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Roly
07-16-2012, 09:49 AM
I find that a lot of diversity conversations end up with a lot of white writers wondering whether or not they can write about people of colour, or write about other cultures, or use other cultures to infuse their stories. It is often about white writers trying to figure out how to write diversity, how to incorporate multiculturalism and what is or isn't okay to do. The question often boils down to: "Am I allowed to write another ethnicity?"

My friend has written a great post addressing this issue. Thankfully, it's a little different than the answer you usually get in more mainstream discussions of diversity:

http://silver-goggles.blogspot.ca/2012/07/on-permission-and-white-writers.html

Katrina S. Forest
07-16-2012, 11:02 AM
I laughed at the opening to that post. But there's part of it that I don't quite understand:


I would raise my eyebrow at any talk of writing as an “enriching experience”. Isn’t economic dominance and touristic neocolonialism enough to enrich your lives?

I don't think the word "enriching" is automatically a cause to give writers a critical look.

Let's say Bob the writer, for whatever reason, has an idea for a character from a culture he is unfamiliar with. So he tries to learn more about that culture. He realizes he's spent his whole life making assumptions that were totally wrong. Maybe he grows close enough to the culture to write an authentic story. Maybe the story dies out. But either way, he's a lot more respectful of that culture than he was before. Wouldn't "enriching" be an accurate word for what happened to his life?

Now, on the other hand, if Bob just made up whatever sounded right to him and called that an enriching experience, then yes, I agree that Bob is making himself look clueless at best.

But unless writers elaborate on what they mean, is it really fair to assume which version of Bob they're acting like?

lorna_w
07-16-2012, 07:16 PM
Hmm on the post you linked, there's a lot I disagree with in there.

As a member of at least two oppressed groups, I don't mind members of dominant groups writing about my people, as long as they have empathy and eschew stereotype. (They don't always.) There's no one "it" to get right, as human experience can vary tremendously. There is no single "gay experience" or "black experience" or "white experience" or "farmer experience."

I used to be terrified about writing even male POV, but I've grown up and gotten over it. Since I don't write a lot about adjusting the junk but stick to feelings and perceptions and actions, I figure I'm getting it right, for we're all human beings and I know how to be one of those. True, I still do wish I could find a black woman who did obedience or agility trials with her dog, for I have one in this next novel, and don't want to miss an opportunity or great detail, but I've listened enough to black friends talking about being the only black in a sea of white faces that I can write that--even though that won't be but two sentences of what I say about her because she'll be busy trying to get things done at first and survive serious danger by page 80 or so, and I'll bet you we don't think much about our status as historically oppressed people when we're struggling to keep our noses out of the tsunami. The issue of finding a good hairstylist for a black woman in a white town is not, for instance, going to come up for her. She won't be shopping, so she won't get that thing where, though she's dressed twice as nicely as all the whites around her, it is she who is asked for three forms of ID to use her own credit card. She'll be doing what the novel events, and her own personality type, make her do.

If we limit ourselves by not writing gay/straight whatever ethnicity, male/female/something else, Alpha Centaurian or monk, because we aren't that thing ourselves, not only does our writing suffer, but we may exclude readers we don't want to exclude. If we bow out of writing about other types of people than precisely what we are, we also can't possibly write about a future where none of this shit that shouldn't matter actually doesn't matter.

This assumes we've had friends of various types, I suppose, have listened to them, have read widely, have a dollop of empathy in our bones, and aren't total asshats. But assuming I'm not those things merely because of my skin color, sex, sexual preference, age, body size, socioeconomic status is rude and wrong.

Shadow_Ferret
07-16-2012, 07:40 PM
I stopped reading pretty quickly. I was looking for a serious discussion and didn't feel like wading through someone's idea of humor, or whatever that was.

As far as the question: can white writers write About PoC...


I wasn't aware there was any question or debate about it. Of course they can. Just as any writer can write outside their genetic make-up. Men can write about women. Women can write about men. Germans can write about Salvadorans. Salvadorans can write about Japanese. Japanese can write about Inuits. Inuits can write about Kenyans. Kenyans can write about Germans.


There are no limitations.

thothguard51
07-16-2012, 08:03 PM
The only limitations are those which we place on ourselves...

shadowwalker
07-16-2012, 08:24 PM
It always seems as if white writers are stuck between a rock and a hard place - either we're chastised for not including PoC, or we're chastised because we get it wrong. So I just write the character sans descriptions and let the reader see them however they wish.

aruna
07-16-2012, 08:43 PM
I wasn't aware there was any question or debate about it. Of course they can. Just as any writer can write outside their genetic make-up. Men can write about women. Women can write about men. Germans can write about Salvadorans. Salvadorans can write about Japanese. Japanese can write about Inuits. Inuits can write about Kenyans. Kenyans can write about Germans.


There are no limitations.


The only limitations are those that which we place on ourselves...

I don't see it quite as simply as this. I can only speak for myself, but I don't even want to try writing main characters from cultures I don't know intimitaly -- that means, not just having a few friends from that culture, but having been properly exposed, infiltrated, lived moved and had my being with such people. Reading about them in books or seeingthem in movies is an alternative, but still a poor one. And I don't believe a North American, for instance, can write a Guyanese character in a main role without having actually lived in that country, and vice versa -- though vice versa is easier, because we tend to absorb American culture from books and films.
I know I felt very uncomfortable when my publisher wanted me to continue writing books about Indians -- not having grown up in that culture, I felt I had reached my natural limit after three India novels.

aruna
07-16-2012, 08:47 PM
It always seems as if white writers are stuck between a rock and a hard place - either we're chastised for not including PoC, or we're chastised because we get it wrong. So I just write the character sans descriptions and let the reader see them however they wish.

I wouldn't chastise any white person for writing POC if the character felt truly authentic, and not just stuck in there for the sake of diversity.

Kitty Pryde
07-16-2012, 09:03 PM
It always seems as if white writers are stuck between a rock and a hard place - either we're chastised for not including PoC, or we're chastised because we get it wrong. So I just write the character sans descriptions and let the reader see them however they wish.

The reader sees them as white. Straight up. It's called the unmarked state. For a reader in US, UK, Canada, Western Europe, an unspecified character will be viewed as white. So you're really not doing anything but business as usual there.

writeaway
07-16-2012, 09:08 PM
I never understand questions like this.

Of course, they can. Especially, in a free countries. Then the question simply becomes "was it good?" and then the answers to that question become universal to all writing. Talent, authenticity etc...

I also never understand it because it's as if white writers haven't been writing about us and profiting for years.

Lastly, I always say in response 'If you have to ask, no.'

Kitty Pryde
07-16-2012, 09:41 PM
It's not "Can I write it?" it's "Can I write it without pissing heaps of people off because I've done it so offensively?" and the answer is, "Maybe."

That post had some interesting ideas but overall I didn't take much from it. There wasn't much in the way of applicable advice. I found Writing The Other (a really awesome little book) to take a much more useful approach to the topic. Their answer to the question is "Yes, if you are mindful and knowledgeable enough." That book addresses the subject of writing any underrepresented minority, not just a person from colonizer culture writing about the colonized culture. And I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the subject!

shadowwalker
07-16-2012, 10:02 PM
I wouldn't chastise any white person for writing POC if the character felt truly authentic, and not just stuck in there for the sake of diversity.


So you're really not doing anything but business as usual there.

Just to clarify - I don't put in descriptions because most of the time, they're not important to the story. So, if I toss in a PoC for the sake of diversity, I'm messing up - but if I don't include PoC then it's just 'business as usual' and that sounds like I'm messing up. But I guarantee, if I put in a character based on some of the PoC I know personally, I'd get in trouble for that, too - either because they were too "white" or because they were "stereotypes". It all depends on who's reading it.

So, yeah, business as usual or not, I'm not putting anything in that isn't important to the story.

Shadow_Ferret
07-16-2012, 10:08 PM
I don't see it quite as simply as this. I can only speak for myself, but I don't even want to try writing main characters from cultures I don't know intimitaly -- that means, not just having a few friends from that culture, but having been properly exposed, infiltrated, lived moved and had my being with such people.
I guess then the only limitation is what the writer places upon themselves or feels comfortable with.



