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Old 12-19-2011, 09:09 PM   #1
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Is a Dumb Question thread ok?

Hey Kitty,

Nice one on taking the responsibility for this! You're a brave girl!

Now, sometimes I get questions pop into my head. I know they're dumb questions but... I don't have anyone I can ask. So... is it ok to ask in here?

I'm not talking offensively stoopid questions but ... well, remember the watermelon conversation we had a few months back? Me and all the rest of the Brits had no real idea about the watermelon and chicken thing.

So I thought maybe a thread where we can come and ask questions of each other without getting laughed at or our heads kicked in could be a good idea. For everybody.

So... I'll start.

You know how white people often see MCs as white people by default. Do people of colour do the same? Or is your default your own colour? Or do you not have a default?

I'm interested in how this works.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:17 PM   #2
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You know how white people often see MCs as white people by default. Do people of colour do the same? Or is your default your own colour? Or do you not have a default?
Speaking only for myself (I'm Chinese), I have to confess that I do see MCs as white people by default, both in stories I read and stories I write. I think it's a result of the world I'm used to, which is mostly white. I think I don't think of my own skin color as a default because I see other people much more than I see myself in the mirror. Does that make sense?

ETA: I reread my post and am appalled at the number of times I used the word "think." Sorry about that.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:18 PM   #3
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You know how white people often see MCs as white people by default. Do people of colour do the same? Or is your default your own colour? Or do you not have a default?

I'm interested in how this works.
When a character isn't described as a person of color, s/he is faceless. Though I do assume the character is white. The only time I have a vivid picture of a white character is when the character is a young girl. She's always Laura Ingalls, no matter how she's described.
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:20 PM   #4
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Speaking only for myself (I'm Chinese), I have to confess that I do see MCs as white people by default, both in stories I read and stories I write. I think it's a result of the world I'm used to, which is mostly white. I think I don't think of my own skin color as a default because I see other people much more than I see myself in the mirror. Does that make sense?
Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

So how you (generic) see a character is more a result of cultural conditioning than anything else? Hmm.. interesting. I wonder if it's the other way up in societies that don't have a white majority. I expect so but....
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Old 12-19-2011, 09:30 PM   #5
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So how you (generic) see a character is more a result of cultural conditioning than anything else? Hmm.. interesting. I wonder if it's the other way up in societies that don't have a white majority. I expect so but....
I would say so. There's been a lot of discussion about anime & manga and why all the characters in those media formats "look white." Except that's only from the POV of people from English-speaking countries. To the target audience of anime and manga, which is the Japanese audience, these characters are viewed as Japanese unless they're explicitly stated to be not. (They're said to be from the U.S. or Chinese, etc etc.) You don't see Japan casting white actors to play the character roles in the live action Rurouni Kenshin movie, for example.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:03 PM   #6
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Another thing I take into account is the author. So if I pick up an author who I know write "black" books, I immediately picture the characters as black, even without descriptions. Besides that, white is the default.

This reminds me of a study I read (I use this phrase on AW several times a week) where white children showed preferences for white dolls. When asked about the others, they ranked they generally said the darker ones were "more bad" than the lighter brown skinned dolls.

A lot of immediate reactions were "oh well, we all show an innate preference for those similar to ourselves." Except they did they same test on children of color and they STILL showed the same preferences. They didn't cite the brown dolls as bad, but did describe them as less pretty than the white dolls.

So a lot of times white people have the privilege of assuming none of their racial preferences or habits are due to internalized racism. But when POC have the same views, we're forced to confront it.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:11 PM   #7
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You know how white people often see MCs as white people by default. Do people of colour do the same? Or is your default your own colour? Or do you not have a default?

I'm interested in how this works.
Good idea for a thread, miranda!

And...I'm white, and I've often wondered that same thing. Interesting question. I agree that for me, admittedly, I don't think a character is anything other than white unless it's mentioned in the story specifically.

Is that horrible?
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:39 PM   #8
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Hmmm... I don't know. And maybe it's not for me to say. I'm hoping it's not horrible because when I first saw this subject, my immediate reaction was 'I don't do that!' But on thinking about it, I realised I do. And never thought anything of it. Like most other people on the thread, I do default to white, only seeing a character as POC if there is reason to.

Hmm... this is tricky. I sincerely don't believe it's because I'm inherently racist. I think it's a cultural thing. I am white and I live in a culture that's mainly white. So maybe it's natural for me.

The mention of anime and manga is interesting. The fact that the audience see them as Japanese although they look European to me. Strange how culture informs perception.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:44 PM   #9
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Hmm... this is tricky. I sincerely don't believe it's because I'm inherently racist. I think it's a cultural thing. I am white and I live in a culture that's mainly white. So maybe it's natural for me.
I think this is the case. I don't think it can be a racist thing because I honestly don't think about race when meeting new people or anything. I never have. I mean, I may describe someone by using their race, but only to distinguish them if necessary. Like when telling my husband a story,

"You remember her? The sweet, Asian girl?"

or

"the mean, nasty white girl?"

But, yeah, I've never given race a thought. I grew up in an area with almost equal ratios of white to black, and now I'm in Northern VA where, if you cross from one neighborhood to another, you could go from a mostly Asian street to mostly Hispanic.

