Fear of Fucking Up: Not Actually A Good Excuse For Erasing Characters of Color

 

Fear of Fucking Up - Writing Header (1)
Recently, there’s been a spate of fannish and original writers claiming that they’re so afraid of negative reception and responses from people of color, that they refrain from writing characters of color in their works.

We saw this during Amy Lane’s racist mess (where she wrote a book that had a black character refer to himself as a monkey) where dozens of M/M authors rushing to defend her claimed that POC were so scary and aggressive in defending themselves from racism that they were perpetuating (racial slurs as “cute” petnames and objectification in droves) that they’d never be writing characters of color again.

We also saw it a couple months ago in fandom where BNF Franzeska decided that the best response to Black fans pointing out racism towards Finn in Star Wars to write thousands of words of white washed fandom history that contained comments about how we (people of color willfully misidentified as white social justice warriors jonesing for ally cookies) were why they weren’t writing Finn.

Her post claimed that white writers were terrified of being accused of racism for… constantly imbuing their Finn-characterization with stereotypes of black masculinity and objectifying Finn’s body.

I still see my fellow fans of color dealing with that shit now, damn near three months after all of the work Black fans and anti-racist allies put into writing and talking about fandom’s racism. It’s still a thing that I see people claiming as if researching and respecting characters and people of color in fandom is so damn difficult!

These authors’ excuse for unbroken whiteness in their fiction appears to be that it’s downright terrifying to imagine people of color who’ve asked for characters like them to be written responsibly getting annoyed with racist portrayals of these characters of color.

You know, because it’s all about hurt white feelings in the end and it’s more upsetting to be confronted about their racism than to be confronted by racism.

When a white writer fucks up and writes a racist portrayal of Blackness or uses a Japanese character to play out their fantasies of Orientalism, it’s not about Black people or Japanese people who’ve stumbled across racism in a book they’re reading.

It’s about the white authors who’ve screwed up.

Their feelings come into play. Their fears. Their sadness.

Somehow, it never becomes about their racism.

And that’s wrong.

The very logic behind the fear and response is “people of color are too confusing to write and too scary to listen to so I’m just going to ignore them”.

How on earth is that helping? How are you being a good writer by letting fear and your unwillingness to do legwork and research shove you into a neat corner?

Just the other day I saw a YA author actively looking for beta/sensitivity reader types who were Romani and/or had one arm because she wanted to make sure that her book didn’t trade on stereotypes and portrayed real people in real ways. She didn’t have to do that, but she did because it’s easier to be aware of your audience and make sure readers won’t feel alienated than it is to apologize endlessly after writing something screwed up.

And let’s be real here, when you as a writer decide that there’s no winning and you can’t possibly write about characters of color in respectful, nuanced ways so you stop trying, you have failed at your job. You have failed as a writer.

You have shown that a fear of rightful and valid criticism is enough to turn you away from what you’re writing and that you care more about your feelings than your potential readers. You’ve shown that your right to write what you want is more important that the feelings of readers of color or their right to read and be represented positively.

If you don’t want to write about characters of color, okay.

If you don’t want to do research in order to make your characters of color positive forms of representation, whatever.

That’s on you and you’re probably a racist.

But I need you white writers to stop pretending that they’re the true anti-racist warriors who would be writing diverse worlds if not for “PC Police” and Social Justice Warriors critiquing them for the racism they imbue their worlds with. I need white writers in and out of fandom spaces to stop telling the lie that fear of writing characters of color stems from a fear of being yelled at as opposed to a fear of being told that you’re wrong or racist.

People of color, even vocal anti-racist critics who will call you on your shit without blinking, aren’t what’s really stopping you writers from writing characters of color.

What’s really stopping you from writing diverse characters of color like real people and not one-dimensional stereotypes are two things: selfishness and complacency.

You are straight up too selfish to consider that other people deserve representation in the fiction that they read and you don’t want to change your usual writing methods or research mode in order to incorporate the necessary legwork diversity done well will require.

It’s all about you, you, you.

Your fear of being yelled at (when most writers who mess up with race don’t get yelled at, they get their hands held up until they snatch them away and act the fool). Your worry that you won’t sell/get audiences. Your worry that people won’t like what you’ve written.

Meanwhile, you should worry about your readers who have to deal with you erasing them and characters who look like them from your narratives. You should be worried about your inability to write diverse characters without writing stereotypes and relying on racist tropes.

You should be worried about a world that you can whitewash without any consequences because you are afraid of receiving consequences.

If you’re an author and you swear that angry POC pushing back against racist portrayals of characters of color are what’s keeping you from writing diverse worlds and characters, go find another career or hobby because obviously, writing ain’t for you if your response to critique about an aspect of your writing that you’re weak in is to stop writing the thing you are critiqued for.

If you really and actually cared about providing representation for everyone, you’d do the work.

You’d be busy researching, reworking, and connecting so that you could provide your audience with diverse characters.

If your only response to people of color going “wow, I’m so tired of white authors constantly screwing up with regard to race/character of x race” is to stop writing diverse characters, you aren’t just part of the problem, you are a problem.

And I suggest finding a new line of work.

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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One Response to Fear of Fucking Up: Not Actually A Good Excuse For Erasing Characters of Color

  1. uptilmidnight says:

    I need to follow you on my personal blog. But I completely agree with you. I think it’s a crock of bullshit. Why are people of color “so hard” to write? Honestly, I think they just want to be lazy and rely on stereotypes. However, since readers are getting more vocal, they try to use that sorry excuse.

    Like

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