So, yeah, business as usual or not, I'm not putting anything in that isn't important to the story.But unless you're deliberately trying to show a world or community that only has one race or one culture in it, diversity IS important to the story simply because it exists in real life.

aruna
07-16-2012, 10:19 PM
I think it's more than subjectively "feeling comfortable", Shadow. It's really, "can you?" "do you know these people well enough?" And it's not just about being white or black -- it's about really knowing how a specific people think and feel and react. I'm black and live in a white country, Germany, and feel comfortable writing about them. But I belong to a forum of English speaking ex-pats who live in Germany; mostly white Americans and Brits. You'd be tickled at the thread subjects: all about how Germans react to this and that; the German attitiude to trash and nudity and traffic lights and all kinds of trivial stuff, some of it quite funny. And these white ex=pats feel quite flumioxed and cofused anr irritated sometimes. It's all very well to say "I am comfortable about writing a German character." But do you really know?

We do have real, objective, limitations, not just the ones we put on ourselves, and we should be aware of them. I don't believe in "you can do whatever you want". Well, you can; but can you do it well?

thothguard51
07-16-2012, 10:30 PM
There is another old saying...

Write what you know and know what you write...

shadowwalker
07-16-2012, 11:02 PM
But unless you're deliberately trying to show a world or community that only has one race or one culture in it, diversity IS important to the story simply because it exists in real life.

I'm writing about some characters who do some stuff, and they would do that stuff regardless of what race they were. There are a lot of things that exist in real life that I'm not going to include in my writing. I'm out to entertain people. That's all. How people see the characters in their own minds is up to them.

Rachel Udin
07-16-2012, 11:17 PM
Just to clarify - I don't put in descriptions because most of the time, they're not important to the story. So, if I toss in a PoC for the sake of diversity, I'm messing up - but if I don't include PoC then it's just 'business as usual' and that sounds like I'm messing up. But I guarantee, if I put in a character based on some of the PoC I know personally, I'd get in trouble for that, too - either because they were too "white" or because they were "stereotypes". It all depends on who's reading it.

So, yeah, business as usual or not, I'm not putting anything in that isn't important to the story.
The default is white male. I tested this once.

So I wrote a short bit with a guy talking about this magical object and the female reader assumed right off from the talk that (though there were no pronouns referring to the characters) the characters were both male.

Default is therefore white male. (Christian)

Now you're trying to say, "Well that's just downright stupid." It is. That's the point. The whole culture is stupid to think this and default it this way. But it just BE that way. The culture programmed people to think in this fashion, so by outing POCs and whites equally in the story as being so, you could fight it.

Case studies: Last Airbender on racebending. The leading character on the cartoon is "Aang." It was made into a movie. The director is Indian. The name Aang is clearly Sanskrit. The kid is a poster child for being a Buddhist Monk. Who did they cast? A white kid. (I kind of want to take the director and yell at him, you're putting down your own culture you bastard!!)

Case study: They made Hunger Games character of color like in the book. Despite the book repeatedly stating the character was of color white people were outraged, OMG, how can you make her black. You mean the part where the book said she was black? They'd defaulted the character to white.

Is it stupid? Yes. Is it wrong? yes. But this is what you're facing. Systemic racism.

I put in descriptions in the stories because it gives a picture. Like a setting gets a description. A character I give a rough description. Also the name often defaults characters (though some readers are just that stubborn and want "Akira" to be not Japanese. (See Racebending on the movie project).

The question is fair representation of the diversity in your population. Humans have been traveling around back before they were considered human (See Homo Erectus. They spread throughout Asia. Also summarized as the "Out of Africa" v. "Multiregional hypothesis" problem). Which means that populations without fancy things like planes and huge boats have been traveling great distances--there have been populations moving, the Romani were originally Indian (Indo-European which means you have three migrations in there--Africa, Europe to Asia, and Asia to Europe).

So the argument that Europeans in Medieval times would never have heard of anyone of color is kinda dumb. You had people of color in Rome, but it wasn't made a big deal of as class was. There are large bits of variety in populations, such as white people in Asia (There is this HUGE country in Asia called Russia... also the Tocharians, Ainu, etc.)

So when people ask for diversity, they are asking for fair representation of human populations in order to be realistic.

Now, about including PoCs and doing it right... you have to ask if your society cares about it and what stereotypes you are holding onto and be willing to adapt and apologize at the drop of a hat. Also eat lots and lots of humble pie. But being at the top rung, it ain't so easy to swallow humble pie. I understand there is a great sense of resentment at doing so and just wanting to give it all up. It makes you wonder why you are writing PoCs or in a country/culture not your own. What deep conviction and so on. That's good.

Let's be straight up. I'm Korean Adopted to a Jewish family writing about Kushana people (India for the history-challenged), Koreans, Japanese and Chinese. In it I also mention Greek, Romans, Bactrians and Persians (I think it's Persians.) As well as some other Asian groups... It's a pain in my backside to have so many groups. I don't expect the reader to keep track of it, but I still want to represent all groups mentioned fairly within the context of the story even if the research will be longer. It gives the reader a fairer representation of the period.

Still, I have a bunch of cultures I do not know on my hands and I'm super nervous. When I started, I checked with my friend from India and promised her the following:
1. I would not use her as the sole source of how to be Indian.
2. I would be humble and please smack me if I get out of line or ask too many questions. I repeated this a few times.
3. I would check with other people who were Indian as well.
4. If I get annoying, she can tell me to stop.
5. Let a group of Indians read the results.

I also checked against Chinese and Japanese, looked up stereotypes within and from outside the countries, checked on the literature, movies, and media representation within their country and within our own country. I read everything I could historically and sorted out the information. Since I'm an insider and outsider to Korea, I also triple checked my stuff against that. Still after all of that I'm willing to say I ef-ed up. To apologize and say, "Yup, I really screwed that up."

I rather write about a diverse group of people, f it up and eat humble pie and say sorry, I won't do it again that stick to safe and write about only white Christian people. My reason is that it gets tiring to write about the same group over and over again when the world is so rich with a variety of peoples cultures, individuals, fauna, flora temperatures and climates. I think the diversity is cool in the broader and smaller strokes. I want to write about HUMAN experience. Not just white Christian experience. So in order to do that, I am very willing to eat humble pie. I'm willing to get it wrong and be slapped for it. I won't make excuses and say "Well some PoC should have corrected me." I'll fight stereotypes and examine them in order to do that. I'll write women as leads, people with disabilities, people who are of color, people who are QUILTBAG, different religions, people with rich family backgrounds and so on in order to do that. Because I don't want to limit the kind of story I can write, and I don't want to live a lifetime of having it wrong in my head either.

From writing about India and willing to get it wrong, I learned a whole, whole lot. The picture of India in my head has been corrected by a lot of degrees. I'm grateful for that. Because learning one more culture and the diversity in it means I can see humanity better and the act of writing is often the act of understanding what makes us human. (I should note I scrapped it at least three or four times from getting it wrong. Even my friend didn't know some of the stuff I dug up...)

If someone tells me if and when my book gets published that I'm all wrong, I'll eat my humble pie and swear to do a better and fairer representation next time and try that much harder. That's how it goes.

Shadow_Ferret
07-16-2012, 11:20 PM
I guess then, by that logic, I should only write about white Lutheran men who have only attended college, but didn't finish, and who spent 7 years in the Navy, and worked in the desktop publishing field, the technical writing field, and who are now presently working as secretaries in a Federal agency because I don't understand anyone else -- female, PoC, or anyone who has worked as a mechanic or banker or what have you.

I might as well quit then.

Kitty Pryde
07-16-2012, 11:38 PM
I'm writing about some characters who do some stuff, and they would do that stuff regardless of what race they were. There are a lot of things that exist in real life that I'm not going to include in my writing. I'm out to entertain people. That's all. How people see the characters in their own minds is up to them.

Culture exists. Race, background, origin, present location all play into a given character's culture, how they view the world, beliefs they hold, how others treat them, how they treat others, what they are and aren't allowed to do, what is accepted and what is taboo--we can't write without these things. Even if you are writing about Joe Average American, who is that? There's not a General American Person Is it Joe Ramirez of Bakersfield, CA, the first member of his family to finish high school, the only one fluent in English, who has to work 60 hours a week at the family restaurant? Is it Joe Wilson of Boringville, Iowa, the only kid of Indian descent in his county, raised by white parents and conflicted about identity? Is it Joe Marino of the Bronx, who everyone thinks is in the mob but really he works at Foot Locker and takes care of his old Italian granny?

Any one of these Joes could jump in and be the hero of any number of novels, and they wouldn't behave the same way or think the same things, because of who they are.

Characters don't exist without culture. White middle class American (or Brit) culture is not characterized by an absence of culture or an absence of unusual traditions. It is itself a culture. Characters don't exist in a vacuum.

shadowwalker
07-16-2012, 11:55 PM
No, characters don't exist in a vacuum. And I'll give them whatever background history is needed to explain why they act and speak and do the things they do. But if that background history is something that could have happened to white Christian Jew black Indian atheist gay Arab straight person - then I guess that's just the way the ball bounces.

I repeat - I'm trying to entertain. I'm not trying to teach multi-culturalism or whatever the heck it's called these days. If readers will see my characters as white Christian (why Christian I don't know but whatever), then I guess that's just how they'll see them. I'm writing fiction, not a social studies lesson.

Kitty Pryde
07-17-2012, 12:53 AM
No, characters don't exist in a vacuum. And I'll give them whatever background history is needed to explain why they act and speak and do the things they do. But if that background history is something that could have happened to white Christian Jew black Indian atheist gay Arab straight person - then I guess that's just the way the ball bounces.

I repeat - I'm trying to entertain. I'm not trying to teach multi-culturalism or whatever the heck it's called these days. If readers will see my characters as white Christian (why Christian I don't know but whatever), then I guess that's just how they'll see them. I'm writing fiction, not a social studies lesson.

Realistic depiction of the diversity present in most parts of the country isn't a "social studies lesson", it's the world as it is. There are hundreds of books about people of color that are intended to entertain, not teach. No one is required to include a diversity of characters in their fiction, but this IS a thread about how white writers can best do so, and I'm not sure what you are trying to say other than you are fine with refusing to do so at all.

You say who the character is is up to the reader, but it is demonstrably not. Thats just not how people work. Google "the unmarked state". That's what you're writing, by your own description. It is valid and reasonable and fine to write about straight white Christian middle class Americans, and most American writers do, but in this thread we are talking about writing other sorts of characters, specifically PoC.

fireluxlou
07-17-2012, 12:57 AM
No, characters don't exist in a vacuum. And I'll give them whatever background history is needed to explain why they act and speak and do the things they do. But if that background history is something that could have happened to white Christian Jew black Indian atheist gay Arab straight person - then I guess that's just the way the ball bounces.

I repeat - I'm trying to entertain. I'm not trying to teach multi-culturalism or whatever the heck it's called these days. If readers will see my characters as white Christian (why Christian I don't know but whatever), then I guess that's just how they'll see them. I'm writing fiction, not a social studies lesson.

Wow. Can't even put into words how wrong that sounds. It sounds like your offended that multiculturalism 'or whatever the heck it's called these days exists. I don't understand why you're so offended by the fact to be frank.

God forbid that people of all different cultures and creeds might want to see themselves represented in literature and might want to fight the default white male.

Colourblindness hurts people.

shadowwalker
07-17-2012, 02:26 AM
Realistic depiction of the diversity present in most parts of the country isn't a "social studies lesson", it's the world as it is. There are hundreds of books about people of color that are intended to entertain, not teach. No one is required to include a diversity of characters in their fiction, but this IS a thread about how white writers can best do so, and I'm not sure what you are trying to say other than you are fine with refusing to do so at all.

The main question, I believe, was whites wondering if they're allowed to write other ethnicities. And I commented originally that whites are criticized regardless of whether they do or don't. I do not "refuse" to include diversity - I simply don't mention it at all because it's not important to my story. If it were, I would.


It is valid and reasonable and fine to write about straight white Christian middle class Americans, and most American writers do, but in this thread we are talking about writing other sorts of characters, specifically PoC.

I'm not writing about straight white Christian middle class Americans - well, okay, I'm usually writing about Americans. I'm writing about people who do stuff.


Wow. Can't even put into words how wrong that sounds. It sounds like your offended that multiculturalism 'or whatever the heck it's called these days exists. I don't understand why you're so offended by the fact to be frank.

I'm not offended by it at all. In fact, if you knew anything about me, you'd know that - well, no, won't go down that road either because I know where it leads.


God forbid that people of all different cultures and creeds might want to see themselves represented in literature and might want to fight the default white male.

Colourblindness hurts people.

God forbid that writers be allowed to write without worrying about who they're not representing or who they might offend because they didn't include someone in their writing. I suppose I should feel really guilty because I'm not writing female characters either. Then again, if I was that worried about seeing female characters, I'd write them.

Kitty Pryde
07-17-2012, 03:00 AM
The main question, I believe, was whites wondering if they're allowed to write other ethnicities. And I commented originally that whites are criticized regardless of whether they do or don't. I do not "refuse" to include diversity - I simply don't mention it at all because it's not important to my story. If it were, I would.

I'm not writing about straight white Christian middle class Americans - well, okay, I'm usually writing about Americans. I'm writing about people who do stuff.

I'm not offended by it at all. In fact, if you knew anything about me, you'd know that - well, no, won't go down that road either because I know where it leads.



God forbid that writers be allowed to write without worrying about who they're not representing or who they might offend because they didn't include someone in their writing. I suppose I should feel really guilty because I'm not writing female characters either. Then again, if I was that worried about seeing female characters, I'd write them.

Ok. You may not intentionally be, but you are writing about white people. Please do read this. It's about reader psychology. A 'blank' character is a white straight character. Your intention matters not at all. The fact is that nobody reads a story of an unmarked character and sees them as anything else.

And again, no one is chastising the writers of stories about white people. You dont need to make realstic diversity your goal. If you dont want to worry about giving offense you can feel free. BUT this thread is not about that.


A small word here about what they expect. There’s a term in literary theory for the ways in which a typical reader reads character - and by typical here, I mean typical in the Western-European First World. The term is ‘the unmarked state’ and it works like this: Say I read you a sentence about a character who is washed away in a river ravaged by storm, swims to the other side and climbs out, surviving by the skin of their teeth and strength of their will and body. Not so exciting or interesting a sentence, perhaps. What is interesting is that, unless told otherwise, the majority of readers will assume that the character fits the following description: white, male, 30-40 years old, middle class, employed, able-bodied. There are complex and place and time-dependent reasons for this: test it in a remote indigenous school, for example, and you might get quite a different reading of the invisible markers of the character. Even more interesting, especially for a writer like you, is the notion that most readers will hold onto this image of the character for a whole book if you don’t tell them otherwise.

From http://perilousadventures.net/0809/nonexistence.html by NA Bourke

EarlyBird
07-17-2012, 03:43 AM
I certainly hope that white writers can write non-white characters because my WIP does just that.

My own life is filled with diversity...most of our friends are non-white (AA, Jamaican, Panamanian, Mexican, Cambodian, Korean, Haitian, Indonesian...hope I haven't left anyone out) and my children are Chinese and Vietnamese, and extended family are AA and Indonesian, so I feel very comfortable representing various races in my work.

I wish there were more diversity in novels. If it makes real life more interesting and rich, why not fiction?

katci13
07-17-2012, 04:27 AM
I certainly hope that white writers can write non-white characters because my WIP does just that.

My own life is filled with diversity...most of our friends are non-white (AA, Jamaican, Panamanian, Mexican, Cambodian, Korean, Haitian, Indonesian...hope I haven't left anyone out) and my children are Chinese and Vietnamese, and extended family are AA and Indonesian, so I feel very comfortable representing various races in my work.

I wish there were more diversity in novels. If it makes real life more interesting and rich, why not fiction?

Of course you can. I get excited when I see stories that include other races, whether it's a race I can identify with or not. Especially if your story is based in the US or Canada where there is a lot of diversity. It makes sense that if your story takes place in a corporate office or a school that you would have characters that aren't white.

To me, this issue surfaces because people are too worried about what other people will think. I don't love stereotypes, but that's mostly because I went to schools that were very diverse. An Asian that grew up in a predominately white neighborhood is going to act differently than an Asian who moved here from Thailand when they were 15 and an Asian who currently lives in Thailand. With the internet being everywhere, it's really not that hard to meet some Thai people online and ask them about their experiences and how they grew up. (Or whatever race you're trying to depict that you're worried about.) Everyone is different. Not all suburbans are going to act the same. Not all farm boys are the same. Not all black people are the same. Your characters each have their own background. It's your story, it's your world. But people in general are really not all that terribly different from each other.

Write what you're comfortable writing.

