Sunday, September 28, 2008

Race Words

I have a work in progress with a black hero and a white heroine. In the story I attempted to address some of the issues an interracial couple face. You might ask about my experience with such things. Both of my daughters' significant others are black. When I had the specific scenes written I asked them to read them and comment. Their remarks were that I was actually a little soft on the realities.

One scene in particular dealt with racial epithets and slurs. A short while after completing that section a new set of guidelines were issued by my publisher and some of the words in that scene were... verboten. I did check with the powers that be and was asked to used something else--or just say that racial epithets had been spray painted on the object in the scene.

I put that work away and spent some time thinking about it. It seemed to me that glossing over the horror, hostility and insult would be akin to the difference between describing a sensual act of love or saying simply they made love. I was not going for shock value so much as the reality that men and women suffer because they dare to love someone of another color.

I was discussing this scene with a woman who said to me point blank, "Oh that kind of stuff used to happen in the old days, but not anymore." She's wrong. Every day my grandchildren face individuals who make vicious remarks because they are neither white nor black.

Until we are willing to look at the truth face on, it will continue to be the truth, whether we want to believe that or not. Will that scene be in the book? Probably not. At this point, I believe that the power that drove that scene is gone. The hostility and fear are diluted and therefore, the heroine's demonstration of her love when she stands by her man is less powerful and emotional. It has the feeling of a firecracker that fizzled--not much fire when it blows.

I've revised the story and moved on. And I cannot pretend that my love story would change the world. So I suppose you might wonder why mention it? I guess the answer is simply that I wanted to say that I know that is hasn't gone away. Bigotry and prejudice are still with us in 2008.



  1. This is the reality you should write about. I cannot fathom what it would be like to be treated with hatred or ignorance becasue of how you look.

  2. I think most of us would like to believe that that kind of ignorance is a thing of the past. How very sad that it isn't, but you are absolutely correct--people can be vicious and mean. Not too many years ago (as in since I've lived here), in the town where I live, a black state police man was beaten to death for dancing with a white woman at a bar. Yes, racial intolerance is regrettably live and well.

  3. But it matters that you tried, Anny. I think most of your readers will understand what you meant to say and that you couldn't say it completely. The passion in the text will give you away. Well done.

  4. When will our world become colorblind? I keep waiting for that time but I don't think it'll ever happen. Glossing over these issues does nothing to help the situation either. Racism and inequality and prejudice lives and unless we confront it, it diminishes us as human beings.

  5. It's shocking to think that such things still bring about hatred in the world, yet it happens daily.

    I just don't understand people who hate someone based on their color. Like Regina, I wonder when the world will become colorblind and focus on what really matters--like honesty and strength of character.

    I think the message in your book will still be a strong one, Anny. And it's one people need to hear.

  6. I think I would have left it as originally written, and if your publisher turned it down, looked someplace else.

    If you're allowed to have the word "cunt" in your book, you should be allowed the words you're describing. Especially if it's clear that the words are cruel, insulting, offensive, and used by idiots and bigots.

    I'm going to offend a lot of people by saying this, but no "real" publisher would censor that way. If the word is called for, use it.

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