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  1. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    Is This Racist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CrystalDreamer59, Sep 20, 2012.

    So the main antagonist in my story I plan on writing is part African in appearance. I based his appearance on president Barack Obama (By the way I'm neither Romney nor Obama). I can't help but think that it's racist to have an antagonist that's part African in appearance. I also can't help but think that I would be offending democrats by basing my antagonist on Barack Obama. I also can't help but feel as though I'm putting too much politics into my story, but I really want to show people what I think an imperfect government is and a perfect government is.
     
  2. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Describing someone by their skin color is not overtly racist.

    The term "African-American" has been adopted in order to define the black populice in the US, but to call someone African-looking is simply inarticulate and overly general.

    Racism would be to suggest that a character acts in an anticipated way because he is whatever race.

    As for the political question: it sounds like you want to make a political story, so go ahead.
     
  3. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    You might want to sit down for this bombshell.

    Ready?

    Not all African-Americans are good.

    Not all Caucasians are bad.

    Not all Asians are good at math.

    Not all Italians are in the Mafia.

    Having an antagonist of color is not, in and of itself, racist. Now, if you only have one African-American character and that character is bad, you may draw some accusations of being racist. You especially run that risk if you put this character opposite a bunch of good (white) guys. But even then, it really depends on how you write it.

    Let's look at some examples in current media. In Training Day, Denzel Washington is a really crooked cop. Huge different being that's was a movie. The bad guy character was black because he was portrayed by Denzel Washington. Your book, on the other hand, will be specifically defining the race of the character. So be careful what implications you make.

    It is one thing to base the way a character looks on Barack Obama. It is a different thing to say your character looks like Barack Obama within the text. If your book is also about politics (as you seem to imply in your post) you are treading a pretty dangerous line.

    If I write a book about a president, whose father was a president, who starts a two front war and cannot pronounce "supposedly" my work will likely be looked upon as political satire. If I mention that this president happens to also look like George W. Bush, I'm starting to tease the lion too much.

    People write about public figures. But you may notice a strange absence of living public figures from many works of fiction. That's because you can almost count on a lawsuit. Now, you may be able to argue a Larry Flint-style defense about it being legally protected parody and not libel thinly disguised as a novel, but when people appear in works of literature without prior approval , they tend to hire lawyers. Don't believe me? Go write a story featuring an antagonistic Tom Cruise and let me know how it works out.

    If you are inserting a lot of politics intomamstory where you want to make a point about politics, I sincerely hope you are writing political satire. If you write such satire, focusing on matters of race, at a time when there are a whole lot of racial tensions centered around a certain election, I think it would be silly to believe you will not, at any point, be accused of racism.

    But ultimately, your execution will determine if the piece comes off as racist or edgy. I think the idea, as you have explained it this far, sounds like it is cruising toward controversy and I don't mean that in a good way.
     
  4. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    Ever watch a Russell Peters comedy special? In it, he says that white people are deathly afraid of noticing that someone is black, or of another ethnicity, fearing that they would be accused of being a racist. He also goes so far as to say that every other race is racist, but even worse. They are racist with those of their own nationality, but may be from a different area, or tribe.

    I can not avoid writing about those of other ethnic origins in my fantasy novel. They add a richness to the writing, qualities, and physical characteristics that would make the artistic prose, whether erotic or simply in action sequences, come alive. Imagine writing about beauty, but forgetting about the amazing liquid brown eyes of a Mexican woman, the long flowing hair you wish to twine around your fingers, or the plump lips begging for a kiss. I could not forget the wonderful diversity our world offers, and will not. I may write carefully to avoid stereotypes, but I would rather stop writing altogether then stop writing about different people and cultures.

    There is so much to write about, and so little time....
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to wonder what you mean by "part African in appearance". Do you mean they're bi-racial? Do you mean they look like someone from a country in Africa (which could mean they look black, white, etc)? So terminology would be something to work on.

    Racism would not be my concern, though. Your statement "I really want to show people what I think an imperfect government is and a perfect government is." does make me wonder if you're going to write a diatribe, a thinly-veiled sermon, or an entertaining novel. I would hope the last, but it really doesn't sound that way.
     
  6. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Sounds to me like 1984 or Animal Farm, or Atlas Shrugged, or Some utopian fantasy...
     
  7. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    When I mentioned that my antagonist is part African in appearance I meant that he is bi racial like Barack Obama. And yes this is suppose to be a fantasy novel basically about two different worlds (a utopian world and a non utopian world similar to the United States) in another solar system that are at war with each other over their differences.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What does part African mean? Does it mean he resembles an Arab prince? An Egyptian industrialist? A Nigerian farmer? A South African trader? On which side of apartheid?

    So yes, I think your statement is a bit racist, but probably not the way you meant.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    May I be blunt? It's stupid. And, as writing, totally worthless.

    Why? Because there is no indication as to what the "part-African" is intended to describe, or what is implied by it. Describing someone as part-ANYTHING doesn't mean anything unless we know what the other part is, does it? Someone who is 10% African and 90% Chinese will look quite different than someone who is 90% African and 10% Scandinavian. Unless, of course, the implication is that ANY portion of blood that is African "taints" the rest, rendering the person as less than others, in which case you know full bloody well it's racist. And not too artfully done, at that.

