It's that time of year in which many of us start making resolutions for the new year. It may be to lose weight, find a new job, or maybe you don't create resolutions at all. Whatever it may be, if you're a writer, I have a new one for you: Start giving better writing and development to your black female characters.
There have been many times in which a black female character is introduced as part of a show, movie, book, etc. and leads to excitement among us black females. We look forward to seeing ourselves on-screen and in media and receiving the proper representation that is due to us. However, we are consistently left disappointed. The characters are often there as a ploy to diversity but receive no real development.
Just because you have a black female character doesn't mean you get diversity points. Let me repeat that. Just because you have a black female character doesn't mean you get diversity points. If you're not taking the time to fully develop the character, then their existence is fruitless. The character should serve a purpose more than: 'Look. I have a black character and she's female.'
One of the things that inspired me to be a writer was my search for finding characters in media that looked like me and reflected my culture and life. When I see black female characters being poorly written or used improperly, it's disheartening. In addition, you consistently see black female characters written in the same quality and manner. A lot of this is due to the lack of communication and connection with other black females in real life.
If you're a writer, you should be taking the time to expose yourself and learn about people from all different races, lives, and backgrounds. The beauty of writing is being able to imagine and live in a world that is different from your own. You even get to live this same experience as a reader. So, why are you writing always writing about the same stories you already know?
Better yet, you know that women in your life have a multitude of experiences, so why are you writing black female characters the same all the time. My bet is on the fact that you hold a bias against black females, sometimes an unconscious one. Its the one that's been fed to you by the media time and time again. Well, I have news for you. All black women are not alike.
Yes, not all black women are alike. We're all different and have different stories to tell. Take the time to listen and tell those stories. Some of us were raised in the projects and in the hood. Some of us were spent our lives in foster care. Some of us were raised inexpensive or millionaire communities. There are also those of us who live in middle-class communities with the average life. The best you can do is engage with all of us from different backgrounds. You'll learn a lot and be able to write better characters for us. If it's needed, advise us and invite black female writers onto your projects. It will be well worth it, not only for your black female characters but all of your characters.
It not only benefits you, but it also benefits the viewer and consumer as well. It allows them to see the world in which they live in from a different perspective. When you write fully developed black female characters, it allows them to see that all black females are not the same, as the media loves to portray. In large, it benefits the black female community as a whole. This should go without saying at this point, but representation matters. Black females, especially young ones, need to see themselves in all capacities.
Lest not forget, that at the end of the day, we're still women. We may be black and have experiences that solely reflect around our race and ethnicity, but we also just have experiences like any other women you know. Apply those experiences to your black female characters as well.
The part that makes it worse is when you only use black women as props to your other characters. Black women do not exist just to support your other characters. We have stories to tell as well. The character can be the lover and/or sidekick while telling their own story.
This also includes not sticking to the stereotypical strong black women. I'll admit that we have thick skin. The world in which we live in forces us to be that way.
We are also human. We have emotions, we feel things and sometimes we fall apart. Black female characters deserve the agency to be independent and dependent at the same time. Yes, we can do things on our own; but we also like help.
There is no greater feeling than receive help and not having to do it on our own. A lot of the times we do things on our own because we have to, not because we want to do it. Black women have no problem supporting and helping others. However, it's nice to receive the same support and help in return. Write your black female characters with the same things in mind. Let them be strong and independent, but vulnerable at the same time.
This year, I want you to take the time to reflect and think about the characters you've created and/or write for in whatever form of media. I want you to take the time to listen and learn from other black females. I want you to take time with your black female characters and develop them. This fellow black female writer wants to see you treat black female characters with care and respect. I want to be able to see black female characters that are more than the lover or the sidekick. Let her have her own story and aid to the main story.
Have a good new year and let's get to work on improving our writing, especially with our black female characters.