If you only know Americans, you're probably not going to be comfortable writing a story with a main character who grew up in Pakistan without running out and doing some research first. No one is forcing you write a story about a half-black teen who struggles with her identity. But I certainly wouldn't shy away from having a half-black teen as part of my supporting cast. Or even the main character if my story had nothing to do with her having an identity crisis and she just happens to be mixed. Why not? If you're not trying to be offensive, I don't see how it would come across as offensive. I'm not white. That's like saying I'm not allowed to write about white people because I might offend them by describing someone in my story as having a tan.

Zoombie
07-17-2012, 05:22 AM
I don't see it quite as simply as this. I can only speak for myself, but I don't even want to try writing main characters from cultures I don't know intimitaly

...don't write science fiction, then :)

LJD
07-17-2012, 05:52 AM
I'm of mixed race. Who am I allowed to write about...? :)
Both? Neither? Only characters who are mixed?

Everything I've written so far is set in the city in which I live. A city that is about 50% visible minority. If I only wrote white characters, it would be unrealistic. Interestingly, because of where in the city I grew up, my "default white person" was Jewish for the longest time. If you were white and Christian at my high school...you might have been the only one. Whereas where my bf grew up....if you were not white and Christian, you would have been the only one.

aruna
07-17-2012, 09:11 AM
...don't write science fiction, then :)

I don't! And won't! And can't! Guess you can compare me to the white Christian male writer in that respect! I know my limitations -- including the ones of imagination.

Zoombie
07-17-2012, 11:02 AM
I don't! And won't! And can't! Guess you can compare me to the white Christian male writer in that respect! I know my limitations -- including the ones of imagination.

To be fair, I have a really hard time writing contemporary. Seriously, how do you guys survive a day where you aren't attacked by at least three different kind of werewolf?

aruna
07-17-2012, 04:20 PM
I repeat - I'm trying to entertain. I'm not trying to teach multi-culturalism or whatever the heck it's called these days. If readers will see my characters as white Christian (why Christian I don't know but whatever), then I guess that's just how they'll see them. I'm writing fiction, not a social studies lesson.


You sound as if you fear the book market is being overrun by these blasted multi-cultural-or-whatever books! Not to worry. I don't know what US bookshops are like, but go into any Waterstones or W H Smiths in the UK and pick up a random book -- chances are it has a white protag, is set in the UK or US, and most if not all the characters are white. This is the status quo even today. If you happen to write in this default, there will be absolutely no disadvantage to you selling your book on that account. You certainly won't be told that POC won't read your books. I'm pretty sure that any "chastisement" you get will be so minimal you can ignore it.

It's not so for writers of POC-heavy novels. I started a thread here about being told to write white MC's because the majority of readers only want to read about themselves. Since my main interest in reaosn is the dicovery of countries and cultures beside my own -- this is how I prefer to study world history and culture! -- those are the books I always look for on the shelves, and they are like needles in haystacks.

Just so I can find those books more easily I created a multicultural list on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/22314.Best_Multicultural_General_Fiction)-- and it's growing! Do feel free to add to it and vote...

fireluxlou
07-17-2012, 04:50 PM
The main question, I believe, was whites wondering if they're allowed to write other ethnicities. And I commented originally that whites are criticized regardless of whether they do or don't. I do not "refuse" to include diversity - I simply don't mention it at all because it's not important to my story. If it were, I would.



I'm not writing about straight white Christian middle class Americans - well, okay, I'm usually writing about Americans. I'm writing about people who do stuff.



I'm not offended by it at all. In fact, if you knew anything about me, you'd know that - well, no, won't go down that road either because I know where it leads.



God forbid that writers be allowed to write without worrying about who they're not representing or who they might offend because they didn't include someone in their writing. I suppose I should feel really guilty because I'm not writing female characters either. Then again, if I was that worried about seeing female characters, I'd write them.

You seem particularly upset that people want to read about people like them and I have no clue why you feel this way or why you are so put off by the idea of other writers writing about PoC. You can blank a character as much as you like but the default is a white straight man. People won't know it's a woman or PoC unless you say so.

No one is saying that you have to include every type of person but to act like PoC or women don't exist in this world is really sad, unfortunately PoC and women have to be described because of the structure of our society. The default is a white man , because they have the upperhand and privileges in the Western world. A white straight man is the blank character.

They are not distinguished as being of lesser value due to their sex, gender or race. They have the benefit of people reading non-descriptive characters and knowing its them off the bat. People can say to them 'oh look at that person in the corner' without needing a descriptor for their skin colour or gender. This is because people automatically assume due to the way this patriarchal (probably should say racist) society is structured that they are referring to the white man standing next to the woman of colour, not the woman of colour.

You need to distinguish characters because how can a reader see what you envision the character as if you don't tell them who the character is?

Let's discuss men and women as an example because it's much easier to relate to in terms of these type of discussions.

Being a woman is part of me it defines me as a person, it defines how I am seen. It limits and gives me certain choices I can make and am expected to make. It is part of my identity. This is all because as a woman my relationship with society and other people is defined by not being a man.

My experiences with society and Joe Public are because I am a woman and how society views me as a woman, this greatly impacts my character and what is expected of me, this gives me a different background to men. It provides certain expectations and certain gender roles.

Especially because I am not a man society treats me differently, because I am a woman it expects me to make and do certain things. Because I am a woman I am given a lesser voice, I have to push harder, make myself heard in ways that a man won't ever have to.

I will not have the same experiences as a man, it is wrong to say I would because men don't have slurs that are negative connotations about their genetalia, they're not scared the same way I am of walking home or being on my own or calling the repairman, they don't have words designated to them to undermine their position, to bring them down, and any word that does bring them down relates to being a woman = weak on some level, (pussy, wussy, bitch etc). I will not be treated the same way as a man. Just as PoC will not have the same choices and experiences as a White person. I will not get the same ones, a man gets.

I know in your posts you're very insistent on being colour blind but that isn't really how the world works. All kinds of people exist but the default is the white straight man because they have the privilege and upper-hand in western society, they are the default. They are represented so much. And there are writers who want to write about PoC and want to know how to, and this thread could be great for it.

Katrina S. Forest
07-17-2012, 07:33 PM
To me, getting to know the culture you're trying to write about (if you're not already immersed in it) is essential. Even if it doesn't matter to you whether you offend someone or not (and I really think it should), you should at least be concerned about looking clueless.

Rachel Udin
07-18-2012, 04:42 AM
I thought I would post a resource.

http://ted.coe.wayne.edu/ele3600/mcintosh.html

Which goes over white privilege pretty well and how color blindness doesn't work. I read it religiously when I was researching other cultures and trying to escape my own American privilege mindset.

In the US the blank character, to be exact is:
White Middle Class, Christian (usually Protestant), able-bodied/able-mind, CIS straight, male from a family that was created by birth. Probably with a loving white mother and white father, a white sister/sibling, a dog, a cat, and went to a good college. Has a job as a result of going to a good college. Got into trouble once in a while, but it was more Leave it to Beaver Style.

That's the default character. However, I find the world so much more interesting with the diversity within it.

As for writing PoCs is always a socio-political issue... *cough* You clearly haven't read widely enough yet if you believe so.

Whole streaks of Zora Neale Hurston don't have anything to do with slavery. Sure she talks about black experience and what it's like to live in Louisiana, but it really doesn't always have to do with race. They are human stories. (Have I professed my love of her work enough yet?)

Virginia Hamilton also collected folktales from African Americans... that book is sitting in my childhood home and I love the stories of Anansi and Brair rabbit which have nothing to do with slavery, racism, but often reflect human experience and culture.

I just polished off two books on Indians in India (written by native Indians) (Which aren't in Aruna's list) Palace of Illusions and the Twentieth Wife. I also consumed the Blood of Flowers set in ancient Persia. None of them really were about the position of PoCs in American society, but I did learn a lot. Three gorgeous books. I do wish there were more books about the Muslim world in fiction.

1Q84 I started, but I couldn't quite get through. Though I consume other Japanese fiction such as Natsume Soseki. Loved, loved "Sensei and I."

I finished NK Jemisin's books, which do deal with race as an issue, but it's not front lined into a soap box. Beautiful prose--almost musical that my inner editor shut up. And what makes the stories compelling is not that the characters are PoC, but that the characters are so well done.

I read Octavia Butler, who does deal with race, but the Parable of the Sower is a beautiful book if you want to heed race or not.

