I Am Not A Stereotype: An Essay


I’ve been writing stories since I was little, probably six or seven. My first story, I remember well, was 22 handwritten pages about mermaids.  Each mermaid bore the name of a girl in my elementary school, and we had a blast. It featured a turtle who doubled as a dancing DJ.

But a few years ago, I realized that all of my main characters were white, and my side characters were ethnic minorities. This disturbed me tremendously and I struggled to correct it, to write from one race or the other, but I couldn’t quite capture the experiences. I knew I didn’t want to be another one of those writers, who only do what I call “writing white,” and only barely pepper their stories with ethnic minorities in the background to claim “diversity” (ahem, Queen Rowling, I’m looking at you).

I want to write from the perspective of other races, but I don’t know how and I want to learn (properly, not with those single-phrase Pinterest writing prompts).

To get serious for a moment: I’m white. Specifically, I’m half-Italian so I actually tan quite nicely (except for my face, which might as well be taken from the body of an albino Irishman) but it doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of my own privilege. I will make more than a minority woman, I have more security in public, and I don’t have to worry so much about the statistics regarding domestic abuse and out-of-wedlock childbirth. I am incredibly blessed, and I’m positive I don’t even know the real extent of it.

me having a crepe time
Not sure what this picture has to do with anything, but I like it so here you are.

I don’t write from the perspective of other races because of this privilege. I don’t know the struggles non-whites go through. I don’t know what it’s like to be pulled over by white policemen again and again for seemingly no reason at all. I don’t know what it’s like to be so blatantly discriminated against in the twenty-first century, after centuries of oppression. I can’t know the non-white cultures well enough because I will always be on the outside, even if I spent years in a different country. I will never know the struggle, and I think non-white people more than deserve a writer who do know the struggle and can write from the inside, from an honest place.

So when you see that I don’t write from an ethnically different perspective, know that it’s only because I have too much respect for everyone to risk portraying a race incorrectly or stereotypically. (I actually do write from different races, but only deep in the bowels of my leather bound notebook, where no one can read my chicken-scratch cursive.)

I know that all sounds like a flimsy excuse for being lazy with my writing, but this one thing is true: until I know I am good enough at writing to nail down the minority experience, I don’t want to publish any attempts.

I’ll let you know when (if) I get good enough.

That’s all from The Leatherbound.

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