Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

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writinggg
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Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#1 Post by writinggg » Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:31 am

Just so you know : This is a LONG explanation story, so here is the main question : How do I show this to other people in my family and community without them thinking I want to be white/ prefer white people?

So I am going to make a short vn about a young little boy who is super innocent but lives in a less innocent town (it's deeper than that, trust me) to get in action and also prove to myself that I can think of something non-hentai related for once :lol: . But I have a problem :

My main character is white, his family is white, and I am a black young woman. Now, I know most of you are thinking "why does it matter!", I will explain below.

If the character was a race that was not mine but not white (or asian because I have to deal with people thinking I think asians are better, WHICH IS FALSE) , it would not be a problem. But because he is white, people might assume I think white are better. If that also makes not sense, I will also explain that.

Living in the mostly black parts of Philadelphia , when I was in high school, middle school and elementary school, I had to deal with children my age thinking if you were dark you were ugly but truthful and if you were light, you were beautiful but told lies all the time. If we watched a movie and a black woman was dark, no matter how pretty they would have thought she was if she was lighter ,they felt that since she is dark, she must be ugly.

Because I was "light-skin" and "loved asians", I had to deal with people thinking I thought I was better (I did not think I was better for skin color, but I did think I was better for not putting down people based on skin" , thought I was not attracted to black boys, etc...

The strange thing was that most of our white teachers/counselors/friends were colorist and/or racist and were annoyed by them saying that.

Now , because of that environment , I feel that if I want to show someone I trust a character sprite, they might think that he is white because I thought that would make him more adorable, but I am not that way at all. I plan for lots of other characters to be black. But I am still worried they will think I'm like the others. What should I do? I try to say that skin color was not a factor during my daily life situations, but when I do, some of the more stereotypical ones say "Um-hmm" and ignore what I'm saying.

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#2 Post by blankd » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:18 am

I don't know the details or in-story significance of your MC being the race he is.

While I can see why others may think you may be choosing a lighter skinned protag "because of reasons" you are the author so it is ultimately your call. Your writing and execution of the story will have to do the heavy lifting to show that the *quality* of the character writing has nothing to do with their race.

Sorry if that's not very specific info but that's the best I can say- assuming I'm understanding your situation correctly?

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#3 Post by Taleweaver » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:22 am

There's only one thing to do here:

Ignore your daily life and accept the fact that you're creating a fictional world. The characters and settings may be as alien to you as Cthulhu and R'lyeh, but that's what you're gonna write about.

Take an inside perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who didn't grow up like you. Do some research. Talk to people whose beliefs and motivations have the sort of perspective you want to show in your story, and then go for that perspective.

Yeah, it's difficult. But it's sorta necessary if you want to add some flexibility to your writing.
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#4 Post by writinggg » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:32 am

blankd wrote:I don't know the details or in-story significance of your MC being the race he is.

While I can see why others may think you may be choosing a lighter skinned protag "because of reasons" you are the author so it is ultimately your call. Your writing and execution of the story will have to do the heavy lifting to show that the *quality* of the character writing has nothing to do with their race.

Sorry if that's not very specific info but that's the best I can say- assuming I'm understanding your situation correctly?
It has no significance at all. I have imagined other characters for separate stories who were a bit similar to him, except black. But they had a different story and I want to do his story because I imagine his first vn to be much smaller and have way less characters at the beginning.

Also, I could show them the writing , but they would instantly go to see his race. While of course not all, I notice this a lot in certain black communities. People feel a sense that we are not really mentioned in media unless it's a token character or stereotypical. We also feel that races look down upon us all the time (and in many cases it's true that people are doing that). So when we see a video game/story/whatever, even if it's by another black person, we want to check the characters to see if a black character is important and is meant to be an individual, not a cartoon clown.

Also, the reason I want to show people in the first place is because when I talk about internet stuff, they want to see it and I feel a since of satisfaction when they say they think I'm intelligent (what they don't know is Ren'py is very easy to learn and if they looked at the code for longer than 20 seconds, they would understand how it's easy :oops: ).

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#5 Post by writinggg » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:35 am

Taleweaver wrote:There's only one thing to do here:

Ignore your daily life and accept the fact that you're creating a fictional world. The characters and settings may be as alien to you as Cthulhu and R'lyeh, but that's what you're gonna write about.

Take an inside perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who didn't grow up like you. Do some research. Talk to people whose beliefs and motivations have the sort of perspective you want to show in your story, and then go for that perspective.

Yeah, it's difficult. But it's sorta necessary if you want to add some flexibility to your writing.
I'll try. I just need to get better a accepting criticism (I can accept it of course, unless it's toward a harsher scale and I feel no on pays attention to my point, which is going to happen).

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#6 Post by anon2045 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:51 am

If you think that they're the type of people who would ignore what you're trying to say or think that you judge people by their skin color, then why would you show them your work? Show your work to people you trust would listen to you and your motivations. Choose to show your work to people whose opinion you respect and who'll respect your perspective in turn. And ignore the rest. If they'll judge you for that, shrug and move on. You know different. And that's enough.

Also, you are under no obligation to write about characters who are similar to you. Just because you are black, does not mean you should stick to writing black characters. Just because you are male, that doesn't mean you stick to write male leads. Learning how to write from the perspective of characters who are different from you--whether it's gender, culture, religion, etc, is an essential ability for any writer. It's also a kind of responsibility--especially if you're writing characters of color or any type of group that has faced prejudice/persecution in real life. Research is a valuable tool for this reason, but it's also useful for when you're trying to write outside of the realm of your own experience.

In the end, you're spending a huge chunk of your spare time making your VN. Make it something that you wish to see, write the stories you wish they were more of. Write for yourself first. Your intended audience and other people are second. And when people give you their opinion, analyze whether it has merit. If you don't agree or you know their wrong, again--just move on.

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#7 Post by Onomatopoeia » Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:03 pm

So far everyone made the best points and had done so eloquently that I have nothing to expand on.

I just wanted to add a reminder: sometimes opinions are formed even before the game is played. Other times people just need something to be gripe about. They may choose and say the very things you're worried about. If (or when) it does happen, just remember what that Awesome Anon2045 said:
anon2045 wrote:You know different. And that's enough.

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#8 Post by meiri » Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:43 pm

Alright, so I can definitely relate to what you're saying.
I don't live in Philadelphia, I've grown up in the south(east) of America where a lot of people hold/held the same views as you've mentioned. I'm black and still growing up dealing with these ideas and here is the best I can tell you:
Don't show it to certain types of people, unless you're ready to explain yourself and deal with those people knocking down your explanations.

Maybe it sounds harsh, but the thing is, you don't know how someone might react, so prepare for the best... and the worst.

Because, unfortunately, I/we/you were grown up with the idea that "intelligence is whiteness" it causes in particular black people to think "oh... youre intelligent, you must be trying to be white!" and then "well cant black people be intelligent too?" . If you feel you MUST explain yourself, then do so, of course.

If you wanted, you could just wait until you have the black character sprites ready to show your work to anyone. :)

My point is: Theres no way to predict a reaction. So currently the best you can do is prepare, and also, HAVE CONFIDENCE. If you are confident in what youve written and that youve written it the right way, nothing anyone could say about it will affect you. Confidence in your art/writing will also help you better defend WHY you chose for this character to be white.
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#9 Post by SundownKid » Tue Oct 21, 2014 11:22 pm

Visually, I don't think you should care about what people think. Writers are entitled to make whatever character they want, whether it's any race or an alien. At the base level, life is too short to let people dictate what you should do.

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#10 Post by Laiska » Wed Oct 22, 2014 9:48 am

writinggg wrote:It has no significance at all. I have imagined other characters for separate stories who were a bit similar to him, except black.
The thing is, if his race has absolutely no in-story significance, why make him white at all? I'm not saying that you need to make him a non-white race, but if it's causing you so much turmoil to make him white, and there is really no special reason for making him white, why not just make him a different race? We need more non-white protagonists anyway.

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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#11 Post by Catalyst Edge Gaming » Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:41 pm

I can kind of understand where you are coming from as I read this, but at the same time I think you have to do what you're comfortable with. Just because you make a white character or an asian character or whatever doesn't mean you think anyone is better than the other, and it's not a big deal if their culture or race plays no role in the story. The way I look at it, if no one wants to help with constructive input on the characters art or the story, it's difficult to take their comments to heart if their comments aren't coming from a place of genuine concern about the story or genuine concern about the art, but instead their criticism is coming from a personal preference.
When you share what you've done with people who haven't met you, they may not know you or what race you come from. Do what makes you comfortable, make your characters the way you like them and the way you imagine them. Have pride in your hard work and if you want to make characters of different ethnic backgrounds than do so, but it's up to you.
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#12 Post by xiaomao » Thu Oct 30, 2014 9:30 pm

I'm familiar with the attitude you're describing from the other side of the coin. When I was growing up in Atlanta, folks would call my friends "oreo" for hanging out with me. You and meiri already described about how "intelligence=white" can be so damaging, I've definitely seen that. And of course there are white people more than happy to capitalize on any instance of "reverse racism" and point fingers.

