January 4th, 2020

(no subject)

I read a post over at Tumblr this week about diversity in fic. I've lost the link but the main point was if you're righting an ethnic-minority character and you're writing them exactly how you would a white character except for the skin color, that's not really good representation. She used the example of Southeast Asian people and how they view family/community as opposed to how more western/white characters emphasize individuality, how the balance and almost subconscious assumptions are very different. So if you're going to write a Southeast Asian characters and have them view family the way western/white people would even though they're described as Korean or Filipino or what-not... that's not good representation.

What stuck with me was her suggestion to research the culture. One of her biggest bits was to make friends with an actual SE Asian person or whatever you're writing, get to know them as an individual and use that as your starting place. I get the drive behind that, but I'm also very cautious about forcing non-white, non-western, non-like me, whatever folks to play the educator, or to stand in for their whole group. I think there's a danger in reducing our relationships to windows into different groups. But at the same time... I dounderstand where this is coming from. Lived experience is realy the best way to get beyond the factoids we might rattle off about a certain topic, and see at a deeper level how things actually are.

Which makes me think of an idea I've had a few times over the years. I think as a writer one of the most useful things to me would be to have people with really specific experiences or knowledge bases, where I could just pick their brains for a bit. Have you ever ridden a horse long-distance, or swung a sword (maybe an SCA type?). Are you British and can help me check my assumptions about how your school system works? Are you a Quaker or a Reformed or evangelical Christian and want to explain to me what it's like to actually be those things, have you spent a winter in North Dakota and want to help me understand just howey cold it can get? I'm sure the list goes on. I'd love the chance to just talk to those people, listen to what they have to say. And I think if you're concerned about writing an ethnic-minority charater well, talking to a few of them is the best way to do that -- if we make the space one where they choose to go in and share their experiences. I don't want to acost people as they make their way around the internet, but a space where they can share those experiences for a while and then go on their way? That would be both really interesting and damned useful.

I don't know how to make any of that actually happen, but I think this would be such a fun place to spend time and learn a bit.