Whose Face Do I See When I Write

Ever noticed how white all your books are? The snowy paleness of it all should alarm you.It alarms me more than anything else in publishing and as a reader and writer it stings.

Look at the illustrations on children’s books or the main characters across any genre of writing and it is a white , straight male who is the predominant figure.It is something so insidious, yet so ingrained that I never really noticed it until I decided to stop procrastinating, okay okay procrastinate less,and actually write more. Then I noticed how quick I was to refer to my characters as having blue eyes or blonde hair or other Caucasian dominant traits. It was a rare thing to reference them as being of African or black heritage and even when I did I found my word description limited.

This forced me to make a concerted effort to find appropriate terms to describe black people across the color spectrum so I wouldn’t be guilty of color-ism. So it wasn’t just the benign black or brown hues that are more overused than the words ‘nice’ and ‘very’ I developed an encyclopedia of references.

So I came up with mocha, cinammon, olive, coffee, chocolate, hazel, copper, bronze , mahogany et al. ( Notice how many of these descriptors are food based. Are black people that edible?). I also learnt how to treat white characters the same as characters of color, if you never describe your characters as being white but then take special mention to illustrate others as non white then you’re saying that white is the default character and that is pure bullshit.

Finally I had my eyes opened to LGBT, trans, other people of color including Asians , Native Americans , Aborigines , Carib , individuals with physical and other limitations , different religions and non religions as well as varied cultures. However, I doubt I’ll tread in some of these waters for the fear of not just getting it wrong but also the fear of being accused of exploiting cultures , people and ideas for my own selfish benefits.


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