I usually don’t do things like this, but I had bacon this morning and thus am in a giving mood, so. Here you go: Alex’s Guide to Being a Somewhat Decent White Person, in 30 Quick, Easy Steps! (If you can’t handle sarcasm, turn away now)
Note before we begin: This guide is nowhere near all inclusive, and my PoC followers, please feel free to add more, if you’re feeling inclined to do so.
Also note that I do not speak for all PoC.
1. First things first: Recognize that if you’re white, you’re going to fuck up. 100% money back guarantee. Even if you don’t want to, you will. There’s nothing you can do about that. You could be the most anti-racist white person ever. Great. You’re still going to fuck up. Don’t let this discourage you, though! The good news is this: Nobody expects you to be perfect and nobody expects you to not fuck up. We just expect that when you DO fuck up, you take your call-out like a fucking adult, recognize your mistake, apologize, and then move the fuck on, and try your hardest to not make that mistake again. Maybe learn something in the process. That’s it. No, really. That’s it.
2. Recognize that as a white person, you have white privilege whether you want it or not. You have it. Recognize that you benefit from your white privilege, whether you want to benefit from it or not. It’s not a choice. Recognize that because of your white privilege, you benefit from the oppression of PoC, regardless of whether you think that’s fair or not, regardless of whether you want to or not. You don’t get a choice in it any more than we get a choice in not having those same privileges. That’s not something to feel guilty over, it’s something to be conscious of.
3. People of Color are human beings. With actual feelings! And actual lives, and concerns! We feel physical pain! We feel joy! We break our arms, and do silly things, and do serious things, and like leisurely activities! W O W Z E R S
4. Racism is privilege plus power. White people can’t be victims of racism. You have the most power. PoC have no power over you whatsoever. We can discriminate against you. We can be prejudiced against you. We can’t be racist against you. We don’t have the power to oppress you. The end.
5. Approach everything critically. Nearly everything is built upon white supremacist ideals.
6. If you find yourself calling out PoC for how they handle racism, yet have nothing to say to the actual racist, it’s time for you to go the fuck away.One thing I’ve noticed both on Tumblr, and in real life, is that when a white person starts acting racist, other white people will remain silent, but the second a PoC says something against that white person, other white people will come out in defense of that white person’s racist behavior (“You’re being so harsh!” “Strong language like that will get you nowhere!” “How are they supposed to learn if you won’t educate them?” etc etc etc) . That’s unacceptable in ways that even Lemongrab can’t articulate.
7. When your skinfolk are acting out, it’s on YOU to call them out, especially when you see them harassing PoC. If a PoC wants to speak up, let them. But there’s a difference between collecting your folk (always welcome) and flat out talking over us/speaking FOR us (big no-no). Learn the difference.
8. It’s not our jobs to educate white people on their racism, so don’t expect us to. There are PoC who do like to educate, paid or unpaid. Go see them. For an alternate option, open Google and you’ll have all that shit at your fingertips within seconds. But when a PoC is calling you out, they might not feel like giving you an in depth history lesson on the background of that particular act of racism, and to act like they owe it to you is entitlement. If we feel like educating, we will. In fact, there are plenty of Tumblr blogs created with the sole purpose of educating you on racism. Racismschool is a perfect example.
9. That being said, listen to PoC when they talk about racism. If you prefer listening to white people talk about the racism PoC face, rather than listening to PoC, there’s a problem. Tim Wise and other white people say something about racism, and y’all act like this is brand new information and omg he’s BRILLIANT wow so insightful. No, bitch, we’ve been saying this shit for CENTURIES, and white people are just regurgitating what WE said. It’s just that when PoC talk about our experiences, we’re seen as ~reverse racist~ and emotionally biased, and somehow, white people are able to talk about racism objectively even though they have no experience with racism aside from fucking people over with it.
10. If it seems to you that “no matter what white people do, there’s no way they can interact with a PoC without offending them,” then that says a lot about how you view anti-racist discourse, and it’s time for you to take a step back and try again. Instead of reading it as, “white people fuck up everything” try reading it as “I’m frustrated with white people/white supremacy, and here is why…” Most of the shit you read from us flat out GIVES you the answers you’re looking for in one way or another. It’s really not that hard. Stop looking too far into shit.
11. Instead of getting defensive and trivializing issues because you don’t think it’s a big deal why are you so offended by this you’re being over sensitive the world is so PC omg bawwwwwwwww …… LISTEN. And even if you don’t get why what you did/said was offensive, understand that it WAS offensive, period, and just don’t do it again. Sometimes, understanding isn’t necessary, and sometimes you won’t be able to understand, no matter how hard you try. You don’t have to; just stop.
12. Stop saying “nigga.” This goes for white people AND non-Black PoC alike. It’s not cool for you to do it. Black people say it to reclaim it. White people say it, why? Y’all have nothing to reclaim with that word. Non-Black PoC have no business using it either.
13. Yes, that means in songs, too. Y’all can’t sing it just because it’s part of the lyrics. Either mute yourself for half a second, or stop listening to the song until you can gain enough self control to shut the hell up for one word.
14. Seriously, if you aren’t Black, you can’t say it. Ever. EVER. EVER.
15. While we’re at it, when you use a racial slur and PoC who fall victim to that slur call you out on it, for god’s sake, stop saying it.
16. Recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around white people, despite the ways in which the world will try to tell you it does. (For instance, don’t call us non-white, because that makes, once again, white people the default human and everyone who isn’t white becomes a niche or subtype. You probably didn’t even realize that’s what you were doing, did you? Which is what I mean when I say that this shit is subtle, and engrained in us to the point where it’s hard to detect. Which is fine; sometimes, you just don’t know. It happens. Just be aware that you can only use “I didn’t know” as an excuse once. After you’re informed, you have no excuse. By the way, for future reference, “PoC” will work just fine.)
17. PoC don’t owe you shit and it would behoove you to not act like we do; when you’re ignorant, we don’t owe you niceness. If you did something that dehumanized us, why would you expect us to be nice to you anyway? That’s abuser logic, racism, and fucked uppedness all rolled into one disgusting package, and if you expect us to swallow it either whole or in pieces, you need to get slapped with a cactus, to be frank.
18. Don’t appropriate. If PoC walk around in our own things, we get harassed, assaulted, told to go back to our countries, viewed as suspicious, and at worst, killed. But when white people wear them, it’s cute, trendy, and omg, you’re so worldly. Our cultures are not costumes, fashion trends, or objects to be picked over, the pretty parts taken and the rest discarded. Even if you’re wearing it to appreciate our culture? Don’t. Appropriation isn’t appreciation, it’s disrespect. Period. (And if you think that “Well then maybe you should take off your jeans since those are from white culture and you’re appropriating har har” is an intelligent response then please dip your lips in hot wax, because no no NO.)
19. “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE—” Shut the fuck up.
20. Just because one PoC doesn’t find something racist to be offensive, doesn’t mean that it suddenly isn’t offensive, and that it’s okay for you to continue on with whatever you’re doing. For examples, see 15.
21. If you’re being called out for something, recognize how much energy this person is out right now. Seriously, calling people out isn’t fun, because we KNOW how it’s likely to be received. We KNOW what people are likely to think about us. We KNOW how people are likely to take a call out.We KNOW that nine times out of ten, we’re just going to be shut down. We have to pick our battles; if we called out everything, we’d be calling shit out every second of our lives. (And it’s not fair that we have to let some things pass silently, because that gives the impression that what was said/done is okay and not problematic, which isn’t true) It’s not fun. It’s not something we look forward to doing. So when we DO do it, please just listen. Please recognize that it’s not us trying to kill your fun or ruin your day, or us hating you or thinking you’re a terrible person. We’re just trying to gain back the piece of our humanity that you put your foot all over.
22. Being called a racist isn’t worse than whatever racist act you just committed/racist thing you said. So save your boo hoo hurt fee-fee tears for somebody who gives a fuck because I guarantee it won’t be us. Also, being called out for doing something offensive doesn’t mean we called you racist. It doesn’t even mean we think you’re racist. It means you did something problematic and we’re trying to correct you on it so that you won’t do it again.