But at work and among friends and family, we're mostly white.

So for me, I think, it's the default, so to speak.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:46 PM   #10
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The mention of anime and manga is interesting. The fact that the audience see them as Japanese although they look European to me. Strange how culture informs perception.
I see anime and manga as Japanese. I'm a Puerto Rican born and raised in the States.

Do you guys remember Herman Cain's mistress, Ginger White? The white people I've spoken to see her as white and the people of color see her as mixed race.

It's interesting.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:46 PM   #11
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No, I don't know her. Herman Cain isn't really big news over here.

Is she mixed race?
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:47 PM   #12
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There's a difference between "inherent racism" and "internalized racism."
We're all a little bit of the latter. It's not a horrible thing if you're aware of it.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:52 PM   #13
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No, I don't know her. Herman Cain isn't really big news over here.

Is she mixed race?
I think she is, but don't know for sure. Here's a link to her picture.
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Old 12-19-2011, 11:59 PM   #14
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There's a difference between "inherent racism" and "internalized racism."
We're all a little bit of the latter. It's not a horrible thing if you're aware of it.

Thank you. I'm aware of it but try not to let it change the way I treat people. If you see what I mean. I don't want to be walking on eggshells all the time just cos I'm talking to someone who's not white. And I don't. But if I do say something clumsy, it's just that. Clumsy. From ignorance of a person's history usually. Like the whole watermelon thing.
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:02 AM   #15
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I think she is, but don't know for sure. Here's a link to her picture.

Ahhhh.... I see her as white, from that one photo.

But I guess it depends on the mix of races!
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:15 AM   #16
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Ahhhh.... I see her as white, from that one photo.

But I guess it depends on the mix of races!
This exchange makes me question the way I interpret character descriptions in books. I wonder if there have been times when I thought a white character was mixed and vice a versa.
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:17 AM   #17
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Possibly.
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:59 AM   #18
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I think she is, but don't know for sure. Here's a link to her picture.
Interesting. I've never seen a photo of her. Looking at her, I think I'd peg her as mixed although if she identified as white, I'd think maybe she had something further back in the family tree (like a grandparent or great-grandparent).
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:09 AM   #19
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Whenever I'm a reading a book, I imagine the characters as mixed or hispanic (probably because I grew up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood and now in New Mexico) unless something stereotypical about their behavior pushes me in the opposite direction or the author says otherwise. And even then, based on names I tend to get an image of character stuck in my head.
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:35 AM   #20
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I see anime and manga as Japanese. I'm a Puerto Rican born and raised in the States.
Yeah, I was born in the Philippines but grew up in the US. I've always seen most anime & manga characters as Japanese. Growing up, most of my peer group was nonwhite so that perspective changed. It wasn't until later when I encountered more white anime & manga fans that I realized many people didn't see them as being Japanese. I've always thought the anime & manga characters intended to be white were pretty distinct & identifiable (e.g. big noses, jutting chins, pronounced cheekbones, curly hair, etc).
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:43 AM   #21
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Yeah, I was born in the Philippines but grew up in the US. I've always seen most anime & manga characters as Japanese. Growing up, most of my peer group was nonwhite so that perspective changed. It wasn't until later when I encountered more white anime & manga fans that I realized many people didn't see them as being Japanese. I've always thought the anime & manga characters intended to be white were pretty distinct & identifiable (e.g. big noses, jutting chins, pronounced cheekbones, curly hair, etc).
I don't read manga or watch anime so I didn't know the characters weren't white. I just saw blonde hair and blue eyes and knew Japanese people don't come in that variation.

So without context, it definitely makes sense to assume they're white. A lot of them don't actually look Asian.
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:52 AM   #22
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I've always thought the anime & manga characters intended to be white were pretty distinct & identifiable (e.g. big noses, jutting chins, pronounced cheekbones, curly hair, etc).
Same here.
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Old 12-20-2011, 02:22 AM   #23
alessahinlo
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Originally Posted by missesdash View Post
I don't read manga or watch anime so I didn't know the characters weren't white. I just saw blonde hair and blue eyes and knew Japanese people don't come in that variation.
I can't remember the specific term right now but there's a particular tradition in the anime and manga industries to indicate character traits and roles by the color of their hair and eyes. If you ever look at the live action counterparts of anime & manga (because many are adapted into films or television dramas), the characters are always portrayed by Japanese people. (Or Chinese or Taiwanese, if the anime/manga gets picked up in those countries.)
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Old 12-20-2011, 02:39 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by alessahinlo View Post
I've always seen most anime & manga characters as Japanese. Growing up, most of my peer group was nonwhite so that perspective changed. It wasn't until later when I encountered more white anime & manga fans that I realized many people didn't see them as being Japanese. I've always thought the anime & manga characters intended to be white were pretty distinct & identifiable (e.g. big noses, jutting chins, pronounced cheekbones, curly hair, etc).
Yes. Those who think anime and manga characters look more caucasian than Japanese either need to see more real-life Japanese people or watch this informative video. Hint: not all Asians look alike.
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Old 12-20-2011, 02:40 AM   #25
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That's interesting. What are the character traits associated with hair and eye colour?

Edit: the above was in answer to Alessahinlo, BTW.
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