I've only found one real story on the Romani primarily, told from a Romani descendant. Race wasn't made an issue there either.

I want to get around to Samuel Delany too...

Haven't finished Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon, but I like his prose and have consumed his fiction before. So far race hasn't been the central issue.

And though it's an AWer... ^^;; I'm not affiliated with her... Cindy Pon's two books set in Xia China are a ton of fun for me to read. Silver Phoenix : Beyond the Kingdom of Xia and Fury of the Phoenix.

I found out that Steve Jobs is actually mixed race which surprised me when I consumed Walter Issacson's version of his biography. Doesn't come up as an issue as much as Jobs's adoption does... as well as Jobs's force of sheer personality. (Which make sit really fun to read.)

I have a lot of books on my shelf I can't remember the title of that I naturally gravitated towards when I was a kid because I always liked reading about cultures outside of my own with protagonists that did and didn't look like me. The majority of them didn't deal with race at all. And the one I remember sitting on my shelf in my childhood home was written by a white journalist. That was done really, really well and has held up well as I've learned more and more.

Ragamuffin... I so want to pick that one up too...

And I read Who Fears Death, which did have heavy race themes in it, but also gorgeous prose and some awesome story building.

A Wizard of Earthsea... love that book too. Urusula LeGuin isn't Native American, but still wrote one. She's actively fought to have her covers redeemed despite the fact that racism issues only came up once in the entire book.

I'm also thirsting for a real depiction of Voudou in fiction, though technically that's not a PoC-only issue. I'm trying to read up on the whole continent of Africa as well... especially fantasy, but struggling a lot. Can't I get outside of Egypt? I would like to see Ethiopia, for example.

(And before someone says, well PoCs only read PoCs, I read white fiction too, obviously... Celtic and historicals make my day.)

Anyway, this goes to show that it doesn't have to be political for one to write PoC, it just means like anything you don't know you have to put in the time and research, even if it slows you down. Also highly recommended is to look for the diversity within the group as well. Which is why asking your one black friend about how they feel about the story won't work the same as asking a group.

aruna
07-18-2012, 08:48 AM
That's the default character. However, I find the world so much more interesting with the diversity within it.



I just polished off two books on Indians in India (written by native Indians) (Which aren't in Aruna's list) Palace of Illusions and the Twentieth Wife. I also consumed the Blood of Flowers set in ancient Persia. None of them really were about the position of PoCs in American society, but I did learn a lot. Three gorgeous books. I do wish there were more books about the Muslim world in fiction.

Hey, Palace of Illusions is on my list, because I put it there myself! :) Go back and vote for it!





Anyway, this goes to show that it doesn't have to be political for one to write PoC, it just means like anything you don't know you have to put in the time and research, even if it slows you down. Also highly recommended is to look for the diversity within the group as well. Which is why asking your one black friend about how they feel about the story won't work the same as asking a group.Exactly. To think that writing about the diverse world we live in has to do with some political "message" -- well, no! Most of the books on my list are just people dealing with their lives according to their culture; whether that is contemporary Bombay (Family Matters) or 19th Century China (Snow Flower and the Secret fan) or child abuse in a Nigerian family (Purple Hibiscus). Not one of these books carries a message about race, and not one of them is trying to make some deeply intellectual political statement about multi-culturalism. They are about "people who do things". Just that the people happen not to be white middle-class Christian males!


Some of the books on my list do have major white Christian characters and/or are written by whites (The Far Pavillions, India during the Raj), and show the interaction between the races with whites dominating, or have racism as a theme (A Dry White Season, SOuth Africa during Apartheid). But still, they are just damn good stories, and most of all, the writers, white or not, knew what they were writing about. M.M. Kaye, for instance, had a magical childhood in India (I read her autobiography) and is well qulified to write from an Indian POV.
This is such a huge, wonderful, diverse world; and since we can't travel it all, fiction is a wonderful substitute.

kuwisdelu
07-18-2012, 09:34 PM
I would say there is a world of difference between trying to write a book with PoC and trying to write a book about PoC

Shadow_Ferret
07-18-2012, 09:41 PM
Colourblindness hurts people.
Wait. What? I thought the point of civil rights and equality was to become colorblind.

Kitty Pryde
07-18-2012, 09:53 PM
Wait. What? I thought the point of civil rights and equality was to become colorblind.

I'm only doing this once. The point of fighting racism is to have a color blind society. BUT we don't have a colorblind society right now. By pretending we do, or pretending we are all colorblind, we erase or ignore the real racism, oppression, and discrimination that people experience every day of their lives. The better and more useful choice would be to see and appreciate and acknowledge and celebrate our differences and diversity, and to not judge people by the color of their skin but on the content of their character, and To acknowledge that great inequalities still exist and we must work together to address them.

Think of colorblindness like trying to fight child rape by pretending that children are never raped because we live in a rape-free society. Everyone strives not to rape children, and nobody I know would ever rape a child, therefore children are never raped, and society and the criminal justice system is free to focus on actual problems like robbery and murder. It's not very helpful to vulnerable children, is it?

This is along the lines of Racism 101, and as such it is mostly taken as a given and arguing about its veracity is not really the purview of this particular subforum. If you want to know more about the topic there are many extremely enlightening links in the sticky at the top of the subforum page.

Shadow_Ferret
07-18-2012, 10:27 PM
I wasn't arguing. I was asking a question.

Nor have I ever taken Racism 101.

I just treat people as equals.

backslashbaby
07-19-2012, 01:36 AM
I don't know how many times PoC and others have to say that colorblind doesn't quite work right now for folks to believe it.

I was too colorblind in High School and my best Black friend was finally the one to let me know how clueless I was about so many things. It wasn't fair of me to not realize what her life was really like as far as racists go. Sure we never had to think of race together all those years, but that's not the entirety of her experience with people, and it ended up being very selfish of me to assume that's how it would be. My behavior toward her was a drop in the bucket of her life, of course!

EarlyBird
07-19-2012, 02:01 AM
I don't believe the world needs to be color blind, as in pretending we're all the same. Equal, yes, but we're not the same. Celebrating color and culture makes our world so much more interesting, visually and otherwise. The problem is that too many people in the world today care about color, as in making value judgments and or assumptions based on the hue of one's skin. As I pointed out in an above post, my children are Chinese and Vietnamese. I wouldn't want to whitewash their beautiful color, history and culture. To do so would be a disservice to them personally, their heritage and their birth families...not to mention two entire races of people.

Rachel Udin
07-19-2012, 06:14 AM
Different, but equal.

There are two sides of the race debate around the time of Martin Luther King, that was "Black Power" movement and the "Equality movement".

One side wanted to celebrate Black identity which is how you got Kwanza. The other side was fighting for equality, but also wanted to blend into the crowd... they kinda clashed and came to a middle.

Yes, treat people by the content of their character, but also be willing to celebrate their differences. This may seem diametrically opposed, but it really isn't. You treat them as equal human beings and celebrate their differences. (This does not mean go out all philia). This means that that person over there might have red hair, and I like her red hair and I'll celebrate she has red hair because as Doctor Who said, he always wanted "Ginger Hair" (I always thought ginger hair should be light brown... but what do I know), but I also will like the dark black locks, and celebrate that just as equally.

Or why my Mr. Bailey kicked butt when it came to social issues. Went over this (and the history teacher after) debating black power v. equality, etc. (Also a string of Anthropology classes too.)

Racism still exists, but in order to eradicate it, you need to recognize that it exists in others. People always take exception to differences from what they percieve as the "norm" of society. (Getting into sociology here.)

Otherwise I wouldn't friggin' getting cat calls on the street about how I should meet up with a guy and bow in service to him at the door. (Wow, Asiophilia, cultural misappropriation, Asian slur AND misogyny rolled up into one.) Women would be paid equally to men in all sectors. The job market wouldn't be oriented towards white males (Which still shocked me.) And I wouldn't have to use my father to get jobs in technology. (As in say my Dad taught me).

Color blind doesn't help eradicate the racism in society. Maybe we should do a "the racist comments I got of my life" thread. (censoring words). I learned talking about prejudice is one thing, but showing it in action is another. (I learned this with adoptive parents who only got part of the adoptism... and then I showed the full range and they were shocked at some of the comments I got...) Same with racism.

