The new term is sensitivity, and we must content edit and write for sensitivity awareness.
Yes. It’s the new thing, sort of like being politically correct but on steroids. So what does this mean for the reader and the author. It means stereotypes must be avoided all the time. If we create a character who is different from the hero and heroine in name or color and has any negative or apparently positive qualities, we’ve stereotyped. What exactly does that mean? I’m not totally certain, but in theory I can’t create a homosexual male who loves to flame. (Is flame a universal term?) Because I’m stereotyping.
I was discussing this sensitivity issue with my friend who has taught college English in a predominately Black college. She said if the character is well developed, the reader will accept almost anyone. But she did warn about doing certain things. Not all cops are bad, not all Black boys play basketball, not all Asians eat rice, and list goes on.
No buts. Can’t profile based on color, religion, clothing, etc. And that discussion morphed into how we are dressed/look determines the way we are treated. And that deteriorated into her rant about the way her aunt was treated at a local hospital. Why? Because they figured this was just another dumb Black family. Wrong! There are more PhDs in that family than all my friends put together. There are medical doctors in that family, yet they were treated as though they didn’t have a brain cell. So someone assumed, based on the color of their skin, that this was a poor, uneducated family. (That’s not just being prejudice – it’s also stereotyping.) I guess by now you know my friend is Black. I don’t think of her as being Black. She’s my friend. If you asked me to physically describe her, I’d probably say something along the lines that her skin is the color of black coffee. Her hair has those little braid-like things that are about five inches long and frame her face.
Her mom’s name is Mommy. And her dad is Dad, although most of the world refers to him as Doctor. I know her sister and her brother, her nephew, her niece, her daughter and her granddaughter. I actually do know her dad’s first name but I have no idea what Mommy’s first name is. But I do know that the family is loving, caring, gracious, and intelligent, and when I’m with them, I’m family. No one sees color. We see personalities. We see the people we are. We see love.
I know I often create characters who are not WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants). Maybe I need to be very careful about my characters. I hope I never offend a reader. Maybe it does start in our writing. Maybe we need to be careful how we portray our characters. Maybe we need to be more open and honest in our writing and make certain that we’ve created believable characters. I don’t care what adult people do behind closed doors or who they worship. How they treat me means more to me than anything else. I’ve traveled the world and met all sorts of people. I’m no longer that little girl who was reprimanded by a stranger because I drank from the wrong water fountain. “If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh?” Maybe Shakespeare was a few hundred years ahead of his time.
I asked my friend who reads all my books, if she had any issues with my characters, and she said no. But maybe after this sensitivity episode, I’ll be even more aware and careful with my characters. I want people to accept all people and to accept the characters that I create. I happen to believe that the world is a very colorful place and the differences between people make things more interesting. If we all ate the same foods, or acted the same way, life would be boring. We need to celebrate the differences and learn to accept. There really is no stereotype of person. We are all different.
Maybe I’m not comfortable with this new sensitivity content thing. If I want to create a despicable character, I will. If I want to create a loving, wonderful character, I will. If I make them a certain color or a certain nationality or whatever, they just are.
If you are an author, do you write diverse characters into your books? If you are a reader do you like reading about characters who are different?