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Describing POC's Skin...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by DragonOfTheAerie, Aug 23, 2016.

  1. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    Exactly. You aren't going to see a huge native population of red-haired, freckle-faced people living in the jungle. And yeah white is more like pink. I've seen Asians that are far whiter than "white" people.
     
  2. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    k?


    I think my corrections make more sense giving your tying not to be racist. Right and that makes it ok to use some half brained stereotype and label all white people racist, based off of? Oh the color of their skin. Common. It takes some good double think to pull of such logic. And frankly I find it insulting that you think it is ok to make such a broad statement about PEOPLE just because the color of their skin, so don't include me in that 'we.' I suggest stop thinking about people as labels, instead as people.

    So doubt is now racism? Looks like logic went out with the bath water. This is getting ridiculous.


    In my opinion, the writing with color blog is a much more detrimental than it is beneficial. It's nothing more than a PC writers handbook.

    That whole writing with colour blog on which this whole thread is about makes the argument that foods to describe a skin color fetishize a whole group. A statement based of the bloggers personal experience, I don't understand how that translates to the rest of the population but ok. The entire post is frankly so hypocritical, illogical and frankly asinine. Common, they are saying it's not ok to use chocolate as a descriptor because of slavery then go on to say it's ok to use spices, precious metals and gems, plants and wood. Right because you know none of those were ever gathered by slaves. Nope only chocolate and coffee drove the slave trade, historical context and accuracy...goodbye. How is being described as any of those things not dehumanizing but chocolate and other foodstuffs is? Only black people can refers to each other that way, because that's not encouraging a stereotype and you know segregation.... The list goes on but I'll stop.

    There is a lot of stuff on that site that is nothing more than very week arguments to push an agenda that has more use as political propaganda that actual fantasy writing.

    If your worried about how your describing a character be it skin color or height, take a step back and try to figure out how to do it better. don't just decide to cater to some group to be PC, at that point you may as well use 1/6(4pi-3[SUP]1/3[/SUP])r[SUP]2[/SUP] to describe almond shaped eyes, until math becomes racist too that is. "Write your characters as people" Is the only sacrosanct advice about characters that EVERY writer should follow everything else is superficial. Readers are not stupid labels so don't treat them like children who need your protection.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2016
  3. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    I see these things as indirect descriptions. Names can also have that role. I'll have a different default for someone whose name is Wu than for someone whose name is Chuck.
     
  4. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

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    I just say they had brown skin. If they had dark brown skin then I say that had dark brown skin. If they have light brown skin I say their skin was light brown. If they look like they were mixed, I say they look mixed. I don't think there's any need to get real fancy about it. Also, I wouldn't worry about offending anyone. No matter what you write, you're going to offend someone, especially in this day and age. Just describe it as what it is. Readers will get the idea.
     
  5. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Nine-year-old photo of my wife and I agrees.

    You can still describe hair and eyes to imply Asain. Hair is not just black (our Japanese friends' daughters have very, very dark brown hair, while my middle daughter's hair is real black), but often the hair is much finer than European hair. My youngest daughter's eyes are so dark they're nearly black. Mine are brown, and I always thought a dark brown, but next to the women and girls in my house, my brown eyes don't look so dark. Mine are acorn brown while my daughters' are… acorn hat brown.
     
  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

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    Also, epicanthic eyefolds.
     
  7. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

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    This is very well said. Thanks!
     
  8. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Okay seriously didn't mean to hit a nerve there...

    I'll leave you guys to it.
     
  9. Guys please don't start a fight, k? Keep it civil. :)
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    To interject here just a little, I think there's a difference between something that is inherently racist and something that might be racially insensitive. To me, racism is something that has to come from a person. If the connotations didn't come from the author, but instead from the reader's personal experiences, I would describe it as racially insensitive.

    The last time this topic came up, somebody mentioned that whenever black women get hit on or cat called by men of other races, there's usually a reference to chocolate. I would never have known, or thought about that. To me, I could easily have used the word chocolate just trying to name the color. The sexually aggressive connotations that are there for a black reader might not be there for the author.

    At least some portion of this discussion is centered around a basic type of miscommunication, not something that warrants the kind of blame or hostile implications some people might be prone to see.
     
  11. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    "Well-said"? Seriously?

    People's lived experiences are valid. Please stop trying to be the Objective Arbitrator of Logic on things that have deep historical, literary, and social connotations, and try to assess exactly how angry and insulting you should be getting about someone asking you not to use the word "chocolate" to describe people.
     
  12. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Maybe it's not a big deal? As I mentioned earlier, I'm brown and use food to describe my skin color on occasion. It might bother some but might not bother others. Honestly, I'd be more worried about sounding cliche or stupid rather than racist.

    Chocolate bars, anyone?
     
  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I play on a softball team. For reasons I won't get into, most of us have nicknames. Sometimes they're chosen by others, sometimes they're chosen by the person. One of my teammates is black and they chose the nickname hot chocolate.
     
  14. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    I see some heated posts here so before things get out of hand, I'm going to give all participants in this thread a friendly reminder:

    I'll be checking in on this thread often to ensure this guideline is being followed to the letter. Thanks for participating!
     
    Legendary Sidekick likes this.
  15. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    If we are worried about offending the PC police then we'll never get anything done. I think as adults we can tell the difference between something that is used as mere description and something that is used as a description and a means to denigrate a group of people.

    This isn't the turn of the 20th century where cultural norms would have lead us to use language that would be offensive to those who grew up later in a different culture where the same descriptive language had fallen out of fashion for whatever reason.

    The social justice brigade will throw a fit at even the most tame language because they have nothing better to do and are apparently offended by everything under the sun.

    Just use your own judgement and reader/editor feedback.

    Also don't forget that a character you are writing might actually be racist or bigoted so them using a description that fits their mentality would make sense, even if it might make you uncomfortable.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2016
  16. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

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    And this is why I never give the colour of my characters' skins. Especially in fantasy, there is no real reason to give it. It tells you nothing about their personality, upbringing or culture because the world is not our own. The only reason to go over and above describing all the ethnic minorities in your story is, imo, just to show how "inclusive" you are.

    My MC is probably closest ethnically to Assyrian, but he's never described. Most readers will probably imagine him as white, others may imagine him as black. I don't mind, whatever floats their boat.

    If I really want to emphasise race, I usually use the name. If I call someone Tao Wang, you know what race he is. No doubt some social justice warriors would claim that is racist too.
     
    Reaver likes this.
  17. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Good point about names. I also like to write characters from cultures I know something about, and I usually know someone from the real life culture. When I named a character Kojima Hanako, I asked a Japanese friend if the name meaning was what I believed it was. My mother-in-law named my Chinese-culture based nun, and even gave suggestions for colors she should wear and having nine "dots" on her shaven head which are self-inflicted burns from an incense stick. She worried she gave me too much, but I loved it.

    I think generally speaking, respect the culture you write about. If you have the opportunity to talk to someone who your character is representing, do so. The conversation you have may be a surprisingly rewarding one.
     
    Reaver likes this.
  18. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Well, technically, there's no real reason to describe a character's hair colour, or eye colour, or any other physical attribute. But as we all know, description allows for more vivid images. Obviously, of course, some characters are minor enough not to warrant any physical description.
     
    aceunavailable likes this.
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Personally, I prefer that characters not be described, apart from maybe one or two highly significant features.
     
  20. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    Well as long as you don't have fans wanting to draw the characters from your books you should be alright. ;)
     
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