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Pickle Me This

January 11, 2021

Imperfection is a Privilege

The revelation I had last night when I was reading Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, is that imperfection is a privilege. Imperfectionism being the gospel I espouse in my blogging course and elsewhere: “There is no place for perfectionists in the blogosphere. Blogs are inherently raw, wild and unpolished. The important thing is to write the best you can, get to Publish, and then onto the next post. There will be spelling errors, and sloppy grammar, and things will be formatted weird. You’ll get facts wrong, and often you will change your mind. (Ideally, you should always be changing your mind—or at least entertaining the possibility.”

The privilege of being able to be imperfect, sloppy, raw and unpolished in public and still be taken seriously—that’s what Oluo’s book is all about. But it’s relevant in my work too, which is mainly with white women, for whom overcoming the constraints of perfectionism is a challenge. But it’s doubly a challenge for people of colour, the demand for perfection coming from within and without, from a white supremacist society ready to jump on any imperfection as a confirmation of racist bias.

So what to do that that, I wonder? To recognize it first is essential, but of course, it is not enough. What else? To do my part to combat white supremacy, to help make a world where people of colour are as free to make typos as I am. Part of the work I do to this end involves reading works by writers of colour, and insisting on their excellence, because, as Mediocre shows, our definitions of excellence tend to be defined by white guys, and I wish to challenge that. EXCEPT that it takes us right back to where we started, where writers of colour are not permitted the same latitude as those who are white. The pressure for excellence is enough to keep a writer from writing forever, which so many people who started blogs and them quit them very well know.

How about to create space then, for writers to emerge and learn and grow? I have decided that starting now, I will reserve one space in each of my courses for people of colour. To continue to insist that imperfection is for everyone—because what is imperfection if not the right to be human after all?

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