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Character Race (1 Viewer)

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luckyscars

WF Veterans
Here you are, promoting an indemonstrable stereotype that all black people are alike while denying that you're doing it.

I absolutely did not and if you think I did then I'm afraid you failed the comprehension. No point in discussing further.

Please produce your objectively verifiable evidence that my neighbor has those experiences. Prove it. Because if you can't, then you're the problem. You and people who think like you. You just assume these things without having any way to verify it, then you hold others accountable to your faulty imagination.

I said nothing about your neighbor (who I have no reason to believe exists, much less trusting your account of his entire life -- why are you bringing up somebody only you know, exactly?) other than it is likely -- based on data -- that he has experienced racial discrimination at least once in his life, on some level. If by some miracle he hasn't, good for him, or maybe he just didn't tell you about it (because why would he?). Regardless, anecdotes don't prove or disprove group experiences, much less statistics. And this is the problem: You are treating it as a zero sum, is-or-is-not. It's complicated. There are no absolutes. There are only facts and generalities.

This is all I will say on the matter of your logic. Regarding writing, you said this...

We have rights as authors to write what we wish, to find an audience who enjoys our writing and to please them. If you don't like my book, don't read it. If you want to speak out against my book, make sure your objections make any kind of rational sense, but by all means, do. But your right to swing your fist ends at my nose and there are particular political and social interests out there who have completely overstepped their bounds. These people should be ignored, their complains, unless absolutely valid, discarded and their endless whining and political maneuvering pointed out as faulty. Mature adults do not sit there and scream at the sky because they don't get their way. They can move on with their lives and handle the momentary disappointment of encountering something they didn't like.


While I agree with a lot of this, I think it's reasonable to point out that in 2020 part of finding an audience is trying not to piss people off unnecessarily over stuff like race. The question is, where should the line be drawn?

As an expensively educated person who has traveled the globe and tried hard to be 'enlightened', I still fail this shit all the time. Fortunately, I can usually now tell when I am failing it, but I couldn't always. And I still do. I often find myself writing a character who is another race and the lazy part of my brain incorporating stereotypes because, well, it's easier.

I think that's kind of human nature? Ask your average joe to tell you a story about Native Hawaiians, I would bet that nine times out of ten he's going to start with grass skirts and 'ALOHA!' He may not end there, but that is the immediate thing. The prior, if you will.

Now, I'm sure writers who are NOT average joes can do a bit better, but the sad fact is I have yet to read a SINGLE book written by any author about another race or culture that didn't incorporate at least some reversion to stereotype. Whether it's Stephen King's sinister gypsies in 'Thinner' or the stuff in Memoirs of a Geisha or even benign stuff like Americans trying to write books set in Britain, these inaccurate stereotypes and assumptions regarding other cultures do weasel into books by even excellent writers. And these are just the ones we can spot. There's probably a ton more that are apparent to people who are actually from those communities.

So what? So, well, I think it's a valid concern, that's what. Not that it should be an obsession, but something to think about most definitely. I generally support the idea of people writing outside their comfort zone with race (as with anything else) but the reality is that power comes with responsibility. Having the power to write 'whatever you want' means you need to be held to account for screwing stuff up and be willing to listen. That doesn't mean being totally servile to such criticisms, but absolutely listening to them and, where it rings true but perhaps not provably true (you can't prove a lot of this stuff), then having the humility to grant such feedback the benefit of belief.

Understanding you probably wont listen, I have to say I also think you're grossly hyperbolizing the issue. I have yet to hear of a writer being physically attacked for their depiction of anything, even when it was really bad. I get that you're passionate about this issue and that you see it as this major problem in society, but let's not go overboard with the 'swinging fist' stuff and acting like this is some mass conspiracy to squash creative talent in any sort of literal sense. It isn't. Most of it is just people not liking lazy, shitty writing and calling it out. Which is entirely fair, even if you don't agree with them.
 
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BornForBurning

Senior Member
Data and science says while your black next door neighbor does not have the same experience as all other black people (i.e. a monolithic black experience) he nevertheless has a different experience in certain aspects of his life because of him being black. When we talk about 'writing a black experience' the word experience is key. We are talking not about grouped racial characteristics or beliefs built into genetics (a racist idea) but common racial experiences, which themselves may or may not create a vague correlation in characteristics or beliefs, but by no means universal or at the cost of the individual.
This statement, taken on its face, is kind of missing the point. No one is arguing that anyone believes all black people have the exact same experience. The argument is over whether there are specific experiences that are universal to being black. The 'data and science' bit confused me. Do you mean that statistically, certain traits predict certain outcomes? The problem with this argument is that it is inherently heuristical. In the sense that, unless a specific trait (black) can be demonstrated to not only predict certain outcomes (experiences of racism, etc), but inherently produce said outcomes, it is merely equivalent to saying 'if you are black, it is quite probable that you will experience racism.' Which is a far cry from some kind of 'universal' black experience.

