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  1. Lucie

    Lucie New Member

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    Black cat - racist?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lucie, Jul 9, 2020.

    Hi,

    I would like to ask you about your opinion.

    I am writing a book for children and after it was done, when reading some articles about the current situation in United Sates, I somehow noticed that the main (and the only) bad character in my book is a black cat (called simply Black Cat, as most of the characters do not have names).

    Also, in the light of past days, do you think that a black cat as the only bad character in a children book can be considered as something racist?

    I did not mean it to be racist, I have nothing about any human race, I was not even thinking about the colour of the cat very much. It is black, so it can hide in the darknes and only its bright yellow eyes are visible. Moreover, it´s just a cat, it´s not a human. The main character, however is a white human and further there are many other "good" animals of many colours in the story.

    However, I would like to ask you what do you think about this topic.

    (And sorry if my English is not perfect, I am not a native speaker, the book is not in English as well).
     
  2. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Some people might consider it racist. I'd ignore them. It's a cat, not a human.
     
  3. Madman

    Madman Senior Member

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    If this, as a writer, scares you, then we indeed have a problem in our society. In what way does a black cat represent or associate with a black person? The only similarity is the word black. Even their actual colours probably differ.

    If this is a problem, then soon we won't be able to write or speak about evil ravens or naughty crows.

    I think this might be a part of the underlying problem, that black is often associated with bad, but it really shouldn't be. It's just a colour. People are too obsessed with colour and race these days.
     
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  4. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

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    The only way I could possible see it as interpreted as racist by anyone other than those reaching for that idea is if the other characters represented different colors that coincide with races as being good. I mean if you had a white animal as the "hero" since black is the villain, or other type-casted race colors as different character positions. But again, it would still be super reaching, and not something I would entirely care to worry about.
     
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  5. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Senior Member

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    Darth Vader, that evil, evil guy. Wait, am I being racist? He's a white bloke in a black suit...

    ...OMG TOO CONFUSING *brain explodes*
     
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  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    It stems from symbolism, not racism. Dark and light have always stood for evil and good, whether it be in magic or in cowboy hats. Easy to see why—daytime is reassuring to us, we can see everything all around us clearly. But for our primitive ancestors the night was terrifying, and they were never sure if the light would return.
     
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  7. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    When I was at school, the teachers had to stop using the tern blackboard in favor of chalk-board, because of political correctness. In the current climate and the possibility of increased political correctness in the future, I would be wary of associating the color black with evil.

    Also, one of my pet hates is the relentless demarcation in movies and TV shows between 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. This leads people into the view that we are the good guys and everyone else who's different to us must be bad. This has caused a lot of trouble over the years. Maybe, as writers, we should rise above this crudeness and make all our characters understandable and as having different aims and ambitions.
     
  8. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Anyone who would consider this racist is a frickin' idiot who doesn't deserve to have their opinions considered at all. This is the problem with listening to morons, it suddenly makes all of us morons along the way. Stop caring what stupid people think and just write what you want to write. Me, I'm going to go pet my black cat. She is evil, after all.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Yep. Happened with restaurants, too. I've been corrected multiple times. Kind of silly, but it is what it is.
     
  10. Room with a view

    Room with a view Member

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    I never understood the whole blackboard thing as a kid, my school did that to.

    To my little brain back then it was a board and it was black....thus... it was a black board. I sometimes think political correctness does more harm than good at times, I didn't make the connection then and still don't now. To me a black board is a board painted black.

    Anyways back to the topic, Black cats and dogs in some places have always been the victims of dark age superstition. So they were often to blame for everything and anything. Never in my life have I ever connected the two, to racist undertones.

    As unoriginal as it is, I have a black cat called Salem.

    I say go for it.

    Never let anyone prevent you from expressing yourself, ever.
     
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  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The thing is, you're NOT being racist. Black cats exist. And yes, they do get to hide easily in the dark. If that's a factor in your plot, go for it.