23. So you got called out and it upset you. Go cry me a god damn river. Guess what? Being called out isn’t SUPPOSED to feel good. It’s not supposed to feel like a pat on the back. Expecting a call out to feel good is like denying somebodies humanity and then expecting them to give you hugs and cookies in return. No, it’s not LIKE that, it IS that. In the same vein, if you get called out by more than one person, and choose to listen to the one who you think was nicer about it? Then fuck you. Both are people expressing their hurt and both are valid, and for you to ignore one in favor of the other—and especially to praise them via “Thank you for being polite/carrying on an intelligent discourse rather than screaming incoherently/etc etc etc” is tone policing as well as trying to set up a Good PoC, Bad PoC dichotomy, and fuck you very much if you engage in that.
24. Whatever racist thing you did or said, you’re not the first white person we’ve dealt with who has done/said it. You’re probably somewhere in the thousands. Know what that means? We’ve dealt with others exactly like you, several times over. That gets annoying the second time around. By the time you strike, we’re fed up with it. So if we just tell you to fuck off, please respect our wishes and do so. We deal with micro-aggressions and blatant and subtle racism day in and day out, every single day, from the day we are born until the day that we die. So if we aren’t the nicest to you, don’t get mad at us for not being polite enough. Be mad at yourself for having done/said something racist and making our day just a little bit shittier with your ignorance. Your racist acts are your fault. You did em. Don’t get mad when you have to deal with consequences for them. If we’re old enough to deal with racism at fucking two years old, then you’re old enough to deal with the consequences at 15, 16, 20, 30,56, 89, 314.
25. Keeping all of the above in mind, remember that we’re all individuals. The best way to deal with PoC is by treating us like the human beings we are, and being constantly aware of your privilege. When you fuck up, apologize, try not to do it again, and move on. It’s not that hard.
26. Cracker isn’t a racial slur. Neither is honky. Neither is curdled milk, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, or white bread. Let it drop. Sorry you aren’t oppressed for your skin color, white people. It must suck not having to deal with racial oppression. Truly. I’m sorry for your misfortune.
27. Intersectionality or shut the fuck up. PoC come in all flavors. We’re queer. We have mental health issues. We have disabilities. We deal with sizeism, misogyny, ableism, and so on. If you think bringing up race in conversations about other oppressions is inappropriate, then take a long hard seat and stay down until summoned.
28. “It’s just a word, it only has as much power as you give it.” NO.
29. Having a PoC spouse, S.O., family member, acquaintance, co-worker, doesn’t mean you can’t be racist or do racist shit. You can, you have, and you will again. And if you make that argument and use them as your get out of jail free card, you’re being racist in that moment because you’re turning them into an excuse to combat being called out for acting like a fucking fool.
If the above is too difficult or too much for you, then there is an alternate solution:
1. Stay away from all PoC, and don’t engage with a single one until you’ve changed your attitude because the last thing PoC need is to be exposed to your ignorance and lack of consideration for their humanity.
Remember that there’s way more than what I’ve listed. Anything here that upset you or made you feel uncomfortable, you should go back and read again, and question very carefully why it made you upset, and then confront your issues. And if I somehow pissed you off, just remember… you asked.
Gee, I don’t know how to research writing Characters of Color tastefully:
- So You Want to Write a Fantasy: Writing Female Characters
- So You want to Write a Fantasy: Culture
- SYWTWAF: Writing What you Don’t know
- A list of adjectives to describe physical attributes, Or, As it turns out, I could go to Starbucks with half this list
- Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
- Some primers
- More Primers
- RaceFail ‘09: Or where Deepad’s I didn’t dream of Dragons comes from, and why.
- Writing characters of Color
- Writing Outside your experience
- Media Representations Wiki - stereotypes/tropes/culture/etc
- On A:TLA’s whitewashing - All The World’s White, the Rest of Us merely live in it
- The Face of the Other: Do Manga & Anime characters look “white”?
- Describing Characters of Color pt 1 & Describing Characters of Color (pt 2)
- I Didn’t Dream of Dragons
- So You Want to: Avoid Unfortunate Implications
- Transracial Writing for the Sincere
- Why Writing Colorblind is Writing White
- What a Girl Wants: Representation
- An Equal Place at the Table
- Avoiding LGBTQ Stereotypes
- The Problem With Colorblindness (and the Rest of Racebending.com)
- Making Movies for White People: A Tongue in Cheek critique of Minority Representation in the Media, or lack thereof
- From Margin to Center: Writing Characters of Color via Racialicious
- Writing Characters of Color - a helpful community!
- Why my Protagonists aren’t white (even though I am.)
- The Dangers of Telling a Single Story (a helpful Video)
- The Lack of People of Color in Historical Fictions
- How to Read and Respond to Literature of Color
- The Advantages of being a White Writer (in getting published)
- Writing Characters of Colour (Now With 10% Less White Liberal Anxiety!)
- Fic and Skin Tone (discusses Nyota Uhura, otherwise relevant)
- On Problematic Writing
- Writing Race in YA fiction: Debunking Myths
- Diversity Writers: How to Write People of Color
- The Importance of Inclusionary Writing
- Overcoming the Noble Savage and the Sexy Squaw: Native Steampunk
- The Intersection of Race and Steampunk: Colonialism’s After-Effects & Other Stories, from a Steampunk of Colour’s Perspective
- Beyond Victoriana: For EVERYTHING Steampunk/1800s/Industrial Revolution that isn’t just Victorian England and the archives Tales of the Urban Adventurer
- Can I just watch A Game of Thrones in Peace? (A brown feminist fan rant).
- Fantasy and Sci-Fi race Bingo
- Invoking Strangely Colored people
- Many Voices
- AfroFuturism, SciFi, and the History of the Future
- Some Open Thoughts on Race & Dsyutopia
- When Will White People Stop Making Movies like Avatar?
- Portraying POC in YA Fantasy: Are we There Yet?
- Debunking White Fantasy
- Racism in Fantasy
- Magical Realism is Fantasy written in Spanish.
1.) It’s not hard to figure out what to do, there are plenty of resources.
People say you have to get it right, do your research, but … what else are you supposed to research? It’s not like people with more pigment in their skin have completely different personalities than those with less, any more than any individual. It’s frustrating when I can’t even figure out what the heck people are talking about.
Bam. Research step one done for you.
2.) Writing characters of color/minorities is a good thing.
I don’t like the notion that fantasy authors are under some kind of obligation to present ethnically diverse worlds. I’m English, and a fair sized part of English history consists of unwashed beardy white people in mead halls. If I’m inspired by my own history and cultural heritage, then that’s what I’m damn well going to write about. I’m not writing about some other culture just to appease the people who think there aren’t enough black characters in fantasy, or whatever. You want it, you write it. Nothing to do with me.
3.) Your all White Fantasy Land Didn’t Exist in Real Life:
…the rather medieval one has more diversity than real medieval Germany probably had […] In a world with medieval means of transport, it just doesn’t seem natural to me to mix dark-skinned people with blue-eyed blondes in one setting. I just try to give the people a colour that fits the place where they live.
You mean like the people from Africa and the Middle east who began to take over Southern Spain, as well as the Jews who were pretty well spread out throughout Europe, the Middle Easterners they would have met on the Crusades, and the incoming Mongol Hordes who spread to the very edges of Eastern Europe before the empire finally collapsed? Don’t forget that Turkey is right there, and the silk road would have gone from Song Dynasty China, through India, and ended in Turkey before moving further westwards into places like Germany. Also the attempts at the Franco-Mongol alliance would have been pretty interesting. (That’s about the 13th century - arguably smack dab in Middle Ages Europe and definite contact between France/Christian Europe and the Mongolian Empire.)
