Thursday, May 20, 2010

continuation of Racism and the submitting Hispanic Poet

The one thing that made racism a lot more devastating in Philadelphia was the fact that it came from all directions.  That was something I never expected.  I was white enough to be hated by blacks, dark enough to be hated by whites, and educated enough to be hated by my own.  To the people in my religion in Philly, mostly whites and blacks from the city, I had the last name of a dear friend (I say friend, but we had not yet met), Lucas Ortiz, who just happened to be as loud, opinionated, and as visible as I was.  No surprise there, he was a a Social Work academic and we all know they tend toward the left.  Everyone thought we were brothers.  We shared the same vision of how racism had affect our religious community, and so neither of us was popular.  Until I reached out to the blacks in my religious community.  Mr. Morris, an HIV positive black man (Lucas was also living with HIV), moved in to my house.  That meant I had greater contact with a healthy group of highly educated blacks, who I loved, who were always surprised to hear me say I considered myself to be a black Puerto Rican despite the fact my hair was straight and my skin was white, or almost white, or white during winter, and my eyes were green (I never informed them I had contacts).   They had never met a self confessed black Puerto Rican.
Don’t get me wrong and think I had not experience racism from my Mexican American brothers and sisters in El Paso, I had, but I had never paid too much attention to it because these were isolated incidents and I wasn't 100% certain they were racially motivated.  These incidents could have been provoked by my personality.  But yes, I was a Puerto Rican living in a Mexican American community and I had a high profile job, a certain amount of resistance to me came with the territory.  But the support I got as a whole from the rest of the Hispanic community made it feel like it was not there at all.
However when I first started submitting there were a handful of Hispanic editors who did strange things like, send me a rejection postcard saying:  “SORRY SAM, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME.”  I think they were/are Hispanic?  If they are/were not Hispanic I have no idea what they are/were doing at the front of a journal that serves a community with a majority of Hispanics in it.  I refuse to believe that the writers in El Paso have not spoken up about this issue; I assume this editor is/was Hispanic.  If not it would be like Hollywood asking Harrison Ford to play Toulouse le Trec in Moilin Rouge.   This kind of a rejection slip was coming from an academic journal inside Texas State, at El Paso.  I was mortified.  I immediately created a new email list: “places never to submit.”  My name is not SAM, Mr. Editor, that was unnecessary and offensive.  If you are heading that journal today, I want you to know that I think your mother would be ashamed to claim you as her own. 
The next incident also came as a total surprise and it took me a while to realize what had happened.  I had had a poem accepted at one of the so called: “prominent” journals, Rose and Thorn.  The editor at the time, a Hispanic, sent me the acceptance email but asked that I agree to his edit of the last two lines of the poem.  Those of you that know me, also know that I like to be given suggestions, I will consider everything you say to me if it is done with respect.  He showed me his suggestions.  Well, I didn’t know this was one of the “prominent” journals.  Clueless, yes, that was me, clueless.  I thought the poem needed the ending I had written because of the rhythm of the piece.  Apparently, I ruffled his feathers in the wrong way, when I refused his edit.  This journal has refused every other submission I have ever sent them.  I guess they have an email category too:  Submitters never to accept!  It was an honest mistake.  If I would have known what I know today I would have said YES, and published it in its original form when I published a chapbook, or the complete collection.  But I had only been submitting my pieces for six months and I had no idea these journals got touchy.   There isn't a workshop in the world prepares new writers to deal with the boulders s/he are going to find along the way of their writing experience.  And submissions are a good part of the writing experience.

to be continued...  I am writing about: submission and the online workshops next!

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