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But, Why Is He Black?

April 6, 2022

I pointed out he was black because I didn’t want you to think he was white.

This post may be a somewhat controversial. I just finished writing a story called “Timewave,” about an associate college professor who’s convinced he’s found evidence of time travelers. I described my protagonist as “a 27 year old black man.”

I’ve now sent the story out to beta readers and some of the responses were, “You mentioned that he’s black, but race doesn’t seem to figure into the story. Why point out his race?”

Honestly, I described him as black because if I didn’t most readers would assume he was white.

I love to read the police blotter. Especially in small towns. I’ve noticed that the only time the race of a suspect is mentioned is if he (or she) is a minority, even if race had nothing to do with the crime.

“Two youths were stopped for prowling cars.” (It’s assumed they were white.)

“Two black youths were arrested for shoplifting.”

I never noticed it until it was pointed out to me. Several of my children are minorities. I now notice it.

So, in my story, I pointed out that the main character was black, because I want the reader to have a picture of a black man while reading the story.

To my friends who are writers, how do you handle choosing the race of your characters? I’d love to hear if you go through a specific process.

For other readers, if the writer doesn’t mention race, do you make an assumption? If the writer points out the race do you expect that to figure into the story?

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

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