85. Why me?

I’m a white guy. You might ask, “What does a white guy know about Black history?” More to the point, “What right does he have to talk about it?” That’s a fair question.

You might also ask, why is a science fiction author writing a series of posts about race? Another fair question, and it has more than one answer.

I am a citizen, an observer, a teacher, a student of history and culture, and a writer on a number of subjects, and the current Serial demonstrates. It is largely coincidental that my novels so far published have been science fiction.

I grew up in a white town (see post 81.). For a lot of reasons, none of them having anything to do with race, I didn’t leave to go to college. I escaped to go to college. Once there I switched from biology to anthropology, which is, among other things, a study of the variety of lousy ways humans have treated each other. It is also a study of how groups form to manage that treatment, and how various ethnic groups interact, not according to reality, but according to how they are taught to see each other.

It sounded a lot like home.

Like any other human system of thought, anthropology has its core beliefs. Cultural relativism states that other cultures provide the for the needs of people in those cultures, and those cultures don’t need to be changed by the hand of imperialistic countries like Britain and America.

Fair enough. However, the norms of those cultures are often a set of rules designed to maintain the perks of the powerful. The groups who are contending for power are often defined by ethnic identities, and those definitions often have little to do with historical reality.

Again, a lot like home.

One non-mainstream anthropologist explained it this way. In exchanges in an South Asian village, the farming castes gives food to their landlords, and in return get the benefit of not being hit on the head by a club.

Okay, not like America this year, but a lot like the South in 1840.

I spent four years at two institutions studying South Asia and South Asians in overseas colonies. My first MA was on caste based economic interactions. Years later, while writing, I returned to college for a second BA and MA in history, concentrating on Britain and America in the last three hundred years.

But I’m not black! I am more than aware of that “deficiency” and I would never think that I understand black perspectives from the inside. However, there will be innumerable black people writing this season; they will tell their story, as they should.

My outsider’s perspective will also be valid.

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