I’d started this on twitter, and then realized that I really should turn this into a blog post.
Generic black characters… why is this still a thing?
Last night I’d finished an advance copy of a romantic suspense novel and it wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed the action, the characters (main) and their development arcs. Even the reveal at the end was a bit of a surprise to me. I normally don’t like it when I can guess early on who the villain is early on—I get quite bored and will deem the book to be a waste of time.
But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the small appearance of the black character, who was a woman. This woman was a model and was said to be from Africa due to her dark skin. Now I understand that this was an advance copy, so it’s possible that this tidbit was changed during the final production. I’ll have to find the final product and read it myself.
But I’ve read this in final copies of other novels (not by this author) and it bothers me. It bothers me how lazy some authors have been; that their one—or few—black characters must be from Africa. And their African country isn’t even named—like anyone from Africa are all the same.
Well no, they’re not. I have a brother-in-law who has family from Sierra Leone, Kenya and Tanzania, and they all have different cultures among other things. So to just say that “this is Michelle and she’s from Africa, I’m sure, given her complexion” is just lazy and racist as shit. Hate to break this to you who are unaware, but we black people are everywhere.
No matter where your character is from, give them some traits from that region, since they’re suppose to be from there. If you just give me that Character X is from South Africa, but then have ZERO description, traits or anything else that has me, the reader, believe they’re South African, it’s just giant waste. She could have been from Miami, or Philly for all that matter.
If you’re going to have an African-[insert country here] character, then give it to me. Give me their traits, mannerisms, culture, etc. You slap on an “African” sticker and you will lose me and many others as consumers.
My call to action for you writers out there, don’t be lazy. Actually give a fuck about your characters. I can assume you that your readers do.