Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Out of respect, I didn’t write today. For a writing blog, I realize there are a lot of days I don’t write. But today it means something personal to me.
All of the novels I’ve written, and most of the ones I have plans to write, have main characters that are black. This is intentional. I don’t do it because I am trying to delve into the nature of black life, black culture, or race politics. As I’m white, it would be kind of offensive for me to even attempt that. I do it because, as Reverend King said, I see no reason to judge someone by the color of their skin. If the main character can be any color, why not black?
I write mostly speculative fiction, though maybe the future holds something else. So character details can be pretty much anything I choose, for any reason I choose. I want my main characters to be black. Am I making some grand point? No. Well maybe. I get annoyed that the de facto choice of character skin color is most often white unless the story is about the black experience specifically. There are exceptions, of course. Alex Cross, from James Patterson’s series, comes to mind.
Still, how many novels can you think of where if the main character was black, it would have made any difference. Katniss Everdeen? She could have been black, and Rue white. How about Gone Girl? (Sorry, just picking a few random books I’ve read.) Any difference if the Dunnes were black? I suppose one could argue that making such choices implies some statement on race politics. But I disagree. Why should it? Why should skin color make such a difference?
I’ve had discussions with people who disagree with me, other writers, who say that every choice of a writer has meaning, and by making this choice I am implying something specifically about race. In a way they are right, I suppose. What I am implying is that race does not matter at all. I know that in our real, everyday lives it does matter, but it shouldn’t. Call it naive or idealistic, but that’s the point I’m trying to make: what color a person is should make no difference.
Tomorrow, I will write. I will paste in what I’ve done on Google Keep to Scrivener, get word counts, and hammer through to the end of this book. I am still on track to complete the first draft by mid-February and then begin revision. Voi-fucking-la.