Orion11Bravo
07-19-2012, 10:21 PM
Just so I can find those books more easily I created a multicultural list on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/22314.Best_Multicultural_General_Fiction)-- and it's growing! Do feel free to add to it and vote...

Excellent resource...thank you!

nighttimer
07-21-2012, 09:45 AM
I wouldn't chastise any white person for writing POC if the character felt truly authentic, and not just stuck in there for the sake of diversity.

But so often that's the only reason the character is bussed into a story. To make it look like a beer ad and show how open-minded and forward thinking the protagonist is because they have a Black friend. Who sticks out like a sore thumb in those stories just as they do in the beer ads.

When I used to devour Stephen King books, I became acutely aware of how terrible the Maine-based author wrote the few Black characters in his books The Shining, The Stand and It. Maybe he should have asked someone for help in creating more authentic characters, but whom was he going to go to for help?

Maybe it not always ignorance that limits White writers from creating authentic people of color characters. Maybe sometimes it's simply limited exposure and experience.

If writers are told to "write what you know" how do you write people of color when you don't know anything about them? :idea:

Chasing the Horizon
07-22-2012, 01:46 AM
Even I can tell that King's black characters are unauthentic (I'm white, live in a 95% white town, and have always had white friends). You don't need to have had a great multicultural experience to know that the "magical negro" stereotype is offensive and wrong.

As for help, after Carrie's success I'm sure he could've found some people of color who were willing to help him out.

Kitty27
07-26-2012, 05:27 PM
Lord,Stephen King and his Magical Negro mess is something else. He uses this archetype to death.


White writers can write characters of color. But for the love of Gawd,do your research. Ask questions. Be honest. Avoid tropes as if your life depended on it.

If you cannot see POC as human beings with the same desires and feelings as you have,leave writing characters of color ALONE.

If you must revert to a White character being the savior, leave it ALONE.

If you believe all Blacks can dance,Asians know martial arts, and other stereotypical rot,leave it ALONE.

It will show in your writing,believe me.

Personally,I cannot stand another Black character set in the Civil Rights era. I just cannot.

A. M. Howard
07-27-2012, 12:29 AM
Lord,Stephen King and his Magical Negro mess is something else. He uses this archetype to death.


White writers can write characters of color. But for the love of Gawd,do your research. Ask questions. Be honest. Avoid tropes as if your life depended on it.

If you cannot see POC as human beings with the same desires and feelings as you have,leave writing characters of color ALONE.

If you must revert to a White character being the savior, leave it ALONE.

If you believe all Blacks can dance,Asians know martial arts, and other stereotypical rot,leave it ALONE.

It will show in your writing,believe me.

Personally,I cannot stand another Black character set in the Civil Rights era. I just cannot.


^^THIS. 1000 times over.

Anninyn
08-01-2012, 02:39 AM
I have to admit, I don't get white sensitivity over this. Is it so hard to beleive that being raised as the 'in control' group has given us privilege? I know I'm privileged! Which is why I write a character of a race other than myself, I try to run it past a friend of that race to make sure I haven't been utterly offensive.

After that point I figure some people will still find a way to be offended, and I can ignore that. But if people who ahve lived life as a black person or an asian person or a transgender person tell me I've got it wrong, perhaps I should lsiten to them, as presumably they know more about their lives than I do.

Being in a position of privilege doesn't mean you;re an evil, monstrous racism, it just means there are some stereotypes about race and gender that you've absorbed and probably not noticed, so you should be careful about talking about those thigns and lsiten to people in that position.

Rachel Udin
08-01-2012, 03:57 AM
I have to admit, I don't get white sensitivity over this. Is it so hard to beleive that being raised as the 'in control' group has given us privilege? I know I'm privileged! Which is why I write a character of a race other than myself, I try to run it past a friend of that race to make sure I haven't been utterly offensive.

After that point I figure some people will still find a way to be offended, and I can ignore that. But if people who ahve lived life as a black person or an asian person or a transgender person tell me I've got it wrong, perhaps I should lsiten to them, as presumably they know more about their lives than I do.

Being in a position of privilege doesn't mean you;re an evil, monstrous racism, it just means there are some stereotypes about race and gender that you've absorbed and probably not noticed, so you should be careful about talking about those thigns and lsiten to people in that position.
I generally look for a group of people. I was not going to go anywhere near the issues of homosexuality without getting at least a few legit VP. I learned a ton by asking a variety so I knew it wasn't an individual POV, but where things were agreed upon, disagreed upon and where generally everyone agreed.

Real life example of that... my friend grew up in Korea, speaks fluent Korean, but when I was excited about talking about durumagi (a type of outer coat) her husband (Korean) knew it, but she didn't. She doesn't see the differences in child rearing in Korea v. the US (though that's rapidly changing), but when I discussed it with other Koreans they did. This doesn't mean she's not useful for huge bits of info. Her Korean history is sketchy, but she can tell me the differences in languages. It just means her understanding of the culture is different. I want to intersect with as many viewpoints as possible so I can also get a variety of characters possible. (Which also purges old stereotypes and doesn't allow new ones to appear.) What's offensive to one person, may not be to another, but if you get a huge amount of opinions, you will know how to navigate.

I researched, asked and asked different people from Chinese descent and China about if there were *happy* mainland Chinese stories. I believe it because I couldn't find any. The people who grew up there said a resounding no. I got around six resounding No's and that they didn't know anyone that knew any happy Mainland Chinese folk stories. Plus an This American Life backing that up a bit, and I was pretty sure. I got rants from several people who went on to talk about how it sucked there were no happy endings. And I got several theories as to why this was. Consistent no across the board with lots of in-jokes. I would trust it much less if it were only the Google searches (which are frustratingly European-based most of the time... China is catching up though on wikipedia) and I'd asked one person and they agreed.

So, I think it's safer to cover your bases and get a bunch of people, Sort the opinions and try to represent all opinions if possible. A culture, in general, is not one voice. Besides, it's good procrastination time and I love learning different viewpoints from people.

(Still hunting down more Indian readers. TT)

Mr Flibble
08-01-2012, 04:05 AM
I don't know how many times PoC and others have to say that colorblind doesn't quite work right now for folks to believe it.



Okay

lt's go out on a limb here, cos I surely am

I am not colourblind. I am colour not sure it matters, I notice colour in he same way I notice a broad west county accent, or a pair of bog ears. I notice them. They make zip difference to how I treat you.

And I think that is what some people using colourblind mean - not that they don't notice. but it doesn't affect how they treat you - and really, everyone being treated on the person they are, not the colour of their skin is the ideal?

ETA: I ahve probably expressed myself badly, and showed some form of ignornance here. But treating people the same no matter what coloyr hey are - that is what I as brought up to do. And don't think it's a bad thing either. If you want to tell me hy this is wrong, I am open

backslashbaby
08-02-2012, 01:16 AM
Okay

lt's go out on a limb here, cos I surely am

I am not colourblind. I am colour not sure it matters, I notice colour in he same way I notice a broad west county accent, or a pair of bog ears. I notice them. They make zip difference to how I treat you.

And I think that is what some people using colourblind mean - not that they don't notice. but it doesn't affect how they treat you - and really, everyone being treated on the person they are, not the colour of their skin is the ideal?

ETA: I ahve probably expressed myself badly, and showed some form of ignornance here. But treating people the same no matter what coloyr hey are - that is what I as brought up to do. And don't think it's a bad thing either. If you want to tell me hy this is wrong, I am open

Usually treating people in a colorblind way works out nicely. Most of the time it's no problem.

But say an issue comes up like a stranger crossing the street quickly in front of you and your pals. The Black mate with you mentions that the person is an asshole. If you are acting totally colorblind, you might start asking why, etc. The person was probably just in a bad mood.

Not being completely colorblind means that you get that your Black pal knows more about what he's talking about than you do. The situation itself is probably not colorblind, so it can get aggravating if someone is colorblind enough to not catch what is really going on. At least trust the PoC on it, even if you don't catch it yourself, imho.

Mr Flibble
08-02-2012, 01:33 AM
At least trust the PoC on it, even if you don't catch it yourself, imho.

In an instance like that, I certainly would. I certainly understand that colour is an issue for many people.

I dunnow. I'm just on the verge of conniptions about something I've written and I'm hoping I don't become the next topic of convo in here....(though I think the charge would be sexism in the first book - my main character IS sexist, I don't think the book is) and perhaps the POC angle/possible eek comes in in book 2. Hence lurking here way more than I usually do, and asking damn fool questions :D Hopefully I'm just being paranoid...

