Who, What, Where, When and Why of Writing Diversity

Feel free to comment, especially if I trip over something I shouldn’t and you come from that identification.

1. Why would you want to write diversity?
If it’s for quotas, step away from the manuscript. More on that later.

Because human beings are naturally diverse. There is diversity within groups and within the world. If all the characters were white, straight men with blond hair blue eyes from dominant socioeconomic class (nod to Brits out there), skinny, with square jaws, and exactly 6 feet to 7 feet and neurotypical on the right side of justice–that makes for a pretty boring story. Charles Darwin’s first law is that there is diversity in every population. I’d like to honor *humanity* not the dominant class definition of “human” because, honestly, I don’t think *anyone* can live up to that expectation of the “perfect” human that society creates for itself. (for women it’s skinny with big boobs… large lips well-shaped behind, but not too big, long legs and a flexible spine that men’s can’t do.)

Second, I have a soft spot for the underdog in any situation.

Third, prejudice, even unintentional prejudice sucks and I would really, really like to relate to my fellow human being *as* a human being. Stories may not be the best platform in order to learn this, but it does force me to think through the representation of people and the more adept I get at it through one group, then the more adept I get at it with the next group, which to me is awesomeness. I’m seeing people for more of their *who* rather than their what–which is labels. And how people really navigate those labels.

Better fictional representation of any group has been shown to have powerful effects on humans in general. Should I succeed with the story which happens to have diversity, even a little, I feel like it would help just a little because that’s the first step. (TV can boost self-esteem of white boys, study says Anorexia exported.TV brings Anorexia to Fiji)

2. Quotas.
Usually the discussion goes like this…
Person A: You know there were gays, larger people, and people of color in Europe.
Person B: What? I have to include them now? Is this like affirmative action?
Person A: Just letting you know.
Person B: So, does that mean my cast of white, straight men with blond hair blue eyes from dominant socioeconomic class (nod to Brits out there), skinny, with square jaws, and exactly 6 feet to 7 feet and neurotypical on the right side of justice is not diverse enough for you?
Person A: I’m just pointing to reality here… and I’m saying there is diversity.

Then it gets worse…
The fault lies with *both* parties. Person A is really saying to person B, that they’d like better representation in fiction. 99.9% of the time they have not read Person B’s story. They don’t really know if it could naturally fit in. Better to probably say, “I have not read your story, but I know in the real world people are diverse in that region. Do you think you could examine to see if there is diversity you could fit naturally into the story?”
Person B, then goes to the I must be being called X-ist–this must be quotas. No. That’s not what Person A is saying. Person A is saying “Ah, wouldn’t it be nice if stories equally represented people in reality in fictional representations (and though they don’t know it they probably are also saying): because there is a long history of putting down people who have those representations when they *naturally can show up and be done well.*”
tl; dr: If you feel the *obligation* to put people in, however, you aren’t passionate about it, I don’t think you should be putting time into putting in diversity. Everyone I’ve ever met said they’d rather it be done right in the first place rather than be done for the sake of it.
That’s not a quota.

3. When do I put in diversity?
Only put in diversity if it naturally fits the story. If you are diversity shy and don’t want to put in the work, find a premise that naturally won’t have the diversity you don’t want to represent. (which would be very, very difficult to cover all bases–but ya know–you can try and not make it obvious.)
Shoehorning it in makes for token characters most of the time.
If you are passionate about several types of representations, then spread it across multiple stories. This is not the only story you’ll write. If you do end up publishing, I would hope it’s more than one book.

4. Be prepared to eat Humble pie.
You will learn about how your group dominated and took advantage of another group and how you currently benefit from it. It will be upsetting. But remember you aren’t the victim. Example: White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack Most of the time when you enjoy privilege you don’t know and you are pretty helpless to change the tide. But the people who get it in their every day lives know and have known for a long time these things were true. If you do it right and well, then you help. (read the conclusion at the end.)

And in the more blunt manner: Once you write diversity of any group, it’s no longer about you. It’s about that group and their wish to be fairly represented in the regions they come from. It’s time for you to push aside your ego, push down your emotional responses and listen. You think you are suffering from all this diversity talk? There is a system and long history of prejudice that holds in place that has put them in a lower position than you in society. Close mouth. Listen first.

5. History of Prejudice.
You can read this awesome, but very long paper on the psychology of racism… (which works for all prejudice): The Multiple Futures of Racism
Beyond the Myth of Race through a New Paradigm for Resolution in the Third Millennium
or you can read the summary at the end.

Basically it is this: Prejudice holds up the privileged class in its place. (Whatever the privilege is) It’s not just the individual you are writing about that’s important it’s a two fold factor: You as part of society which includes those people you are trying to represent and the long history of oppression of the people you are trying to write which may have fluctuated over time as important or unimportant, both attached to religion and unattached to religion. You will need to know that history inside and out in your current time and the rough approximate time you are writing about and make decisions based on that information.

6. How does one write diversity?

A. Research as much as you can.

History, current climate of prejudice, History and origins of that prejudice, every day life (which is a laugh in your face about gay lifestyle crap), how the label interplays in every day life, how it doesn’t play in every day life

Do this step FIRST before asking someone. Put in the effort into at least reading as much wikipedia, scribd, google book excerpt, library research on the topic as you can muster and stand. Show that you care. If you can’t get through this basic step, you probably do not have enough passion to follow through.

BTW, Wikipedia alone does not count. Put in the effort.

B. Research the stereotypes and physically decide how the character will react to those stereotypes/navigate them? Do they internalize them as true or false?

This is also the step where you list the stereotypes given to those people and put in the effort *by yourself* and then flush the dominant cultural stereotypes down the drain. Also this is the place where you find out if your premise is feasible in the first place. If it’s not, be prepared to dump it. See how much *you* have internalized and dump it. If someone has a better idea of representation, *take it* it’s a gift.

Stereotypes–some people within the minority power group will believe it, some will not. Some will buy in halfway and then change their minds. Some will be offended at the idea. Your job is to represent those differing viewpoints.

Do not make your character 100% representative of the stereotype. I’ve yet to meet a single person that 100% fits into any stereotype because most stereotypes by their nature are supposed to be repressive of the people they describe.

D. All of the above will vary on culture/segment of culture.

If you need no better group for this, the adoption, orphan and foster community is one of the most diverse and pitfall communities you can run into. People will disagree within the community. They will disagree on representation and what it means. Your job when facing this community of a large diverse group is to sort who is who and from where and WHY their opinions exist.

Taking the adoption community, if you roughly segment is by time period the person comes from, the age of the child in question and the segment of the adoption community they come from, you will find a clear cut pattern. Even people from within this community mess up the representation. (for a variety of reasons). Which means your job is to sort and figure out the why. Sometimes people don’t know the exact why, they just know it’s true. Which means you have more history research to do.

E. Don’t make X the big issue of the book. It’s been done, and probably been done better. (especially when you aren’t from that group.)

Why not? Because really people with that ascribed label do not spend 24-7 thinking about it. It’s a part of their lives in general, but it’s not the whole definition of who they are. It’s a mere label, but even labels have effects on self-identification and self-esteem.

Most of all people want to be seen as human, not for their labels, but who they are and how they identify themselves on a larger scale. Mostly books that make it about that issue.

F. If you belong to the group you’re writing about–research other POVs on X and represent them in your book.

If the person who is bigger gets lap band surgery because they have diabetes, it does not mean they want to fit into a Size 2 dress. It means they want to not die of the terrible other diseases that comes with it. Even people who belong to the minority classifications won’t know everything it contains.

Saladin Ahmed said this too on Writing Excuses.

And you will notice that Manoj Shyamalan cast Aang in The Last Airbender as white despite the Sanskrit name and despite the fact that Manoj Shyamalan, himself is Indian, so should have recognized the Sanskrit name.

G. Read from people who are of that representation both fictional and non fiction account.

For me, I usually do a basic sweep of the major organizations that talk about the prejudice the group faces. Read a few books from people of that representation who are representing people from the same representation. (all the books I can get my hands on). Also watch television shows and movies where that is also true. (I do not look at the dominant power group’s representations no matter how good), and mark off where it’s brought up and figure out how it is brought up. And then also look at how people describe themselves from that representation.

H. Be willing to fail and get it checked–even if you belong to X. (sometimes stereotypes get internalized.)

I. The key is to represent the DIVERSITY within the groups (opinions and physicalities), and not use a single character as “The X person.” If you have only one representation of those opinions, you need to restructure the book or allude to other opinions. Treat the character as an individual first.

J. Universals apply in prejudice.
Magical X. No.
Token X. No.
Outting people who do not want to be outted. No.
The only person there of that representation to represent the entire novel. No.
The only person of that representation to represent the entire novel No.
Two people or more of that representation to represent the entire novel and show up, but are not named does not count as diversity. No.
Two people who show up and are named but only talk about how they are not part of the dominant or only serve the dominant class. No.
On the nose of everything that the dominant class writes about that group. No. (Make a list of the dominant group’s representations and see if you can find a way around it.)
Reverse prejudice on the those people. No.
100% bad, 100% good person of that representation. No.
Last minute save representation. No. (If 99.9 percent of your story portrays it with prejudice, pushing a last minute save does not save the rest of the novel.)
Political and moral platitudes/soapbox of that representation. No.
Dominant class saves the minority power group. No.
Using prejudiced slurs outside of a story atmosphere when you do not belong to that representation. No. And it’s not a double standard. It will make you look like a jerk.
You never describe their affiliation with the minority power group. No. People will assume the Dominant Power group affiliation every single time, even if they belong to the minority power group. That’s what systemic societal prejudice is.
You only describe the minority power group affiliation. No. Describe people equally.
Mainly tropes about *events* are fine. tropes about *people* are usually not fine. WARNING: BLACK HOLE OF PROCRASTINATION. TV tropes

7. About asking people to help.
A. They have no obligation towards you or your story to help you out. It is not their career choice to help out everyone that doesn’t understand their segment of the culture.
B. Give them room to say yes or no. If they don’t have time or don’t want to, that’s HUMAN, not because they think you are X-ist.
C. Be specific with your questions so their answers can be short.
D. Be humble. They are giving their precious time and effort to help you.
E. If you F-up, which you will… (believe me, I’ve been there), be quick with the apology. Do not jump to victim mode.
F. If there is more than one person that disagrees, ask them *carefully* *specific* questions *if they are willing* why they think this way. Understanding the experiences of the person will help inform your character’s experience.
G. They will not know everything about their label. That’s why you ask a *group* of people if possible.
H. And if it goes sideways for whatever reason. Do not rant and play victim. Chalk it up to you weren’t experienced enough and there were communication issues. (Dale Carnegie on this one)

8. I screwed up. Someone said that the things I wrote were X-ist or X-phobic.
Jay Smooth will take this one for you.
What you said was Racist
TEDxHampshireCollege – Jay Smooth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying an Love Discussing Race
Also works with other prejudice.

Remember, work through it and *ask questions* before taking something personally. Making a *mistake* and being called for it is not the end of the world. Say “Sorry. I would like to understand better. Would you mind if you explain why?”

If they say no, it’s not the end of the world. You can find someone who thinks the same way as them. It does not mean that you can’t win. It means you don’t understand well enough to navigate.

9.Do not accept compliments for putting in a minority power group when you are part of the majority power group nor use that as a trump card.

It will come that you might get complimented. Do not let it go to your head. remember your history research. Remember there are people from the minority power group you just wrote about who are not getting published ion the issue you just got complimented writing for. Hold them up in high esteem and point to the authors you read and say, “What about them? Please read them too.” Because without those people, you cannot stand and you will be basking in a privilege that should *also* be complimented of the group you wrote about. Help the group that you benefited the compliment from.

And just because you are complimented doesn’t mean you got it perfect so never, ever use it as a trump card that you know everything. Stay humble.

10. There is no losing.
Personally, I think all the work is worth it.

If the story fails and a puddle of its own piss because I messed up, I learned something and can do better next time.

If the story manages to beat all odds and become a good representation of that segment of diversity, then it fails publication, that means I learned something about my fellow human being.

If the story gets published and I did a good job on the diversity angle, then it’s 100% win for everyone.

If the story gets published and I have to apologize, then I can always do better next time. And the faster I apologize, the more likely it won’t blow up. And my mistakes can inform other people who are less likely to fail on their books because it is public on how to do it better. There is no losing if you are willing to learn and put in the work. Stories are a lot of work anyway.

This is awesome: Futures of Racism


It goes over how racism functions psychologically and in society and why it works the way it does and then umbrellas it under all types of prejudice… Sometimes a left brain kick is better than a right one.

Basically makes an argument that prejudice is a type of projecting… (well the initial form of it) and then reaping the rewards from it.

About Quotas

I’m not for quotas. I’m for two things: Reality check and if you’re going to include it do it right.

Your book is set in New York City and your 5 uptown people are all white and have designer handbags despite doing menial jobs. New York City is diverse. Yet, there were three casts of all white people set in that city. Sex in the City, Friends, and Seinfeld. Not one black person.

It’s like setting your story in West Hollywood and not aving anyone gay. Or being in San Fran’s Castro district and not knowing anyone gay. It’s not happening. You are bound to meet someone in those neighborhoods.

That’s a reality check.

The other is inclusion. If you’re going to include it at least make an effort to do it right… do your research.

That’s it. It’s not that you must make a small village out of your characters, but be realistic and if you do it, do it right. If you want to avoid it, go ahead, but at least if you’re going to avoid it, avoid it realistically.

Diversity Fiction Test

Get out your list of diversity fiction list. Anything with any power minority.

Got it?

1. OK, cross off all books that are not from authors with that experience.
Why? Because the authors that do write from that experience are often asked to hold up the status quo. And the authors who aren’t get applause for trying. So go ahead and cross them off.

2. Cross off too on the nose.
For example, it’s about gays trying to get their rights. It’s about slavery and the African American experience. It’s about the Japanese in internment camps and also samurai and Geisha. It’s about people overcoming their disability as the core story. Think carefully and cross those off. You can often identify this by looking for the Power majority saving the power minority or still having a large influence. More on that later.

A gay person’s only concern is fashion.

I would put pregnant by an alien here as well.

3. Cross off all the books where an outside group are the saviors of the power minority.
For example, the white person is made to be better in the Help. Go ahead. Cross those off.

4. Cross off all books where the minority character(s) is/are not the main character(s).

Go ahead. This would include “minority identification” best friend trope. This is because of under representation.

5. Cross off the list all books where there is only one power minority character.

That person doesn’t have a family or friends or anyone that’s also of that identification? We don’t need the Smurfette.

6. Cross off the list any book where the minority characters only talk about the dominant power group.

For example, women, it’s men. For gays, it’s being heterosexual, etc. Go ahead.

7. Cross off the list all books where the reason the character is angsting is because of their minority identification.

So for example, they are perpetually sad/angry because they are say, black, Asian, Adopted… This would include in order to be a powerful whatever they have to adopt 100% of the power majority stereotype. For example, for the woman to be a good warrior, she has to be physically strong, emotionless, etc.

8. Cross off the list where there are only two people from that power minority where one is the “good” one and one is the “bad” one.

9. Cross off the list any minority identification fiction where the person lacks agency.
So this would be things like they can’t do X without the power majority. So for example, a woman can’t fight without a man.

A PoC man turns into a beast.

10. Cross off the list any Magical [power minority group].
Magical Negro. Magical Woman to serve the man.

11. Cross off the list any stories where the point of the story is to soapbox that prejudice against a minority group no longer exists, thus the advocates are being too extreme.
Such as feminazis trope. Or someone being extreme about preaching about race and asking for their own country. And so on.

12. Cross off the list where the Power majority gets to have fantasies about the power minority being subserviant to them and/or their entire existence is to serve the power group.

Fembot. The magically submissive PoC woman. Lesbian women being turned straight after they are raped. Go ahead.

13. Cross off any that has the excuse they are inhuman, so it’s OK to use prejudice.
So they are an alien, which kind of is supposed to make it better to put in stereotypes.

They are a robot, so the representation of the fact they are adopted makes it OK to do whatever we want.

Do you have any fiction left? How honest are you being to yourself? Double check.

I have a hard time finding anything. Welcome to the difficulties of the minority power group. And you can do this for the majority power group, and I’ll guarantee you your list will be longer. Some don’t even have the minority power groups at all.

What about the White people?

A few disclaimers first. I grew up in a White family. I am not white. I had to claw through internal racism, learn about what real racism was the hard way without much help to get here. Guide? I had none. The majority of the race relations were white-black in school. Racism? I got it from the first day of kindergarten.

“Let’s talk about POCs.”
“What about the White people?”

But unfortunately this refrain has been used when talking about any minority (And minority doesn’t have numbers attached to it but powers that be)

“Let’s talk about women!”
“What about the men?”

“Let’s talk about QUILTBAG?”
“What about straight people?”

“Let’s talk about Hinduism!”
“What about the Christians?”

And if you don’t they are offended. Literally offended.

Seriously? You are going to go there. I’ve talked about white people since I was little. A whole friggin’ lot. I was a PoC that grew up in a predominantly white family. (Second cousins are half-black. You should see the look on people’s faces when I say my famous half-black second cousin is related to me. And I don’t use him as a crutch. Ever. Not my right.)

I think if someone asks, “How do you write a PoC from X group?” it sounds ridiculous to chime in, “What about the white people? They have diversity too!” 99.9% of the time the question is being asked by someone who is white. Are you feeling insecure yet? People of Color are teaching someone who is not of color that PoCs don’t all look the same–no matter if they come from sub groups.

OK, you’re going to continue the refrain, “What about the White people?”

All right, Let’s talk about the white people.

“White” was created by *gasp* White people. And yet White people are offended today by the term? Really?

Meanwhile, “Colored” was created by White people. http://www.chicora.org/images/colored_water_fountain.jpg

It got reclaimed and shifted. From “Colored” to “People of Color.” ’cause you need “People” in that statement to make people remember that there is a human being. Just like “People with disabilities.” They aren’t the disability.

The time of slavery–Native Americans were dying from things like diseases. They did not make very good workers–in fact the Europeans that came to settle in the area DID try to put Native Americans to slavery, but there was a huge disadvantage–one they knew where to go if they escaped and two, they kept dying. Thus Blacks were brought in.

Whites got richer by not having to do hard labour and pay fair wages (also take a bad day out on someone can call them an “Animal” and created a myth for them.

The myth? “Disappearing Native Americans” that will justify taking over the lands, and also give people the reason to not use them as slave labor.

Now, for the African Americans (though, not treated as Americans) label them with over 200 years of racism. Start with the N word. Why can’t white people or people outside of that ethnic group use the N word?

Or just watch the really good film, “The N word.” You can find it.

So fast forward.

Well, slavery is overturned. They can’t employ blacks to build the railroad, so they bring in what the elite think is economically low. They bring in the Irish–Catholic and starving, they can bring in the railroad. The Irish do and they get to sing songs which are still part of today’s culture and got accepted by the elite–almost… but pretty much blended in. http://edward.oconnor.cx/2008/03/paddy-works-on-the-railway The predominant became “Christian” rather than “Protestant”. There are still exceptions like calling all Irish drunks, but the weight of it doesn’t compare to the next group.

Meantime, they needed other workers too. Those co-workers were Chinese. http://cprr.org/Museum/Chinese.html They don’t have cute railroad working songs that made it into folksong books. Nope, the gift they received from the elite was a Chinese Exclusion Act http://academic.udayton.edu/race/02rights/immigr09.htm (See Tim Wise from earlier–same pattern) and a whole host of slurs which apparently are part of the modern vocabulary since I get called it on the street, despite not being Chinese. Welcome to 100+ years of racism. (You know the word… I’m not typing it.) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1135507/Pictured-Miley-Cyrus-pulling-slant-eye-pose-upset-Asian-fans-Hannah-Montana.html The stereotypes about Chinese carried onto the next PoC group to come in.

The Chinese exclusion act lasted from 1880-1943. And was compounded later by the Asian Exclusion act in 1924. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Exclusion_Act

In 1909 there was a proposal to exclude Eastern and Southern Europeans from coming to the United States. But make no mistake, it really was religious discrimination and PoC discrimination. It was about the Jews and excluding PoCs. Italians at the time were included into that, but that was lifted. This act was in place until 1965. 1965–there are people alive today that still remember that time period and the time period before.

Italians, however, eventually got accepted into the elite class albeit on a lower rung. Welcome to the new classification so it doesn’t mix with the white elite “olive” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Italianism (Some PoCs don’t recognize olive as a classification, but if the elite make a point of it and even write laws around it… yes, there are divisions among the white elite.)

Japanese. Japanese came in for a variety of reasons over time. And welcome to racism. Yes, welcome to where they would eventually be put into camps, their land seized (sound awfully familiar, doesn’t it?) Roll around a war, and people put out signs with yet another racial slur (first three letters of Japanese) They hung it in shops. (I’ve had to chase down whites who don’t get it. Why is it a racial slur? Because blessed people from the 1930′s thought it was a good idea to use it as a slur–see the N word.)

Racial slurs popped up during the Korean war. The word for “Country” in Korean was in turn used as a slur.

Asians never really made it because they live in the most expensive cities in the US, by far. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City. They get paid less than white workers from the same area. That model minority is still crap. http://cmhc.utexas.edu/modelminority.html

In today’s schools the majority of schools will not teach about the enslavement camps. There will be very little talk about the Chinese Exclusion Act. Will anyone talk about how Texas was really formed and why? http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/slaverybugbee.htm Even slavery and the acts of slavery which was there before the Americas were formed is not taught in all schools. Eric Foner’s books were thrown out of the State of Texas for, you guessed it, talking about racism/slavery. (And the guy is white… I’ve seen him.) http://bwog.com/2010/03/17/foner-disapproves/

The probability is pretty high that ethnic discrimination against Italians and Irish is on the list. And most likely as an obligation have to teach the Holocaust. You also will get a talk about the history of religious discrimination among Christians against each other.

But let’s be honest, if you asked someone about the differences between Hare Krishna Hinduism and Vedanta Hinduism fresh out of High School, do you think the majority would be able to answer? Ask them about the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, do you think they would know?

What about the white people? If we needed to talk about the white people, there would be a white sub forums on writing groups instead of PoC forums. I’ve talked about white people my entire life. I think it’s about time we think and educate about PoCs. I think it’s about time we talk about the people in the disadvantaged groups that are convenient to ignore. Because if you see up there, the patterns of racism have continued throughout different ethnic groups. One insult to one group, does feel like an insult to another.

See a pattern yet to the history of racism?

We need slave labor for X project. Look, white people, gather around, for we must unite against those taking your jobs.

We need slave labor. We’ll bring in some white people… but we need some slave labor… so we’ll bring in some PoCs. Gather around new white people, look, the PoCs are taking your jobs. Let’s make some acts against them and exclude them from dirtying up our country.

This refrain doesn’t seem to get old, especially when you have “Border patrol” along the Mexican border, but there is not gate on the way to Canada. (And there are Illegal Canadians too)

Then it got so ingrained into the society that when there were wars to protect interests of this country, new ethnic slurs came up and they stuck.

The same sick pattern. If we are going to stop the pattern and stop other groups from getting the same crap that’s been happening before the US was formed, then we need to concern ourselves with the minority group. We need to educate and talk frankly about the minority group. We’ve done enough talking about whites and differences. Let’s talk about the PoCs. Because if you aren’t sick of seeing the same pattern repeat, I sure am. Racism against one group, is sure as likely going to spill to the next group when the elite discover it’s “Wrong.”

Myth: There were No People of Color in Europe

The fact is after history class destroys most people’s brains into thinking that Europe was made of only White Men influencing history–and women were weak floozies made to decorate their arms, most of us come out of High School brain washed thinking that only those people existed in Europe. Who are all the great rulers mentioned, but white?

In fact, most of them are said or understood to be straight also–no handicaps, and with the exception of Henry VIII, they were all monogamous.

This is why I present you with a short real history of race in Europe because this myth persists and persists to be taught widely.

If you go back before the advent of homo sapiens sapiens, back to Homo erectus, our pre, pre ancestors, you’ll find that they managed to travel all the way to the stretches of Asia. They even have a sub species–nicknamed the Hobbit and of course us. The hitch is that if you look up Florensis (the exact classification is still under debate), you’ll find out that they are no where near Africa. They are *on an Island* which means there were rafts made to get there. Now, if our pre ancestors with a smaller brain capacity than us could travel that far and establish trade routes, why do people think it is so impossible for Homo sapiens sapiens, which is two genus classifications away to be able to do the same? It is silly to think that one would say it is impossible for someone to travel that far, nor want to–on foot alone. (Domestication of animals came later).

After Homo Heidelbergensis, and possibly two genocides on our species part where we managed to hope continents all the way down to Australia using rafts, foot track across the Bering strait and go all the way to the southern tip of South America, several thousands of years later, in say hundred thousands of years, we suddenly lost all interest in traveling?


Look up the Roman Empire–it stretched into Africa, Western Asia and had roads going many, many places. There were certainly people of color running around in Rome. The thing is that there wasn’t racism against them, but a more refined look at religious practices.

I present to you the Romani people, who were misnomered as Gypsies. They came from India, (Not clear North or South or which–but it is India) in 1100 AD. They are people of color and if you check that date, that certainly is the Medieval period. They were first cast out on religious grounds, and then cast out on myths about Romani people being a certain way. Sedentary people suspicious of non-sedentary people. Sounds familiar somehow… as they settled, the myths about them got worse.

So if you’re writing about Medieval Europe, then why do you not consider Romani to be people of color too? They share a similar language route, they certainly travel around–you can’t squeeze in people of color that have been there since the 1100′s?

Humans are industrious. By the time the Romani settled in Europe, Polynesia was also being settled. Polynesia was probably the last stop for human kind because the rest of the continents were also settled by that time. Because humans like to travel, trade, make rules, break rules and explore–it is our nature to be curious, I have serious doubts about people thinking it is an all white Europe. It’s just more convenient for people to think that a bunch of White Christians were running the show and skip over critical figures unless one could make the women in that equation a stereotype too.

We spread so far and so wide. Why can’t your white person in a secluded village see a trader trying to pass through and want one of the wares they consider mysterious. If they are in a port or know someone in a port, then it is likely that they will know people of color.

There *were* people of color in Europe, so I can’t see why a round world with an equatoor and several continents can’t also have people of color traveling and being industrious.

How to write people of color

1. Do not make the white person the one not described.


I also think that if your characters are predominantly of color, they will take exception to that white man, and find ways to describe him as strange. Examples would be:


The color of rice (which is throughout lots of Asia and parts of Africa)

The inside of bread

worn sea shells

cream (which white author L.M. Montgomery liked a lot.)

beech wood

bleached (if there is such a thing)


vanilla ice cream

*Insert actor’s name*

Usually X, but right now it is X color from the sun.

flesh of a coconut

flesh of a macademia nut.


No matter what your fiction preference, you can tip the scale towards that direction by using comparisons.

2. Use fair examples of skin color in relation to the narrating person’s skin color.

Unless your character narrating is a racist… in which case go ahead.

Otherwise, search for things in their world that they can describe as. A person is transported from China to Native American/First Nation soil. Maybe they compare them to Peking duck.

I searched around and for my current WIP, I found ebony, mahogany, black walnut wood, bronze, gold-kissed, russet for all sorts of brown colors that fit with my character’s world. Any wood or precious metals is fair game. Otherwise KISS it (Keep it simple stupid).

Avoid food (unless you have a really good reason for it) and animals (unless you have a good reason for it).

3. Write to the diversity within the society.

The problem with stereotypes is that it describes only one boxed version of that person’s label. There are people who are really dark and really light, even among white populations. East Asians sometimes have the epicanthic eyefold, and sometimes they don’t. The tallest people on Earth are in the continent of Africa, but so are the shortest. If you set yourself to only one narrow definition, then you will not represent the country well.

This is true of mind sets of the people within that society too. There is no one society that is categorically evil. In Hitler’s Germany there were people hiding Jews. One of his soldiers almost blew him up.

4. Research stereotypes.

This does not mean completely avoid them, but instead of researching what stereotypes exist, find out their origins and why they exist.

An example of this would be that all [East] Asians are short [Japan, pre WWII], can’t pronounce r’s [Japan], are insular [Chinese Railroad worker] and hard working to the point of suicide [Confucian beliefs brought to extremes in a society that doesn't say they are important.]

If you find out why a stereotype exists, not only can you free yourself of that stereotype, but also examine how much of it is true or false and play with it within your writing.

5. Read.

Find books that people say are a really good portrayal of people of that descent and read it. Analyze why people like it.

Welcome to Diversity Writers

This will take a while for me to set up, but I hope that this will be fun for all.

I intend this place to be a safe place where writers of color, QUILTBAG, religions other than Christian, alternate families, etc AND supporters who want to learn about how to write to the diversity can come together to discuss issues of writing and support each other. We can exchange tales of agents in private and share experiences.

I’m hoping to focus on those who wish to be published–because of the lack of fiction in this area or how it is segregated on the book shelves.

Eventually, perhaps, we can get writers who fit that description talk about how they write for interviews, etc.

Writing can change the world. Let’s show that it can.

Currently: Looking for Mods. Comment if you would like to mod.

Also looking for people to volunteer to make banners for the homepage.