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Why is it Important to Have Black Writers for Black Characters?

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Liz Fe creates informative content to entertain and educate her readers.

Jordan Peele might be the most powerful Black writer in Hollywood.

Jordan Peele might be the most powerful Black writer in Hollywood.

When I was a kid, I loved reading. But I didn't love reading about black characters, or even any characters of color. When you're a kid and you're only exposed to white people on the page and screen, that just becomes your reality: white people are the heroes and the others are their sidekicks (or villains).

This isn't true of course—there are plenty of amazing books about POC out there—but it's what my young mind believed for years because that's all I knew as an emerging reader. And when it came time for me to write stories myself? Well, let's just say my imagination was lacking diversity in both plot lines and characterization (until recently).

Blackness Is Not a Monolith

This means that there’s no set way to be black. There are many different ways we can look, talk and act, but all of us have experienced racism at some point in our lives. This has shaped who we are as individuals and as a community. We need writers who understand this in order to tell our stories fully and accurately.

Blackness Is Not Just Language

It's important to note that language is only a part of a person's culture. Language is a tool for communication, but it is not the sum of a person's culture. For example, there are many black people who do not speak with a southern accent because they grew up in other parts of the country or abroad. The same goes for white people who have learned black slang during their interactions with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Language also varies depending on where you're from within America (for example, white folks in New York City may not speak like Southern whites). What this means is that one type of character can be written differently by different authors—and they should be!

When it comes time to cast actors to play these characters on screen or stage, the same rules will apply: each actor should represent his individual interpretation of that role as opposed to having producers dictate how he must sound and act based solely on his race or gender identity.

Representation Matters

There is a lot of tension in Hollywood when it comes to representation. There are people who believe that all minorities should be represented equally and accurately, while others feel that white characters should be the focus.

The debate is ongoing and can get heated, but we all agree on one thing: authenticity matters. We want to see ourselves in the media we consume, which is why it’s so important for there to be black writers for black characters.

When you have a writer who brings their own experiences into their work, it allows them to write about characters in a way that feels true and authentic. A white writer may not know how much pressure there would be if they were living under racism every day of their lives—they can’t possibly understand what it means for someone like me or my family members (who also became writers).

But, when I watch shows like Black-ish or Atlanta—shows created by black writers—it feels personal because they understand these characters as well as anyone else could possibly know what being black means today in America.

Black Writers Understand Black Characters

When a black writer gets to write black characters, especially in fantasy and science fiction, I think it's really important. And not just because you want to tell your own stories.

It's also because we're still pushing back against the idea that blackness is monolithic. That all black people have similar experiences or have gone through the same things as each other. Or even that we all speak with one voice or view the world through the same set of eyes.

Even if we did, it would be impossible for anyone else to know why any given thing is funny or sad or difficult for us—and even if they did understand our individual experiences, those might not line up with what someone else experienced themselves at all!

Authenticity Matters

When you're writing about Blackness (as a general concept), authenticity matters. You need someone who understands how complex and nuanced our identities are and how much there is to be addressed in pop culture representation. It's crucial for people like me to feel seen by mainstream society because no one seems interested in representing "authentic" portrayals of black life beyond stereotypes.

How about a Black character who addresses how poverty and crime rates are higher among African Americans than whites due to systemic racism? Or how the American education perpetuates generational inequality despite recent efforts toward affirmative action programs and level playing field opportunities? These kinds of stories reflect the economic and social reality for Black people.

Conclusion

In the end, I think it’s important for us to have black writers as well as black characters. Blackness is not a monolith and it can be nuanced and complex like any other race or ethnicity. It’s more than just language, but also culture and history.

When we aren't represented in science fiction, comedy, horror, or any other genre, we lose out on all of these wonderful nuances that make up our culture. And when we are represented on screen, our characters are often disrespected because they're not white men!

© 2022 Liz Fe