Monday, February 24, 2020

Meet Ms. Blanche White

Q: In celebration of Black History Month
What black character would you want to be for a day? Any black character?

- from Susan

My last post tipped my hand. I’d be Blanche White, Barbara Neely’s fictional hero, in a heartbeat. Sure, I’d learn by seeing through her eyes, living her black experience. But I’d also learn to stand up for myself, to see the world unblinkingly, and to let my real self shine.

Blanche is honest, not just in her interactions with other people (unless she’s sleuthing, when she is an undercover agent), but with herself. And when she suspects she may be letting herself off the hook, her inner self says, “Uh uh, woman, you tell yourself the truth now.”

Blanche is smart, smart enough to sniff out the facts from the posturing, the false statements (as in “I love black people”), and the cover-ups. She has it in her to understand what’s going on in the undercurrents of ordinary settings, and to follow clues that might not seem like clues to most people.

Blanche can get scared. She’s no Black Panther warrior woman, nostrils flaring, spear at the ready. She understands when she’s in danger and can retreat and think about a strategy before blazing forth. She’s been attacked and the memory can make her tremble, as it should.

Blanche is okay with herself. Sure, she muses that she might be a bit heavy. She looks in the mirror and has mused at least in one book that time is creeping onto her face. But then she shrugs, reminds herself she is a large, dark-skinned woman in a black society that too often elevates light-skinned black folk and so what? She knows she is sexy, can cook well, can laugh and flirt, and run rings around the smug people of all races she comes in contact with.

Blanche has empathy. She has the ability to see into people she meets in her community and in the white world, and to find the ways in which the experiences that shaped them are not wholly unlike her own and those of people she knows. Pure villains don’t get a pass, but people who’ve suffered get gentler handling. 

I wish I knew her. I wish she were real and I could buy her a cup of good coffee and just let her talk. I know I would like her. Would she like me? If I asked her (and I never would – that’s stupid) I am sure of one thing. She would look right at me and tell me. 


No comments: