PART I of 3
Can White authors write characters of color? Close your mouth. That’s right, I said it. Being a hot topic with Black authors, and a rather not touch with a 10-foot pole topic for White authors, has made this the perfect subject for The Write DNA to touch basis on. I’ll specifically speak about the African-American character since I have personal experience in being one, and it seems to be a touchy subject with Black authors. Our media has a proven track record of showing a warped reality of what the Black culture is about; that is when it decides to show it at all. Which got me to thinking, “Can White authors write characters of color?”
Now I’ll warn you that this article is straight out and to the point, so I’ll ask that some of you try to keep your cool about you. Yet, I know that some of you will be too steamed to take a step back and be open-minded to listening and learning from my African-American journey and perspective in this field. And if you’re a non-author of color and you feel that way, you’ve already failed step one to writing characters of color. Whether you’re a White author or an author of color for that matter, you’ll either use this to grow as an author or an empathetic human being, or use this to feel like a victim, but either way, here we go.
For I’m smart enough to know,
that I’ve got room to grow.
We’ll delve into a three-part series contemplating the question of White authors writing characters of color. The question shouldn’t really be, can White authors write characters of color? I mean, everyone in America is free to write what they want (so far). The question we’ll be discussing is really if White authors can write characters of color well.
When authors haven’t lived a substantial amount of time engrossed within another culture, to develop a character of color, they’ll need to ask a lot of questions before even getting it half right. Authors research so diligently, whether they are writing about an occupation or location, be it Paris, London, or even the cabin by the lake. But when it comes to other cultures, I’m not sure that they will. Why? Because our American breeding has brainwashed us into a false erudition of believed and not true-to-life cultural facts about one another, yes, each other. Basically giving us the arrogance to think we already know.
Racism in America has damaged us all. It is an epidemic some don’t even know that they’re infected with on one level or another. How can one not be with it being pushed through our workplace, through television, and books? It negatively affects our viewpoints and perspectives. Some of you will see this article as a perfect exemplification of what I’m saying to you today. But guess what? Because I’m conscious and aware of how my world has broken me, I don’t disagree. And that’s what white authors will have to be mindful of if they hope to do an excellent job at writing characters of color. They’ll have to master the skill of having both confidence and humility within the same space to make it happen successfully.
We’ll continue the discussion on Can White Authors Write Characters of Color next month. We’ll pursue the marginally diverse publishing Industry and the prejudices of labeling things like Women’s Fiction and the African-American book section and how that plays a role in or discussion. I’ll also share with you my experience in having a best friend who’s Korean and how it relates to the subject at hand when we return with part II at The Write DNA.
Until then, be thoughtful, empathetic, and kind to others. And always remember, I’m never being mean to you; I just may not be telling you what you want to hear. No one grows without first being uncomfortable.
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