My first strike when writing while Black was starting this piece at the end of Black History Month. After February, the next time Black narratives get highlighted is Juneteenth, per the diversity and inclusion report. Unless, of course, a spontaneous movement for social justice occurs. If that happens, the push for Black narratives will increase by around 50 percent—a number I just made up but one that sounds about right.

My second strike, which probably is my first, now that I think about it, was believing I could be a good writer. Sorry, whites, but Black America has consumed white mediocrity for so many years that we even have a saying for it: you have to work twice as hard to get half as far. That fact of life never bothered me, because a good writer works hard anyway. Plus, I could always rely on affirmative action and my Black Card if needed. With that, there was no way I could be stopped. But it turns out I’m what they call a good black writer. Please, don’t get me wrong. A good black writer is almost the same thing. Except, good black writers like Toni Morrison, Kendrick Lamar, Maya Angelou, etc., rose so high above white mediocrity that, compared to them, I’m no good at all. Now I’m fucked.

My third strike when writing while Black was my failure to predict how non-Black people perceive Black stories. Oftentimes, they’re viewed through the prism of Black stereotypes and are loosely judged on whether the story is or isn’t Black enough, based on that stereotypical prism. You can see it up close in the feedback process:

For this character, can we add some of that Black boy joy?

I think the plot needs a little more drama. What if the MC chased her boyfriend around with a knife?

Overall, this story would have a much deeper meaning if you took the father out.

So here I am. In the cell of a Black writer’s jail with three strikes, writing to correct all my mistakes. This piece includes the stereotype of me being locked up. A concept that’s sure to be Black enough for the world. Or at least for the people who read this.