I was just reading some commentary wherein someone said, “White people shouldn’t write X minority.” That’s paraphrased, of course, and simplified, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard that sentiment. I’ve also heard writers express the opinion that they’re afraid to write X minority because they’re afraid of getting it wrong.
Well, hello, Sword of Damocles–aren’t you precious perched above my neck? But that’s okay; I’m going to dare your wrath anyhow.
I disagree with both opinions above, and this is why. You see, assuming that a minority must exhibit certain traits? That’s racial profiling. If these people are fictional, they are my inventions, and if they are my inventions, they cannot possibly be wrong. Do you see how that tracks logically? When I wrote Chance as half-Korean / half-other (and no, I’m not telling you who his daddy is. You must keep reading the series to find out his secret, and OMG, it’s GOOD), he does not come with a packet of pre-existing qualities, like he’s good at math, or a bad driver, or whatever other stereotypes may be. He’s not merely a character of Asian descent; he’s a person. Likewise, I have people of Hispanic ethnicity. That doesn’t mean they all wear hairnets and drive restored El Caminos. I’m not into racial profiling. And sure, some people may find my characters differ from their personal experiences, but I am not attempting to capture the essential (insert minority) experience. I put forth that background, geographic location, and socio-economic status all impact the kind of experience any person has, which contributes to character and development.
For example, my husband was educated in a British-run school system. Therefore, he speaks English with a mild British accent. He lived in LA for many years, so the accent wore nearly away, but the accent is still clear on many words. And he’s Mexican. He is. You would be amazed how many people ask me if he’s a drug dealer. Because clearly since he’s Mexican and successful in his family’s pharmaceutical company, he must be a drug dealer. That’s offensive on so many levels.
There is no universal truth. This is not a quiz, wherein there are only right and wrong answers. I present to you the idea that filling our books with only white people, or Hispanic, or Asians, or black folks is wrong. I try to write books (and worlds) where the population is diverse, both in my Corine series and in Jax as well. Nobody has ever asked me about this, but Jax is clearly mixed; she has caramel skin and light eyes. She’s not accurately depicted on the covers, in fact, but they’re lovely, and anyone who has read the books and the description of her hair knows the truth.
In my first Ava Gray romance, the hero is half Crow and half Guatemalan. I went looking for actors / models who shared that background, and I found Jason de Hoyos. In my mind, this is Reyes. You guys are, of course, free to picture him however you like.
At any rate, I think it’s a mistake to let fear keep you from telling the story you want to tell. Remember you’re the creator, and you aren’t trying to tell a story that offers unilateral truths; you’re just trying to tell a story. I welcome your thoughts.