Diversity in literature, especially Young Adult literature, had been exploding over social media lately. That’s not to say diversity in fiction hasn’t been an issue prior to Twitter getting its hands on it, it’s just now openly available to everyone.
I’m not just talking about slapping on a “foreign sounding name” to a background character, or changing the description of a minor character’s skin to read “dark” or “ebony”. Write a story featuring a person of color (POC); make the main character POC, make the love interest POC, make everyone POC if you really want. But include more than just white and black.
There seems to be a misconception in society that when we talk about racial representation in fiction and media, we mean white vs everyone else. What proper equal racial representation includes everyone in equal slices of the representation pie. Tumblr user intersectionalfeminism made a wonderful post representing this. Because equal representation is not this:
but rather, this:
Writing about someone you don’t know, with struggles and traditions and ways of life you never experienced, is difficult. The worst thing that you could do is to play on stereotypes of that particular “brand” of character. For the love of all the powers that be, do not play into those stereotypes; they are offensive and unimaginative. You know the ones I’m talking about, you’ve seen them on TV and in media for years; the “Sassy Black Woman”, the “Nerdy Asian kid”, just to name a few. When you write a character of a different race than yours, treat them like a character with faults and facets and a three-dimensional personality.
The best thing you can do when writing a character that identifies as something you’re not is to do research. Are you writing a genderqueer Chinese girl? First, talk to any people in your life that may identify as genderqueer or if they are Chinese and talk to them about it. Ask them what they find offensive in fiction when it come to describing a character like them, or what it is that they look for. If you’re unsure of Chinese culture, ask a Chinese friend about it; if you don’t have someone like that in your life, the internet is at your disposal. Do a little search, find a blogger or someone willing to chat with you online. Always try to talk to a person first. Using sites like Wikipedia is fine as well, but sometimes websites can be inaccurate.
Remember that not everyone’s experience is the same and there is no One True Spokesperson for any race, religion, sexuality, gender, etc.
Remember that if someone tells you they find something offensive, even if you don’t think it is, it’s still offensive to that person. Not everyone will find the same thing offensive, but if you’re not part of that group of people, frankly, your opinion on if its offensive or not doesn’t matter. You have a say on what’s offensive to you, and others have a say on what’s offensive to them.
And especially remember that anyone can find a hero in anyone, but it’s always nice to see someone who looks like you being awesome.
Originally posted on Round Robin.