Okay you know what. I tried my hardest to stay out of this argument on Twitter. I REALLY DID. But the level of ignorance that is floating around the Twitter-sphere is making me really angry and frankly, really upset.
First off, disclaimer: I have made multiple diversity posts and I have made multiple disclaimers but it is worth repeating. I have nothing against White or cishet characters. What I have a problem with is when they are all I read about in fiction.
This post is not directed at any author or series of books. I have the upmost respect for authors and quite honestly, the shit that has been said to them over the past few days is downright disgusting. We are all grown ups and therefore should be able to have conversations about important matters in a CIVIL and NON-OFFENSIVE way. This post is not supposed to spread hate but instead try to educate those who truly can’t see the problem and priviledge hidden within their words. However, if you try to disregard and eliminate the existence of multiple groups of people (who have basically been dealing with this sort of treatment all their lives) – they will get angry.
This post is mainly going to be in regards to YA Fantasy since that is mainly what I read. Obviously, the concepts could be applied to other genres as well.
So now that’s done,
The argument that I had the most problems with was this – that somehow including diverse characters in a novel is difficult for the author or hindering their writing process. Saying that it is “difficult” for an author to include diverse characters in the writing is the same as saying that there is something intrinsically different about diverse characters. This may come to a shock to some people, but I am the SAME as any White person. Just because I have brown skin doesn’t make me a different species and therefore should not be difficult for any author to write. It should be said that authors should not buy into stereotypes but then again, no decent human being should buy into stereotypes so that goes without saying.
My diversity is a part of me, but it does not define me. Do people really assume that those who aren’t White or cishet spend their time obsessing about how different they are or their struggles in society? WE HAVE LIVES TOO. We have friends, we fall in love, we go on epic adventures so why can’t we have characters that do the same thing? I think so many people are under the assumption that we are calling for authors to write about the “cultural struggle” of PoC living in a White society or the experience of LGBTQ+ individuals coming out. NO. This is not what we are asking for. I am aware that these topics are really difficult for authors to talk about without proper experiences themselves. These stories are better left to Own Voices authors or done with signifcant consultation and research in order to be done right.
No, what we want is for authors to include PoC and LGBTQ+ characters doing NORMAL HUMAN THINGS because we are NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS. We want you to include diverse characters kicking butt or flying dragons or leading rebellions. We want you to include diverse characters doing things that your White or cishet characters do.
Just to further illustrate this argument, I am going to include two characters who’s diversity wasn’t a major emphasis in their stories but was still done wonderfully.
Firstly, Inej Ghafa from Six Of Crows. You may have heard of me talk about her before because I am actually in love with her. She is kick-ass, outspoken when in matters and is so steadfast in her beliefs. You know what else? She is a WoC. Does her brown skin stop her from doing anything that the other Dregs do? Nope. Is it focused on in the novel as a struggle for her to overcome? Nope. She is an amazing character is her own right and her skin colour just enhances this.
Secondly, Rhy Maresh from the Shades of Magic trilogy from V.E.Schwab. Rhy is both a PoC and bisexual but hey, you know what else? He is the prince and heir to an entire kingdom. He has had his heart broken like any Straight character. His diversity is a part of him, but it does not define him. Like Inej, he is written as a character with a personality and not as a skin tone or a sexuality.
– A SIDE NOTE –
So this doesn’t really flow on from my earlier argument but it is something that I wanted to speak up on since I saw that many people where taking it as a valid excuse to not include diversity. Although fantasy books may resemble certain socities in our history, for example Middle Ages England or other European countries, it still remains fantasy. It still remains a world entirely of the author’s creation. To say that you can’t include diverse characters because they did not exist in the historical time period the world losely resembles is such a weak argument. I’m sorry, but I didn’t notice the presence of dragons or faries in the history books either so you argument is completely invalid.
– SO JUST TO WRAP UP –
Anything a PoC or cishet character can do, a diverse character can do as well. They are not different and you should not let their diversify define them but instead, be a part of them. They offer much needed representation for society because you know what this conversation has made glaringly clear? That people think diverse minorities are different when in actual fact, we are as human as you.
It is so, SO harmful for you to disregard the importance of diversity in books just because it might be “difficult” for authors to write. By doing this, you disregard the importance of diverse people. You may not realise how harmful you’re words are but the arguments on Twitter and the fact this blog post is bringing me to tears should give you a hint.