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Privilege And The White Dude Super-Detective

By Tami Winfrey Harris

I’m a sucker for a good mystery. It doesn’t matter whether the detective sports a deer stalker cap, a rumpled raincoat, a string of tasteful pearls, or my name (sistah detective Tamara Hayle. Check her out!); whether the action takes place in London, L.A., the English countryside, Maine, or Newark—give me a suspicious death, a handful of clues and red herrings, and an intrepid sleuth, and I’m in.

My long love affair with the mystery genre (love you, Quinn Martin!) has taught me many life lessons: for instance, no one—no matter how benign the questions—wants to give up information to the po-po; professors, waitresses, street toughs—all resolutely anti-snitching. I have learned to avoid both the University of Oxford (Inspector Lewis) and fictional Hudson University (Law & Order), as they are hot beds of murder and mayhem. I have also learned that my invisibility as an aging woman will make detective work a perfect career in my dotage. (Can’t wait for the little old lady detective parties, where Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple explain how being unassuming lets one uncover all the dirt.) And I have learned that race and gender matter, even in the fictional detective world, thanks to a currently quite popular mystery genre type: The White Dude Super-Detective.

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