The Black Writer’s Inferiority Complex

Black people who consume mainstream media are bombarded with negative images about themselves. Unless making a proper effort, black people won’t see positive representations of themselves in books, movies, and other media.

Everyone, under the right conditions, is susceptible to feeling inferior to others. But Black Americans are particularly vulnerable due to this lack of positive representation.

Think about it: science has proven that trauma can be passed down through genes. What about the trauma of slavery? Jim Crow? And constant self-hate that’s been drilled into our heads for generations?

I may not have any research behind this, but I would guess that the trauma of generations of self-hate can be passed down. If not genetically, definitely in cycles of parents teaching their children. Consciously and unconsciously.

That’s why I think some Black writers have an inferiority complex when it comes to writing and publishing books. At least I do.

Inferiority Complex definition according to Everyday Health:

“An inferiority complex, as defined by psychiatrists, is a feeling of inadequacy stemming from either real or imaginary sources. While the emotions are often subconscious, it often compels its victims to overcompensate in their performance…While a regular human feeling of inferiority can drive someone to healthy success, a person suffering from the complex can reach such a heightened stage of discouragement, they can become a danger to themselves.”

I’m suggesting that Black writers–rejected by traditional publishers, unable to find authors who look like them in bookstores, literary journals, college newspapers, unable to find Black mentors in academic settings or otherwise, (especially MFA programs)–attempt to measure themselves against white authors who are continuously revered by the literary community. And let’s be honest, everything that’s published by traditional publishers isn’t literary genius or even close. And people actually buy that garbage, making it hit #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers lists. We have to be doubly or triply good to even be acknowledged. Who do you know who’s that genius? Add to that our generational dose of self-hate. And we’ve got ourselves an inferiority complex.

Lately, I spend a lot of time feeling like I cant. Like it’s impossible. I know people have overcome the impossible, but I don’t feel like I can.

Some days, I attribute this lack of confidence to the political nature of race in this country: To get to number one on the NYT list, I have to sell to everyone, not just black readers.

The cards are just simply stacked against us. It’s challenging enough to sell a book to a publisher, and get them to market it for you. If you get that far, you’ll realize that publishers and bookstores prefer to sell books by black authors that depict the “stereotypical” black experience of thug life and promiscuity; you know, the books with “sluts,” gunslingers, and gold chains on the covers. And those books don’t sell to everyone.

Other days, I attribute this inferiority complex to the aforementioned post-slavery-era mentality that’s been imposed upon us by the collective unconscious.

I feel that my only option is to get a good education, go to college/grad school, graduate and get a job.

It doesn’t matter if my degree is in a creative field. I can’t have success on my own. Submitting writing to literary journals isn’t for my kind. Nope. How could I possibly be talented enough for that?

Is it just me? Or do other Black writers (or artists of any kind) feel this way too?

I want so much for myself. I’m bursting at the seams with ideas. I’m going to keep moving forward, regardless of how I’m feeling. I’m going to keep blogging, writing, thinking, planning and moving. I’ll never make it if I don’t try, right?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *