There’s honestly such a difference between including a minority character in your writing and marketing your book as a minority experience. I think a lot of people get those things mixed up and it makes talking about the flaws in a work very difficult and fraught.
For example, I include POC characters in my work but I am not writing the minority experience. I’m white and everything I write, no matter how well researched, is going to be affected by that lens. It would be unfair (and wrong) of me to present my POC characters, established through my worldview, as the POC real-world experience.
Does that mean I can’t write POC characters? No, of course not. Diversity in writing, racially, sexually, religiously, and politically, is important. But I can not claim accuracy/validity in regards to those groups I am not part of.
When you include minority characters in your writing, you must be open to constructive criticism from the communities you’re writing. These groups are not props to earn your story diversity points. They do not have to settle for anything a writer puts down because they should “just be happy they were included in the first place.” When you write minority groups, you are taking on the responsibility to be respectful and sensitive and receptive.
I’ve been corrected a number of times in the particular story I’m talking about. I’ve made some very offensive mistakes that had to be corrected by a POC editor. Did I like being corrected? No. Did I need to be? YES. Are there still things I need to be more informed about? Yes, and it’s my responsibility to be receptive to those things and to be grateful I have people in my life willing to educate me. (Shout out to my editor who is probably reading this lol)
It can be daunting to write about groups I’m not a part of, but I believe it is my responsibility as a writer to be diverse. And to do that, I’m willing to acknowledge my own biases/shortcomings and listen when someone tells me I’m being hurtful/ignorant.
In terms of minority experience, I am bisexual. I’ve dated women and have had to come out socially when I did. My behavior can be fairly masculine and I’ve had to contend with certain slurs because of that and my sexuality. While my experience isn’t the universal LGBT experience, it’s still a part of it.
If I write about a young, white woman coming to terms with her sexuality, I am writing the minority experience. I have personally experienced those things and, while my experience may not be all-encompassing, it’s a true and accurate depiction of those things in the real world.
All I need to acknowledge is that my experiences as a bisexual woman may be different to the experiences of other bisexual women. But, even so, I’m perfectly right to present my book as an LGBT experience.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.