I asked the kids if they would recommend the story to others, and they said yes. The reason was, and I quote, “Because Samara is half black.”
I’m not sure why this bothers me but it does, and it bothers me for the same reason people voted for Obama ONLY because he was a black candidate. It’s the same reason audiences flock to Tyler Perry movies even though it’s the same poorly scripted storyline every time. It bothers me for the same reason that shows that depict interracial couples suddenly get canceled. (A Different World, Legacy, Boy Meets World, Lincoln Heights, Flash-Forward, etc.) It’s for the same reason why minorities die within the first ten minutes of a horror movie. My suspicion is this: race still makes people uncomfortable and we naturally stick to our own.
I have a confession to make, and I’m sure a few people can relate to this particular subject. Back in school, whenever I entered a new class, I always looked for someone black to sit with. This is not a racist motive. Hell, I live in suburbia USA. It’s just the comfort of having someone nearby who looks like me. Even now, grown up, with 75% of my friends being white, I still have the same anxiety. When my white friends invite me to mixers, I am always the only black person there, and being 5’11 makes me even more conspicuous. It’s come to the point to where if there isn’t at least a 25:75 ratio of minorities, don’t even bother inviting me to the party.
Now before you get your panties in a bunch, consider the situation if the roles were reversed. Imagine if you’re the only white/ straight/ English speaking/poor/ republican/ single/ fill-in-the-blank-here person in the room. Odds are high that you would have the same issue and try to search the crowd for your likeness. This is the exactly what young girls of color are going through--awkwardly searching for their likeness in the crowded bookshelves.
To be fair, there are some things that people of different cultures don’t understand—an insider joke, if you will. Like there is a certain thing called “Caucasian humor” that completely goes over my head. Example: not once did I laugh while watching How I Met Your Mother. Not ONCE. At the same time, I wish the Wayans Brothers were dragged through town by wild horses.
Unfortunately, this dilemma is leaking into my writing career. My book series features a biracial main character who is torn between two factions. It appears that I’m also going through the same dichotomy. Young girls of color want to read fantasy; however, that genre is white dominated and the minority characters are placed on the token shelf and used as comic relief. And seeing all those pale, beautifully tragic faces on the bookshelves doesn’t help their self-esteem at all. How can they possibly relate? There is no gorgeous, mysterious guy interested in them, so why should they care? Publishers will only buy what sells, and if minorities aren’t buying, why should they care?
See the Catch-22? So do I, and it sucks. In a way I’m glad I can contribute a small drop of paint on a blank canvas of teen paranormal fiction, and I hope it leads to more diversity in the genre. Race is not the main issue in my story, but to say that it doesn’t matter is a pacifying, politically correct lie. One of the first rules of writing is to write about who/what you know. If everyone around you looks and acts exactly the same, step out of your comfort zone and strive to know more.