I think you should trust that you have something important to say and just try to say it to the best of your abilities. Maybe you haven't even discovered what exactly you're trying to say yet. I know for myself, I never know what I'm trying to say until halfway through the story, and it might be different than what I first though. At any rate, I'm certain you have something important to say to the world.You know and I know there's good reasons why your rl friends are suspicious of you making a white character. I think you can acknowledge they have good reasons while also believing that what you say is valuable. Like meiri said, above all, have confidence in yourself.
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#13 Post by Kato » Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:42 pm

xiaomao wrote:And of course there are white people more than happy to capitalize on any instance of "reverse racism" and point fingers.
I'm sure you meant no offence, however I don't see why this is considered 'reverse' racism.

Regardless, it's very sad to hear that you're getting judged on something so critically when it shouldn't be an issue in the slightest. As it's been mentioned before, if there's no reason to make the character white you can always change their race or exlude the detail entirely.
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#14 Post by xiaomao » Fri Oct 31, 2014 12:23 am

I can see how I might have been unclear. Let me think how to explain it...
Say for instance a black person says "Screw white people." I have seen white people turn around and say "Look, black people are just as racist as white people! It's reverse racism!" and use that as an excuse to feel justified in their own racism. In my experience those white folks don't feel genuinely injured by anybody saying "screw white people", in fact they seem to feel a kind of gleefulness about it.

Did that make sense?
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Re: Main Character Race And My Race Issues!

#15 Post by noeinan » Fri Oct 31, 2014 1:21 am

Hm, it sounds like a complicated situation. On the one hand, I have definitely seen a lot of studies showing the "white = good/intelligent/etc." phenomenon. For example, a study showing black children baby dolls with different skin colors, and the children want the white baby because it's the "good" baby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybDa0gSuAcg Or the fact that black women (and black men) get strongly negative ratings on dating sites such as OKCupid: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/1 ... 11840.html

So with that in mind, I can see why people are sensitive to this kind of issue. Racism is super ingrained, and it can affect our preferences subconsciously-- even to our own detriment. And with people getting a lot of racism from other races, they may feel especially defensive about what they view as racism from people of the same race.

In the visual novel community, and the video game community at large, most protagonists are white. It's predominant to have a completely white cast, and even when characters are supposed to *be* Asian, they look white. (Blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. Granted, this is something that comes straight out of Japan, but still important to note.)

The best advice I could give is...

1. Think about the character, and think about why you want them to be white. Does being white enhance the character? Or are they white just because you like it better, but you don't know why it fits them better? Do you feel like having a white protagonist allows an escape from issues of racism in your game? There are infinite reasons why you may choose one skin color, one hair/eye color over another. When you know for sure why this character is white...

2. Do you think your reason for wanting a white character is due to internalized racism? Do you think that there is something to what those people are saying?

If you think that there may be some unconscious racism, which is *not your fault* but something everyone, black white or other, absorbs from being raised in a racist society, then you have your answer. It's up to you to decide how you want to make your game after that.

If you decide that there are reasons you think being white fits them better, and you don't think it's a facet of internalized racism then just make your game. :) You know why you are making them that way, you can be confident in your reasons, and it's your game to bring to life. You said you're having other non-white characters in your game, and you feel being white fits them better-- you aren't whitewashing, just centering the story around a different character. You don't have to make a character of your same race, just because you feel you will be looked down on by your community.

As a last thought, it's worth noting that besides white, Asian, and black, there are a ton of different races and ethnicities that your characters can be. You can make someone Indian, or Pacific Islander, or mixed race, like Afro-Asian, or Hispanic, or with Egyptian heritage (which have lighter skin tones). If you have an image of what the character looks like, it might help to think about their heritage. Maybe they are a light skinned, but non-white person? But, that's only if you want to placate folks while keeping true to your character design. You may decide that you don't care to show them your game, since it will only make them judge you negatively.

Here's a great guide to human characteristics, including skin tone, hair/eye color, facial features, body structure, etc. I've found these super helpful in my attempts to portray diverse characters while maintaining a simplified anime/manga style.

http://majnouna.deviantart.com/art/Guid ... 1-32046017
http://majnouna.deviantart.com/art/Guid ... 2-33220929
http://majnouna.deviantart.com/art/Guid ... 3-34877428

http://majnouna.deviantart.com/art/Cata ... s-33097648
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