Uncategorized | February 15, 2004

Since I’ve been reading for The Missouri Review, I’ve gotten a few stories with details that might seem unexpectedly controversial to some writers. Before I get to the topic at hand, I need to say that I’m a young white woman from small town Indiana, so by default, I’m definitely not an expert on race relations. However, in the interest of opening up the forum on a vital issue in writing, I’ve decided to start the discussion. In the midst of a story that seems to have nothing to do with race, I sometimes find that a (presumably white, but perhaps not) writer has decided to insert a non-essential character with a race other than caucasian into a scene. This character may or may not reappear in any other scene in the piece. In the three cases that I’ve come across this detail, race was not mentioned at any other time in the stories. My question is this: Doesn’t this kind of writing assume that all the “normal” or “regular” people in stories are white? In my career as a journalist, I’ve been careful to only mention the race of a person when that information directly pertains to essential elements of the story. The same can be said for sexual orientation and religion. Should the fictional narrators and writers of fiction follow this same rule?

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