Who, me? Racist? Never!
That’s probably what they all say. Or at least half of them. And genuinely believe it. And then go on to say another crass, inadvertently racist comment that just sort of slips out of their loose, unthinking, politically incorrect tongues. But I’m NOT being racist. I’m really not! It’s just that …
Yes? Would you care to expand? It’s just that what, exactly?
Well … y’know.
No, I don’t know. Expand!
Oh, come on. You’re just hyper-ventilating. Y’know. About political correctness.
Okay, so … I mean, if I say something like ‘he’s really good at dancing, like all blacks are …’
Anyway. That imaginary conversation isn’t the point of this blog post. My point is this.
Having just recently published my latest novel, Once Upon a Thousand Hills, it’s got me thinking about all sorts of things. Like, now that it’s available to a lot of people in the world at large, I might have second thoughts about what I’ve allowed my characters to say – especially seeing as the theme involves mixed cultures and races. But on the other hand, ‘a lot of people’ only in fact constitutes an infinitesimal percentage of our planet’s population, bearing in mind all those third world countries with people who have no access to the internet and definitely won’t be ordering any books on Amazon any day soon, because they live in mud huts and corrugated shacks on dingy cluttered hills…
Is that being inadvertently racist? Assuming that most people in third world countries live in mud huts and shacks? But they do, don’t they?
Or assuming that all blacks are good at dancing? Does that sound worse than all Africans are good at dancing? Or Rwandans?
Ah, yes. Rwanda. That exquisite Eastern African country where the smouldering male lead of my novel is from. The sizzlingly sexy John Paul Chambers, who, as my protagonist Naomi comments: has a ‘surprisingly thin nose.’ The implication being surprisingly thin for a black person, right? She’s also the culprit who made the inadvertently racist comment that all blacks are great at dancing. She makes a few assumptions like that, even though she falls head over heels for the arrogant but traumatised guy and regularly wears out her rabbit-vibrator battery at night when thinking about him. Can you be racist about someone you care deeply about and fancy like mad? I mean, Naomi is crazy about John Paul! So was I, when writing the novel.
So it’s not Naomi’s fault then? After all, she had a sheltered Orthodox Jewish upbringing and, by her own admission, has never befriended a black man in all her twenty-four years on this planet. And anyway, she didn’t actually say those words. I said them. The author. Let’s get this right. No matter how insistent some holier-than-thou writers might be in their claim that their characters really do take over the dialogue, at the end of the day it’s the author who has sole control of what is said. So although it’s true that Naomi initially comes across as a bit clueless about people of a different colour, it was in fact me that made her clueless. Right?
For instance when she first enters John Paul’s office, about to have her interview for volunteer work at Croxley Refugee Centre, and says: “Hello, I’m -” and then stops mid-sentence as soon as she beholds her future director and guiltily thinks to herself: ‘I hadn’t expected him to be … well, black.’ Was she being racist? How can she be, when she’s only a figment of the author’s imagination? So was I being racist?
And how about this one, straight from the ballsy Jewish lady’s mouth: He had the most amazingly white teeth I had ever seen. Or was it just his black skin that made them seem even whiter? In which case, it’s cheating.
Or this one: I couldn’t help but stare in admiration at his powerful, lean black body. And a bit later on: … his firm, muscular cock, penetrating me deeper than I’d ever been penetrated before … Is Naomi making general assumptions here about what length of penis men of different races have? With the implication that African males are in the lead? And as for using the word cock … well, I never! Naughty, naughty Naomi!
Oh, here’s another one: He’s pacing up and down the floor like a panther in a cage. But wait, hang on – that wasn’t Naomi speaking; it was the narrator. Me. But panthers are beautiful creatures, aren’t they? Black or otherwise?
Concluding question. If unpalatable words are spoken by a fictitious character conjured out of the author’s head, does that get the creator of them off the hook?
But what if the characters have become so real during the process of writing – just like the holier-than-thou writing clan declare – that you actually end up having sexual fantasies about one of them, and your husband about the other, which in fact leads to the end of your marriage several months later? But I’m not about to go into all of that again! (As it happens, ex-hubby is now in possession of a signed copy of my novel, so he can cuddle up to Naomi to his heart’s content without me watching.)
So anyway, fellow blogger, what do you reckon? Are both my protagonist and I off the hook? Or should some sneaky Judge of Political Correctness be dispatched to the Sugar Lace sex shop in Soho, in order to purchase a latex whip and administer rightful justice?
If you’d like to read more about the tragicomic exploits of spirited Jewess Naomi and Rwandan genocide John Paul, you can order the book here: