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White authors writing black characters: should you write about a group you do not belong to?

Updated: Feb 10, 2021

CD Pulley is a writer, feminist, blogger, and member of the World Indie Warriors.

“My name is CD Pulley and I am a storyteller. I’ve been writing since I was a child and realized when I was in my 30’s, I was a feminist even back then. My first story was about a little girl who goes to a land where toys talk. She never thought about who was going to go with her. She went by herself. All of my stories with the exception of two have been about girls or women. I was always in love with writing, but I did not realize what it meant to me until high school.”

I wrote about this topic a few months ago on twitter, but I think this is an important topic and I wanted to write a piece for those who do not follow me.

About six months ago, I began reading discussions about whether white people should write stories from the point of view of a person of color. Then the discussions evolved into whether white people should write a story with a POC at all, and that pissed me off. I think a white author writing a POC into their story is only problematic if they are writing about POC pain stories. I believe those are ours to tell. But, writing a story from the point of view of a person of color is not a problem for me in any other situation.

If white people want to include POC in their stories I expect them to do some research, talk to some people, and find out what they do not know. I do not want a white writer or any writer to think they cannot write a story with a Black woman in it or have a MC that is Black, Latinx, disabled, trans or homosexual because they are not a part of those groups. No one should be afraid to add diversity to their writing because George Floyd’s death re-sparked a movement.

The world we live in is a diverse one. I know there are many people who believe their world only consists of people who look like them, live like them, and talk like them, but the world is a much larger place. I would guess about 90 percent of people have to interact in some form with people who do not resemble them in any way. That is the world I would like to see reflected in what I read. Not every author has to do it, but no one should be denied the option.

I told an author last month they could write whatever they wanted as long as they were willing to stand by their story and their characters. Almost all problematic stories written by authors not a part of the group they are writing about, are filled with stereotypes and misinformation. The problems were not because the author did not look like their MC or had not lived their MC’s life. As writers, we need to accept there may be people who come for us no matter what we write. If we believe in our work, did our research and engaged some sensitivity readers, our work should stand.

Our minds allow us to write outrageous, colorful, realistic, and sometimes crazy stories. The things rolling around in our heads would scare any therapist. But, we can still write stories that reflect the world outside our heads and create those same outrageous, colorful, realistic, and crazy stories.

If you want to write with diversity, do your homework. And most of us would be more than happy to read what you write.

Originally posted October 19, 2020

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