*conniptions*

I think I may feel another post coming on so as not to derail.

fireluxlou
08-02-2012, 02:28 AM
I'd say colourblindness is a privilege only white people can afford. It may be well intentioned but I've only heard white people say they are colour blind and guess who holds the top tier?

And as the system does benefit white people, it erases the fact that colour does affect your status in society and what privileges you can have. It assumes everyone is on an equal playing field if you understand me? It assumes everyone is the same and treated the same. Like colour blindness is usually brought up by white people in discussion and it can divert the topic of conversation to an extent to focus on them, or it can mean in some form or another they are able to dominate the conversation. It also assumes we live in a society where race no longer matters, it erases culture and history, and racism may not be as overt but it's still there.

Most I've seen say they are colour blind use it probably unknowingly to ignore the advantages of being white and assume that PoC have the same advantages as they do that we are post-racism. And people who insist on it ignore that it silences PoC against speaking about racism.

Hope this helps at all. I can find you some links to explain better?

kuwisdelu
08-02-2012, 02:28 AM
Okay

lt's go out on a limb here, cos I surely am

I am not colourblind. I am colour not sure it matters, I notice colour in he same way I notice a broad west county accent, or a pair of bog ears. I notice them. They make zip difference to how I treat you.

And I think that is what some people using colourblind mean - not that they don't notice. but it doesn't affect how they treat you - and really, everyone being treated on the person they are, not the colour of their skin is the ideal?

ETA: I ahve probably expressed myself badly, and showed some form of ignornance here. But treating people the same no matter what coloyr hey are - that is what I as brought up to do. And don't think it's a bad thing either. If you want to tell me hy this is wrong, I am open

Usually the reasons we say acting colorblind isn't a solution, it's because being colorblind usually means pretending that race isn't an issue, that differences between cultures are irrelevant, and being treated the same regardless of color is the same thing as being treated equally and respectfully. The problem is that none of the above are true.

The depictions of Bush and Obama as monkeys/apes in political cartoons is a perfect example of this. It may be the same treatment, but one version is much more disrespectful than the other, because of the history of racism associated with it.

Rachel Udin
08-02-2012, 09:09 AM
I'll do an analogy which I'm adapting from Dragon Zakura, a Japanese drama... (Which did a pretty good job of tackling something similar)

Say parents have two sons. One is really good at sports, but not with academics and the other one is really good at school, but not sports. Fundamentally, the parents favor the one that does well in academics and ignores his weaknesses in sports. The other kid they treat equally by telling him he should do better in academics.

Color blind works like that. Well, I'm treating them equally aren't I? I have the same expectations for both kids. They can both excel at the same speed, right? Sports is useless, isn't it? Why should I celebrate that?

Different but equal would be more along the line of helping the kid with deficiencies in academics, and celebrating the fact he can do sports. Then helping the kid good in academics to do better in sports, but also celebrating his academic achievements.

You see where they excel--and where they fail in equal measure. (No culture is all good or all bad) Recognizing those differences means they get treated equally, and celebrated for different things.

Make sense? Sometimes it's easier to put it on a smaller scale.

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html <-- this also helps a bit to see what one can enjoy being of privilege without actively participating in slurs, hate speech, etc. It's not just the person in front of you, but the society as a whole that often slates things against and by declaring colorblindness it's easier to ignore where your privilege is.

kuwisdelu
08-02-2012, 09:50 AM
I'll do an analogy which I'm adapting from Dragon Zakura, a Japanese drama... (Which did a pretty good job of tackling something similar)

Say parents have two sons. One is really good at sports, but not with academics and the other one is really good at school, but not sports. Fundamentally, the parents favor the one that does well in academics and ignores his weaknesses in sports. The other kid they treat equally by telling him he should do better in academics.

Is it sad that I'm laughing because I know it would be totally the opposite in an American drama?

Mr Flibble
08-02-2012, 04:05 PM
I'll get the hang of this one day :D I also realise that sometimes the people who try are more frustrating than those who couldn't give a crap (Didn't MLK say something along those lines?) I do appreciate you taking the time.

Usually the reasons we say acting colorblind isn't a solution, it's because being colorblind usually means pretending that race isn't an issue, that differences between cultures are irrelevant, and being treated the same regardless of color is the same thing as being treated equally and respectfully. The problem is that none of the above are true.

See that's not quite what I'm saying* - but I can absolutely see how the phrase can be used to obfuscate all those issues.


*I was brought up on pain of a clip round the ear to treat everyone with the same respect, while realising that everyone is different, and relishing those differences (and those differences aren't always what you might think - that way lies stereotype land). Unless they're dickbags obviously, and we've all got some of them...

Cyia
08-02-2012, 04:14 PM
Colorblind =/= showing equal respect in most cases. In most cases, it seems to be used as a tossaway to excuse rude/offensive behavior. Sort of a catch-all that's a backhanded insult to "equality."

In the extreme, it would be something like:
"If we're all equal and all the same, then what doesn't insult me shouldn't insult you. Now, let's all celebrate the end of racism, laugh at these jokes about illegal aliens, tell that woman over there to ditch that head scarf because this isn't the middle ages, and indulge in some pork ribs for Passover. We're all the same, and by that, I mean everyone is now JUST LIKE ME! Isn't the world beautiful without cultural/racial lines?"

"Colorblind" hardly ever denotes tolerance, from the times I've seen it used.

Mr Flibble
08-02-2012, 04:22 PM
And see, this is where another perspective helps, because when I've used it that is exactly what I DON'T mean! However, seeing as it's used that way (and I'd never heard it used that way really, except when people discuss it on AW), I shall cease to use it, whichever way.

SophiaDreith
08-07-2012, 01:57 PM
God I hope it's ok. I'm a straight white female from Texas and I'm writing a homoerotic story with my two leads being black and Korean.

The one thing that ended up giving me trouble was the fact that I didn't feel it necessary to throw it in the reader's face that one of the men was black. His defining characteristic is that he's a jerk(at least in the beginning), not that he's African-American. It was mentioned in passing that the man was darker skinned but neither of the two people who have gone through it picked that up and both assumed he was white.:cry:

I'm still working on integrating more hints about that...

fireluxlou
08-07-2012, 02:03 PM
God I hope it's ok. I'm a straight white female from Texas and I'm writing a homoerotic story with my two leads being black and Korean.

The one thing that ended up giving me trouble was the fact that I didn't feel it necessary to throw it in the reader's face that one of the men was black. His defining characteristic is that he's a jerk(at least in the beginning), not that he's African-American. It was mentioned in passing that the man was darker skinned but neither of the two people who have gone through it picked that up and both assumed he was white.:cry:

I'm still working on integrating more hints about that...

The default is white, think of how many people complained that Rue in Hunger Games was a black girl because despite the blatant descriptions they assumed she was white regardless.

You are going to have to state that your character is black, all because the default is white. Not mentioning it I tend to think is undermining the reader somewhat and failing to represent your character properly because of this default.

Rachel Udin
08-07-2012, 07:36 PM
God I hope it's ok. I'm a straight white female from Texas and I'm writing a homoerotic story with my two leads being black and Korean.

The one thing that ended up giving me trouble was the fact that I didn't feel it necessary to throw it in the reader's face that one of the men was black. His defining characteristic is that he's a jerk(at least in the beginning), not that he's African-American. It was mentioned in passing that the man was darker skinned but neither of the two people who have gone through it picked that up and both assumed he was white.:cry:

I'm still working on integrating more hints about that...

Need references to Korean culture without going Kimchi? I can help there, somewhat at least.

I got China off of one of my descriptions of Korea, but at least I got China. =P Sad.

I used mudang, a Korean name (Can't show up Chinese), Korean cultural actions, made a reference to the geography which isn't in China or Japan (Rolling green mountains), made a reference to the food which on google search only comes up Korea (Bean paste Stew), made a reference to the doors swinging out rather than sliding like in the sageuk, and a separated kitchen with big domed iron kettles. TT Still came up China by readers. I can't hand hold more than there. Sometimes you have to give up hope. People really, really want to hold onto defaults.


The default is white, think of how many people complained that Rue in Hunger Games was a black girl because despite the blatant descriptions they assumed she was white regardless.

You are going to have to state that your character is black, all because the default is white. Not mentioning it I tend to think is undermining the reader somewhat and failing to represent your character properly because of this default.

