Since my genre is historical fiction, I have a constant struggle with the question, when is political correctness more important than historical accuracy? In a few matters this is obvious. I would never use the "n" word, even in a context where it would have been accurate. But I'm struggling a lot in this novel. It's set in 1865--so not long after The Civil War. There's one sentence in particular that's troubling me--well, actually the whole concept surrounding it. There's a scene early on where Miles, my protag, is on a train, headed west. Here, he meets my other viewpoint character, Bridie (short for Bridget). She's very high-spirited and genuine in a way that none of the daughters of his mother's friends (upper middle class), are. And there's something else he can't put his finger on. Well, it turns out she's Irish. And I'm having trouble because Bridie fakes an American accent in an attempt to fit in, to try to rise above being a mill girl living in a miserable tenement, raising her younger siblings. She thinks that if she could "at least talk like they do" she could start working her way up the social ladder. Now, maybe I'm being absolutely silly, but is it offensive that she fakes an American accent to fit in? I don't know why it would be, these things just terrify me to death. The fact that she has a pretty convincing (I say pretty convincing, because some of her sentence constructions seem a little "off" to the average American ear) is a detail that will be pretty important to the plot later in the novel. But I'm just afraid of offending someone (I'm not nearly this overly sensitive in real life, but with written word it feels different). And then the sentence that comes immediately after she admits to Miles that she's Irish (even though Miles actually didn't suspect a thing) is worrisome as well. Miles is reflecting on why Bridie would fake an accent. And there's this sentence: "He knew a lot of people didn't like the Irish, but they weren't like Negroes. He'd heard of successful Irishmen." Now, I resisted my initial urge to put "African Americans," because I think this is a matter in which historical accuracy trumps political correctness, which would feel jarring and unrealistic coming from a 19th century white male. Yes, even in the North. The bit that troubles me is, does this seem to imply that African Americans couldn't be successful (untrue even in the 19th century, though it was rare)? What Miles is thinking is that people aren't as prejudiced against Irish (by this point in history, that is) as they were against blacks. So there wouldn't be as many social obstacles in their way. Would it be misconstrued, and even in a historical context, offensive? Or would the reader know that these thoughts are the thoughts of the protag, not of the author? Would it make the protag sound like a racist jerk? (He isn't, by the way. This is apparent within the context of the scene. He is, however, a product of the biases of his times). Is this okay? Am I over-thinking this? Or should I burn my manuscript and run for my life at risk of being chased down by a righteously indignant mob because I'm coming across as an insensitive and prejudiced writer? Does anyone relate to this struggle?