I have a confession to make. It’s not something new. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. When I write, I’m nervous about writing characters that are of a minority. I know it sounds weird, but there’s so much hate floating around against poorly constructed or poorly executed characters of minority by majorities.
I feel as though if I write a black character, no matter what I do, someone will point the racism finger at me. Then, if I don’t write a black character at all, someone else will point. It feels like there’s no way to win. No matter what I do, I’m not doing something right or I’m doing something wrong.
It’s not just with black characters; it’s characters that aren’t white/straight/average. I mean, that’s the character that I understand the most, because that’s me. I understand myself. But does that mean that I can’t write a Hispanic character? I don’t see why not, other than I’m not very in tune with the modern Hispanic culture.
I want to say that things like race are skin deep, and that it’s the personality underneath that I’m writing. In Devil’s Blood, for example, if Malone had been black, nothing in the story would have changed. She’s still Malone. However, in fantasy it doesn’t seem as hard. I don’t write a lot of modern-world stories. But if I did, it feels like no matter how I write a minority character, I’m either following stereotypes or I’m not, but either way I’m not doing something right.
Then, at the same time, it’s my characters and my story. Can’t I write it however I want? So what if my black character follows some stereotype? There’s a lot of real people out there that seem to follow stereotypes. Am I being racist for not doing anything?
It’s just…sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what I do or say; I’m racist no matter what because I’m white.
It feels like someone is always upset and “offended” by how someone is portrayed or not portrayed in a book or movie. I understand; I would be annoyed if I went to see the next big movie and didn’t find a single character that I felt was similar to myself.
But what’s the response to this? I don’t want to write in characters simply for the sake of writing in characters of a certain “type.” I don’t want to make my stories seem like social propaganda. I think it’s because, in a way, things like race and sex and gender don’t matter to me the way the seem to matter to other people. People are people no matter what they look like or what they think or believe or who they share a bed with. We’re all pink and squishy on the inside.
I really thought about this stuff while I was plotting out Tehdi from Devil’s Blood. I envisioned her as black, or Pacific Islander. She’s very dark skinned. If the book ever gets made into a movie or TV series, I see a black actress as her. However, I didn’t write her that way – she evolved through the process and became that way.
However, I do worry that I’ll offended someone. At the same time, I don’t care. She’s my character, take her or leave her. These are the stories that I’ve written. Take them or leave them.
P.S. to my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving!
To my non-American friends: Happy Thursday!