I posted this originally…

I posted this originally in comments to Tempest's post on Scalzi's blog, but thought it might be helpful to pull it out as its own separate entry:

Where does racial bias appear in the writing/submitting/editing process?

Here are some aspects:

  • writers write generic characters that they may think could be any race, but end up reading white

  • writers write characters of color who are indistinguishable from generic people, and so they read white

  • writers choose not to write characters of color

  • writes who do write characters of color, make them impotent sidekicks, villains, bestial, magical negros, whores, etc. and so on

  • editors see authors names on the subs (I dont think any of the pro markets do blind subs) and are subtly influenced thereby, being less interested in authors whose names are too black or too ethnic, or assume that the books will be about race and therefore uninteresting or polemic

  • editors read stories with a protagonist (or other major characters) of color and because of their own internalized racism simply like the stories less as a result than they would have with a white protagonist

  • editors read and claim to like stories with characters of color, but believe that theres no audience for them, or not enough to sell sufficient books, and so thinking reject the manuscript

  • publishers put white characters on the cover, because theyre afraid readers will be scared away by characters of color

  • publishers decide if were going to publish this book, we need to target it to the right audience, so they put a painfully caricatured cover on the book (in my case, and S. Asian lit. by women in general, its the red sari cover  woman with head and other limbs truncated, red sari draped over her body, sexualized position/appearance, body is posed, not in motion/active)

  • publishers spend less money on advertising the book, because they assume itll be a special interest market

  • publishers only send book to ethnic-focused reviewers

  • booksellers order far fewer copies of the book, because they assume its special interest, which then impacts how many copies are viewed by readers on shelves, which dramatically impacts sales

  • booksellers shelve books in ethnic fiction ghettoes only

  • white booksellers assume books about characters of color arent going to be of interest to them, and choose not to read them or write employee reviews of them

  • reviewers do the same

Etc. and so on. Thats just off the top of my head, and I can think of specific examples for many of the above. In some cases, several specific examples.

2 thoughts on “I posted this originally…”

  1. Great list — thanks for re-posting it here.

    …I was going to suggest a couple of additions, but on further reflections my additions are (a) relatively similar to items you’ve already got, and (b) more about cultural bias than racial bias per se (though they often manifest as racial bias). So never mind.

  2. hey mary anne —

    i am loving your blog! just going through it and what a pleasure. I think you should friend my sister, michelle thompson. i think you would have a lot to talk about.

    i was interested to read this. My girlfriend/partner (insert whatever word that is simultaneously lacking and overfull) and I have been wanting to write a graphic novel and we want it to have really amazing characters of color, but are thinking that without a white protagonist, zip, nada.

    post-racial my ass.

    Hope all is well!

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