On diversity in fiction

On Tumblr, there was a discussion of race in fiction, kickstarted by the suggestion that people (read: people of colour) should identify with characters of any race, and are shallow if they need specific similarities.

My take (originally here, but in case of the Tumblr apocalypse):

Exactly!

And it’s been shown that, for instance, girls will readily identify with girl or boy leads, whereas boys struggle to identify with girls. POC are used to identifying with white characters, but white people will often resist identifying with POC characters (particularly ones they can’t mentally editorialize as white: for instance, white fans often conceptualize Japanese characters in Japanese media produced by Japanese creators directed at Japanese audiences as European or North American).

So the issue at hand is really, really, really not POC who call for more diversity being unable to identify with white characters. Most of them can and do identify with them all the damn time, because that’s what’s overwhelmingly there and what everyone is socialized into doing. It’s white people who struggle to identify with characters of colour, and/or dark-skinned characters particularly.

(Remember how people screamed bloody murder over a sweet, innocent, murdered child being played by a black girl? Even though she was obviously written that way? Because suddenly it was harder to see her as pure and sweet and childlike? God.)

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