Victimized & Abused Black Female Character
I’m a little worried about a character I’ve been considering changing into a POC (African-American, specifically). Right now she’s a white blonde woman, but lately I keep imagining her older sister as black, so I was like, “hey, I could change the younger sister’s race too. No biggie, plus more diversity is always good.”
My worry is the fact that this particular character spends a lot of time sort of … victimized and submissive. She’s the polite, insecure, religious daughter of a televangelist (who is also gradually revealed to be bisexual). She’s married to a white man, who unbeknownst to her (well, at first) does not love her and married her solely for political reasons, and begins to act quite cruelly and emotionally abusive toward her—something she silently endures.
In addition, she eventually forms an unexpectedly close friendship with my white MC, whom once had a passionate sexual encounter with the girl’s husband while they were engaged, and is the only person she feels she can truly discuss her unhappy marriage with. The MC in part helps the woman grow more independent and tolerant and confident, and while the woman doesn’t help the MC grow all that much, she becomes a great source of comfort and empathy to her, particularly after the MC experiences great personal trauma.
When the girl decides to finally leave her husband—a decision she does make completely on her own—the MC is the first person she goes to.
I do have other black/biracial female characters, and I spend a lot of time in this character’s head (far more than I originally planned on, too), and she does grow a lot from this initially meek role, but I still feel like there’s a bunch of unfortunate implications with it as of now: her submissive role in her relationship with her white husband, the white MC being the one to help her grow as a person (the whole “white savior” thing). Any advice?
Yes, you could say there are several unfortunate implications with this character. We’re uncomfortable with the way this woman is victimized in the first place, and especially so when made into a Black woman. It’s alright to have a Black character who is a victim of abuse (but we urge you to remember we want a variety of well-rounded positive representation) but she’s also shoved to the sidelines by a white woman who kind of saves her but doesn’t need her herself (despite her also going through trauma) and she has no one else than that one white female to talk to about her horrible marriage.
It feels as if she lacks agency. Why can’t she talk about it with her own sister (since she’s mentioned) or another family member or friend? Why does it have to be the woman whom her husband cheated with on her? Why can’t the two women help each other in equal amounts, even if it’s in different ways? Why is she only there for comfort and empathy? That feels like she’s being treated as her “pet” or something.
It doesn’t feel like she’s being victimized alone; it feels like she’s also robbed of being anything but a sad sob story who uplifts white people (see: white savior, White Feminism™). Give her some agency. Make her able to help the MC since she’s gone through a lot herself. She’s got the experience.
What about her faith? Why can’t she talk to a pastor? Why can’t she find any answers in the bible or from a religious aunty or something? Please don’t make all her help come from the white woman who also slept with her husband (also we hope this man gets his…he’s terrible!).
And then you have the Black woman who endures all this abuse quietly. Despite her being portrayed as more meek, this is a key trait of the Strong Black woman. She’s going to have so many issues, loneliness, potentially some mood disorders and high blood pressure from keeping all this in. And on one hand she does have a inner strength in a sense that she’s able to endure all of this in silence.
There is strength in her character that you could delve and make use of without making her a Strong Black Woman. She could be shown to grow from these experiences, but with that strength of her own, she won’t have to depend on the MC to recover from all that.
Also, It’d make sense to see conflict between the two women due to her having slept with her husband. Does she even know? How would she feel, react, or get over that?
Fully develop this character! Even better? Consider giving her a POV of her own. She’s definitely got enough story to go on.
~Mods Alice and Colette