It is probably valid at this point to begin examining the idea of culture. When I say I am in a 'culture', what I really mean to say is "I find myself in a place where certain values and beliefs are generally, but not universally, held." It then follows for us to attempt to discover what fuels the propagation of such values, and in my opinion, this is where things become tricky. The concept of 'culture' has sort of overgrown its moorings in recent years, to the extent that I feel it has become disconnected from what actually creates culture, namely individuals making individual decisions regarding what they believe. I understand such decisions are not made in some kind of social vacuum. That is not my point. My point is that it is still entirely fueled by the beliefs and attitudes of real people who actually exist. There is not some mystical force called 'culture' running around wrecking havoc independent of the individuals who hold its values.

And this goes back to what on earth it means to 'be black.' Whenever someone says 'being black,' it is almost immediately followed by the word 'in.' Meaning, in a white culture, a racist culture, a Eurocentric culture, etc. The problem is, as previously established, no such culture is universal. So while the experience is valid, the argument that it must be universal seems to me to be patently false. With regards to culture, we are constantly in a place of shifting boundaries and definitions. So I feel highly uncomfortable saying certain things must be universal because they are cultural. It seems like another form of environmental determinism, AND REMEMBER. The problem with environmental determinism is not that we aren't products of our environment, it is that our environment is in constant flux.
 

Joker

Senior Member
This statement, taken on its face, is kind of missing the point. No one is arguing that anyone believes all black people have the exact same experience. The argument is over whether there are specific experiences that are universal to being black. The 'data and science' bit confused me. Do you mean that statistically, certain traits predict certain outcomes? The problem with this argument is that it is inherently heuristical. In the sense that, unless a specific trait (black) can be demonstrated to not only predict certain outcomes (experiences of racism, etc), but inherently produce said outcomes, it is merely equivalent to saying 'if you are black, it is quite probable that you will experience racism.' Which is a far cry from some kind of 'universal' black experience.

It is probably valid at this point to begin examining the idea of culture. When I say I am in a 'culture', what I really mean to say is "I find myself in a place where certain values and beliefs are generally, but not universally, held." It then follows for us to attempt to discover what fuels the propagation of such values, and in my opinion, this is where things become tricky. The concept of 'culture' has sort of overgrown its moorings in recent years, to the extent that I feel it has become disconnected from what actually creates culture, namely individuals making individual decisions regarding what they believe. I understand such decisions are not made in some kind of social vacuum. That is not my point. My point is that it is still entirely fueled by the beliefs and attitudes of real people who actually exist. There is not some mystical force called 'culture' running around wrecking havoc independent of the individuals who hold its values.

And this goes back to what on earth it means to 'be black.' Whenever someone says 'being black,' it is almost immediately followed by the word 'in.' Meaning, in a white culture, a racist culture, a Eurocentric culture, etc. The problem is, as previously established, no such culture is universal. So while the experience is valid, the argument that it must be universal seems to me to be patently false. With regards to culture, we are constantly in a place of shifting boundaries and definitions. So I feel highly uncomfortable saying certain things must be universal because they are cultural. It seems like another form of environmental determinism, AND REMEMBER. The problem with environmental determinism is not that we aren't products of our environment, it is that our environment is in constant flux.

The whole American idea of "white" and "black" people is really absurd to begin with. Maybe it has some bearing here, where there has been so much ethnic intermixing, but it must look patently ridiculous to the rest of the world. Applying generic ideas of "whiteness" to Spaniards and Russians equally or generic "blackness" to Nigerians and Ethiopians is wrong on so many levels...
 

Cephus

Senior Member
The whole American idea of "white" and "black" people is really absurd to begin with. Maybe it has some bearing here, where there has been so much ethnic intermixing, but it must look patently ridiculous to the rest of the world. Applying generic ideas of "whiteness" to Spaniards and Russians equally or generic "blackness" to Nigerians and Ethiopians is wrong on so many levels...


I just think it's funny that the kind of stereotyping that I accused that side of doing, not only does it get denied, but immediately, they engage in it, thus proving my point. All black people are not the same. All black experiences are not the same. All white experiences are not the same. People are individuals and by accusing white writers of not understanding the "black experience", that is engaging in blatant racism that they are too blind to see that they're doing it. Ultimately, it comes down to "you can't write what you want because you're not being racist in the same way that I am!"

