1. RainbowWarrior
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    RainbowWarrior Member

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    Telling the reader every characters race

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by RainbowWarrior, Feb 28, 2013.

    one of the themes in my books is racial equality. my main villian is the leader of white supremasists, and the good guys are a mixture of all races and cultures. i feel like its important for me to tell the reader the race of each character, but i worry i met get a bit....patronising? :confused:
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you can hint at this, both in exposition and in dialogue with cultural and physical clues, rather than state outright, "Jimmy is African-American" or "Maria is Latina." Just like with any physical description, put it in when it makes sense. You can drop other hints, like a character calling his grandmother "Abuela" or referencing some sort of food that a parent or grandparent might cook. All of these things together can give a good sense of the character's race.
     
  3. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    An easy and effective way around this is to describe the person from your current character's perspective. If, for example, you have a point of view from a supremacist, he would be quick to spot those he dehumanizes. Alternately, if one of your heroes is the only black or hispanic person in a room full of white people, some of which might be supremacists that hang out with your villain, he might suddenly become acutely aware of that fact. In other words, if the character would notice (whether in introduction or spontaneously), he might point that out to himself or others.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How aware you are of your own race depends on the environment you're in, really. And also, if you meet with a new group of people, they will inevitably ask you where you're from. So in England, I didn't feel out of place at all, rarely ever was I aware that I'm not actually white (and nearly all my friends at school were) - the only reasons I was ever aware of this fact was actually when I felt left out. Simple things, not deliberate on my friends' part - say, they were all talking about a childhood cartoon I'd never heard of, and none of them were interested in the childhood cartoons that I personally loved and grew up with. This was when I was a teenager. To this day I am still sensitive to people not listening to me, and I think this is partly why.

    And then you get subtle racism that nobody acknowledges - for example I was one of the volunteers helping out at my university open day. All but 1 person doing the "runner" job (eg. moving boxes, running out to get lunch for the people actually interacting with visitors) were from the far east. I'm not kidding, all but one - I looked again and again. And all but 1 person doing the up-front welcoming stuff were white. No matter whether they're German, English or French, if they were white, they were at one of the stalls that visitors go to.

    Coincidence? I think not. But that's what the university wants me to believe. And guess what, when I told one of my English friends, she asked me, "Are you sure you're not just being too sensitive?"

    That's the problem with English people - the ones I met at least, and I met a number seeing as I grew up there - this fervent denial that racism could possibly be on their soil. And with English political correctness, it is damn hard to prove it 100% conclusively - except you, the person being victimised, knows quite clearly. Only nobody would believe you. This is coming from my very good friends, wonderful people who themselves are not racist at all. Sometimes this realisation scares me.

    Then in the Czech Republic I am a lot more aware that I'm not white, because people here stare. I've been asked for my ID twice and I'm sure it's because I'm not white (because the police didn't ask anyone else around me, so it's not like they were looking for someone). I don't speak Czech and that would play a large part in how foreign I feel. These things rub off on you though - whenever I go back to England, I am suddenly very aware of all the Muslims in the area. My home town has a big Muslim minority so in the past, I barely noticed. Now I do, and I have to check myself not to discriminate, because I'm used to being in an environment where discrimination is the norm.

    Then I'm part of an international church where there's Germans, Americans, Nigerians, Ghanians, English, Chinese - something like 35 nations represented, that's what my pastor likes to say. In that kinda environment, you ALWAYS ask each other where you're from :D but nobody treats you any differently for it. But it comes through in the interaction - I once invited a Nigerian friend to my house for dinner, and I offered him chocolate for dessert. He laughed and said, "If my daughter would see me eat this, she would laugh at me!" I was like, why? He replied, "Because chocolate is for children." Another time we were at a prayer meeting and everyone brought food - rice, pasta, salads, African and Chinese dishes, and then we got a bowl of fried caterpillars.... :rolleyes: My Botswanian friend was like, "C'mon it's good!" And then there was the time when I found out chicken wasn't meat, and salad is basically grass :D It's a running joke amongst my African friends.

    So, little things like this. Not sure if this is any use for you. It gives you more ways of making your reader race-sensitive anyway.
     

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