Just out of curiosity…

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Why are white writers attempting to write characters of other races and cultures? I saw someone say in a thread that the best way to avoid offending them is “by not using a culture you don't 100% know in your stories.” This seems reasonable to me, and a case could be made that the attempt is in itself cultural appropriation. That’s one reason my characters are white.

I don’t mean to attack those who do write such stories, but I’m just wondering why people take that risk.
 
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mrsmig

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White people writing non-white characters isn't necessarily cultural appropriation. It's writing with a broader vision, to include experiences outside of one's own. Maybe you should try it sometime.

Cultural appropriation takes place when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way.
 

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I guess what I mean is that many attempts end up with people of other races offended unintentionally, as if it were appropriation. You’ll have to forgive my ignorance, the question just came up based on observation of people’s reactions.
 

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Are you talking about white people writing non-white point of character/main characters, or writing any non-white characters at all? It's certainly important to see POC main characters written by POC authors rather than white authors attempting to mimic or wrongly portray a culture that they're not familiar with. It's also important for groups who've historically been underrepresented in publishing to have the chance to tell their own stories.

But if you have no non-white characters at all in your work, it looks like some kind of political statement. It's also not representative of the real world. You're not going to offend anyone by having some non-white characters as a white writer. You're much more likely to offend people by not having any (if offending people is what you're worried about).

Look at it this way: would you refuse to write any female characters in case you 'get it wrong'? Probably not. So why draw this line?
 

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Why are white writers attempting to write characters of other races and cultures?
1. Because it creates more true-to-life narratives for 99% of our society.
2. Because it works against promoting the idea that only white people matter.
3. Because it is a challenge from which we as writers grow. It can increase our understanding and empathy. Our compassion.

White western boys benefit from something called micro-affirmations their entire lives. (these are the opposite of micro aggressions.) White western boys grow into white men. It is not unusual for white men to believe that they are the best, in a sort of vacuum of considering that non-white, non-western boys (and girls, white and of color) were never given the sheer quantity of micro-affirmations throughout their lives that the boys received.

One link.

A series of related practices known as “micro-affirmations,” includes: “small acts which are often ephemeral and hard-to-see, events that are public and private, often unconscious but very effective, which occur wherever people wish to help others to succeed. Micro- affirmations are tiny acts of opening doors to opportunity, gestures of inclusion and caring, and graceful acts of listening. Micro- affirmations lie in the practice of generosity, in consistently giving credit to others—in providing comfort and support when others are in distress, when there has been a failure at the bench, or an idea that did not work out, or a public attack” (Rowe, 2008, p. 46).
 

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Why are white writers attempting to write characters of other races and cultures? I saw someone say in a thread that the best way to avoid offending them is “by not using a culture you don't 100% know in your stories.” This seems reasonable to me, and a case could be made that the attempt is in itself cultural appropriation. That’s one reason my characters are white.

I don’t mean to attack those who do write such stories, but I’m just wondering why people take that risk.
For MCs, sometimes because a particular story is best told through the point of view of a character who is not the same race, culture, gender, etc as the author. For non-MCs, because it's almost always unrealistic for a story to have a cast of characters that is not diverse -- it'd be pretty hard for a reader to suspend belief in a contemporary police procedural murder mystery set in Los Angeles if the MC was a white man but he didn't interact with colleagues, suspects, and witnesses who ran the gamut of white-PoC, cis-trans, straight-rainbow, binary-nonbinary, left-right, old-young, and everything else.

ETA: And I'm not sure it's always safe to make assumptions about an author's gender, race, or culture based on their name or photo. (I've seen so many flame wars where white men claim that Those Damned Wimmen Are Taking Over Science Fiction And Winning All The Good Awards, and they cite as evidence Kim Stanley Robinson.)
 
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Brigid Barry

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I started writing "other" here and realized that it was othering and it made me uncomfortable so I'm starting over.

I write characters who are different from my racial and gender identity as an acknowledgement that my race/gender identity/religion/sexual orientation/ableness/neurodivergence is not the only way that there is to be in the world.

There are excellent resources out there for appropriately describing people of different races/etc, Writing With Color even has a Q&A section. To make doubly sure that you don't write something offensive, you can ask someone from that group (either because they offer this as a service or they are someone you know) to please read and make sure you haven't inadvertently written anything offensive. Your beta readers may be able to point things out (I know I do). Of course one person can't speak for an entire group.

That said, I write these characters very cautiously. In my future fantasy novel, all of the societal stuff has been hammered out and it's no longer a thing. I would never presume to write a character from a position to tell their story that isn't mine to tell. For example, I would not attempt to write a trans character and their struggles with being trans. But I can write a trans character and their struggle with getting to work on time and OMG why is that line so long and traffic is terrible. General struggles (y), struggles specific to a marginalized group to which I do not belong (n).
 
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Maryn

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Username Required, you clearly have not followed the requirements for posting on the POC board. You must read the stickies--and if you had, this question would have been answered and there would have been zero reason for this post to exist. (And when I welcomed you a month ago today, I specifically told you to read the stickies before posting.)

Write whatever characters you want. Make them all straight white Christian men and women if you like. Give them whatever sociopolitical views you yourself espouse.

But don't presume other writers live in a bubble of people Just Like Me. (I've lived in Texas and there are plenty of POC there; I suspect you avoid them when you can, whether you realize it or not. Many of them are straight Christians.)

Most of us live in a world where there are a great many people not much like us at all. And amazingly enough, we like some them and seek friendly relationships with them even if their religion, skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other facets of being a living human are not the same as ours.

And we put people something like them in our novels.

Okay, locking this up. It was inappropriate to ask in the first place.

.
 
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