    Black cats are not so invisible in snow, though. I remember there was a stray black cat that used to appear and hang around my neighbour's bird feeder, hoping some bird would drop from the perch? Anyway, it would slink along, hiding under shrubbery, etc. This one day, just after we'd had a couple inches of snow, there was that cat again, sneaking along its usual path ...sticking out like a sore thumb. The birds were actually sitting on the feeder laughing at it.

    Oh, dear. A racist story. Not.
     
  12. Lucie

    Lucie New Member

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    Thanks to all of you for your responses. I agree that a cat is somewhat different from human and I think that its fur should not be seen as corresponding with human skin. However, I was curious what the other people think and I maybe needed a little assurance that I am not just blinded by my point of view.. :)

    Aled (idk of I can reply you in the forum anyhow), you have also two very good points. As for the association of the colour with being good or evel, I really tried in the whole story not to call anyone bad or good because I deeply believe that noone is only good or bad. However, the Black Cat behaves badly and mean, it tries to eat the other characters all the time, so it will be seen as a clearly bad character by everyone.. :D But what I wanted to say, it is just a black cat that is also "bad" and not a cat that is bad because it is black or that is black because it is bad.. So I hope I don't associate the colour with the characteristics of the cat in the story.

    As for dividing characters into the groups of "good guys" and "bad guys" I am not if I agree with you.. It is difficult. It is true that it is important to teach the children that we are not either good or bad but I think that in some stage of their development children need to learn what "good" and "evil" is, so that they could question the existence of good or evil in people later. And I think that children stories (the ones written in the traditional way where good defeats the evil) can bring them the guide of what good and evil is.. Also, I think I wouldn ´t be against clearly good or bad characters in the stories..
     
  13. Lucie

    Lucie New Member

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    As for the turning blackboards into chalk-boards that sounds kind of funny and scary in some way.. I mean, it really is a black board, so why not to call it black board..
    Luckily we have always had just "boards" in our language..
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin We may just go where no-one's been.... Contributor

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    Maybe naming the character "Black Cat" is setting off alarm bells in some people? If it were named Mr. Meow or Buttons and just happened to be black in color it might not be as noteworthy.

    Having said that, there are people who get triggered by EVERYTHING. Overweight? No stories with fat people. Depressed? No stories with sadness. Lactose intolerant? No stories where ice cream is being enjoyed.

    I always say that if art isn't offending someone the artist isn't doing their job.
     
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  15. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum

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    Yes, when children are young their minds aren't complex enough yet to understand good and evil as facets that exist within each of us, they need to see good and bad characters.

    “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains ... an unuprooted small corner of evil.

    Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.”
    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from The Gulag Archipelago

    "There ain't no good guy,
    There ain't no bad guy.
    There's only you and me
    And we just disagree." — Dave Mason, from We Just Disagree (song)

    Here's more from Solzhenitsyn, who wrote a lot about good and evil:

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

    “It's an universal law-- intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
     
  16. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    Personally I don't think it's an issue.
    But, if you're still worried, make him over the top-eye patch, cape, ect. it's a children's book-play it up.
    If you're still worried-have one of the MC's friends, or someone who helps him out also be a black cat- show the kids that just because they are X they are not always Y.
     
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  17. Lazaares

    Lazaares Active Member

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    I would bring a different perspective here; that of animal adoption and not (human) racism. Black animals are frequently associated with "evil" and "bad luck" therefore they are far less likely to be adopted. There's some campaigns out there trying to promote adopting black animals.

    I see a far greater issue treading into this field with portraying a black animal as evil than anything related to human racism.
     
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  18. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    I would ask this question of myself. If I substituted a white/brown/yellow/red <whatever> into my story, would it be racist?

    If yes, don't do it. If no, go for it.

    Now, excuse me, I'm off to watch The Black Hole with a cup of black coffee and Black Sabbath playing in the background.
     