Unless you’re writing everything in the far reaches of Denmark or something, historically speaking, I call bullshit on people who have societies that are only all white ever, because it’s just inaccurate. Consider the relative closeness of Northern Africa to Spain, or Turkey to the rest of Europe, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Crusades, Slavery existing in Europe, including England, the slave trade, imperialism, Pax Mongolica, The Silk Road, Jewish Diaspora, the Islamic Empire vs The Holy Roman Empire, Egypt, Algeria, China’s sailing across the world, The Maruyan/Gupta Empires of India, tea trades, Columbus sailing in hopes of finding China, etc, etc, etc.
4.) I mean I just don’t believe you anymore. It’s unrealistic. Seriously guys.
You’d think I’d just denied the holocaust or something. Get a grip. All I said was that I’m going to write about my own cultural experience and anyone who thinks I should do otherwise for the sake of political correctness can bugger off.
This isn’t even about being PC this is just not being wrong about everything.
This is a terrific set of resources. If I ever do manage to write that book I intend to, these will come in very handy. And to add to the research bits. It’s not actually that hard to find information online.
Warning: info-dump coming up.
I just want to add a bit of historical knowledge about the “far reaches of Denmark”, some of which is my own background knowledge, some of which is stuff I’ve found with a few quick google searches.
As far back as the Stone Age - which is considerable BEFORE the middle ages or medieval times as you might call it - the Danes traded with people from the Mediterranean lands. How do we know this? Because stone was moved between those places. Danish flint has been found in Norway (and that, too, is a long way away - if Denmark are “the far reaches” what the hell is Norway?), and Danish amber has been found around the Mediterranean. In the Bronze Age metal was imported from the South into these far reaches of Denmark.
And now we reach the Middle Ages. Digs at Haithabu, Ribe and other Viking Age and Medieval towns show that the Danes at this time traded not just with what is now Germany, Sweden and Norway, the Danes sailed to the British Isles and traded there. They sailed the Baltic Sea and up the rivers of Russia. They traded with most of Europe. How do we know this? Because some of the coins found in the dig sites I mentioned up above are Arabic and Roman in origin.
Sure, the population density when it comes to people of colour will definitely have been less in the Scandinavian countries in those days, but to pretend that nobody even knew of the existence of people of colour is disingenuous.
If I recall correctly the first Christian missionaries started doing their thing in the North somewhere around 6-700 AD. The most famous of them in Denmark was Ansgar in the 800s. This is not even the late Middle Ages. It’s the early Middle Ages. And Christianity came from a place largely populated with people of colour. It has since been white-washed to a ridiculous degree, but you can bet your arses that people knew of non-white people up here back then.
Oh, did I mention how the politics in Northern Europe in the later Middle Ages were actually quite aware of how things were going around the Mediterranean? How people from up here did actually also join the Crusades and go to Jerusalem? How people up here joined holy orders of one kind or the other and went on pilgrimages? How they brought back knowledge and new friends? How they sometimes also brought slaves back with them? Yes, this goes far back.
So anyway, yes, if you want to write something that’s 100% white you need to not only set it in Scandinavia, the history of which most of the English-speaking world is surprisingly ignorant about considering the fetishism of our Mythologies that’s going around (Thor, anyone?), you also need to actively ignore the history of the Scandinavian countries. Not that that should be difficult, considering aforementioned ignorance.
So anyway, I realize that the “far reaches of Denmark” was a quip about how far you’d need to go to have a realistic all-white ‘world’. The thing is, on this planet I can’t actually think of a place that’d be far enough away from everything else to justify it at all. Not even Denmark in the Bronze Age.
And if you go further North into Sweden, Norway and Finland you’ll end up bumping into the Nomadic peoples of the North, who had/have connections Eastwards into Sibiria and have never been considered white by white supremacists. Heading to the islands of Iceland and Greenland? Don’t make me laugh. Though Greenland is still part of the Danish monarchy, let’s not pretend that its people are considered white Danes by any means. The racism that Inuit peoples are met with here in Denmark, which ought to count as their own country, makes it not their own country at all. And guess how long the people of Iceland and Greenland have been known to the Danes due to sea travel? That’s right. Since the Viking Age/early Middle Ages.
There’s no way to use History as an argument against inclusion of people of colour. Not even in the stereotypically white-washed and white-fetishized Scandinavia.