How can I write a story about fighting racism?
I want to write a character who’s faced prejudice and hatred from everyone around them and never found a place to live. How can the character learn to combat racism and bigotry and oppression in a way that makes sense? Like for instance solving a conflict between two nations that hate each other and if the protagonist is a child of those two hated countries, how can they tackle it?
It’s vague, but I want to know how a story between two hated factions can be resolved with a biracial character, for instance, or do I need the character to not be biracial?
—Star of Hope
Hey Star of Hope, great to hear from you again!
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when writing marginalized characters, and the most important one is power dynamics. Namely, who has the power, and what do they use it for? This will inform the kind of conflict you’re writing and how it must be handled.
For example, a story about warring countries is likely to be very different from a story that parallels anti-Black racism in the United States. Even if one country is stronger than the other, that’s still far more power than racial minorities in the modern day United States have.
If your story is paralleling anti-Black racism, then the solution can’t be for the two groups to come together or forget their differences. In that scenario, the privileged group has all the power. Oppression will only end when the oppressors stop doing it. That doesn’t mean the marginalized group is helpless, but the responsibility for ending the conflict isn’t on their shoulders.
Even with two countries fighting, it’s important to keep context in mind. If your conflict modeled the 1940 Soviet invasion of Finland, for example, it would be inappropriate for the message to be that the Russians and Finns just need to get along better. The Finns were the clear victim in that conflict, so your story needs to keep that in mind.
A more even parallel could be something like the Byzantine-Persian wars of the sixth and seventh centuries. Both empires were fighting to expand their territories, and neither is an obvious good guy or bad guy. In that scenario, it makes perfect sense for the conflict to resolve with both sides learning to live in peace.
As to making a biracial character, that’s not something I have a lot of personal experience with. I recommend more research on your own, but there is one factor I advise keeping in mind: when modeling systemic racism, a biracial character is far more likely to be victimized by the privileged group than the marginalized one. It’s important to remember that so you can avoid a narrative that creates a false equivalency between the two groups.
Finally, we have a few posts that might be helpful:
- Telling a Story in a Prejudiced Setting
- Five Stories That Don’t Understand Power & Privilege
- Why You Should Avoid Bigoted Heroes Who Learn Better
- How Our Stories Abandon Morality for Gray-Colored Lenses
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!