I was reading a post on Twitter this morning by Nic Stone, whose work I adore. I think it was part of a larger conversation but what came through my feed talked about her not giving her children books about black characters written by white people. A white person had taken umbrage with that.
I understand where she’s coming from – under #ownvoices it’s about authenticity of experience, not just accuracy of reportage. And I don’t think (I could be wrong) she was saying that white people should never have minority characters in their books, but that she would PREFER to provide her own children with books about characters like them written by authors who have actually EXPERIENCED the things the characters do.
I get it.
I’m a white woman. But I teach in a predominantly minority school, and have for my entire teaching career (both of the schools in which I’ve taught over the past 15 years have been high minority population). I hear my kids in the halls. They share their stories with me. But I would never dream of trying to write a main character who was black – only because i would NOT be able to give it authenticity.
Can I write about a white girl who has a black boyfriend? Considering the first boy I ever made out with in high school was black, probably. I still remember at the end of my sophomore or junior year in high school, I was saying goodbye for the summer to a mixed-race male classmate and we kissed (we were drama babies – kissing was common!). Two girls walking by had been horrified to see “she’s kissing a black guy!” (And this was in 1986 or 87!) I had a friend down the street growing up whose father moved her into a predominantly white neighborhood, but didn’t want her playing with the white kids. (She did anyway and we’re still connected through social media all these years later.) I don’t believe in the term “color blind” but I have had friends from all walks of life throughout my lifetime. I often tell my students that I see the color of their skin, but I judge them on the character traits they present, not the melanin they contain. (They LOVE that, by the way.)
So Nic, I see you. I understand you want your children of color to see AUTHENTICITY in the books you share with them. And I hope you will also share books by white authors who have characters with POC friends and/or family when you are sharing good reads with your children.