A colleague of mine was talking to me recently about her misgivings about her capabilities regarding writing Women of Color. She wanted very badly to include several WOC characters in her sci-fantasy series, but she had some concerns about correct portrayal and writing them in a way that wouldn’t instantly piss people off. I told her I would write something about it that might help. So, here we have it: How to write POC without pissing everyone off and doing a horrible job.
In general, it comes down to three things. Research, Persistence and Consideration. Also. for the point of this essay, I am going to use Black women, Native Women and Mixed Race women as they each represent different individual (yet very important) racial struggles that need consideration.
1. Research is by far the most important thing. EVER. For this example, I am going to use black women.
It is important to start by trying your hardest to forget anything you think you know about black women and black female identity. As a white person, anything you would know about them you probably learned from media that is not controlled by or monitored by black women themselves. Meaning that it is likely not a good representation of black women at all. Or maybe you just have a black friend.
Which you should consider in the same way you would a control group for a science experiment.
One or two subjects would not provide conclusive evidence in regards to any hypothesis. Having one or two or even five black friends can’t help you with understanding the complex history of black discourse….
In order to start from scratch, I would first spend some time reading literature written by black women for black women. Learning the way black women have discourse among each other is the first step to understanding their perspective AND emulating their voice. Literature is the genre of media where POC have the most liberty (unlike film) to discuss certain topics or parts of their identity.
Then, I would delve into “complaints”. There are thousands upon thousands of articles where black women complain about their portrayal in media. These complaints are both valid and often eloquently expressed. It is important for you to know, what things black women (WOC) are already so fucking tired of seeing in regards to incorrect or offensive portrayals of themselves. Not only will it help you avoid making the same mistakes as white writers before you (an example of this: Arthur Golden and the hot mess that is Memoirs of a Geisha), But it will also get you upset about certain ways black women (POC women in general) are portrayed, and make you want to write them better. This can improve your writing in that not only will you avoid being offensive, but you now have the chance to be progressive and kick stereotypes out the window!
Finally, I would take some time to follow some tumblr blogs that are run by the group you’re trying to write. This part of the research can really help because you’ll get a first hand, contemporary dialogue about issues within the specific POC community. Which leads me to my second topic…
I dont think I ever wrote about this.
When I took Chloe in for her physical the doctor had her get down to her underwear and the doctor checked her out and then said “I am just going to take a quick peek in your underwear to…
I am not Mike Brown. I am white. I am middle class. I am female. I am small. I am not considered a threat. When police see me they see someone who looks like them. They see their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, themselves. I am not at risk of being shot by police for existing while black. I am not at risk of being shot while unarmed. I am not at risk of being shot while armed with nothing more than a BB gun. I am not at risk of being shot for reaching for my wallet. I am privileged.
But I am outraged. And if you aren’t outraged, then you aren’t paying attention. This is America in 2014. This is our reality. It’s so easy to get jaded and to ignore these atrocities, to act like this doesn’t affect us. It’s so easy to get apathetic. In the past it was the youth who protested. Where is the rage of the youth? Where is our rage?
Like I said, I am not Mike Brown. But I am outraged.
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A memorial erected in Vancouver sparked controversy because it was dedicated to “all women murdered by men”, which critics say implies all men are potential murderers. As a result, women involved in the project received death threats[…].
men are violent against women, and when women point this out, they are threatened with more violence
Just take a fucking look at this.