Writing About Race as a White Guy

This is not a political website. I’ve worked for political websites and I gave up on those websites because I could no longer bear the daily hate and lies of the political world. I did not, however, give up on thinking about issues. On engaging with this nation and world.

I think about race a lot. Not just when major incidents occur, but in my day-to-day existence. It seems to be such a false barrier. By which I mean, so much of race is a social construct, an exterior imposition that says you are this color and so you will be perceived this way and given these rights. And yet there isn’t one of us who is like another. Our skin color may hold us down or give us privilege, but it is not what we are.

That may seem obvious. Yet it needs to be said. Because I’ve heard too many proclaim that those protesting the events in Ferguson and Staten Island are “rioters” or are at least supporting “thieves and thugs.” That kind of proclamation is, I think, the very definition of racism. This inability (this refusal) to see people of similar color as unique individuals with unique perspectives worthy of honest consideration.

Sometimes, as a white person, it is uncomfortable to talk or write about race. There is the fear of offending someone, of course. And there is the sense that the experience of a white person is too far removed from the experience of a person of color for the white person to be able to provide anything of use. But I think when white people excuse themselves from the conversation they are creating more problems. What is racism in America if not predominately the subjugation of minorities by a white majority? How can we ever improve if white people of good conscience don’t think this is a problem we too should be discussing?

So, I write about race. My novel currently out with agents includes characters of multiple races, because I don’t know how to write about modern America without writing about how race affects friendship, business, violence and love. Am I worried I’ve written something that someone might find offensive? Yep. There could very well be an embarrassing cliche or a flagrant act of social blindness in my novel. But I’d rather make the mistake of ignorance than the mistake of silence.

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