Race Tendencies in Literature

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I know what you’re thinking: Not another biased viewpoint on race within the boundaries of pop culture! It seems that the topic is race is being bent and scrutinized in every possible way even to the point of being used to further one agenda or another. Don’t worry. While this is certainly “yet another article” on the subject, I will definitely never tell you what you should or should not include in your writings. As an American Studies major, I simply find myself in curiosities that must be answered.

For the last week I have randomly polled people I work with, live with, and meet while out and about. I got weird looks and awkward laughs and some really insightful information into how culture and race are naturally viewed by everyday people. I talked to Whites, Asians, Blacks, Mixed, Indians, whoever I came across whom I felt I could approach. I had one simple question for each of them:

“If you wrote a story, what race would you instinctively assign your characters?”

Not a hard question, right? Actually, it’s a deeper question than it would seem. Everyone talks on social media about the “whitewashing” of literature and movies, and yet they lack the substantive study to support the theory. Are you as curious as I was to see the answers I received to the above question?

All of them reacted the same. All of them admitted their characters would be predominantly whatever race (or combination thereof) they happened to be, themselves. 

My asian friends said theirs would be asian. My black friends said theirs would be black. Not a single non-white race even considered the thought that they might create predominantly white characters. Of course, I tend to hang out with fairly open-minded people, and so they knew they’d have other races in the story, but the predominant theme tended towards focusing on their own ethnicity.

This tells me there is far more to the underlying race issue than simply “whitewashing.” It’s “racewashing.”

Again, I will never tell a writer what kind of characters they must write, or what races are required for movies to be “ethnically correct.” In some ways this viewpoint seems to be quite misleading. However, this issue is something to take into consideration, and really begs a far more detailed study than the simple verbal poll I conducted over a week’s time. Is it racism? Ignorance? Nature?

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