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  19. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Lucie, time out.

    Deep breaths.

    Four points:

    Point #1: The book is about cats, if I'm reading it correctly. Cats. Would the story be any different if it had white fur? If not, you're good.

    Point #2: If you're worried, have this cat have a twin (they both have black fur) and this twin is trying to stop this bad kitty.

    Point #3: And as Homer suggested, give the cat a name. If the other cats have names but this one is just 'the black cat', then yeah eyebrows will be raised.

    Point #4: You won't please anyone. Behold the quote from Wrey that I have in my signature. Whatever you write, someone somewhere will find a reason to take offense.
     
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  20. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

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    I agree that their ideas don't deserve to be considered if they're silly. But if they can whip up a storm on Twitter then they can pressure a publisher to drop your book. Cancel culture exists, whether we like it or not, and it's always worth bearing in mind. Even if you ignore it, it's worth doing that as a conscious decision.

    Personally, I'd be more worried about Black Cat being the name of a Marvel character (https://www.marvel.com/characters/black-cat-felicia-hardy). It might be worth checking on whether it's trademarked to them, although I suspect that it can't be.
     
  21. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    Hi @Lucie, and welcome from me.

    I agree with (most of) the other members. I wouldn't assume that a black cat represents a black human anymore than a black hole, a black look, or a black t-shirt does, and all cats can be evil little buggers when they want to be regardless of age, colour, or pedigree... also, you will almost certainly offend someone whatever you write - get used to that - but if you have any doubts (and you have taken the trouble to ask the question on a public forum) why take the risk when it is such a mind-numbingly easy edit?
     
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  22. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    The only reason any of this has even become an issue is because ANYONE ever listened! If people had looked at this identity politics nonsense and said "screw you people" from the very beginning, the world wouldn't be the mess it is today. But no, groups like Marvel decided to play along and cater to the identity politics crowd in desperate hopes of getting sales, only to crater their entire industry and send their own sales through the floor. Yet they don't learn. They haven't figured out that the people who buy their products are not these people. These people are like locusts. They fly from industry to industry and destroy it utterly before moving on to devour anew elsewhere. They are not the consumers you are after. They are a very small group with very big mouths that aren't going to buy your books no matter what you do. They are just going to whine about it on Twitter. I say let them. Give in and pay attention to these morons only to your own detriment. More and more people are getting wise to what's actually going on. Those are the people you need to be with.

    Marvel can't say a thing about Black Cat. It's a name and names cannot be copyrighted. Their character is trademarked, but it's a descriptive term, not a remote reference to their IP.
     
  23. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    At the moment everyone is heated up and being extremely sensitive. Some might see it as racist, same as some might seen the bad guy being male and the good guy being female as sexist. Or the fact you have no gay animals as homophobic. If there's no ginger kitten then that's ginger-ist. I just pay no attention to all the labeling and people getting their knickers in a twist.

    If I see someone say or do something that is deliberately an attack on another person because of their age, sex, gender or anything else I have a problem. We can't just bury our history. And why should we? I think movies and books that present how naive we are are a good thing to keep around. It reminds us not to make that mistake again. It's just a black cat and as long as it clearly doesn't represent the "hood" although I think that would be amazing. Don't let things affect you too much.

    P.S a Coolio rapper black cat in bling. I'd read that book!
     
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  24. Lucie

    Lucie New Member

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    Nice excerpts, I agree.

    Actually, I was thinking about black cat with a white paw as politically more secure appearance of the cat.. But I like to keep things simple.. I will see.. Now I am taking a month to clarify the story in my mind before the final revision, so maybe it ripens a little..

    The thing is that even the other animals have just descriptive names.. Hungry Rat, Rusty Squirrel, Dove, so I would keep this describing name.
     
  25. Lucie

    Lucie New Member

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    And I am going to respond to some others of your posts just as I come back home from work :)
     

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