Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login


Closed to new replies
January 1, 2013


Replies: 37

African American depictions

67shadesofgrey Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Student General Artist
So I have an African American character in the young adult novel I'm writing. I know that black people are frequently the "sidekicks" and comic relief in literature and popular culture, so I'm trying not to write him as such. Or they're written to be The Most Black Person Ever and the fact that they're african american is brought up every five seconds. This is not anything like how the african american people I know and am friends with or related to act, nor is it how I percieve their experience to be.
I'm white, however, so I don't know how to accurately depict him as african american. I don't want to be racist or try too hard to be PC or thrust it out there that he's black- it's not super important to the plot, it's just about as important as him having black hair. But I do want the reader to know that he's black, simply because I don't think there's enough positive depictions of black people in our white-dominated culture.
Does anyone have good ideas in how to solve this dilema? All of my black friends have shown complete disinterest in my writing in general, so I can't really ask them to review it.
Thanks! Hope I haven't offended anyone.

You can no longer comment on this thread as it was closed due to no activity for a month.

Devious Comments

tiganusi Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Professional
I write all my black characters with harsh Ebonics speech and they all live in the Mississippi delta, even if the story is set in Shanghai.


Also, watermelon.
Eve-Lang-El-Coup Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Write him or her as a person and then do the details as they fit.
Is it supposed to be a representation of one of your friends?

'so I can't really ask them' - Does that mean you didn't ask them?
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2013  Student Writer
Do you mention any other character's skin colour?
67shadesofgrey Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Student General Artist
My very light-skinned character I have- not really as a matter of importance, but simply like you'd mention the fact that they have blonde hair or brown eyes. I'm simply wondering if there was a more effective way of mentioning it or portraying it than I already have.
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013  Student Writer
The good thing about a term like "light skinned" is that it can apply to any ethnicity. Some people are more pale than others within their own colour of skin. It doesn't actually imply a race.

I can think of only one time that I've made race important and that is when writing about a character in China, surrounded by Chinese people and the character in question is not Chinese.

On the whole, I find mentioning race or skin colour a little tacky. Race can be implied without being explicit. In the case I mentioned above, it's safe to assume that the main character is not Chinese because A) She lives in small town Australia B) Her birth name is Rebecca Williams D) She's only ever seen speaking English C) When she is in China, surrounded by Chinese people she feels isolated. A lot of this implies that she is probably Caucasian but I never felt the need to confirm or deny that.

The best I can suggest is that you absolutely have to make a point of it, describe in terms of ethnicity and not colour, be delicate and don't make it into a big deal, if you can imply it without having to state it explicitly then do that and if that's absolutely impossible then work it into some kind of narration or description about the character as a whole.
TheTWN Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
If you cant find a way to express his race, that means his race is irrelevant.

Just by you trying to find a way to show his blackness for no reason, but not in a racist way, seems to be moving you closer to the norm.

The character is a person. African Americans are people. We should be depicted as such.
Disappearing-Inkwell Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013
the only reason 'black' people are looked at the way they are is because of the negative way they are portrayed in media, im white and i have a lot of friends that are black.

skin color should be looked at the same as eye color, its a part of you, and all the parts work the same on everybody. the color of your skin shouldn't matter, we all have skin... as we all have eyes.

but sadly to humans, being different is the same as being radioactive.
ParadigmFallen Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Professional Artist
This ^

It's how I generally try to handle differing sexualities/races in my stories. It's also how Marvel's Runaways (a brilliant written series) has handled it.
saints-fan-12 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Well, just write the character as he is. The majority of black people in the community make the rest of us black people look bad, leading to stereotypes and hate (in some cases). Anyway, it doesn't matter how you write him as long as he fits with the plot.
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
"The majority of black people in the community make the rest of us black people look bad"...really? Really really?
Add a Comment: