fields, or families of my students. In all of those factors, there’s a safety net, an equal footing. In my new neighborhood, at least right now, there’s not an equal footing. And, I’m not sure how to handle it sometimes. Do I have a shot of fear go through me when I see a male-figure walking towards in me in a hoodie? Yeah, I do. I wish I didn’t. I’d like to lie and I that I don’t look twice, but my heart rate increases and I’m afraid. For a million reasons. In my head, they’re gonna see some faggot, and that’s asking for trouble. Then reality sets in, and I realize that I ‘can pass’ if I have too. However, if I do, then I’m some tatted-up white guy who’s been called a ‘meat-head’ on occasion by people judging from my appearance—probably when I’m not wearing one of my flaming scarves. That muscley-tatted look can come off as a challenge, as a threat. Considering I’ve never been in any type of physical altercation, I would assume that ‘look’ would evaporate fairly quickly.

Taking a step further, even my home depot, where I’ve practically been living lately, is largely staffed by a racial diverse group of people. I’ve had to come to the realization that I don’t like asking for help from people that aren’t white. Not because I think I’m too good to speak to them or anything, but because I don’t want to come across like I’m treating people as lesser than me, like they are there to serve me. And, yeah, I realize that’s their job. They’re at Home Depot. They are there to help this dumbass who doesn’t know a thing about home improvement and needs every step spelled out for him.

In fully disclosure, I think this feeling is heightened because of the state of our country right now, at least for me. I’m a talk-radio junkie, and I get news feeds from both the right-wing and left-wing junkets (I feel like I get a more genuine picture of reality that way). In my recollection, at least in my adulthood, I don’t remember a time of more racial tension. It seems every day lately, there is a new story about a black kid getting killed by a white cop. Now you hear about cops getting killed for being cops. Just like I have the humiliating shot of fear go through me when I see a hooded figure walking towards me, maybe they have a shot of fear go through them when they see a tattooed, muscley white guy headed their direction (sans scarf and corgi, of course). It’s also the first time in my adult I’ve though of it as us and them. Truly. And I hate. And while I’m more afraid than I was, more than I want to admit honestly, I’ve even more glad to be making this move.

I have similar jolts of trepidation with other groups (people with Christian bumber stickers, people in big trucks, people with an American flag on their car—-you can only get yelled ‘faggot’ so often before you start to make sweeping connections). However, I’ve grown accustomed to those. This will be a new discovery.

You shouldn’t give into fear. You should write the novel. You should take leap. You should look in the other person’s eyes. Sure, sometimes you might crash, but, more often, you fly.

In addition to just needed to get this out there, at the risk of saying something offensive, there is actually another point I’m… wondering about.   And, while I’m not trying to be offensive in anything, really, I’m not going to grovel if I have accidently offended. I’m tried of all of us being offended about every fucking thing. Nothing changes if we can’t speak because someone is offended. Growth takes some offending sometimes. And, so does freedom. However, offense is not my purpose. My purpose it twofold:

One, I want to open up communication around this issue (and, yes, I know many people are talking about it across the country), and I’m not wanting a political debate. I’m just talking about you and me, we members of community, regardless of what kind of party our pigment might be having (whether we are neighbors by zip code or Facebook connection).

Two, I want open up compunction around different races in the MM fiction world. I have two stories published about African-American characters (one gay, one lesbian). I hopefully will have a short-story and two novels with black gay men as leads—I say black in this case because these are about fairies, so I don’t know if they would really classify themselves as African-Americans, as they would be pretty offended at being grouped in with humans in general).

There has been a lot of talk about if women have the right to write gay fiction. Honestly, at this point, I’m sick to death of hearing about it. Of course women have the right to write about it. If you have any other notion about their ‘rights,’ you’re an idiot. And yes, feel free to be offended. Luckily, you have the right to believe your asinine sexism theology, so go right ahead. However, there is a similar question about whether a white person has the right to write about minority characters. And, of course, the question isn’t really about the ‘right’ but more about the ‘should.’ Let me tell you, writing a different race than me is hand’s down one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in regards to my writing. Part of me wishes I were doing it to be provocative or to change things for the better. I’m not, honestly. These characters, just like all others, came to me how they are. So I write them, scared or not. However, I do worry about backlash or, even worse, writing it incorrectly.

There you have it. My too-many-jumbled thoughts that I had to get out. For better or worse. If you’ve made it this far, you deserve a cheeseburger!