And that's utterly bizarre.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
I just think it's funny that the kind of stereotyping that I accused that side of doing, not only does it get denied, but immediately, they engage in it, thus proving my point. All black people are not the same. All black experiences are not the same. All white experiences are not the same. People are individuals and by accusing white writers of not understanding the "black experience", that is engaging in blatant racism that they are too blind to see that they're doing it. Ultimately, it comes down to "you can't write what you want because you're not being racist in the same way that I am!"

And that's utterly bizarre.

Uh, nah. Because there is a UNIQUE overall or underlying experience common to most black people that has to do with racism—and that is an experience imposed by white people. Are you saying that doesn't exist? I think it does—it's just more subtle these days. And I think it affects black people in unique ways that might be difficult for white people to understand.

Is it possible for a white person to write a "black story"—for lack of a better term? Probably. But if the story is specifically about or involves racism or the unique experiences that arise from it (and that covers a whole lot of ground in ways that might be obvious or more subtle) I'd have to see some compelling reason why it's not a story better left for black people to tell.

Again—I see a lot of bold pronouncements from you about how people should write whatever they want, but until you write the story and deal with any backlash or controversy—it's all talk.

Yawn.
 
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Cephus

Senior Member
Uh, nah. Because there is a UNIQUE overall or underlying experience common to most black people that has to do with racism—and that is an experience imposed by white people. Are you saying that doesn't exist? I think it does—it's just more subtle these days. And I think it affects black people in unique ways that might be difficult for white people to understand.

That's your claim. Back it up. Because there are black people who have never been overtly affected by racism, who have never had ancestors who have been slaves, who have never been affected by Jim Crow laws, who have never lived in poverty, etc. What you're doing is saying that some black people are X, therefore *ALL* black people are X.

That is wrong.

Again—I see a lot of bold pronouncements from you about how people should write whatever they want, but until you write the story and deal with any backlash or controversy—it's all talk.

The point being, there should be no backlash or controversy. What we're really seeing here is one side of the aisle bullying people who don't toe the party line. It comes very close to the definition of terrorism, which is defined as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
Because there is a UNIQUE overall or underlying experience common to most black people that has to do with racism—and that is an experience imposed by white people.
It seems to me that you are saying 'there is an experience, that while not universal to black people, can only be undergone by black people.' I think I can agree with that, at least theoretically. The disagreement then, at least in the context of writing, is that white people have some kind of unique difficulty understanding an experience differentiated from themselves. There is a difficulty, but I see no reason why it should be any greater than that I undergo when parsing out my own experiences. As I have stated repeatedly in this thread, it seems to me self-evident that human beings, as creatures both distinct and communal, are capable of understanding that which is external from our own wills, emotions and consciousnesses. So there is no inherent reason that I can see why my perspective as an 'outsider' is somehow invalid. Neither do I see any reason why the perspective of an insider is inherently valid. And I especially don't think that any one person within a racial group (or even the group itself) has some kind of monopoly on how people in their group 'should' act within fiction.

And to really bring it back to writing, I would feel very uncomfortable if I tried to say: "this person should feel like this, or be treated like this, or is being treated like this because of the socio-racial context the author found herself in..." etc. Oftentimes, it feels like nothing more than the imposition of the reader's own personal perspective upon the characters. I understand it is very vogue right now to say, for example, that men "don't understand" the "female perspective" and that's why they write bad female characters. Reality check: THE NUMBER OF FEMALE WRITERS WHO WRITE UTTERLY ATROCIOUS DEPICTIONS OF WOMEN IS ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING. The fact that they are 'inside' the female experience seems to have provided them absolutely no armor regarding the worst of its depictions. It's honestly shocking how much poorly-written women's fiction can be easily interpreted as the misogynistic thought processes of a miseducated male...until you realize that the work you are reading is actually by a woman. Point being, and I really believe this in my heart of hearts: bad writers produce bad writing. It honestly has very little to do with 'perspective' or 'education' or what have you. Perspective is nice. Education is nice. It won't do anything if the viewpoint of the author themselves is twisted. It will only ever produce falsehood, whether you are part of the ingroup or the outgroup.

Flip this around: an intimate portrayal of the male psyche, if written by a women and poorly constructed, can feel highly insulting. However, one properly constructed can be incredibly enlightening. Why? Because it shows what they see in men, whether positive or negative. They can actually speak my truth over me. That's incredible. That should make all your heads spin, that something like that can actually happen. But it does. It happens all the time. In healthy marriages, in healthy male-female friendships. In the same sense, blacks can speak truth over whites, and whites can speak truth over blacks. And we should. It's incredibly redemptive.

Edit: Okay, another anecdote, because I find this topic really interesting. The white kid running around my neighborhood stealing recycling containers and picking fights with my friend because he 'hates' white people 'like him.' Should we lend his perspective any credence, merely because it happens to be an ingroup critique? I think not. I think he is simply a drug-addled college student who needs Jesus. My core point, and this is the last time I will state it in this thread: whether part of the ingroup or the outgroup, statements must be evaluated purely on their truth merit. Nothing more, nothing less. The mouth of the speaker does not matter. Only his words.
 

TheManx

Senior Member
That's your claim. Back it up. Because there are black people who have never been overtly affected by racism, who have never had ancestors who have been slaves, who have never been affected by Jim Crow laws, who have never lived in poverty, etc. What you're doing is saying that some black people are X, therefore *ALL* black people are X.

Nope, I don't have to back it up, because I didn't say that. I said "most" have been affected in some way. I didn't say or imply ALL black people have been affected or that they have been affected in the SAME way. I've gone through the thread and you seem to have a problem with assumptions based on exactly how people qualify things. It's tedious and something you shouldn't have to deal with on a writing site.

The point being, there should be no backlash or controversy. What we're really seeing here is one side of the aisle bullying people who don't toe the party line. It comes very close to the definition of terrorism, which is defined as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

The hyperbole doesn't enhance the discussion. It hardly amounts to force and violence—more like, if you write a black story, it may come under scrutiny regarding authenticity etc. There's just more at stake than other stories where people write outside their experience—for all the reasons stated. It's heightened now because of current events. If you fail, there's going to be backlash and controversy, if you're prepared to deal with that, knock yourself out. If you're not, then maybe take up some other hobby.

I think the difference between you and I—where you see coercion that verges on terrorism, I see deference and some caution—all based on something that I have not experienced.

In the end, this should be about our own writing, and what we're willing to write, what we HAVE to write—or genuinely feel we can't write. With some kind of CONTEXT. Otherwise, we might as well be on Facebook engaged in some inane political pissing contest. Oh well...
 
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TheManx

Senior Member
BornForBurning, I didn't see your comment before I posted. What I'm seeing is something about what is almost always missing from these conversations—SOME kind of context.

I'll get back to you...
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
No one is arguing that anyone believes all black people have the exact same experience.

Cephus literally is arguing that. Hence his accusation of 'stereotyping'. Here, I will quote it for you:

That's your claim. Back it up. Because there are black people who have never been overtly affected by racism, who have never had ancestors who have been slaves, who have never been affected by Jim Crow laws, who have never lived in poverty, etc. What you're doing is saying that some black people are X, therefore *ALL* black people are X.

Cephus is wrong, nobody (well, not me) is saying all black people are X. We are simply saying there is a trend and preponderance of evidence that should not be ignored.

The argument is over whether there are specific experiences that are universal to being black. The 'data and science' bit confused me. Do you mean that statistically, certain traits predict certain outcomes? The problem with this argument is that it is inherently heuristical. In the sense that, unless a specific trait (black) can be demonstrated to not only predict certain outcomes (experiences of racism, etc), but inherently produce said outcomes, it is merely equivalent to saying 'if you are black, it is quite probable that you will experience racism.' Which is a far cry from some kind of 'universal' black experience.

No, I am saying certain life experiences predict likelihood of certain outcomes.

This is fairly well established, at this point. A black person who has spent their entire life on a desert island is probably going to be more or less no different to a white person with that same experience. Fine. The problem is, we know that in a society (at least, in American society) race goes beyond basic pigmentation in terms of how other people may treat you. We know that the way people treat you then impacts your life and development. This becomes simple deduction.

I am white, nobody has ever racially abused me. My best friend in college was Filipino and got called 'chink' frequently. Unless you want to deny that difference in experience has any impact at all, it can only make sense to talk about such things as part of a 'Filipino experience' because, while they may not apply to ALL Filipino-Americans they certainly apply to a lot more of them than white Americans. We can debate individual cases and their frequency within groups and how valid they are. Fine. What we cannot do is dismiss the existence of racial disparity as a concept and that certain groups are more likely to suffer or not suffer certain treatment.

To be clear: It's not the skin color itself that matters, it's what becomes attached to the skin color and how ubiquitous those experiences are, and how common they are to each other.

You say "it is merely equivalent to saying 'if you are black, it is quite probable that you will experience racism.' Which is a far cry from some kind of 'universal' black experience.

If 'blackness' equals 'more likely to experience racism' that IS a common experience, whether we want to call it one, whether or not we ascribe 'universal' to it (I don't agree in universal experiences, so let's not do that).

That is not the same as saying it may apply to every single individual, like Cephus is fixating on, but so what? I am not speaking about every individual. I am speaking about broad sweeping generalities across populations of millions and that is OK, so long as I am open and clear that I am not applying it to every individual. I made this very friggin' clear the entire time: There are always exceptions, but for something to be exceptional it must be against the common rule.
 
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