Dear my fellow white people, especially guys, who are writers:
Seriously, y’all. Seriously.
Absolutely, it can be scary to risk your writing rep - and personal rep - writing about characters who are not like you. That means characters of color and characters of differing sexualities and characters of differing abilities and so on and so forth. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right and, frankly, most of the writers I know have issues with insecurity that compound the regular “I don’t want to fuck this up” kinds of thoughts.
It isn’t like depression makes it EASIER to take criticism after all.
But, really. Listen. When we complain about how people’s distrust of white authors writing “the other” (which is a term I actually have mixed feelings about in this kind of usage because it just reinforces distance, I think) makes us not want to write the other, the effect is one of silencing. It isn’t that your pain as a writer isn’t important - it’s that it tramples all over a totally valid and important viewpoint that we need to hear and acknowledge and address. Yes, it’s hard and it’s scary and it plays on the insecurities that a lot of writers have. That is something to address with supportive writer friends. Or your therapist (if you have one). Or your journal. It’s not something to throw into a conversation that is meant to be about underrepresented groups expressing their distrust.
One of the most important lessons I ever learned by reading blogs was that sometimes it really isn’t about me - which means I don’t have to speak up to defend myself. I don’t need to give the knee-jerk “but I’m not one of THOSE white people” response, because, uh, that just derails and makes it about me. And generally proves the point that white people want to make it all about them.
If you don’t want to write the other, don’t do it. If being safe is what you need, then be safe. Take care of yourself. Don’t take the risk. But don’t tell me it’s the fault of people who have been burnt by white writers Getting It Wrong for years and years and years. Own it. It’s because you need to be safe.
If you want to write the other, write the other. Do your research, get it wrong, make it better. There are absolutely moments that will suck like whoa. And don’t think for a moment that you are doing it because people of color, for example, need you to speak for them. The problem of underrepresented groups in fiction has never been that people cannot speak for themselves - it’s been racism. You write the other because it makes you a better writer - because fiction tells the truth, and the truth is that we live in a diverse world with a hell of a lot of stories that don’t revolve around white cis straight able-bodied middle-or-upperclass lives.
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