Open Discussion – Internal Racism

Happy Saturday, Reader Friends!

Hopefully, today’s title drew you in, but you’ll have to wait a moment before we jump into the discussion. First, let’s take a moment to recap this past week’s blog posts. Monday, Terri interviewed Vanessa Riley as she talked about her book, Unveiling Love. Wednesday, I (Toni) shared a book spotlight on Paulette Harper’s Secret Places Revealed. Friday, Beth Erin shared her review of Lee Tobin McClain’s Secrets of the Heart. It was a great week for diverse Christian fiction, so be sure to check those posts out if you haven’t already.


Today, I want to discuss internal racism. Of course, some people argue if that is a real thing, while others may have no clue what it is. The idea behind internal racism is a minority group is racist (or prejudice) against that same minority group. For example, African Americans being racist against other African Americans. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up. How in the world does this relate to diversity in Christian fiction?

I’m glad you asked. You see as a Black author, it is assumed by people in my community that my characters will be Black as well. It would not cross most people’s mind that I would venture out of that. So what happens if I decide to write Caucasian characters, or any other characters that fall into a majority ethnic group? If I chance it, Black readers will either 1) applaud my writing (if they like it) or 2) complain that I’m not giving them Black characters. After all, diverse characters are lacking in the majority of fiction genres. So does that mean an ethnic author HAS to write ethnic characters?

Time to join in! Please answer the below questions and/or share your thoughts.

  1. Does a minority author owe it to their community to add diversity?
  2. If they don’t, would you be surprised or assume they couldn’t accurately portray that culture?

*This blog was initially titled “Reverse Racism.” I used the incorrect term and have since updated it.

Discussion started by Toni Shiloh

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10 thoughts on “Open Discussion – Internal Racism

  1. Let me start by telling you that I look forward to your insightful blog posts every Saturday!!! Keep ’em coming!
    I can definitely see reverse racism as a thing. I hated being white for a long time, and though I have accepted who I am, I still got notes from my latest book from my editor and a friend that every white person in my book was kinda horrible and that I needed to add at least one nice one in there. haha, whoops!
    But, I shall try my best to answer this, but I think it is probably harder for a minority/ethnic person in general (rather than a majority/white person) because you are not only bombarded by majority culture and marginalized but then you are judged by your own culture pretty harshly. Thinking about when people are called “not black enough” or naming foods to say someone is one color on the outside and another on the inside, etc. I mean, outside of the writerly world, there is already plenty of pressure.
    1. I think diverse books are lacking so the more the merrier, but you gotta write what your heart tells you to, that story God gave you. But, just as with majorities writing minority characters, make sure to write it well. Otherwise people will not be happy! 🙂
    2. I’m not going to lie…I might be surprised. But I wouldn’t assume they couldn’t do it well. I mean, I’m pretty sure Tolkien wasn’t a dwarf or elf but he made those characters come to life for us! Imagination plays a big part in storytelling, plus the majority culture is the majority so it is out there in most media anyway. Also, how am I to say that this minority/ethnic author wasn’t raised in a family of the majority culture or married into it or lived in a neighborhood or a church community or a work community where he/she was very familiar with the majority culture. Long story short, we can never assume anything because we can’t know the life they lived and what’s going on inside them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love this: “how am I to say that this minority/ethnic author wasn’t raised in a family of the majority culture or married into it or lived in a neighborhood or a church community or a work community where he/she was very familiar with the majority culture.”
      I once watched a movie where an Asian kid was “acting Black.” A Black girl in his high school was so annoyed by him. He liked her and kept trying to get her attention but she thought he was fake…until she went to his house. He was adopted by a Black female and suddenly, everything made sense to her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ohhh…interesting discussion and it prompts more questions from me. First — I’d never heard of reverse racism until you mentioned it here. Ultimately, I’d like to think that the story should dictate the race of the characters and that we should all be able to write whatever type of characters our imagination conjures up. However, I can see how some readers might be disappointed if an author they’d come to trust to deliver African American characters suddenly switched to Caucasian ones. As you say, there isn’t much diversity in the Christian market as it is so it might feel like a betrayal in a way. Though I know there are authors who have successfully done that.

    Sadly, it seems that, in the past at least, African American characters weren’t marketable. Which is just ridiculous because readers I know are all clamoring for diversity in their fiction. But even the ones that I can think of that have been published by mainstream CBA publishers — the covers don’t reflect race. Skin colour is so light that you wouldn’t know that the character depicted was African American. It took me a couple of chapters in one book to figure it out. I literally had to read back over what I had just read to pick out the subtle clues that confirmed the race of the heroine! I find that kind of ‘hiding in plain sight’ very offensive.

    My counter question would be — is it acceptable for a Caucasian author to write an African American hero or heroine? I know some have but I have always wondered if that is a problem. I guess fiction is fiction and like athewriter said, Tolkien didn’t have to be a hobbit in order to write about them. It’s a conundrum — ‘write what you know’ versus let your imagination soar.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, I love this topic! And I also have so much to say on it that I don’t know where to start 🙂

    First, I recommend watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The danger of a single story.” She says:

    “I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. We didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.”

    And now I’ll lazily quote what I’ve already written in a lengthy blog post:

    “The issue of diversity in publishing appeared on my radar when I found a few black authors who wrote exclusively white characters. Then when I looked at Amazon’s romance bestsellers, I found that there was not a single book with a person of color on the cover. The reason for creating all white characters was clear.

    Like Broyard, many writers today don’t want to be boxed in a dark corner of the virtual library labeled “ethnic” or “African American,” a place where people go when the want to be accosted by themes of racial oppression and strife.

    As one member on Goodreads writes: I don’t necessarily want to be known as a “black author.” I just want to be an “author who is black.””

    You can read the full post here: https://delaliconnell.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/anatole-broyards-secret-and-why-diversity-in-publishing-still-matters-2/

    I was also asked to post a part of this blog on SheWrites and the discussion there is worth reading: http://www.shewrites.com/blog/view/1893357/what-anatole-broyards-secret-says-about-diversity-in-publishing

    I’m glad to have found your blog and will keep reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you found us! Thank you so much for contributing to the conversation. The Ted talk was AMAZING!! I loved it and it’s so true. The media and publishing industry are constantly shoving one idea for each race at us. I too am an author that is black. I don’t write about racial struggles, but about characters falling in love. Hopefully, this blog and others will help bring a change to the industry and then to the world.

      Like

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