A Thought On Unseen Racism in Novels

This is a continuing thought from something I reblogged recently on Tumblr, but I didn’t want to spam the post with a giant paragraph of stuff. I may have written something similar before, but I’m upset about it all over again.

I think we need to be far more aware of our use of race in novels. From what I am told, it has been determined that Aragorn from Lord of the Rings is neither white nor fully human. But that is never made clear in the books. Because of that, Tolkien lost an excellent chance to have slightly more ethnic representation in a movie series that’s criticized for having so little. He didn’t think about it at the time, I’m sure. But what if he had? The legacy of Lord of the Rings could have been very different. Tolkien could have paved the way for ethnically diverse fantasy novels everywhere. 

But the fact is that nowadays unless it is distinctly explained that a character is not white, it’s assumed that he/she is white in a fantasy novel. If it’s set in Ancient Western Europe, this makes some sense. There were a lot of white people in Ancient Western Europe. But most modern fantasy stories are not in Western Europe. A lot of the time, it’s in an alternate Earth universe of some sort (ex: Middle Earth, Alagaesia, Narnia, etc.). So why are we automatically assuming everyone’s white in this a.u.? Why even assume that white skin is the dominant group? Why assume there’s white skin at all? Why can’t these humanoids have blue skin? I have no idea. Perhaps it would make people think of it as a Sci-Fi novel if we went that far.

Because of this, I made sure in the novel that I’m writing, The Dark Soldier, that there is plenty of ethnic diversities. The main character is not white, not because I have anything against white people. I’m white. But we have too many white male protagonists. That’s boring, cliché even. So yes, while nations like Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America do not exist in this fantasy world, ethnicities similar to theirs do. There are characters distinctly pointed out to be black, white, golden, olive skinned or in-between shades. There are many mentions of racism in the series. And not one piece of this bothers any of my friends or my illustrator. She’s made sure to paint people with the skin colors that I described them, for which I am very grateful.

Maybe it’s about time we stop being scared to talk about race in novels. It’s the best way we can stop being racist ourselves.

NOTE: It has occurred to me that I might need to explain something. I do not write this in some feeble attempt to make up for white people being racist throughout the centuries. Literally everyone’s a little bit racist, as the song goes. I don’t know why we as a culture have decided to focus on white people doing so. If I was doing that, I would be writing a book without any white people at all and making sure everyone knew it so that I “didn’t appear racist”. What silliness. I’m writing this book for every tribe, culture, nation and human that has any prejudice towards any group of humans at all. I hope that maybe people who were racist against a certain group before will think to themselves, “You know what? I know this character is [certain race they are racist against], but they’re cool. I like them. Why am I even racist against their group in the first place?” That’s the idea. I hope it works.