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Missus Akasha
09-06-2013, 05:28 AM
I've had a lot of time on my hands lately. I decided to read a slew of popular supernatural/sci-fi/fantasy YA books this week. Before I go any further, let me say that I've always been very frustrated with the YA genre especially as a PoC reader and a writer. There's not a lot of bestsellers with PoC lead characters or books in general. I am a pretty visual person when it comes to purchasing books. It's the cover that stands out to me the most. I always seek out PoC covers, but there are very nonexistent in the bookstores I roam.

With that being said, I cracked open eight books this week and a handful surprised me. There was a trend. Many of the books did have a PoC lead character or PoC love interest, but their description was very brief in the passing or subtle hints. The book covers completely contradicted what was inside of the book.

I felt almost tricked. I am used to whitewashed book covers, however, I was more irritated with the author's choice of using tiny hints and brief descriptions towards the characters' race. In my opinion, the characters' ethnicity or race shouldn't be a mystery. The plot should be a mystery. The motives of the characters should be a mystery. Not the color of a character's skin.

If authors who write about white characters drone on and on about how blue their eyes are, how pale their skin is, or how straight and long their auburn hair is, why should authors who write about PoC characters feel the need to sneak in details? Just tell me straight out that your black character have dark brown skin and amber eyes.

People pass over these subtle details and become completely shocked when they discover by the author's mouth that the character is black, Asian, Hispanic, or other race. Then there is a backlash. However, what do you expect? When a character's race is a frustrating scavenger hunt, you just fill in the blank with what you assume they look like (also known as white privilege).

When people write about white characters, they are pretty straight-forward about it from head to toe. Why can't the describe of PoC characters be the same way? You can write an entire book with complex world-building and an interesting plot, but you can't tell a reader, "She had dark brown skin with deep undertones of red like mahogany wood. Her high cheekbones were cushioned with soft plump flesh that gave her a sweet naive appearance that always contradicted the distant and cynical personality she was known for. Her hair was styled in hundreds of tiny black braids and always tightly coiled in a bun to accessorize said personality."

For some reason, I feel like this trend diminishes the importance of diversity in literature and solidifies this idea authors who chose to write PoC characters are worried about how white readers will react and relate to these characters.

Has anyone else noticed this trend? Do you think this type of subtlety does more harm than good?

Rachel Udin
09-06-2013, 07:36 PM
To me, it seems obvious, especially when the author brings it up multiple times. For example, I knew Ged was not white since Ursula Le Guin made a point of it several times. People still insisted that he was white. (She put it in three times)

People also insisted that because someone's character, as in personality reminds someone of someone else's character that they can't be black, which happened in the Hunger Games.

There is also a point where harping on it becomes "exoticism" which authors also should avoid.

It's walking that fine line between too much and too little. And people who do write white characters have that luxury that there is no kind of subjugation because White is pretty. (Along with big pecs, big breasts, small butt, etc).

Personally, I have no problem with just outright saying it and also giving cultural tips in that direction. And if I'm going to set it on another world, I'm going to say it outright by giving tips about climate, mentioning hair, etc.

Also, there is somewhat of a burden on publishers, book sellers, cover artists and the general history overall. (And yes, readers, though this factors a lot less than I once thought.) When you are used to having only white people in books, then it becomes the default setting rather than question marks, which means one has to fight with the reader that this isn't the case. At the same time, you also have that privilege in place... so terms from the sub culture also are marked as "strange" and one has to "explain" them.

Makes it more difficult overall. So walking between the "This is exotic" <--meant offensive. And the "This is not a big deal" makes it harder.

I, personally think that everyone should know what a kebab is. A sari is and know the basics of worldwide Gods outside of the Judeo Christian one. And also know more antiquated terms for places--not just the ones in Europe or the ones that contribute to European History. But I lose out because the majority don't know those terms.

You get slammed for "not being understandable" But those very terms makes you realize where the thing is set and the characters are screaming at you, "I am not white!"

That may be part of the issue too... History, willful ignorance, and a history of poor education really do contribute.

Kitty27
09-07-2013, 12:05 AM
I agree. I am a visual reader and writer,too. I need description, not pussy footing around. I don't believe in this subtlety concerning POC whatsoever. I'm real with my descriptions and intend to be just as real with my covers. I feel like this removes any potential readers who have issues with POC characters. I serve notice upfront to keep it moving if you are one of these people.

On the other hand, I think a big reason for subtlety from non POC writers is that they do NOT want to be accused of anything improper. I tease some of my White writer buddies all the time because they get in high dudgeon about using terms like caramel,mocha,etc. I have a friend literally terrified of offending anybody. They don't want to use cultural terms either. They don't want to be accused of getting things wrong or worse,cultural appropriation.

As a Black writer,I can be as Black as I wanna be with characters and nothing will be said to me. A non Black writer wanting to be diverse with characters doesn't have that option. One misstep-real or perceived- and it's a wrap! Even when a writer is upfront,some people will still read a character as White. We all saw what happened with The Hunger Games fiasco.

So,it really is hard to pin down. I go more on the side it does more harm than good. Readers desperately want characters who resemble them and to open a book and see that character reduced to a few sentences or chapters-with no cultural elements or description-sells the illusion of inclusion. To be blunt,it's condescending. It feels like" Okay,here's someone of color. No more whining from you all. Now read." It gets publishers and editors off the hook in their minds concerning diversity.

That doesn't help these readers whatsoever.

J.S. Clark
09-07-2013, 12:35 AM
I think it depends on POV. I think it would be equally a mistake for a white character's POV to go on and on about straight hair. I mean it doesn't make sense usually for a character to describe themselves at length.

I prefer a subtle touch (probably because I've been criticized for overly describing characters who were in fact dark-white and I didn't want them assumed to be white because I don't like the idea of assuming a default color). When I read I'm waiting for the author to tell me about the character, I was disappointed once when I was reading a book for a second time and never realized one of the MC's was in fact Portuguese.

It was pretty clear in the context, but the author only gave one description and expected me to know that for a couple of books (I don't even remember the sequels revisiting it).

So I prefer a subtle touch regardless of color, but reinforce. Tell me a couple times up front and then from time to time throughout.

Brutal Mustang
09-07-2013, 12:38 AM
I totally agree with Akasha and Kitty. The tiptoeing is annoying. If I'm writing about the baddest assassin in the Milky Way, who happens to be black, and look very good black (especially while ripping cyborg dictators to shreds), my readers will damn well know about it.

Missus Akasha
09-07-2013, 01:49 AM
I could tolerate subtle descriptions with reinforcement throughout the story. But in general, I am kind of tired of subtlety. I would love to see a straight-forward description with reminders throughout the story. I don't think it should be beat into the heads of the readers like, "HEY, THIS CHARACTER IS ASIAN! SEE? SEE? DO YOU SEE IT NOW? JUST MAKING SURE!"

I just wish there was a balance. For me, subtlety in POC descriptions is kind of like a copout. A writer wants to tell the story of a POC character for a reason. No, that reason doesn't have to pertain to the plot. Why diminish or hide a significant part of a character because there is a chance of offending someone?

There will always be someone that is offended. I am sure I offend a lot of people by breathing, but that doesn't mean we as writers shouldn't take the risk. Isn't that what writing is all about? All of the greatest authors in the literary world took risks and wrote stories that offended a lot of people. If we shy away from a topic like this then we are not only failing our readers, but second-guessing ourselves as writers.

Rachel Udin
09-07-2013, 02:29 AM
Hey, first chapter of my book: sari, jasmine, ciina, Vishnu, Rama, Lakshmi, Sita, Putri, Dhai Ma, Hanuman, Gandarva, bangles, sandles, Brahmin, Buddha, Ahura Mazda, Ambaa, Damayanti... if you willfully think that these people are white. There are issues. Real issue you need to work through. And I haven't even gotten to skin color yet. (I bring it up in context a few times) (Plus I have black hair, black eyes... someone North African shows up as a bodyguard. I'm guessing Tunisia, but I need research.)

I go over skin color, food, etc.

To me, you can load it and slap them upside the head without the physical description.

Second chapter uses, Mudang, Paksu, Talhae, Mountain Grandfather Spirit and his Tiger, Yeon deung (Goddess of the Wind)), top knot (with hair loose below it), Garak, Sujini, Kerim. (POV character coming in describes him later in physical terms a few times)

I'm making it really, really hard for people to picture these characters as white. As in, you lived in a hole and didn't ever learn about Buddhism or Hinduism.

Despite that, I've gotten a few notes of "What is Ciina?" And "Too many strange names." Screw that. Deal. You can wait and figure it out when I say things like "The Analects." by Zhong Ni, or mention the Ma Yuan of Ciina's march against Xiongnu and Xianbei. If you can't figure it out from that, I can't help you. I give up on you as a reader.

If they want to insist those characters are white, I tried. But some of it is simply on the reader by that point. And no amount of tipping your hand and showing them, through physical or cultural features will help them understand you.

But still, you gotta do it well.

kuwisdelu
09-07-2013, 02:39 AM
I've pretty much purged purply prosodic descriptions of hair color and eye color from my writing, so I'm not going to bother describing skin color either.

I'll just remark what race a character is if it matters to me.

Which — yes — also means my PoC narrators are remarking when characters are white, too. A little subversion of default assumptions.

(It's not meant to be subtle, but the only indicator a narrator in a recent story of mine is PoC is when he remarks that his father is white, as a contrast to his cousins. Easy to miss maybe, but still rather obvious, I think.)

J.S. Clark
09-07-2013, 07:51 PM
I agree Akasha, I wouldn't hold back for fear of offending someone. Honestly I don't know anyone who even gets offended by the race of a fictional character (or real person for that matter).

My only reason for being subtle is the current style of description that I'm used to. It's kind of like when guys write female fantasy characters and go on and on about their breasts and hair. A real woman lives with her breasts and hair so they're probably not on her mind unless they grab her attention (same as I never think about my little toe until it gets stubbed). A prosaic description runs the danger of pulling out of the story if the POV has no reason to make the description.

Likewise, I doubt a PoC goes through life thinking, "Man, I'm black. Here let me get my coffee cup with my brown skinned hand. Later I'll run a comb through my dark brown hair." I'd imagine, maybe I'm wrong, that their hand would simply be their hand and the hair their hair.

So yeah I'd make it clear, but I'd make the character have a reason for the description and then reinforce it throughout. Same as I would any NPoC (cause white's not a color right =).

Mr Flibble
09-08-2013, 04:48 PM
I hope you don't mind me joining in?

This is something I struggle with tbh, but is subtlety a bad thing? I'm not sure because I like subtlety in writing, I like it when things aren't spoonfed to me, but then again, yeah I totally see the OP's point, let's not shilly shally, why not just say it? So it's going to be a fine balance.



A non Black writer wanting to be diverse with characters doesn't have that option. One misstep-real or perceived- and it's a wrap!

There's that too! Mind it was all Kitty's* fault that all the characters (bar two blink and miss-em's) in the series in my sig are not white. SFF is far to bloody white, and I think it's important for it to get over that, and I want to help (and please tell me when I've cocked it up, kk? In my posts or books, just tell me I'm being an idiot, because I'm here to learn) because if I'm not part of the solution, I'm part of the problem, right?


I didn't make a huge deal of it (not just because did not want to come across as HEY LOOK I AM SO PROGRESSIVE - PAT MY WHITE BACK!) because, well, it isn't a big deal to the characters. Though this is second world fantasy, so I had that option to make it not such a big deal (except in matters of class, ie, the darker you are, the richer because you get to see the sun occasionally), but it would have seemed weird if my protag was going round saying 'hey, he's brown!' because, well, because everyone is brown! And also, if I made a big deal of it, and got it wrong, weeellll....

At least I know not to use the food-colours thanks to you guys. I do not wish Kitty's anger :D However, in my current WIP there's much more of a mix of ethnicities so I'm going with more description.


*I doubt she realises it, but it was a post of hers that sparked it all off....

buz
09-09-2013, 02:16 AM
If authors who write about white characters drone on and on about how blue their eyes are, how pale their skin is, or how straight and long their auburn hair is, why should authors who write about PoC characters feel the need to sneak in details? Just tell me straight out that your black character have dark brown skin and amber eyes.


The thing is, I don't think authors should drone on about hair color and eye color and blahblah, period. It's boring. Quick reference to a couple physical characteristics and then get on with it. :D

Maybe more of a "this is how much description I like to read/write in general" issue?


I hope you don't mind me joining in?

This is something I struggle with tbh, but is subtlety a bad thing? I'm not sure because I like subtlety in writing, I like it when things aren't spoonfed to me, but then again, yeah I totally see the OP's point, let's not shilly shally, why not just say it? So it's going to be a fine balance.

This, basically. :D



I didn't make a huge deal of it (not just because did not want to come across as HEY LOOK I AM SO PROGRESSIVE - PAT MY WHITE BACK!) because, well, it isn't a big deal to the characters. Though this is second world fantasy, so I had that option to make it not such a big deal (except in matters of class, ie, the darker you are, the richer because you get to see the sun occasionally), but it would have seemed weird if my protag was going round saying 'hey, he's brown!' because, well, because everyone is brown! And also, if I made a big deal of it, and got it wrong, weeellll....FWIW, I just started reading Fade to Black, and I thought it was neither too subtle nor too beat-me-over-the-heady. :D

J.S.F.
09-09-2013, 09:53 AM
This is interesting. After reading Rachel's description of her book I felt like I'd gone on a trip to India. No trouble in imagining her characters at all.

I'd agree it's a fine line between too much and too little. For me, I'd rather just mention it once or twice and then let the character evolve and the action play itself out. That's just me, however.

Yorkist
09-09-2013, 10:12 AM
I'm one of those readers that is not very visual, and I have to say, since I tend to skim over descriptions of eyes or hair or whathaveyou, a description of a character's racial characteristics without straight up telling me the race is something I am likely to miss, particularly if that description isn't super amazing and thus more likely to get my attention.

I just read another Octavia Butler book and she is rather a minimalist. Wish I could find a passage. Anyway, she leaves the characters' races clear and unambiguous, but manages to do so without beating the reader over the head or giving long descriptions of their traits (which I can kinda do without regardless of the characters' color). In one case, she does like Kuwis describes, when the black PoV character mentions when other characters are white. In another, she does it situationally, when the white PoV character has to explain a couple of times that no, really, his multiracial daughters are in fact his kids. These examples stick far better than something about eye shape or vague color words or, God forbid, coffee and its various flavor additives.

I remember a line from one of AW's own Richard Garfinkle's books in which he clearly states that some characters (they were a family mentioned in passing, IIRC) have Bantu features. This I liked too, because "Bantu" is simply not a word you come across very often, and as someone who did a good bit of African literature and historical studies while in college, my brain immediately snaps on "oh, the eastern part of Africa!" And someone who didn't know the word might be struck by it enough to look it up.

I prefer all these examples to Ursula le Guin's (again, not picturing characters much if at all, I might've even missed Ged's skin tone though she mentions it three times if I hadn't known about the controversy surrounding the book covers) or Neil Gaiman's (where he tells you about two thirds of the way through The Anansi Boys that the main is a PoC).

Quality over quantity, IMO. Though it's another matter when dealing with an entire separate culture, with PoC's in America or Europe, you can make it memorable once or twice and there isn't a need for redundancy or pages of description that may wear a reader's patience.

Bing Z
09-09-2013, 05:19 PM
Something springs to mind. Does the race of the MC/LI matter? Cuz I think if it doesn't, all the coloring can be either a natural reflex of the authors (normal and may contain bonus social themes) or attempts to strike a balanced mix or marketing effort/gimmicks (amen).

Let's say the MC is black and she lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere comprising of a balanced racial mix. Everyone at her school and town gets along amicably (at least nothing negative has been mentioned). No racial conflicts. They come from similar financial backgrounds and dress alike. The book is about how she fights off her destination of becoming a vampire with the help of the boy she has been having a crush on. Does her skin color really matter other than having Nicole Fiscella stars the movie adaptation?

Real-life story: Coco Vandeweghe is a pro tennis player. When she was about 18 she went to Moscow, Russia, for a tournament. One day she toured the places by herself and got hungry so she decided to have lunch. She didn't know what to eat and she didn't understand Russian. So guess what? She ate at McDonald's. She tweeted about it and fans fell off chairs laughing. Coco is white, but an African/Asian/Hispanic American would likely have done the same. It's about upbringing and personality.

Now, if the MC lives in NYC and he whines about getting excessive "stop and frisk" by the NYPD, then chances are he is black/Hispanic. IMHO he'd better be, to be convincing and to bring in tension. Written well & researched well (or with RL experience) it can make a great theme on top of fighting vampires.

A book I've been reading is about a 15 yo from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The book has very little, if any at all, description about her and I have assumed her to be white (cuz that neighborhood is overwhelmingly white with ~40% Polish American). If the author had intended her to be a POC, he ought to have mentioned/hinted it when introducing her. OTOH, if she had come from East Harlem, and nothing is mentioned about her skin color or ethnic background, I'd simply assume that she's a Hispanic, likely Puerto Rican.

Yorkist
09-09-2013, 08:40 PM
Does her skin color really matter other than having Nicole Fiscella stars the movie adaptation?
...It's about upbringing and personality.

It's not a matter of racial politics or informing the character background, IMO. It's a matter of representation, and of PoC's being able to find books with main characters who look like them, and of books not falsely reflecting a whites-only world.

Representation is always important but it is critically important at certain key young ages in a person's life when one is searching harder for ego reflections within a narrative - such as when one is primarily browsing the young adult section of the bookstore or library.

I don't think anyone is saying being of color is critical to a character's (or person's) personality. Like most things, it is a part of you, but does not define you. (I am guessing, being a white person myself.)

Books featuring PoC's as mains shouldn't have to be special tales about racial relations, and the idea that they should reflects a white privileged view of the world, IMO.

ETA: Plus, books as well as other forms of art reflect and reinforce our sociocultural milieu, do they not?

A black girl from the southeast should be able to kick ass in a sci-fi dystopia, an Indian guy should be able to fly on rocket ships in a space fantasy, an Asian girl from the West Coast should be able to fall in love in love with a werewolf, no? Why the heck not? Why should white be the default?

Rachel Udin
09-10-2013, 01:37 AM
+1 on Yorkist.

If we did live in a world where it was getting written that way, then maybe. But seeing people either not like you or being written looking, but not acting like you causes issues in the long run.

So even if your book is like that, as said, doesn't mean the world is like that. Also color blind doesn't really work because of the discrepancies.

Kim Fierce
09-10-2013, 02:12 AM
I agree with Akasha, Rachel, Kitty27, and I'm sure more. I have heard from white writers not wanting to offend, I myself have learned from describing skin tone as caramel or chocolate, but in the end, there's really no excuse to make it so vague the readers don't get it. But sometimes like with Rue I don't see how some could miss it!

Mr Flibble
09-10-2013, 03:19 AM
Just reading through this again and it leapt out at me -- are there people who do not know what a kebab is? :D


Books featuring PoC's as mains shouldn't have to be special tales about racial relations, and the idea that they should reflects a white privileged view of the world, IMO.And also to consider that things are very different in different countries. Was talking to a co worker not so long ago - he is of Trinidad descent, bit born in the UK. And he was gobsmacked talking to a couple of African Americans. Because of the differences in their lives -- not to say the UK is a utopia (lol) but the aspects of racism are very different, their experiences were very different. The US has its problems, and we may not have some of those, but boy do we have others! It was almost like two people fro opposite worlds talking.

Non-white Brits have different experiences/expectations as regards to race. And that is going to affect anyone brought up in those areas. So that's an additional factor to consider -- what is an issue in the US may not be elsewhere, and vice versa.


Books featuring PoC's as mains shouldn't have to be special tales about racial relations Frankly, I would not go there myself, because I don't think I could ever do enough research for that. Buy a POC in a tale where it isn't about race? Where they can just 'be' because the skin colour isn't a plot point? I'd like to do that more often ( and probably will. Looks at WIPS. Yeah, looks like I will. And why not -- like I say, if I'm not part of the solution, I'm part of the problem. I'd like to do my part getting POC writers recognition too)

ETA: I'm not adding these characters for any other reason than I think it's important to have them. If I can help, coolio. That doesn't mean that POC writers shouldn't be MUCH better represented, and I'd love to help with that if I can. Hopefully this will be a group effort kind of thing

Yorkist
09-10-2013, 03:42 AM
Mr. Flibble, I was about to make a similar point myself.

I'm not about to write a tale on teh race relations, for I am not up to such a thing. But when white people ask "Why should this character be a PoC?" I propose an alternative question - "Why should this character not be a PoC?"

There are a few valid reasons why not. Maybe this character is Charles II. Or maybe she belongs to an ancient society of Picts. Or maybe he's a member of an eyeless humanoid subterranean cave-dwelling race that has no need for melanin. But otherwise - why the heck not?

I am white (a PoW? Uh... no... hmm), and while I'm not a total neanderthal - I have always been conscious of supporting PoC authors - the issue of character PoC representation would have not occurred to me, due to my own privilege-based blinders, if I hadn't been acquainted with a college English department and the magical negro archetype. But once I discovered that archetype, it got me thinking, a discourse which had advanced greatly since I discovered this place. "Man, it must suck when most of the characters in fiction who share your racial or ethnic background are slaves, or villains, or sage martial arts masters, or whatever, and almost none of them are the heroes, characters with agency, the writers of their own destinies."

And it isn't like you have to be of color to understand this. The same goes when you have a minority religion, when you're a woman, queer, possess an unorthodox ideology, or whatever. If all the examples of your group you saw fit only stereotypes or predetermined minor roles, wouldn't that hurt? Eventually, wouldn't it get to you?

And yeah, I hope to God this doesn't sound like white savior talking, but as allies, I do think that writers not of color bear a small portion of responsibility in this matter. At the very least we can question our own assumptions and make an effort to improve the diversity of our casts without assigning the token black friend.

My WIP actually does fit rather into one of the examples set above (closest to the Charles II and Pict ones), but this has just made me realize, at the very least I can include some north African tradespeople in the narrative, if not a couple of strong minor characters with roles in the plot. At the very least, PoC's should exist and that existence should be acknowledged in the text.

Missus Akasha
09-10-2013, 06:02 PM
Mr. Flibble, I was about to make a similar point myself.

I'm not about to write a tale on teh race relations, for I am not up to such a thing. But when white people ask "Why should this character be a PoC?" I propose an alternative question - "Why should this character not be a PoC?"

...

I am white (a PoW? Uh... no... hmm), and while I'm not a total neanderthal - I have always been conscious of supporting PoC authors - the issue of character PoC representation would have not occurred to me, due to my own privilege-based blinders, if I hadn't been acquainted with a college English department and the magical negro archetype. But once I discovered that archetype, it got me thinking, a discourse which had advanced greatly since I discovered this place. "Man, it must suck when most of the characters in fiction who share your racial or ethnic background are slaves, or villains, or sage martial arts masters, or whatever, and almost none of them are the heroes, characters with agency, the writers of their own destinies."

And it isn't like you have to be of color to understand this. The same goes when you have a minority religion, when you're a woman, queer, possess an unorthodox ideology, or whatever. If all the examples of your group you saw fit only stereotypes or predetermined minor roles, wouldn't that hurt? Eventually, wouldn't it get to you?

And yeah, I hope to God this doesn't sound like white savior talking, but as allies, I do think that writers not of color bear a small portion of responsibility in this matter. At the very least we can question our own assumptions and make an effort to improve the diversity of our casts without assigning the token black friend.

...


Amen to this!

Rachel Udin
09-10-2013, 06:20 PM
Just reading through this again and it leapt out at me -- are there people who do not know what a kebab is? :D

I get you on this. =P But yes. I once did this game where I sent in pages (you don't win anything or representation) and the agent lives in NYC (which is ethnically diverse for those that don't know) and she didn't know what a kebab was...

O.o; My Aunt knew what it was... and lived in NYC (read my profile mini bio and you'll get the multiple references bits)

Sometimes it's odd...



And also to consider that things are very different in different countries. Was talking to a co worker not so long ago - he is of Trinidad descent, bit born in the UK. And he was gobsmacked talking to a couple of African Americans. Because of the differences in their lives -- not to say the UK is a utopia (lol) but the aspects of racism are very different, their experiences were very different. The US has its problems, and we may not have some of those, but boy do we have others! It was almost like two people fro opposite worlds talking. I saw a video on this. The old brown eyes blue eyes thing... Was the last one. I think I linked it, and it's a bit hard to Google, so I'll summarize.

Jane Elliot, who came up with this after Martin Luther King, Jr. died, said she'd do it one last time on British television. So they set it up, but the hosts of the show were convinced (despite him being of Indian descent) there was no racism. (You can see where this is going).

So Jane Elliot gives the brown-eyed group the privilege (adults), lets them have snacks, and eat good food and lets them have the answers for a test.

However hell breaks loose when one of the participants realizes that they are given the answers.

Then the real discussion on race begins.... (This is still about GB).

And some things *do* look the same. Such as one father says that he gets unfairly judged for having dreadlocks, so he has trouble going to school to pick up his children. (He's married to someone white).

So this white woman gets indignant that there could be racism, and says (roughly) "You know why, because you look shaggy." (He's wearing a nice button down shirt and trousers)

So, yeah, some things are the same... She feels "attacked" and then walks out. Her exit video is all about how there is no racism, after being told by two PoCs there was.

Jane Elliot, in turn had to give the smack down to the station interviewer who tried to debunk everything. And did so beautifully.

Was educational to me. Some of the problems in GB with racism do match. (I'd been told repeatedly there was none... or very little)

Also the show where they show the evolution of the family, and then they had black people move in... Yeah. That was some harsh racism there, which mirrored, though for similar, but different roots the American. (As in manifested in a similar manner, were for similar root reasons, but the origin was different).




There are a few valid reasons why not.

I'm trying to find regency sources on racism/race relations.... 'cause along with the crazy penguins trying to guide the aristocracy, I'd still like to have PoCs around, which I'm sure will upset some people. But really, there has to be some PoCs in GB. If there is a population in Elizabethan times, then Regency has to have a population too. Jane Austen mentions the slave trade.

Even during the crusades there were PoCs... mostly from North Africa due to conversion, etc.



while I'm not a total neanderthal*Geek alert*
=P Australopithecus Afarensis? Now thought to not be a direct ancestor, but they are still debating it.

Neanderthal were actually quite intelligent, sturdy and could speak language. Some believe they were close enough to blend into the human line, but it's debated. Got a bad wrap for their body build, I think.

Kinda like saying to someone you are going ape... you already are one.
*End geeking*



My WIP actually does fit rather into one of the examples set above (closest to the Charles II and Pict ones), but this has just made me realize, at the very least I can include some north African tradespeople in the narrative, if not a couple of strong minor characters with roles in the plot. At the very least, PoC's should exist and that existence should be acknowledged in the text.*nods* Trade, as a concept predated homo sapiens sapiens. Homo Erectus often traded locally, such that objects that originated in Africa would be found in Asia. And the invention of the sail boat dates roughly to 6,000 BCE (IIRC). Rafts, it's speculated were also made by Homo Erectus too. Not to mention the Polynesians... (who were amazing).

No reason for them *not* to pop in the background.

Another great myth people believe is that trade across the Western hemisphere didn't happen until much, much later. But the majority of history talks about trade, sometimes in a lifetime and over long distances. *cough* Silk Road....

ETA: http://www.black-history.org.uk/

*.* I am happy.

Yorkist
09-10-2013, 06:30 PM
Rachel, IIRC, it was if not always illegal to actually have slaves within the U.K. - the idea was that once a slave entered English soil s/he was free - it definitely was by the Regency era. There would have been PoC's around I'm sure (there always have been) but that would explain their relatively tiny numbers. (Of black folks anyway.)

Appreciate your geekdom re: neanderthals and trade. I had no idea that homo erectus practiced trade, but I did know that homo sapiens trading by sea has been around much longer than most people think. My WIP is set around 2000 B.C., so yeah, no reason why folks from northern Africa and the ME should not make a brief appearance at least.

Rachel Udin
09-10-2013, 07:46 PM
I found some sources for Regency... (though I get this is a minor derail)

Queen Charlotte, for example, was thought to have been part African descent. (Ignore the Wikipedia article since they are POV on the subject and trying to argue her white 100%--there is a contingent trying to do so.). http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/secret/famous/royalfamily.html

So it looks like the majority were slaves until they were freed. Also, from what I found, it seems like African peoples have been living in GB greater than most people think, but due to intermarriage, etc, the features fade over time. (See previous post with link. Kinda what I expected)

There were some people mentioned to be prominent....

http://www.christianregency.com/Research/Regency-Life/people-problems-practices/regency-blacks.pdf <-- Waaahhh~

Also the link in my previous post is interesting too.

I also found it interesting that Queen Charlotte was thought to be the *second* Queen thought to have African ancestry.

(I have a lot of love for hidden histories...)

So, I think, definitely no reason not to mention black people during regency. Queen Charlotte... the abolitionist movement and so on.

Still, I would love to find an account of the average person living in GB of African Descent. For example, a comparison between those who were in enclaves in Elizabethian times and those that came with slavery. I know records are shoddy, but I wish I could sniff some clues to do a nice reconstruction.

^^;; Sorry to the OP for the History geekery derail.

Back to the original...

On the first, I don't think there is an excuse to not at least mention there are people who look different within and from outside of a given population. Trade has been with humans long before our species. Trade is an amazing thing, 'cause you realize how small our planet can appear and how much people can achieve. With paper and written records, there must be at least an awareness. Maybe not a PC awareness, but still an awareness. (Unless you are Truman...)

On the second point of describing, I don't think you need to shirk away and it should be an even balance... though I prefer simple over complex, such as dark brown skin. Medium brown, etc. 'cause I generally hate flowery language for the sake of it "sapphire eyes and creamy skin...". Also augment with cultural cues. With the lack of cultural cues, you can still slip it into dialogue. And put it in early.

And thirdly, sometimes you gotta ditch the reader. Some people miss entire scenes of you describing it 'cause it just doesn't jive with their world. Those people arguing about the Hunger Games and feeling insulted, even when its pointed out (especially when they preface it with, "I'm not a racist but...")... ditch 'em.

Mr Flibble
09-10-2013, 07:51 PM
I get you on this. =P But yes. I once did this game where I sent in pages (you don't win anything or representation) and the agent lives in NYC (which is ethnically diverse for those that don't know) and she didn't know what a kebab was...

Over here, surviving a drunken late night kebab is one of the initiations into adulthood. :D




I saw a video on this. The old brown eyes blue eyes thing... Was the last one. I think I linked it, and it's a bit hard to Google, so I'll summarize.Oh I think I saw that! Or a version of (a school teacher did it?) Illuminating






Some of the problems in GB with racism do match. (I'd been told repeatedly there was none... or very little)Hahaha, no. Whoever told you that was talking outta their arse -- just look at the BNP and EDL for starters, and those are just the organised guys. Sadly it's not the case there is none -- it may be the case that it is expressed differently, or as you say the origin was different)







Another great myth people believe is that trade across the Western hemisphere didn't happen until much, much later. But the majority of history talks about trade, sometimes in a lifetime and over long distances. *cough* Silk Road....

ETA: http://www.black-history.org.uk/

*.* I am happy.Hell yeah, trade went on really early, and there was a lot of moving back and forth along trade routes. Now, maybe most people in a given rural area might not have seen someone who was different from them, but anyone living in a trading centre or on a trade route would be at least passingly familiar with ethnicities that were not their own.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-10-2013, 08:08 PM
It's an issue I wrestled with. My WIP is a zombie novel focusing on a fourth-grade girl rescuing her little sister's kindergarten class from the apocalypse.

I refer to myself as a "Snoopy" writer. I bang out the title and the first few sentences, maybe a chapter, then cut and grow until it's a book. In this case, the title my fingers pounded out for the first chapter was "The Fall of P.S. 43", with the "43" being a random number.

When it came time to write the second chapter I did some research on PS 43, and discovered that Bronx PS 43 was 40% black, 60% Hispanic, and a big chunk of that 60% Hispanic was Dominican and other similar groups of black Hispanics. 99% are so poor that they get free lunches from school. 30% of the children in K-3 cannot function in English.

The whole background and flavor of the novel really flowed out of that: that the class wasn't a bunch of wealthy suburban privileged children, that ESL problems made it hard for the children to work together, things like that.

When I finished the first pass, I found out that my first beta reader didn't have any problems figuring out that little Jose, Rosarita, Lucia, and Maria were Hispanic, but had not figured out until midway through the book that Letitia, Jahayra, Jada, Tiara, Tyrone and Darnell were black. That was during a scene where Letitia was complaining that the books she had found to help them learn how to do things for themselves were all full of these pictures of big happy white guys. The light suddenly went off over the reader's head.

I reworked dialogue and dialect a bit. I inserted a scene early in the story dealing with the mundane issue of the older girl's efforts to groom the littler girls' hair now that there weren't any mothers around to relax and treat it. That scene confused my second beta reader, because her mental image of the children still had the wrong appearance.

Now, I explicitly identify Letitia as being Jamaican on the first page. I still don't get into details of who is chocolate colored and who is leather colored and who is really dark, just because it really doesn't make any difference to the plot.

Yorkist
09-10-2013, 08:26 PM
Kevin, I'd like to read that one day, whenever you're finished. Sounds good.

Bing Z
09-10-2013, 08:41 PM
Kevin, how come I've always thought Mott Haven was predominantly Puerto Ricans?

Anyway, have you read this?

Study on Labor Market Racial Names Discrimination (http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html) (Working Paper #9873) (http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873): White last names used were: Baker, Kelly, McCarthy, Murphy, Murray, O’Brien, Ryan, Sullivan & Walsh. African American last names used were: Jackson, Jones, Robinson, Washington and Williams. White first names: Emily, Anne, Jill, Allison, Sarah, Meredith, Laurie, Carrie, Kristen, Neil, Geoffrey, Brett, Brendan, Greg, Todd, Matthew, Jay, Brad. African American first names: Aisha, Keisha, Tamika, Lakisha, Tanisha, Latoya, Kenya, Latonya, Ebony, Rasheed, Tremayne, Kareem, Darnell, Tyrone, Jamal, Hakim, Leroy, Jermaine.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-10-2013, 08:57 PM
Kevin, how come I've always thought Mott Haven was predominantly Puerto Ricans?

Anyway, have you read this?

Study on Labor Market Racial Names Discrimination (http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html) (Working Paper #9873) (http://www.nber.org/papers/w9873): White last names used were: Baker, Kelly, McCarthy, Murphy, Murray, O’Brien, Ryan, Sullivan & Walsh. African American last names used were: Jackson, Jones, Robinson, Washington and Williams. White first names: Emily, Anne, Jill, Allison, Sarah, Meredith, Laurie, Carrie, Kristen, Neil, Geoffrey, Brett, Brendan, Greg, Todd, Matthew, Jay, Brad. African American first names: Aisha, Keisha, Tamika, Lakisha, Tanisha, Latoya, Kenya, Latonya, Ebony, Rasheed, Tremayne, Kareem, Darnell, Tyrone, Jamal, Hakim, Leroy, Jermaine.

Puerto Rican is the largest ethnic group, but it's a plurality, not a majority. Rosarita and Jose are specifically identified as Puerto Rican, while Lucia and Maria are specifically identified as Dominican.

I didn't use that particular source, but I did research on the most popular names among blacks in 2007 because that would be the kids in kindergarten at the appropriate time. "Jahayra" is named after a little girl I actually know (mixed Colombian/Trini), and "Letitia" came from research once I decided she had a Caribbean background. An image search on "Letitia Johnson" turned out to be more ambiguous than I would have thought, but not much.

Missus Akasha
09-10-2013, 09:40 PM
When it comes to identifying a character's ethnicity such as saying, "Oh, this character is Puerto Rican" or "This character is Jamaican", sometimes a reader can assume that the character looks Hispanic or black. However, there are black and white Puerto Ricans. When people see the word, Jamaican, they assume that the character is black. However, I grew with Chinese and white Jamaicans. This can also go for saying a person is African American. I have a white friend who is from South Africa and she came to the States in middle school. She identifies herself as African American.

Diving a little deeper into the description of the character can make a world of a difference.

But Kevin, I would LOOOOOOVE to read your story. It sounds great. I've been debating on writing a zombie story (maybe it will help me get over my fear of them).

kevinwaynewilliams
09-10-2013, 10:29 PM
But Kevin, I would LOOOOOOVE to read your story. It sounds great. I've been debating on writing a zombie story (maybe it will help me get over my fear of them).

The SYW people weren't kind, so I'm reworking it now. One thing I will eventually be seeking is review from someone that is more comfortable with an appropriate dialect for the children than I am. It read really badly when they all talked like a 53-year-old white guy from the Southwest. I've researched African-American Vernacular English and Jamaican Creole and tried to write her with a blend that's comfortable to all readers. Still, it's easy for me to lapse into dialog that sounds like Speedy Gonzales meets Stepin Fetchit, and I have to work hard not to do that. I'd hate to have a work that's intended to be respectful (and even a little celebratory in spots) come off as racist because I blew the dialog.

Missus Akasha
09-11-2013, 12:45 AM
Well, I am an black southerner and I am an Early Childhood Education major. My whole career has been dealing with children. I've worked with children from infants all the way to school-agers. So if you ever need help, send me an PM.

Bing Z
09-11-2013, 12:51 AM
Diving a little deeper into the description of the character can make a world of a difference.

You started this thread discussing MC/LIs so this statement rings true for me. But still to certain extent it depends on the relevancy.

I have a Puerto Rican family in my WIP. They're not MCs but still a key cast. I've identified their ethical background at first sight and their individual traits but I have never talked about their precise skin color. I don't feel the need. They (their pics--I'm visual and everyone in my cast has a pic) don't stand out like Ricky Martin anyway. And so if people assume they're very dark, it's okay. If people think they're just modestly tan, it's okay.

Two of the chars at school are another game. They are both multi-racial, one with three ethnic origins, the other six (a trait for a subplot.) They are the only characters in my book I've described skin colors (but still no exact hues.)

Kevin has done a thoughtful research. Name is a big part of ethnic identification. You go to List Your Character Names (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=240497) thread and you can almost "see" their racial profile (esp) if they have included last names. I'm not sure if some people will find this name thing racist (the job search unjust thing is indeed). But you can't ignore this relevance if you're looking to read/write books with multi-racial characters and multi-cultural backgrounds. The exact skin color or how sexy they look in that particular hue is just a part of the whole picture.

Yorkist
09-11-2013, 01:05 AM
Well, I am an black southerner and I am an Early Childhood Education major. My whole career has been dealing with children. I've worked with children from infants all the way to school-agers. So if you ever need help, send me an PM.

+1. I am white but a Mississippian so about half of all my social correspondence is with black folks (though that is less the case now that I live in Tennessee). Also I have some Jamaican in-laws, though I only talk to them once every couple of years.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-11-2013, 01:28 AM
Well, I am an black southerner and I am an Early Childhood Education major. My whole career has been dealing with children. I've worked with children from infants all the way to school-agers. So if you ever need help, send me an PM.

I'll probably need a fresh beta reader in a week. I'll keep your offer in mind.

veinglory
09-11-2013, 01:29 AM
And I would raise this issue of over-describing again. It is not avoided because it might "offend people" generically -- but because there is an issue with exoricizing and/or fetishizing race and a way that makes POC characters even more marginalized.

Obviously the level of description should be natural and broadly similar to other characters, but the level of self-consciousness that can occur with this issue can interfere with that.

Rachel Udin
09-11-2013, 04:44 AM
If you combine cues, I think it can be obvious without the exoticizing...

- Mention it in a surname.
- Mention skin color as needed. (equally) Also physical features, as needed.
- Mention clothing (if relevant)
- Mention language (if relevant)
- Mention food (if relevant). Food is also a good indicator overall of the region without having to go into a lot of detail.
- Mention religion (though this is *not* foolproof. White Muslims and Asian, for example.) But crossing it with other religions in the area helps.
- Sliding mention in dialogue, especially of the same general ethnic group. Me and an Asian friend fool around on Asian classifications and even use slang not accepted from outside of the group. (Such as "twinkie" <--white on the inside, yellow on the outside) Mostly making fun of stereotypes. In dialogue, too, people sometimes make real life comments at you such as, "I didn't know Asians could do basketball." which you can make snappy dialogue for without making it a central issue. People fool around and also make fun of stereotypes...
- Comparisons to outside groups that are not like your protagonist.
- Comparisons within the group--variation in every population.
And I know this shocks *some* white people because I've actually heard them say it. But, yes, people within groups have different skin colors, even as siblings. *eyeroll* As if white people are the only ones. It's sad when Elmo is teaching it on PBS, and adults don't get it. This is why I prefer 3 or more rule. (Some people I've talked to got upset at the idea that East Asians don't all have single eyelids, straight dark black hair... Yeah... ummm...) Same with the continent of Africa...

Anyway, I think you can tip it in your favor without making it _the_ point of the book. It can come up naturally with the events and characters you set up. But I wouldn't necessarily base all events around the "other" but also show the sameness inherent.

Culture is solving problems of the world--the grays and defining and giving them names. What makes one culture different from another is not that the problems themselves are different, but the solutions to those problems are different. If you discover that it's not so "exotic" anymore. It's humans dealing with problems.

BTW, @Kevinwaynewilliams I know someone who is a writer and grew up in Jamaica/is Jamaican. If you want, I can ask her if she would review your chapter/book for cultural references, etc. I can't promise you research help though.

Mr Flibble
09-11-2013, 04:57 AM
Obviously the level of description should be natural and broadly similar to other characters, but the level of self-consciousness that can occur with this issue can interfere with that.

I think this is an issue too -- some writers don't describe any characters very much at all. Some go into loads of detail

But if the level of description is the same across the board...

I wouldn't expect a minimalist writer to go to town, same as I would expect GRRM to give me a full picture (and maybe then some)


Style is really going to come into it here. If all my description of everything else is minimal, would I make an exception (and should I? Honest q here Should I spend time describing one particular character if I haven't described anyone else? Wouldn't that seem weird and possibly exoticsing? Wouldn't it be better to present POC as a matter of fact, rather than a HEY LOOK! )

Little Anonymous Me
09-14-2013, 05:03 AM
:hi:Is it OK if I chime in? (I don't want to be That Person who brings the thread from the dead. :tongue)



Style is really going to come into it here. If all my description of everything else is minimal, would I make an exception (and should I? Honest q here Should I spend time describing one particular character if I haven't described anyone else? Wouldn't that seem weird and possibly exoticsing? Wouldn't it be better to present POC as a matter of fact, rather than a HEY LOOK! )



This x1000 for me. I seldom describe characters. Especially not when I'm writing from their POV (I do a very close third, and I've always found it odd to see characters talking about how they look when I'm riding inside their skull). I have to rely on switching POVs to show how somebody looks. I write high fantasy, and skin tone is not an issue in my worlds, so it's not something my characters think of. My next WIP has absolutely no white characters---as in, geographically speaking, it is impossible for my MC to have ever seen any. So she's really not going to be thinking about her skin tone. I don't generally care how people picture my characters, but I do like for age, gender, and race to be clear. And I really am unsure as to how I'm going to get that across without A.) beating into readers' heads or B.) being too subtle---especially given that I've literally never described multiple characters through an entire book.

Marian Perera
09-16-2013, 09:02 AM
I tease some of my White writer buddies all the time because they get in high dudgeon about using terms like caramel,mocha,etc.

Recently I read a blurb for a interracial romance which went something like, "all he can think about are her chocolate-skinned legs wrapped around his cream-colored hips".

And all I could think about was dessert.

Yorkist
09-16-2013, 09:04 AM
Food and coffee and its various additives, when used to describe black folks (or other PoC's or white folks), make me feel weird and icky like a cannibal.

Marian Perera
09-16-2013, 10:25 AM
Yeah, I once read a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fanfic which described Doctor Bashir's caramel-colored skin and chocolate eyes. I started thinking of him as a little candy man.

Yorkist
09-16-2013, 10:27 AM
*nods* I don't even like to read food descriptions of actual food in novels, for it propels me straight into the kitchen, much less food descriptions of actual humans.

Lavern08
09-16-2013, 07:28 PM
Food and coffee and its various additives, when used to describe black folks, make me feel weird and icky like a cannibal.

LOL - doesn't bother me at all.

As I said in another thread, if you asked me to describe myself, I'd say I was tall, buxom, with reddish hair and skin the color of a pecan. :D

Marian Perera
09-16-2013, 07:37 PM
Just one food reference doesn't bother me either. But if you went on to say your eyes were the color of brown sugar, I'd start thinking of pecans and sugar, making pecan pie. Or of you as a gingerbread person.

onesecondglance
09-16-2013, 08:34 PM
And also to consider that things are very different in different countries. Was talking to a co worker not so long ago - he is of Trinidad descent, bit born in the UK. And he was gobsmacked talking to a couple of African Americans. Because of the differences in their lives -- not to say the UK is a utopia (lol) but the aspects of racism are very different, their experiences were very different. The US has its problems, and we may not have some of those, but boy do we have others! It was almost like two people fro opposite worlds talking.

Non-white Brits have different experiences/expectations as regards to race. And that is going to affect anyone brought up in those areas. So that's an additional factor to consider -- what is an issue in the US may not be elsewhere, and vice versa.

Frankly, I would not go there myself, because I don't think I could ever do enough research for that. Buy a POC in a tale where it isn't about race? Where they can just 'be' because the skin colour isn't a plot point? I'd like to do that more often ( and probably will. Looks at WIPS. Yeah, looks like I will. And why not -- like I say, if I'm not part of the solution, I'm part of the problem. I'd like to do my part getting POC writers recognition too)

ETA: I'm not adding these characters for any other reason than I think it's important to have them. If I can help, coolio. That doesn't mean that POC writers shouldn't be MUCH better represented, and I'd love to help with that if I can. Hopefully this will be a group effort kind of thing


I think this is an issue too -- some writers don't describe any characters very much at all. Some go into loads of detail

But if the level of description is the same across the board...

I wouldn't expect a minimalist writer to go to town, same as I would expect GRRM to give me a full picture (and maybe then some)


Style is really going to come into it here. If all my description of everything else is minimal, would I make an exception (and should I? Honest q here Should I spend time describing one particular character if I haven't described anyone else? Wouldn't that seem weird and possibly exoticsing? Wouldn't it be better to present POC as a matter of fact, rather than a HEY LOOK! )

I don't tend to do much in the way of physical descriptions, so it can be hard - especially when you don't have names that evoke other cultures.

One of my MCs is third generation Tobagan / English, and he's called James. He's a big black dude - like the guy I know called Andrew who inspired him - and given that the other MC is a petite white woman, it would seem wrong not to describe their physical differences - that's what she would see from her POV - but I worry every time I describe him that I'm reducing him to a "big black dude" stereotype, physically. And given the MCs work together, she wouldn't notice his appearance often; nor would he notice his own appearance in his POV chapters.

I also have a minor character who is Nepalese, but her surname is Fleming by marriage. Again, she works with the MCs, so they aren't naturally going to comment on her appearance.

The UK is a funny place when it comes to races - I'm not saying nowhere else is like this, but the UK is the only place I have enough experience to speak of. There are clear white and non-white communities, but there are also tons of people who sit in the merged spaces on the big Venn diagram of racial / cultural origin. There is a central space of "British" that a lot of people fall into.

I guess I'm a little worried that I might be accused of "white-washing" out these characters' cultures, when I want to present multicultural Britain with all the bits and pieces thrown in together. Like Mr Flibble says - PoC as an everyday part of the world, not HEY LOOK!

kevinwaynewilliams
09-16-2013, 11:53 PM
Food and coffee and its various additives, when used to describe black folks (or other PoC's or white folks), make me feel weird and icky like a cannibal.

It just doesn't work so well with whites. You really want to read "Arnold looked in the mirror, fretting over the little specks of cocoa powder in his pores and the little cinnamon candies trying to burst though his vanilla skin"?

Yorkist
09-17-2013, 12:06 AM
Eww, Kevin! :P

Yeah, I'm definitely in agreement that the food descriptions are usually exoticizing, and thus look weird when associated with white folks. But apart from that, my self-interest doesn't like it in any way. I get weirded out at the idea of drinking black people. I may look like one, but I ain't no vampire.

RichardGarfinkle
09-17-2013, 01:39 AM
There have been a lot of food terms used for white skin, but only for women. Peaches & Cream complexion comes to mind giving the same creepy overtones. As the racism blends into sexism.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-17-2013, 10:47 AM
Eww, Kevin! :P

Yeah, I'm definitely in agreement that the food descriptions are usually exoticizing, and thus look weird when associated with white folks.

It's all context. I've spent many years of my life as a minority group. Less than 1% of Japan is white (over three years), about 35% of Jefferson Davis High School was white (ironically enough), and Bonaire was only 11% white (five years). Being a white resident of Bonaire that wasn't Dutch put me somewhere around 1% again. My pale pasty body, constantly sunburnt face, and thick accent made me extremely exotic.

Yorkist
09-17-2013, 10:53 AM
It's all context. I've spent many years of my life as a minority group. Less than 1% of Japan is white (over three years), about 35% of Jefferson Davis High School was white (ironically enough), and Bonaire was only 11% white (five years). Being a white resident of Bonaire that wasn't Dutch put me somewhere around 1% again. My pale pasty body, constantly sunburnt face, and thick accent made me extremely exotic.

I can relate. Incidentally, at least for the southeast, I am kind of "exotic-looking" for a pasty white person. I am part Russian/slav and part Native American in a place where all white people are Scots-Irish, so maybe that's where it comes from - I dunno, doesn't matter. But I tend to tune out annoying noise, so I occasionally get a rude awakening when some upper-middle class douchehole says, "You're not Latina, right?" or "You're not Jewish, right?" before saying something totally unacceptably racist.

Rachel Udin
09-18-2013, 05:26 AM
Recently I read a blurb for a interracial romance which went something like, "all he can think about are her chocolate-skinned legs wrapped around his cream-colored hips".

And all I could think about was dessert.

Yeah, when it mixes with a sex scene and only the woman... it just gets creepy. Especially with the line, "I want to eat you up."


It just doesn't work so well with whites. You really want to read "Arnold looked in the mirror, fretting over the little specks of cocoa powder in his pores and the little cinnamon candies trying to burst though his vanilla skin"?
I've seen the following purple language:
Skin colored like Cream.
Freshly-milked
creamy skin (which just sounds disgusting IMO I can only think of oil oozing...)

And for eyes,:
pools of liquid orbs.
he looked into her sapphire spheres. (which is just gross. I just see the entire eyeball hanging out still attached and blue.)
endless lakes

But the majority is for women only. And most of the white words used are also considered good in other contexts. "Cream of the crop."

Also for women, though not quite on topic. "Apples" v. "Melons"

You can get fairly close with comparison tags too. But I prefer to mix it with cultural cues.

Wilde_at_heart
09-27-2013, 08:31 PM
To me, it seems obvious, especially when the author brings it up multiple times. For example, I knew Ged was not white since Ursula Le Guin made a point of it several times. People still insisted that he was white. (She put it in three times)


There's not much than can be done when it comes to a reader's cognitive filters sometimes. The human brain has an amazing capacity to itself unconsciously delete what it doesn't see fit to include.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Lyra Jean
09-27-2013, 10:39 PM
I had an internet acquaintance relate an employee exchange between her branch in America and the branch in Britain. The person Britain sent over was a black guy. So on all the paperwork, whenever it asked his race, he chose other. When he turned it in they all insisted he was African-American. Since this happened in multiple departments with none of the staff the same it took a good 20 minutes of convincing that he was British not American hence the Other for race. Apparently, there is no option of just black.

I would love to read books with PoC that do not revolve around PoC issues. The last book I read with a PoC character was "Like Sisters on the Homefront" and it dealt with cousins one being a single teenage mom from the 'hood. The other from South Georgia goody two shoes you think your teeth will rot Christian girl. It was YA.

I read Hunger Games and it blew my mind that Rue's district was entirely black except for the guards who were white and they basically lived as slaves on a Plantation. It just blew my mind that it got past agents, and publishers and everyone else involved. In the books it didn't really mention the race of any of the other characters so I assumed they were white.

Just tell me straight up if the characters is PoC whether it's skin color or hair or food.

Rachel Udin
09-29-2013, 12:00 AM
@Lyra Jean the collection of stories from Cajun traditions collected by Zora Neale Hurston doesn't really deal with it. Several of her books are also more along the line of women issues than black issues, though it's pretty clear that the characters are black. I liked Their Eyes were watching God.

Minority Pathological Porn. Ya know. I would like to see more books that aren't that in market.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-29-2013, 12:07 AM
... they all insisted he was African-American. Since this happened in multiple departments with none of the staff the same it took a good 20 minutes of convincing that he was British not American hence the Other for race. Apparently, there is no option of just black.

When I lived on Bonaire, I got into that argument with an American snowbird that insisted on calling the locals "African-American." They were Dutch citizens living on an island by Venezuela, and she didn't understand why calling them "American" was wrong.

During my five years there, I saw only three African-Americans: they were there visiting from New Jersey, and getting extremely frustrated because the locals kept trying to talk them in Papiamentu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papiamento).