~ Brandon Witt

About Brandon Witt

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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9 thoughts on “not as simple as a box of crayons ~ Brandon Witt: Outside the Margins

  1. Thanks for the cheeseburger and the thoughtful and thought provoking post! I admire your honesty about bring scared. I fully agree with your point about taking offence. Always being careful/worried that someone might be offended by your words is often killing or at least, severely limiting the communication.

  2. Hey Brandon. 🙂

    I think you actually touched on the key to releasing some of these fears you have – both the fears themselves and your examination of your reactions – early on in your post:

    “…the people of color that I’m around (yes, every color) are either friends, co-workers in non-profit fields, or families of my students.”

    The guy in the hoodie is the son, brother, cousin of, or he himself is a student, a volunteer or colleague to someone. You just don’t know him yet. 🙂 And if you make the first move with a “hi” and a smile, you’ve broken down an overwhelmingly large part of that social wall. Remember your own strength of heart, yours is huge, and therefore powerful, a tool to be utilized.

    Sometimes easier said than done, yes, but like a lot of things, the more you do it, the more confidence you feel (and that’s real) and the easier it gets. Let alone the slow crawl progress for society as a whole as a result.

    The people at HD are the same: they’re just like you in that they’re just doing their job, working to do what they need to do for themselves and their families. Walking up and asking a question and getting their help is one more customer service notch in their belt. Whenever I ask for help in Lowe’s or wherever I am, it’s an interaction that makes both people feel good, a mini social contract, the knowledgeable (the Lowe’s peeps) helping those in need of knowledge. The paint expert, the hardware guru, the grill king or queen, they’re all teachers, too. The thought of anyone feeling as if they’re subservient is something you’re projecting onto them, as opposed to the likely reality from their perspectives: you ask me a question, I help you, job done, all good.

    The last sentence is a generalization but is the category into which most people land.

    I’m a political junkie, always have been. Growing up, we talked pols and current events at our table as a fam. Recently, though, I’ve learned that I need more balance. Yup, need to know and examine and discuss what’s going on in the world. On the flipside, “over immersing” (no judgment on you, this is me) can lead to false hyper awareness of all of the tensions in our country today. It works more to hamper progress, feeding those fears, instead of fostering a growing space inside of oneself where initial reactions are of acceptance, confidence in that acceptance, and decisions leading to going for it as opposed to leaning back.

    This is the kind of post and hopefully resulting discussion that can actually lead to progress.

    Hi5 for getting it started, and with the necessary honesty. 🙂


  3. Speaking as a gay black male I can say that I look over my shoulder and prepare myself for flight or fight when anyone passes me on the street or a parking lot, day or night, or is walking behind me and if it isn’t a little old lady or little old man I think of scenarios in my head what I would do if something did happen. And some women can be dangerous too, and you wonder if they are working with a guy who is hiding around the next corner to overpower you. Point I’m making is that not anyone of us can put race, gender , style of clothing, or tats as a determining factor of a potential threat. It’s just not the world we live in anymore and this may come out the wrong way but the fact that anyone can be dangerous breaks the stereotype of only being on guard around a young black male wearing a hoodie, or a bald white guy with tats. It’s a dangerous world out there no matter where you live, grocery shop, work. Everyone should just be aware of their surroundings, try not to walk into secluded areas if you can avoid it, carry a taser, pocket knife, mace whatever you need that at least gives you the ability to try and defend yourself if you need to and of course never challenge anyone with a gun pointed at you give them what they want. And if someone wants to take you to another location or make you drive them somewhere never ever do it give them your keys they can drive themselves, I would rather they killed me where I stood so I could at least be found then to be dragged off somewhere. I as a black man and also being gay can get mugged , attacked, raped , beaten by another black man just the same way someone who is non-white. The danger out there has no particular race, gender, style and neither do their victims.

  4. Great post, we live in a predominantly Asian neighbourhood and my Anglo-saxen children are the other. And while we have had violence at bus stops and walking on the streets, my children/young adults continue to catch the bus home after uni. While they are not brash or brazen in their comings and goings, they understand that for the most part, in Australia, violence isn’t random and that they should be awarer of their surroundings but be afraid and alarmed. Great post! I wish you well in your new home.

  5. Thank you all for your discussion on this post, and for assuming I am coming from a place of good intent. By writing this, I’m hoping to be able to work through some of the anxiety and fear of the unknown. You’re all’s input is priceless. And Eric, I’ve thought about a tazer or something for awhile now, not due to my neighborhood, but due to times I’m walking my dog at night, and times I’m taking care of my nephew and I have no other defense than my hands. I think I might take your advice.

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