I have a biracial protagonist (French African) from Uganda who has only lived in Uganda who eventually has to travel (she’s not given much of a choice) to a predominantly white country. She joins a group with a diverse cast but the one white girl in the group assumes she doesn’t know a lot about… anything really, and they eventually have a fight and the white girl is made to seek redemption on the main protagonist’s terms. They eventually kindle a romance. (1 of 2)
Would making the white girl mean to the main protagonist and then being forgiven and put into a relationship with the main protagonist seem problematic? Almost like white guilt being the focus or the main character just being there while the focus is on the white girl? I feel as though not mentioning race would be a bit disrespectful as this story takes place in our modern day and age and racism always factors in, but I don’t want this to be about forgiving white people either (2 of 2)
Why was the white girl being mean to her in the first place? Is “mean” meant to mean racist? Because if a white person treats me (and me only from what I see) as if I’m ignorant or unintelligent with no basis for that reasoning, I’m going to assume that reasoning is due to racial prejudice.
What is her reason to just assume the African girl knows nothing? Without an explanation, it’s looking as if you have a white girl who is racist towards Black girl, gets her forgiveness not long after, then dates her; that’s disturbing to me.
Also, it wouldn’t turn into a focus on the white girl unless you shifted the focus onto her, which I do not recommend. In any case, I’m personally turned off by the idea of putting Black characters with the (potentially racist) characters who bully them.
I find it off-putting too. Even in the “best” situation where her racism stems from ignorance and the African girl is forgiving, it would feel like it would put her through an awful lot of struggles and pains (for the white girl to become a proper ally). To me, this gives the feeling of either downplaying racism and Black girls in general.
It also reminds me of this post here regarding abuser redemption arcs.
I think it could be done; it needs to be handled delicately. The white girl needs to earn the protag’s forgiveness. Like, really earn it. And then also, with the romance, it probably shouldn’t happen right away–there should be a period where the white girl works to earn the protag’s trust too.
And the effort needs to come from the bully to prove that they’re not an asshole and not like ‘oh, no, the bully has problems, and they’re a Human Being and I am so touched.’ The narrative needs to be sympathetic to the victim, and the onus needs to be on the bully to prove they’ve changed for the better. The narrative (and other characters) shouldn’t be pressuring the victim to forgive the bully if they don’t want to.
To plug a bit, I have a similar pairing but 1) it took a long time for them to get to the romance point 2) the bully had to apologize without expecting forgiveness and 3) literally they were cautiously friendly for the longest time before romance got into the picture and the victim was a little afraid he’d turn on her for a while.
I’m not Black but just speaking as someone in a couple of other marginalized groups, the idea of “date my racist bully” as a plot device squicks me a little (why not people in the same group dating each other b/c one defended the other from racist bullying?) I’m even more squicked at having such a story center on the racist bully rather than the other person. So if you’re still stuck to the “date my racist bully” plot, at least don’t center the racist character.
I mean, move it around a little. Would a bisexual girl date a straight guy who’d called her a slut and a rug-muncher? And if I never hear about another Jew/Nazi fandom AU it will still be TOO SOON.
Though I would mention any slur use would definitely be a no-go for developing a relationship in my opinion. Some prejudice? With some work and time as Jess outlines above, maybe they can work it out. Outright dehumanization/slurs? A no-go.
The way Jess handles it is the way it should be. But I’ve just seen authors recently assuming that when it’s a marginalized person, they need to forgive easily without any effort being put in on the former bully’s part. It’s like an extension of the whole nonsense about boys bullying girls to show that they like them.