tearsofthemushroom  asked:

i'm writing a story set in ancient rome, and i have two protagonists, a black roman girl and a white british slave. i've got it this way round because i wanted to avoid all my black characters being slaves. however, as it is set in ancient rome, to these characters slavery is normal (i still portray it as the atrocious institution it is). is it problematic to have a black character who is ok with slavery? (she changes at the end, but for the majority of the novel this is the case).

Writing Flawed Black Characters is Okay- Black Roman Who Normalizes Slavery as Example

Now, I don’t know much about slavery in ancient Rome  (besides it not being race-based) but I do believe your character having a time and region typical attitude towards a commonplace practice is fine because characters, even Black ones, can’t all be perfect.  

In fact, I don’t think it’s fair that a Black character, especially one who knows nothing of African chattel slavery, would not be “allowed” to be okay with the slavery in her homeland.

Due to past and present oppression, a common assumption is that Black people are all freedom fighters, and should “know better” when there’s injustice afoot, whether it directly involves them or not. And if they don’t, well, they hate themselves and other oppressed groups too! This falls quite closely into wanting Black people, especially Black women, to be the mules of all struggle, fighting everyone’s cause. 

Not all Black people have to have the highest moral ground and be politically-involved, social-justice fueled beings. Wonderful if they are, but some may actually be bigoted, others uninformed, others discreetly involved in the cause, or heck, just want to live a quiet, content life and mind their business.

As long as her attitudes aren’t internalized anti-blackness (seeing as that needs careful addressing, preferably by Black authors), i’m okay with a Black character who is allowed to be morally imperfect, in actions, views, or otherwise.

Note i’m speaking solely from a characterization standpoint. I don’t justify your character’s endorsement of slavery, but I also don’t feel it’s fair that a Black character would need to be of the highest moral ground to be a well-rounded character that isn’t automatically a villain.

Additionally, I would like to caution against “reverse racism” (which, I must say, is not a thing) plot lines that urge the audience to sympathize with poor, victimized white women over evil, oppressive Black people, which is a disingenuous plot WWC has discussed a few times. Whether it’s Black people, another group of PoC, or other white people who oppress the white slaves, still be careful to avoid that common pitfall of positioning the spotlight on the plight of the oppressed white people while belittling and sidelining everyone else’s story in the process.

~Mod Colette