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IMPORTANT: Race in Fiction

Discussion in 'Story Board Workshops' started by Oh look I'm..., Jan 29, 2007.

  1. Oh look I'm...

    Jan 10, 2007
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    Don't worry, I'll keep this clean. It's not about racism. Well, depending on how you look at it, it could be. Anyhooz, here's the issue that I severely need help with:

    Should I include phrases that specify a person's race when describing them (i.e. "Matt was a tall, Caucasian youth with..." and "Dionte was a muscluar African-American who...") and is it appropriate to say "black guy" as a description?

    I'm bringing up this issue because, whenever I first read a character, I automatically assume (unless specified otherwise) that he or she is white. Now, before you start throwing torches at me, consider this: isn't it less racist to not even care what a character's skin color is and leave out the specification? This way, the interpretation (unless specified by the author) is left entirely up to the reader. A young black boy reads "Peter Parker" for the first time, doesn't know about the difference in skin color, and assumes that Peter is black (or not, depending on the little boy).

    Is ignorance bliss in this regard? Please help me! I need your consideration! But, please, no racism outcries or accusations. I'm simply on the quest to understanding, not prejudice.
  2. SilentBat18

    SilentBat18 Hmm, so, yeah

    Jun 23, 2006
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    interesting question. i dont find it racist at all, i find it more towards educational. i bet you would love an answer ;). Well here's mine:

    Unless you feel it is necessary, feel free to describe the character's race. you make a good point about people assuming what race the charater is and if you think about it it really is less racist. i usually assume characters are white despite the fact that i'm arab. so you can mention race if you feel it's important.

    Now i'm not sure if you want to use Black to describe and African-American cause frankly i have no idea if it's offensive or not. i hope this answers part of your question. oh and, just in case, to describe middle easterners, arab/arabian is fine :D
  3. Anima

    Anima Her royal ecentricity, will do

    Mar 1, 2006
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    eh, race is really sticky. I'm black and I really have never had a problem with "Black" vs. "African-American." basically it all means the same thing. It's the same with descriptions. Stating a character's nationality or color is, at least to me, the same as describing his or her hair and eye color. I wouldn't say "black guy" just because 'guy' is really undescriptive, though...

    For some characters their race is part of who they are and influences their personality and everything. Your idea to leave out the race of a character is interesting to me. Most of the time when I describe a character I've noticed that I forget entirely to mention their skin color simply because you get so wrapped up in describing their eyes perfectly and the way their chin was so strong and square and how their clothes and stance was. After all of that is seems kind of awkward to add in "oh, and he was also hispanic." Leaving the race undescribed on purpose though seems like a good idea, though. It would let the character relate to everyone some.

    Personally, because I'm so not the girl to be dealing with political correctness, I try to stay away from statements like "he was white" or "she was black" (I've also noticed that these two are virtually the only two races where that seems awkward and sometimes offensive. He was german. Nope, that's fine. They were Italian. Also fine. Many Asian nationalities have that kind of problem too, but I think that's because people get them confused with other Asian nationalities. But I got myself off track, huh?). Instead I go with describing the color of their skin. It flows better with my descriptions that way, for example "His dark brown skin was broken and scarred." or "His skin was pale and untanned, with a pinkish hue." Sometimes it's hard, but I guess that's just me.

    To your other question("Isn't it less racist to not even care what a character's skin color is and leave out the specification?"), that doesn't seem less racist, but more like someone who is trying to convince others that they aren't racist. Really, the reason why race is so weird is that it can mean nothing, but at the same time it means just about everything. Maybe the reason it can mean so much is the fact that people try to convince themselves and other people that it means nothing(crap... now I look like some sort of hypocrite... conflicting opinions, I guess that's how the world works, huh?). On one hand, a character's skin color could mean everything to that character, but another character could be the same color and no-one or nothing in the story will acknowledge it about them and so it would just fade into the background. It's the same with people.

    "Less Racist" doesn't really seem like a real thing to me. If you're racist, you're racist. If someone admitted to being "kinda racist" I wouldn't accept that. Either they are or they aren't.

    But that's my incredibly long-winded and conflicting opinion.

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