Write About People, Not Race

As issues of race dominate the news, H.G. Ferguson writes in Playing the Race Card on how authors should approach this:

We should write about people, not race, regardless of genre, and avoid the stereotyping and, if I may be so bold, true racism that can occur when we do not…Three films speak to this question in a powerful way: Dances with Wolves (1990), Unconquered (1947), and The Last of the Mohicans (1992).

In Dances with Wolves we are treated to a presentation of “truth.” Every single Native person is portrayed as good…every single non-Native person apart from Dunbar and Stands with a Fist is depicted as either stupid, evil, or insane. This viewpoint, in a word, is a lie. Not all Native Americans of that era were good people, and not every non-Native person was evil. Why? Because people are people, and some are good and some are not. That is the truth.

In Unconquered, we get the opposite. Every single Native person in that film is a chimplike barbarian…The view of Natives in this film is horrible and, in a word, is also a lie. Native Americans were not monosyllabic murderous Neanderthals; some of them were quite eloquent and advocates of peace. That is the truth.

The Last of the Mohicans, however, gets it right. We are shown good Natives and bad Natives, good French and bad French, good English and bad English. Why? Because that is the truth.

People are people, regardless of their tongue, ethnic background and especially the shade of their epidermis…[Martin Luther King] spoke of his dream, of the day when every person in America would be judged not by the hue of their epidermis but by what they said and did — the content of their character.

The content of our characters should be no less. Our characters must be good or evil because of what they think, say and do, who they are, not their race.


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