Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Racism

I’m bending, bludgeoning or breaking a rule, (damn). I told myself I wasn't going to do a blog post about the Hunger Games. Mostly because I feel relatively ambivalent about the series, but also because I just didn't want to. Well, not until I read the article

Basically it’s a collection of tweets from some so called Hunger Games fans.

“kk call me racist but when I found out Rue was black her death wasn’t as sad” --jashperpars

I’ll let that sink in for a second. People were cheapening the death of a 12 year old fictional character, saying it meant less to them because of her ethnicity!

To me, when I read the book, I pictured Katniss as Native American, or perhaps of Middle Eastern Decent—just because that’s what Olive skin means to me. I pictured Rue and Thresh as African American. They were described as; “She has dark brown skin and eyes,” To me, that means Black. I never doubted that Rue or Thresh were supposed to be Black characters.

Yet apparently, other people don’t read descriptions.

The fact that Collins decided to include characters of other races is one of my favorite elements of the series. I have olive skin, I am a bit of a mutt ethnically, but I have both Native American, and Middle Eastern ancestors. I hardly ever read about characters that look like me.

And I understand why, most fantasy (at least what I read) is set in a Europe type world. And in the Middle Ages, very few non Europeans lived in Europe. Although I always feel like it adds something to a novel when you can include characters from different backgrounds, different places, different ethnicities.

I feel like if I was Black it would be worse though. Aside from Hunger Games, Kate Elliot’s Spirit Walker Trilogy (which I can’t honestly recommend) is one of the only books that I’ve read in recent memory that includes Black characters.

What do you think? Is it worth it to include Black, Brown, Blue, Green, Olive, Yellow, people?

Here’s the article—how are you guys doing with A-Z?

p.s. I really need to work on making my posts shorter. 


  1. Some of my posts are long, but hey, when the words flow they flow.

    I'll admit to 'Gwen-ifying' characters. When I'm reading, I usually picture them to be similar to me, unless I get constant reminders they aren't. Even if the MC is a 40 year old guy, I tend to mentally bring him down to be within 10 years of my ages.

    That being said, when I'm giving clues from time to time that the characters aren't white, I love it. It makes the cast more diverse and can add depth to a world. So yes, it's worth it to include people from different places and ethnicitices. And the fact that ethnicity would impact emotional reactions is stupid. I mean, it might make sense in a book (if a culture, say, celebrates death) it shouldn't for a reader.

  2. I'll admit I forgot the description of Katniss. By the time I read the book the movie was all set to come out so I kept thinking about Jennifer Lawrence anyway.

    The funny part to me is that usually Hollywood whitewashes casts, like that crappy "Last Airbender" movie, which gets people complaining. This time they don't do the whitewash and other people complain. Can't please everyone, but then there's no point trying to please racist dopes.

  3. *sigh*

    It makes me so sad that someone would be like 'Her life doesn't mean as much / her death isn't as sad because she's black'. I know Rue is a fictional character but if someone feels that way about a fictional character I've got to believe they carry that additude with them all the time and that's just wrong.

    Of course there ought to be people of different races included in fiction. Of course. How can there even be a question? You say 'is it worth it?' and I say It is NECESSARY.

    In fact, perhaps it will help break through the predjudicial walls around people's hearts.

  4. I read that article too, and I'm tempted to say some of those commenters did not read the book. The internet has a way of collecting the thoughts of the masses that is not filtered in any way for intelligence or truth. It's easy to say whatever's most shocking or attention worthy when you can hide behind a screen name, or even if it's your real name, chances are you will never meet any of the people who read your tweets that might be offended.

    It's not to say this isn't an issue, and I'm glad that Tumblr site collected all the bottom feeders' comments without removing screen names. The only way to confront racism is to expose it.

  5. With very rare exception, I honestly don't picture race when I'm reading. Or when I'm writing for that matter, which might explain why no one else seems to know when my characters are black or asian or anything else. I'm usually surprised when I see a character come to life in a movie because they're rarely what I picture in my head. Doesn't make it any more or less enjoyable. Hearing things like that tweet make my heart hurt.

  6. The Help was painted front to back with race and it was fine. Now all of the sudden someone has a problem cause a fictional character, who happenes to be a different color than "pale", dies and the whole world goes in the crapper. If someone has a problem with "colorizing" a character then they shouldn't pick up a book or watch a movie. Period! Great post by the way!

  7. I'll have to admit, I forgot half of what the characters looked like myself as I progressed through the book. I was too caught up in the action. That's why I appreciate when an author throws a little descriptive tidbit in there when that character turns up again to paint their picture a little better in my head.

    Olive skin makes me think the same as you, but I also have olive skin so I tend to picture someone who looks like me (but you're right on with the Native American or Middle Eastern. Mine's Cherokee.) I'm pretty used to Hollywood changing characters because an actor does such a great job they fit the role without looking the part, however, I don't think they failed with Hunger Games. The book and the world was pretty diverse.

    These tweets just make me disgusted, so I try not to think about it. I haven't seen the movie yet, but Rue looks absolutely adorable, and I love that Lenny Kravitz is in it. I'd say when choosing race for characters in a story, it's not about if it's 'worth' it. It's about what the story is. The story dictates the characters and vice-versa. Write the story you want to write, regardless what people say you should do. If it's historical, it's more likely there will be a big separation between the races. If it's fantasy or sci-fi futuristic, you can make it whatever you want. You have to know what your story is.

  8. Those tweets are awful!

    Rue's character in the book was too loveable for anyone to care about her colour

    Happy A to Z

  9. I think the characters should be what fits. For a place that's post-apocalyptic U.S.A, like Panem, of course there would be a variety of people. On some map I saw that District 11 was in the south, so it makes sense for there to be African-Americans living there.

  10. She was a 12 year old girl. Fictional yes, but nonetheless, who cares what color she is? She died. Was murdered. That is horrible.

    I have many different races/ethnicity in my current WIP. I don't really put that much thought into it, just like I really don't put that much thought into their names. Its more their personality, their quirks, who they are and what made them that way.

    That's what matters.

  11. WOW! What shit is that? "She's black, so I wasn't so sad that she was murdered." WTF? As always though, good post.

  12. I was pretty taken aback about some of the fans comments, too. They were rude and immature. They just made me mad! Good for you for posting about it.

  13. There's no fixing stupid. And anyone who can define a man by the color of his (or her, of course) skin is just stupid. My guess is they crawled from the primordial pond and never bothered to evolve!

  14. Ugh, those reactions to the movie annoyed me SO much. I cannot believe what is going on in some people's heads and I definitely cannot believe they feel the need to make those thoughts public. Just so racist and awful and completely stupid as well since the book very clearly talks about people's appearances. And Rue was absolutely amazing.

    I'm also participating in the A to Z Challenge!

  15. cant help what some morons say... i cried for that sweet girl!
    i love seeing a colorful cast! it's part of reality! and i knew rue and thresh were black
    i have olive skin, but am caucasian (i also have vitiligo, so i am slowly being bereft of my color!)
    there is more acceptance & respect today, but there will always be those who look for differences to make themselves feel better (and those who take any unrelated criticism as a racial slur, too, unfortunately)

    glad you talked about hg =)

  16. Though I haven't read the hunger games (getting the book tomorrow from the library), and haven't seen the movie yet, I honestly don't care if there are multiple races in a book or not, it is the content of the story and the writing that matters. I like books with multi-race characters if they are introduced casually, not as if the author put them in out of obligation or was afraid of being called racist for only having one race in their movie/book.
    I've read a few books that were very awkward in their inclusion of other races. They would have been a much better story if there was only the one race, simply because of the way the other characters of a different race were introduced, as if the author didn't have much real life experience interacting with other races/cultures.

    I honestly don't care if the books have other races or cultures in them because it has no bearing on whether or not I like a person in real life, a persons attitude, life ethics, and how they treat those who are weaker then they have everything to do with whether or not I allow them in my life in any significant way. I only notice their skin as a part of their personal beauty, who they are physically. Not how it differs from my own.