Despite that, just as a quick reminder: If one character is black and you know the default is white, it does not make it OK to give into the idea that white skin should not also be illuminated. Police description does not go "Male in his late 20's" It goes "WHITE male in his late twenties."

Because a default exists, you can still fight the racism implied by explicitly describing white characters along with PoCs as having a skin color. It's only fair. Especially when your POV character is of color.

aruna
08-07-2012, 07:49 PM
Talking about default race: I just had a rather interesting reading experience. I read Noughts and Crosses, in which the races are reversed. There's nothing supernatural or science fictiony about it: that's just the way things are, and have always been in this book. The writer, Malorie Blackman, hardly ever decribes the characters. We learn fairly early on that black is the dominant race and whites in the position that blacks were maybe in the 50's, but that's about it. Funny thing was, I kept fogetting. I'm so used to the status quo of whites on top that just about every time something happened thay showed discrimination I immediately pictured the victim as black; and had to consciously remind myself, hey no, he's white! Or vice versa. That's what conditioning does to you. By the end of the book I had reconditioned myself, but it took some doing!

SophiaDreith
08-07-2012, 08:06 PM
Need references to Korean culture without going Kimchi? I can help there, somewhat at least.

I got China off of one of my descriptions of Korea, but at least I got China. =P Sad.

I used mudang, a Korean name (Can't show up Chinese), Korean cultural actions, made a reference to the geography which isn't in China or Japan (Rolling green mountains), made a reference to the food which on google search only comes up Korea (Bean paste Stew), made a reference to the doors swinging out rather than sliding like in the sageuk, and a separated kitchen with big domed iron kettles. TT Still came up China by readers. I can't hand hold more than there. Sometimes you have to give up hope. People really, really want to hold onto defaults.

My character's name is Taemin, a very Korean name(not that that is obvious to anyone who isn't familiar with Korean names) and it is referenced fairly early on that he is Korean in particular. My story is in third person limited and initally before Tae is introduced, the perspective is by someone else who specifically asks about a book written in Korean. And by Bean Paste Stew, I assume you mean dwenjang chigae? God, that stuff is amazing! I'm horrible about just picking out the tofu and eating that first. :tongue

Some people may have confused it with the Japanese Miso Soup which is made with bean paste as well. I know you said stew in your text but if someone just saw the bean past part, they might have assumed Japanese. I know that when I was first trying to get my friends to eat at the Korean BBQ with me that they all called the soup Miso, if only because it was easier for them to pronounce and remember than dwenjang chigae.

As for additional references, I try not to bring it up too often unless it comes up in conversation naturally between the characters. I don't think I've actually mentioned kimchi at all. Now I feel like I should though. ;) I'd like to have others look it over but it isn't quite ready yet. I'm having a bit of a block with the last quarter of the book. I have the ending written but the interactions with the antagonist almost seem anti-climactic in how short they are so I want to flesh that out further.

When I'm a little happier with it, I'd love it if you could take a look at it and let me know if my current references are ok or if I need to add or take away.



Despite that, just as a quick reminder: If one character is black and you know the default is white, it does not make it OK to give into the idea that white skin should not also be illuminated. Police description does not go "Male in his late 20's" It goes "WHITE male in his late twenties."

Because a default exists, you can still fight the racism implied by explicitly describing white characters along with PoCs as having a skin color. It's only fair. Especially when your POV character is of color.

This is a good point.

Rachel Udin
08-08-2012, 08:41 AM
My character's name is Taemin, a very Korean name(not that that is obvious to anyone who isn't familiar with Korean names) and it is referenced fairly early on that he is Korean in particular. My story is in third person limited and initally before Tae is introduced, the perspective is by someone else who specifically asks about a book written in Korean. And by Bean Paste Stew, I assume you mean dwenjang chigae? God, that stuff is amazing! I'm horrible about just picking out the tofu and eating that first. :tongue

Some people may have confused it with the Japanese Miso Soup which is made with bean paste as well. I know you said stew in your text but if someone just saw the bean past part, they might have assumed Japanese. I know that when I was first trying to get my friends to eat at the Korean BBQ with me that they all called the soup Miso, if only because it was easier for them to pronounce and remember than dwenjang chigae.

As for additional references, I try not to bring it up too often unless it comes up in conversation naturally between the characters. I don't think I've actually mentioned kimchi at all. Now I feel like I should though. ;) I'd like to have others look it over but it isn't quite ready yet. I'm having a bit of a block with the last quarter of the book. I have the ending written but the interactions with the antagonist almost seem anti-climactic in how short they are so I want to flesh that out further.

When I'm a little happier with it, I'd love it if you could take a look at it and let me know if my current references are ok or if I need to add or take away.


PM it so as to not Hijack the thread...

The conversation went a little like this... (paraphrasing)
Me (surprised): But there is Bean paste stew mentioned.
Them: It must show up in China (Doesn't BTW, Chinese aren't big on preservation of materials? I can't find that many preserved things beyond soysauce). And there is Miso Soup.
Me: But that's different. (surprised because I'm still that naive.)
Them (indignant): Well, you can't expect readers to know that stuff about Asia.
Me: Eh~ what about the other clues... they eat their rice with spoons. Green hills... all the things I didn't see in China or Japan I put into that section~ *confused*

After a while you just have to give up. History books simply are not that good in the US.

I may be pretty ignant about Native American tribes and I'll damned well admit it. But I'd at least hope that I could distinguish between a Blackfoot and a Mohawk in terms of culture... and I do hope to fill that gap some day.

You can only hand hold for so long.

And Doenjang Chigae tastes stronger than miso, because it's used to make korean soysauce. But that's geeking. I'm experimenting for the book by making my own doenjang and soysauce... because I'm odd.

I think miso smells less because it uses part rice bran, which must soak up the smell. (Plus they keep it in a dark place when done) Doenjang, though, it smells like ammonia by the second day. Also, unlike the Chinese version on the way to making soy sauce, it has no wheat and it has no salt in it to start. O.o; It's just mashed up soybeans that stink a whole lot. No wonder they hung it outside on straw strings or wrapped it in thick Korean blankets.

The best size for the blocks, I found out are the size of one's hand... they dry the best and most evenly. Probably best left on cotton on a porous stone tablet, like a pizza stone, type of thing.

I did this kind of geeking for the Indian section too... ^^;; researched the taste of chapati, how to cook chapati, compared it to Naan, ate daal and paneer, and then eliminated the dishes that didn't exist at that time and then went into a binge fest over sari. TT I triple checked everything and I'm still nervous. I convinced everyone it was India, at least, but I have an advantage since it's a historical fantasy novel. If they can't get it after turban, sari, Rama and Sita, I give up. Sometimes you need to draw a line for people.

Hey, if you don't know it, what better way to insert it than claim first hand knowledge? Especially when you aren't 100% sure.

fireluxlou
08-08-2012, 10:11 AM
Need references to Korean culture without going Kimchi? I can help there, somewhat at least.

I got China off of one of my descriptions of Korea, but at least I got China. =P Sad.

I used mudang, a Korean name (Can't show up Chinese), Korean cultural actions, made a reference to the geography which isn't in China or Japan (Rolling green mountains), made a reference to the food which on google search only comes up Korea (Bean paste Stew), made a reference to the doors swinging out rather than sliding like in the sageuk, and a separated kitchen with big domed iron kettles. TT Still came up China by readers. I can't hand hold more than there. Sometimes you have to give up hope. People really, really want to hold onto defaults.



Despite that, just as a quick reminder: If one character is black and you know the default is white, it does not make it OK to give into the idea that white skin should not also be illuminated. Police description does not go "Male in his late 20's" It goes "WHITE male in his late twenties."

Because a default exists, you can still fight the racism implied by explicitly describing white characters along with PoCs as having a skin color. It's only fair. Especially when your POV character is of color.

Yep I completely agree. :)

EarlyBird
08-08-2012, 03:59 PM
Despite that, just as a quick reminder: If one character is black and you know the default is white, it does not make it OK to give into the idea that white skin should not also be illuminated.

Because a default exists, you can still fight the racism implied by explicitly describing white characters along with PoCs as having a skin color. It's only fair. Especially when your POV character is of color.

Thanks for this. I've gone back and added a white description as well.

I've loved this discussion. I include PoC in my works but have generally skirted overt references to skin color. It feels much more authentic to just come right out and say it.