At times I think I should drop the whole ‘stop calling me a “person of color” I am not my skin’ thing…after all, the sudden pervasiveness of that term, and a demand for characters and authors who fit that term (well, except whites, sorry I guess you’re not a color anymore) in publishing is more a result of outside pressure than some weird new cult of exoticism.
But that’s the whole problem. Even if most of us don’t care what food the protagonist eats on special occasions, silence implies support.
And I cannot support sticking a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.
What exactly is dumping more skin colors front and center supposed to achieve? Has there been any discussion of what happens once the appropriate percentage of main characters are not white (sorry, European minorities, especially non-Russian Eastern Europeans, Semites, that random confusing pocket of Indians who started off British, Afrikaners, and every other white-skinned group who isn’t actually in charge)? Why are so many people in such a rush to reaffirm the dichotomy of white and not-white, this time in the name of equality?
I’m not even going to get started on how ignorant and foolish it is to classify people by their skin color. I am not Mediterranean, Hispanic, or any flavor of Middle Eastern…but these are all races I have been mistaken for solely on the grounds of my appearance. (The name clears it up pretty fast. Or, you know, asking, because you don’t know and I sound like I’m from California.)
Is this supposed to finally consume black printing presses the way that LGTBQ stories have, slightly, gained a foothold in Big Six publishing? I can tell you now that the weird little groups who put out all the stuff on sale at our temples wouldn’t be picked up by any of this, and I’m pretty sure that some of the big players already publish books (in English) by Indian authors with Indian characters in, guess where, India.
And as far as backgrounds go, let’s set aside skin color for a moment and look at the backgrounds. Writers tend to be a homogenous bunch of liberal arts college graduates with, for instance in science fiction, a STEM-centric background supplemented by minors, student organizations, or lots and lots of reading. (The October 24 issue of Nature has an acknowledgment that they seriously underrepresent women authors. The Nobel Prizes in science don’t have a good reputation there, either. At least Lise Meitner got her element.)
Now, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a broader spectrum, especially when it comes to truly marginalized groups (why is every protagonist highly literate regardless of how crappy their upbringing was? Okay, I can’t see that going away since relatability matters, but I don’t see much fiction about people coping with a culture clash in their own homes, either because their parents are from different cultures or they’ve immigrated/are the children of immigrants).
Nor am I saying that there aren’t glaring problems with racism throughout the world, there’s a plethora of examples waiting to be found with minimal digging.
But I do not think this newfound ‘let’s slap minorities into everything,’ as if skin color were some kind of disability that needs an extra leg up in print, is a step in the right direction. One, it absolutely fails to define what that direction should be, and two, it does nothing to erase the sense that there should be a dichotomy separating white people (conveniently undefined) and everyone else.