    And if that wasn't your intention, then what in hell are you trying to say? Maybe you should just try saying it straight.
     
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  10. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    is it just me or do we get a lot of threads on, is this racist? is that racist?
    jezzz just write the story and be realistic about it and in all likely hood racism will not be present.
     
  11. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    It is not racist.

    You are just making President Obama look bad.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ignoring racism or not, it's not making sense to me that a world in another solar system uses the term "African".
     
  13. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    The real question is:does it really matter if you are racist?

    If anyone accuses you of being racist, a simple "Really? That's not how I intended it to sound like" should clear you out.
     
  14. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I've decided to go with this character in my story even if it might seem racist. However I'm going to change his name so that people don't automatically realize he's based on Barack Obama. Any ideas for names. I want it to be an unusual name since the story takes place in another solar system.
     
  15. Danvok
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    Danvok Senior Member

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    Why would you base your antagonist on the appearance of Barack Obama? Are you trying to make a statement or something?

    There's a LOT of different "African-American" or "African" people out there with millions of variations in appearance. Why does he have to look like Barack Obama?

    It doesn't matter if its racist or not. If you are racist it will show in your writing irregardless of how you approach it. I just don't understand why he would have to look like a political figure, who just happens to be black, if it's not going to be for a very good reason. Is your story a satire of current American society?

    I think it's going to cause a bit of confusion.
     
  16. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suggest that you call your character "Hsub Egroeg".
     
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  17. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    If this is a fantasy world, why base the characters on politically sensitive human characteristics? Why not have the furry people versus the short people with the long noses and ears, or some other obvious but truly unimportant differences?
     
  18. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    The reason why the characters in my fantasy world are human is because the idea of other human worlds for some odd reason has fascinated me since I was young. Soon after that I started getting into shows about other worlds, which increased my interest even more. Also I think that by making my characters human readers will be able to relate to them even though they live on a different planet.
     
  19. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    This has been explored on Star Trek, the Next Generation. One story has two worlds that had a plague, which the cure could only be found on one of the planets. It was found that the cure was a narcotic, and since the second planet did not know of its narcotic properties, the first planet became parasitic, and a utopia for its inhabitants, while the other grow more and more poor.

    The second story was one planet was agrarian in nature, but had a problem with planetary instability. The second colony was scientific, but lacked a sufficient gene pool to make a whole society. They compromised and coalesced into one society with both having to integrate and make allowances.

    Not sure, but it sounds like maybe you are trying something political, not fantasy. Leave real life characters, and political systems as they currently sit be. Try to separate yourself from the reality in current events. That's not fantasy. That's almost trolling in print.

    Either retreat to a past set of opposing political systems, such as the cold war days, or run to the future, and try to give a futuristic twist to some real old political systems, such as ancient republics, and monarchies. Trying to give a global status to two different current political systems, including basing your characters on current politicians is asking for trouble.

    Make him the president of the Utopia, and you'll have a backlash from Obama haters and racists. Make him the president of the world falling apart, and you'll have a lot more trouble then you bargained for. This is not a good arena to get your feet wet in. File the idea, or change your premise. It has trouble written all over it.
     
  20. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I have thought of an idea in which earth has become a utopia in the near future. However there is a secret society of people who are against this utopian version of earth and want earth back to the way it was before it became a utopia and there is eventually a war between those who want earth to stay a utopia and those who don't. I seem to like the idea of two different worlds at war with each other better for some reason though. I know that by putting my political views in a story I'm likely to get a lot of people mad, but I really want my opinion to be known.
     
  21. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    You evidently have your mind made up. I wish you the best of luck with your project.
     
  22. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Probably not that many.

    Stories written from a specific political viewpoint tend to be preachy, and not many of those make it into print. If your main goal is to make your opinions known, you'd be better served by writing a letter to the editor or an op-ed piece. Much more direct, and much more likely to be read by people with an interest in the subject on which you are writing.
     
  23. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I'm more use to writing fiction then non fiction. However I could instead write an essay on my political views rather then putting it into a fictional story. People still wouldn't pay any attention to my opinion though. I remember doing a speech in speech class in high school on a topic I am passionate about, but no one seemed to listen even though I tried to be assertive instead of aggressive and backed up my opinion with facts.
     
  24. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I think that's a bit harsh. Is it really racist to say that somebody is "part African?" Describing someone as part something isn't necessarily meaningless. Would you call it racist to say that somebody is part Caucasian? "Part African" may not give the full description, but surely not giving a full description of a character's skin color doesn't automatically equal racism. Really, it depends how you portray the character. If your only black character is a villian, yes that's racist. But it seems just as racist to imply that being called "part African" is offensive.

    Anyway, just be careful writing it. A black character is fine - why should a skin color matter?
     
  25. CrystalDreamer59
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    CrystalDreamer59 Active Member

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    I'm really unsure right now rather I should get my political views out through a fictional story or through an essay. I'm leaning more toward a fictional story as I am more use to writing fiction and no one would probably care to read an essay on my political views.
     
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