Other Cool Blogs: Geeks of Color (4/6/2017) – Racebending

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Against the backdrop of COVID, cracks in American culture have broken wide – the most obvious being the racial divide of privilege.

Within the publishing industry, People of Color (PoC) have fought an uphill battle – most opportunities within writing and editing are available by networking. Networking happening at conventions – which require free time and excess money. Outside of conventions, networking happens among friendship circles based on where people live and how they meet up. Since the establishment for publishing is white since, like, forever, breaking-in means breaking through the white barrier of privilege – jumping historic redlining and the restricted availability of extra cash within a family structure.

The same is true for the other storytelling medium of movies. Portrayers of Characters (actors) must network – not only to get the job, but to get the RIGHT job for their body-type. Whitewashing is argued from the money-side – “we must choose (name actor) to get blockbuster cash”. Never mind that putting a new actor in the role, if the story is a good story and the actor is even better, will still create a blockbuster. The money-people don’t like depending on the story or unproven talent.

Doing research about culture and PoC, I ran across a Geeks of Color post from 4/9/2017 by Tevin Murphy “The Incomparable Differences between Whitewashing and Racebending”. I hadn’t run into the concept of Racebending under that name before, the deliberate choice of placing a PoC in a role which would normally be considered white.

From my time growing up in New Jersey my category for “white” skin color includes Hispanic, Italian, Indian, and mid-Eastern, as well as traditional Anglo-Saxon and Germanic and Slavic looks. For stories where the culture of the character is inherent to the character, I feel every effort should be made to match things up. But if the character is generic background, then color doesn’t matter and Racebending may be desired.

I’ve often talked about don’t do GENERIC. What I really should say is don’t do GENERIC by ACCIDENT. I have written several stories where I’ve deliberately omitted color and gender considerations to open up the story to a wider audience and let the reader place themselves within the character. Most of my character choices are wide-ranging in culture, and I try having personal attributes of those cultural differences feed aspects into the story. Porter (Porter Weaves) is deliberately created with kinky hair, and Escaleras de Muertos draws on Hispanic culture. But when I don’t indicate physical appearance, except for the shortest of stories where appearance doesn’t fit, my choice nearly always is deliberate.

Should any of my works ever make it off the page to a screen – I would be delighted to see Racebending occur. (bolded for emphasis)

Everyone should have the Privilege to see themselves in a book or on screen. The only way to heal the cracks of society is to cross the divides.