1. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    My story could be seen as racist.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by AltonReed, Jul 20, 2011.

    In summary, my story is set in the 1800's and is about a group of slaves who want to kill the prince to destroy the British empire and get freedom and justice. What they want is understandable, but killing the prince is obviously wrong.

    The 'heroes' or MCs want to stop the killing, which is understandable, but they're all white save one slave who has realized the assassination is wrong.

    Obviously the heroes are going to win and the majority of them being white and its increasingly likely the black person who's helping them is going to die, what I'm worried about is my story being perceived as Racist.

    Also, would it be right for one of my characters to use a racial slurr?
     
  2. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Just make sure the characters motives are believable. I'm sure that while they might percieve killing as wrong, because of their harsh situation they would be willing to do it any way?

    Actually now that I write this, where is this supposed to be set? Actually in England? I think you may want to do more research before worring about racism. After all, you are writing a story about racism.
     
  3. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    The back story is, ages ago the slaves overthrew a ship due to someone leaving a weapon around and they went back to London after finding out thats why they were taken from Africa. It's also partly fantasy, its set in a Steampunk alternate timeline so it gives me an excuse to take a few liberties.
     
  4. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    You have to be real to your story, otherwise don't write it. I'm currently working on a novel and in the prologue a black housekeeper in 1891 is accused of practicing Voodoo and tortured to find out who gave her a certain potion. The ones doing the killing call her the N word and refer to her that way--after all, they're torturing her and killing her.

    However flashing foward to the future, the MC and the black man whom he meets (a voodoo practitioner) don't talk to each other in racial terms, even though one ends up killing the other. Why? Because this particular action occurrs in 2011, not 1891.

    You have to be true to your story or find a story you can be true to.
     
  5. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it's me, but isn't there a big difference between a racist story and racist writer? I mean just because there are a lot of racism in the story, it doesn't mean you are a a racist anymore than having a serial-killer as a main character makes you a serial-killer for real. It's just a setting.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    There will always be people who will find something racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or unAmerican, or anti-Christian, or who knows what else). You can't concern yourself with that, in my view. Be true to your story and your vision of it. If you're not a racist and you're not trying to communicate a racist message, have faith that the vast majority of your readers will realize this and interpret your story correctly.

    As for using the racial slur, I think given the time period it would certainly be accurate to do so.
     
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  7. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    I've decided on not using the slur mainly because it would feel forced and wouldn't fit well with the rest of my story.

    I just made one of my characters quite racist so he and his friend can talk about not all black people are evil and want to kill everyone.

    Not many people will read it anyway and I can easily clear up any misconveptions.
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    The possibility of someone taking offence at your work shouldn't be enough to put you off. If it fits with your story then just go with it.

    My current novel criticises many groups of people - including those I belong to! I've a habit of criticising my religion, race, gender and the things I believe in if it feels as if it belongs in the plot. If the novel called for killing off person X, even if they were the only Y in the story, then I'd do it as long as it feels necessary. Doing so doesn't necessarily say that I believe it's right or true as it's just fiction, after all.
     
  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I don't think it's quite as simple as "is this racist or not". You're essentially asking your reader to sympathise with a group of upper class white men stopping enslaved black men gaining their freedom. In this day and age, that's a hard sell. It puts your reader into a moral position that they're unlikely to be comfortable with. It isn't just that the villains are black and the good guys are white, it's that your entering this morally black and white territory and trying to subvert things that most people will be unreceptive to. Honestly, I don't think it would be possible to write this story in a way that any publisher would want to release to the public. It's like the plot of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but your heroes are the immoral (or more immoral) ones.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Doesn't sounds to me like the heroes are immoral (or more immoral). They're just out to prevent an assassination. I don't see the immorality coming into that, personally.
     
  11. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    To prevent an assassination in the context of defending slavery. That's not going to sit well with many people...
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think they're defending it. If I were, for example, a guy working to prevent the assassination of President Obama (say I worked for the CIA or something, and came across intel that I could act on), I don't think doing so would mean that I am endorsing or defending all of his policies. Likewise, I wouldn't see a group of characters trying to stop and assassination of a prince as necessarily defending any given policy of the government.

    That's my view, anyway.
     
