People Are People

usatodayWhen a major media outlet like USA Today Tweets something that is racially blind and offensive, and they don’t even realize it, I shudder.

In a wonderful piece on how “The Best Man Holiday” isn’t a “black” movie, my fellow blogger Olivia A Cole dissects how we are still living in a “default-white” society: Everything is either “White” or it’s “Non-White”. There is no crossover, no middle ground. This, my friends, is a The-Best-Man-Holidayproblem, but most people are too busy or uninterested to see it as an issue worth addressing.

But this issue affects us in so many ways, many that you don’t even notice.

On our planet, the average person is not white. Now I understand that in America, the majority population is still white, and that’s just the way it is. But why, when almost one in five Americans identifies as African-American and a similar number identify as Hispanic, are about 90% of the models we see on advertisements white? Why is a movie with an all black cast called a “black movie” but a movie with an all white cast isn’t called a “white movie”, but just a movie? These are troubling issues to consider.

Texas, the Lone Star State, likes to portray itself as the stronghold of the traditional white American culture. They don’t deny there are people of non-white origins in their state, but simply don’t put much emphasis on them. Rather, they talk about “American values” and “Traditional Texas_20LogoAmerican culture”. Nothing against the citizens of Texas, but some of your politicians aren’t living in the same demographic world as the rest of us. They are denying the future.

Fun fact: According to a Saber Research Institutes study of Texas demographic trends, people of Hispanic descent will be the majority population group in Texas by 2020 (That’s just over six years from the writing of this blog), and by 2040 Hispanics will be more than 50% of the Texan population.

So things are changing, and they will only change more as the future becomes the present. Why, then, do we keep clinging to the “default white” cultural norm? I’m afraid I’m not qualified to say why, but it’s a fact. Whites seem afraid to acknowledge they are becoming less and less relevant as time marches forward, and this denial dilutes some of the amazing cultural diversity we have here in America. It makes me sad.

It also scares me, because the novel I am currently shopping around has a unique racial makeup. Only one of the major characters is white, and he’s a villain. All the other major characters – all of them – are people of color. I didn’t choose for them to be that way, they just are. And so I am shopping around a novel that might be totally unpalatable to the “default white” culture I live in. How will editors react to a book that, if made into a movie, could never star Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, or Bradley Cooper? In fact, of the 10 most popular actors in 2013, only one – Will Smith – isn’t white. Oh, and to keep the discrimination going, each of them is male. Not a single female on the list. Grrrr.

So what hope do I have, to sell a novel that flies in the face of the current cultural trends? Do I really think anyone will want to read about people of color as they struggle through my story?

In a word, yes. I believe – no matter what our culture keeps trying to tell me – that people are people, and the fact that you have more pigment in diversity-2your skin than I do, that you grew up speaking a different language, or eating a different food, doesn’t matter. At the end of the day I am confident that people will be able to see themselves in any character so long as they are well written.

No, I won’t be bringing everyone along with me. There will always be those who are offended by any daring choice an artist makes. That’s the nature of the world. But I am confident that enough of you will see my characters as people, not black people or asian people, or even religious people or female people. Just people, nothing more and nothing less. And I am proud of that faith in my fellow-man to be better than he was yesterday. Not everyone will be, not today, but sooner or later race will cease to be the issue it is today.

Someday, we will all be just people.

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