There has been so much talk about race lately with the Black Lives Matter movement in full swing and the protests happening all over the world. It got me to wondering about race in literature and just how socially conscious writers have to be when we create a novel. Should we pay close attention to it and make a conscious effort to make sure other races are represented in our novels or should we just write freely and not concern ourselves with politics and race?
I think that most black authors feature a black character and white authors feature a white character as the protagonist in their novels. Possibly because they tend to write about what they can relate to or feel the most comfortable writing about. They write what they know. But you also have a choice few authors out there that do not want to follow the mainstream of things and have no problem writing about a particular ethnic, that is different from their own. I am one such author.
When I write a story, I typically don’t go out of my way to figure out what race my main character is going to be. I don’t think it should matter. If people want to read it, they will read it no matter what color the main character is. Although I have wondered if white people read books about black people. There are plenty of blacks that read stories about white people. Why? Because African Americans have had white culture forced on them all their lives with movies, television shows, music, and yes even books.
It has never been the other way around with whites being forced to indulge in African American culture. If they do, it is by choice. The lives of white people have been thrust upon us so much by its dominance in the arts and media that it is has become the norm in many black households. It is not uncommon for a little black girl to own a white doll or have white characters in their storybooks yet at the same time, there are very few children’s books that feature black characters or are written by black authors.
People do want to see people that they can relate to in the books that they read so it is a good idea to have more than just one race being featured in books. (Not the classic token black person) Diversity is important after so many years of segregation in literature. When I go to stores and browse the book section, I have noticed that the books featuring black main characters are all in one section of the store and the books that have white main characters are in another. Why are these books being kept separate? Why do they have to be looked at as the black books and the white books? Think of all of the wonderful books people of both races could discover if they had to search through both types to find one that interests them but they wouldn’t if they never even picked one up and read the book’s synopsis.
I enjoy writing about both races and do not feel that I should be forced to write only about black people just because I’m black. To me, that is placing me inside a locked box and throwing away the key so that I cannot exercise my creative freedom. I want to be able to write about whomever I want regardless of race. But I would like to see more diverse stories being created. It’s rare to see novels featuring a Latino protagonist, a Chinese protagonist, or an African protagonist. We are just beginning to see more books featuring LGBTQ characters which there should be because they exist and want to see their lives featured in literature. But let’s be fair and feature all types of people and not be afraid that multicultural stories won’t sell. There should be books for everyone. But if one is going to write about a particular ethnic that they are not a part of, they must do their homework and learn everything they can about that race so they aren’t mimicking other races just to prove they aren’t prejudiced. Otherwise, the readers will see the fakery for all that it is and become insulted with the book, possibly never wanting to read anything further that the author releases. It is very difficult to come back from being accused of racism. After all, this is “cancel culture” and it can happen to anybody as the media has shown us. I am against this type of demonizing because one little mistake can ruin your entire career and possibly your entire life. To me, that should never have been allowed. Everyone is still learning and no one is perfect.
Do I ever intend to write more black stories in the future? The answer to that question is yes. Will my stories be all black? No. Because that is not the world, we live in. And having multiple people who are different, living in the same world makes that world a lot more interesting.
Until next time…