So, I like it when an author puts race in front of my eyes. I enjoy visualizing what a character looks like, race and all. When it’s done correctly, the experience can deepen the reader’s relationship with the character. There are some people who say that showing race in this way is racist. They enjoy reading or writing raceless, race free, or characters of color with little or no physical description. I contend that this approach is racist.
I do not believe I am a racist. And yet I can make thoughtless comments, be oblivious, be hurtful without realization or intent. Like when I offered a hairdrier to a black friend. Hey, I thought I was being helpful. Forget color-blind. I can be down-right blind.
I don’t classify people by race. Why? I grew up with parents who were from the deep south. They would whisper things like, “well, he’s black…” as if that would explain something. Those comments made me ill. I grew up in Silicon Valley in the middle of the dot com boom. My early jobs were so multi-cultural that to me the world was a rainbow. I tour guided at a museum that drew international tourists and tried to learn phrases in as many languages as I could.
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.