I have a question that may come out sounding kinda rude, but why can't writers write poc as people, put them through the same trials and tribulations as caucasian characters? This may come out sounding different that what I've asked in my head so if that's the case, I'm terribly sorry
Writing About PoC Trials and Tribulations
I understand where you’re coming from, because it looks unequal when you take it simply as “humans struggle, so why can’t we write about PoC struggling?”
What Topics To Avoid isn’t talking about struggle in general, which is where the confusion comes from.
Yes, you can write PoC struggling. This is not the question at hand.
What that post was pointing out is PoC struggle is rarely individual trials and tribulations like white characters.
When a white character struggles, they are struggling with something that is an individual struggle that is treated as a universal narrative for that person’s individual issues (like, everyone’s felt like an underdog at one point for various reasons). But if you look at the dominant stories for PoC, the struggle is directly because of their ethnicity, such as segregation, or a racial-based war, and/or colonialism, to name a few. The plot falls apart when the ethnicity/situation is changed.
We are asking you to look at why you are attracted to struggles that come directly as a result of being a certain ethnicity.
Starcrossed lovers are fine, but why does every starcrossed lovers story involving a PoC have to be set at a time when interracial marriage was illegal, and/or in a setting where one side’s family hate the other for their skin tone?
An underdog with less experience is fine, but why does every underdog involving a PoC involve somebody who came from an impoverished background and low quality schools because it’s in a predominantly PoC neighbourhood?
The question we want white writers to ask is: “does my character struggle and experience pain primarily because of their ethnic background, does my character experience a unique struggle because of their ethnic background, or is my struggle primarily because of individual circumstances that are informed by the ethnicities at hand?”
If they experience a struggle primarily because of their ethnic background (ie- segregation), then that is a very nuanced narrative that should be left alone by outsiders because it’s exploiting another person’s pain for your plot.
If they experience a struggle heavily informed because of their ethnic background (ie- underdog because of racism, navigating a system that has particularly potent institutionalized racism like the psychiatric system), then that is an identity story that should be left alone by outsiders because it’s treating various isms (racism, classism, colourism) as a tragic backstory to overcome.
If they experience a struggle where their ethnicity plays a part but only minor events change if you switch around ethnicity (ie- starcrossed lovers where one side is very closed off), then it’s primarily because of individual circumstance that can be written by outsiders who do enough research.
I recently saw a very cute concept where a boy falls in love with a Muslim girl who keeps halal. He tried to win her heart by cooking, but she refused to eat it because it wasn’t halal. Once he discovered what the issue was, he learned all about halal cooking and made her halal meals to win her heart.
This story is only moderately informed by the girl’s customs. The story could be simply that she’s a picky eater, allergic to some foods, or has specific tastes. Because you can swap out a few things for it, this story isn’t About Being Muslim. The plot would’ve changed based on what it was, but the actual plot point could be anything.
But if there was a similar “guy falls for Muslim girl” situation and his family was Islamophobic, that would be using Islamophobia for plot pain and reinforcing all the gross stuff Muslims go through because of Islamophobia.
Hope that clears things up.
~ Mod Lesya