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White Authors Fear Being Called a Racist: When Inclusion is Done Wrong

Some authors of Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal stories get race all wrong and the work that they produce is seen as racist.  I'm one of those people, though, who hold back on the "R" word until I completely read the entire work. So, when a book came across my desk, I gave pause.

In the interest of no name calling, I will say that a YA book that was recently published by a NY publishing house just missed the mark with inclusion. In fact, there were several racial and ethnic groups represented but the author did it all wrong and the work appears racist.

Nobody wants to be labeled a Racist. I won't use specifics but what I will do is give a general idea of where this author went wrong:

  • The descriptions of minorities were cursory at best.  There was an obvious emphasis on a person's skin color versus depth of character.
  • Everytime there was a person of color mentioned, they were engaged in negative stereotypical behavior or were cast as gang bangers, homeless, or under achievers.
  • The story was written in a major Metropolitian area where there are obvious persons of color in power but the characters were written as if they were the "first" and only to perform a high ranking position. This was a futuristic and not a steam punk/historical novel.
  • The white protagonist made the stereotypical gang bangers look like idiots in an unheroic way.
  • The white characters were typecast as loving the confederate flag.
white_fist_with_hate_written_across

On the outset, not one of these things seems racist but together they pack a bad punch. I'm sure that the author in no way intended this but inclusion in this way failed miserably.  

Hispanic_man_with_words_on_a_poster_stop_teaching_kids_racism

I'm trying not to mention that this was a YA novel and it was published by a major NY publisher. I don't know how this slipped through the cracks. What I can say is I'm hoping that more people do take the plunge and add characters of color to their FFP novels but that they do it in a way that's respectful.  It's ok to write a stereotypical character but do it in a way that enhances not diminishes.

All authors struggle with making well rounded characters, anyone have suggestions as to how to add characters of color in a way that adds depth.  Looking for people to weigh-in. If you're an author, how do you write your multicultural characters? If you're a reader, what kinds of multicultural characters do you like to read? 

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