  13. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    There's a pretty massive difference between subjective political policies and the slavery of an entire race. Slavery is indefensible, which means (rational, moral) readers will always align themselves with slaves trying to win their freedom; literature is full of these kinds of characters. So, to invert that, and have the reader sympathise with people supporting a monarch who encourages slavery is going to create a moral dilemma that most readers aren't going to enjoy. The only ways I can see of making it work are to turn the 'evil' slaves into caricatures and turn the whole piece into an exploitation novel where morality is secondary to gratuity, or to use the novel as a kind of satirical critique of slavery (in the manner of American Psycho) by having the reader aligned with the white men while simultaneously hoping for their demise.
     
  14. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Steerpike has it, if you're not a racist it's unlikely that you will commit to paper stuff that is racist..so rest easy on that score. Racial slurs are fine (in context).

    Yet, as Arron has it, the thrust of your story - written in a straightforward fashion - will likely not appeal to modern (appropriate) sensibilities.

    Be advised that circa 1800, meaningful power was wielded by Parliament and not the monarch (or the royal family) so killing a royal to end slavery/ destroy the Empire would've been an act of (perhaps justified) terrorism but (very likely)nothing more.

    Be further advised that the slave trade within the Empire was rendered illegal in 1807, and that the ownership of slaves within the Empire was rendered illegal in 1833, so the assassination of a poor, innocent British prince at some time in the 1800s seems yet more misguided and inappropriate.:(
     
  15. pyrosama
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    Fiction is a lie with a little bit of truth. If you aren't going to be real in your storytelling then I would suggest you don't write those scenes. There's nothing more that I dislike in a piece of fiction than an author trying to be politically correct. In entertainment, there is no such thing as being politically correct. Look at your stand-up comics. The material that they write (or that their writers write) aren't concerned a bit about offending anyone.

    I think as a fiction writer, you are obligated to make your readers believe that your characters are as real as they can be, and in order to do that you must have them behave as the readers expect. In the days of slavery, the slaves were treated like crap and if I were a slave, I'd probably kill someone too. I also would expect that my captors would call me all sorts of names, too, maybe even kick dirt in my face after pushing me to the ground.

    Put yourself in as that character, see through their eyes. How do you expect to be treated in any given situation during any particular time period. If you believe it, then write it. Then your readers will believe it too. That's all that matters really.
     
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  16. AltonReed
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    AltonReed Active Member

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    It is tricky and the thing is, all I want it to be a light hearted story about preventing an assasination in a Steampunk timeline.

    But when all the 'bad guys' (I say this loosly) are black and the only good black person dies, it seems to become a lot trickier than it was meant to be.

    However, I do want to portray the people who are protecting the prince as good characters, I think they are, they know slavery is bad, but killing the prince is bad aswell, and this they can prevent.

    I am tempted to take out all the racial dilemma's and just have them fight an organisation who just want the prince dead for whatever reason.

    We'll see.
     
  17. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want it to be light-hearted, then yes, you should probably consider removing the entire slaves plot. Light-hearted often means apolitical, and in all certainty means non-provocative.
     
  18. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    If you present a moral dilemma on both sides of the faction, then you have enough gray area where the readers can sympathize with both sides.

    What if the motivation for the "whites" isn't just the fact that they want to stop the assassination but are forced to stop it?

    Another group holding their family hostage so that in order to save their loved ones, they're are forced to sabotage the assassination?

    I mean, you're playing with concepts like "the greater good," racism, and other moral concepts.

    Is it better to save 100,000 people by killing one man.

    Or

    Is it better to save one man, and continue having 100,000 people suffer?

    --

    Honestly, if the whole point is stop the assassination, and you are expecting the reader to sympathize with both sides in order to carry out the task, then readers won't be happy unless both sides are victorious and the assassinee is taken down regardless.
     
  19. tiggertaebo
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    The thing is to protray the white guys as automatically evil and the black guys as automatically good would make the story racist. Not everyone who was "white and upperclass" during that time was evil and not every black slave was righteous and just.

    Don't write them in terms of colour - write them in terms of being people, if you can flesh the characters out enough that the reasons why they are taking their respective paths seem rational from their point of view then leave it up to the reader to sympathise where they will.

    The "white guys" can still believe that slavery is wrong but disagree with their methods and want to stop them.
     
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