Race Is Not A Plot Device

I think I’ve found one of the other sides to writing characters of Color. When I write characters of color (which is every story of mine) it’s because I want POC (people of color) in my works and more POC in Sci-Fi/Fantasy in general. I want kids younger than me to look up at the shelf and see themselves on the cover of a genre book. I also write it because I am a POC so race is intricately tied to my view of the world, leaving that out a story would feel like lying to me. That’s why I write race but others have different reasons.

Someone in one of my classes wrote a story and asked a question about what race to make one of the characters to create more drama or enhance the story. This shocked me. Race as a plot device? What the hell is this? I thought to myself but the more I thought on it the more I realized this is another segment of writers who write Characters of Color.

These authors see race as a simple means to an end. What race can I make this character to make the story more interesting? Race is just like making the character a magician or a mechanic to them. It’s something that the character can be with a simple change in melanin or hair color or eye color. For me and other people of Color, race is not something in addendum to your personality it’s something that informs your personality. You will find all kinds of differences among POC just like among any other group but for most being a POC is something you are always aware of. You always have questions in your mind: Can I walk in this neighborhood? Am I driving too nice of a car in a nice area? Is that a flash of red & blue in by rear-view mirror? Is this group of white boys gonna beat me down for fun? Are they going to rape me cause they see me as less than human? If they do hurt me and the police see will they even do anything?

Race is more than a character trait to be traded and discarded. It is a piece of your core and that’s how I write my POC characters. You can’t write a chracter of color in exactly the same way you write a white character unless you are writing in an futuristic post-race society where everyone is equal.

I want to see more main characters that are POC in every corner of writing, genre & otherwise. I won’t out and say only POC can write POC but I will say that simply changing a skin tone does not make a character a POC. If you don’t have personal experience then do research, talk to friends, find POC to read it over beforehand. It just takes a little bit of effort.

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