Monday, February 3, 2014

That's Raaaacist!

I ran an early draft of a story past my friend who told me all my characters were white guys. Since a person's race, or sex is doesn't disqualify one from our shared humanity, I thought, "That's not right."

And then I had a second thought, "How do you know Skip Collins is a white guy? Or Art Donway?"

In a fit of pique I asked, "Should I have one of them start speaking in ebonics?"

If you are a racist and a sexist, it matters whether these characters are white or black, boy or girl. If you're a human, maybe you can relate to the characters' humanity without heavy-handed labels branded on them.

One of the reasons why I like Bollywood movies so much is that all the characters are light enough to be not-black and tan enough to be not-white.

Racism and sexism now mean something different from what I have always thought they meant. What I always thought these terms meant was treating someone badly because they identify with the out group. But once all the laws get passed prohibiting favorable treatment, the people in the racism and sexism industry need to raise the bar. It's not enough to treat everyone equally and relate to them on the basis of their common humanity and respect them on the basis of bearing the image of God.

We somehow have to please self-appointed bean counters: Who complain that there aren't enough blacks in Science Fiction, or enough women, or that there are too many cismale gendernormative fascists.

So, what's a writer to do? Write a scene where the character goes into the girls' bathroom, and laments her boy-parts? Or vice-versa?

Sure, that'll sell a lot of books.

This tendency toward bean counting has engendered push-back. And if a "cismale gendernormative fascist" isn't polite enough when he pushes back, there's someone out there to concern-troll him.

Writing should be able to effectively and richly convey who a character is with just words and no gimmicks. Giving a character an Afro hair-cut or a name like LaFonda is a gimmick.

No, wait, Napoleon Dynamite was a white guy with an Afro. But he could dance, and don't they say that black people have rhythm--Raaaaacist!

So, the bean counters want us to convey the racial and sexual identity of our characters when the easiest ways to do that with the written word include racial and sexual stereotypes. But they have to be the right racial stereotypes or you'll be crucified for being a racist/sexist.

This game is not worth the candle. It doesn't matter whether my characters are black or white, male or female, because their humanity is more important.

(No, I don't think black people have rhythm, Motown records notwithstanding.)

I'm tempted to write a story with characters named Alex and Sidney who are the opposite sex, race, etc. than what everyone expects.

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