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Current PC words to describe different races

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I understand but I enjoy supporting African American authors ans illustrators. The bottom line is they need to sell books to get and keep their contracts. The statistics of publishing deals are sadly not diverse at all. Therfore I like to make sure publishers know their Black authors are in demand by being an informed consumer of kids books. I look for passion....not for PC.
#31 - February 15, 2015, 03:42 PM

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Thank you, Dionna. :) That's exactly how I feel, and I appreciate your thoughts.
#32 - February 15, 2015, 05:36 PM
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Well said, Dionna. I loved what Donna Jo Napoli said at a conference years ago ... you don't need to be Chinese to write about China. But you do need to be interested.

Vijaya
#33 - February 15, 2015, 06:23 PM
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I'm late to this thread, but here's my take, as an editor, for what it's worth:

I wouldn't be concerned about you being "politically correct." In fact, I wouldn't want you to be politically correct. I would want you to be authentic, for your characters, in their setting.

And the way for you to check on that is not to ask for opinions or information here, since as noted there are different usages in different regions, and among different classes, or varying depending on immigration status or education level. No, what I suggest you do is spend some time among teens like the teens in your story--and this is particularly important, since going by what you've said you don't seem to feel entirely in touch with teens. Go to the places they hang out, be that the mall, Starbucks, the library, church, or wherever, and eavesdrop as subtly as you can. Go to visit high schools, if you can. Interview some teens.... Get your friends with teens to let you talk to them.

Whatever you have to do! And this will not only help with THIS issue, but with other details you aren't even worrying about yet.
#34 - February 15, 2015, 07:10 PM
Harold Underdown

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Could you leave the terms out all together and perhaps simply refer to the differences in their languages, hair, eye, and skin color, and parents' background without using labels?

In the schools where I've worked here in VA, younger Kids rarely use terms....maybe by middle-school the terms become norm.

As mentioned in a previous post, many African-Americans refers to their families as black, but those same individuals will in a formal setting say African-American. Personally, knowing that the heritage of many blacks here in this country cover many countries besides Africa, I believe the term is limiting and sometimes prefer saying "a person of color".

(In one nonfiction ms, I used the term European-American and African-American to keep it consistent!)

An ethic title is hardly a label anymore than a surname or the name of a country. African American refers to natural American citizens descended form the African slave trade. It was designed by us, for us in an effort to fight oppression after being dictated to about what we should be called. If a person is not of this heritage then the term obviously does not apply to them. I have noticed many babyboomers say Black because they lived through the reappropriation of the term during the 60s and 70s. My parents protested uder the slogans Black Power etc. African American keeps a connection to our place of origin in a way that is flexible by embracing the whole continent while acknowledging our citizenship which was denied to us for generations.
#35 - February 16, 2015, 12:42 AM
« Last Edit: February 16, 2015, 12:43 AM by rae-pleasant »

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Good advice, Harold U!
#36 - February 16, 2015, 04:14 AM

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Harold, thanks for the thoughts.

I'm in touch with teens, but it's still good advice ;) I teach middle/high school students (and have for a long time) -- but I don't teach in Michigan, which is where these teens are from, so my real concern was more that I'd get it correct for that region of the country. Thankfully, I do have a good friend (and family) living in MI, and as this thread was started over 2 years ago, I've long since contacted them and asked.

My instinct was to simply use terms I've heard around here, and with a couple of minor exceptions, my instinct was correct. Also, back when I started this thread, concerns about "PC" were much greater (around here, at least), and it came up within my crit group (which pulls from all around the country) as they were reading through the book (as the terms I was using were different than what they'd heard in their different regions). I'm glad it's eased up, and I think most people are now more concerned with authenticity rather than "PC," which seems like a move in a good direction.
#37 - February 16, 2015, 10:32 AM
Robin
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Oh, I didn't even look at the date! I thought it was a current thread. I guess it came back up into visibility when the boards were re-organized, someone commented, and the discussion picked up.

Anyway, I'm glad you found a satisfying resolution!
#38 - February 16, 2015, 10:47 AM
Harold Underdown

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Thank you :)
#39 - February 16, 2015, 10:56 AM
Robin
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Indeed, it's all about being authentic to the context (geographic, socioeconomic, age, etc) of your story and its characters, not to be politically correct. I find it just as jarring and inauthentic when I read something that takes place in the antebellum South (just to cite a recent example) and somewhat anachronistically has someone with a very contemporary perspective on abolitionism (obviously there were people against slavery back then or we would still have it today, but the way it was handled was very much from a perspective of someone who lives today, not someone who lived back then) and I think even used the term "African American," when that was just not what would have been correct for the time. It was clear that the author was uncomfortable with the idea of appearing racist, but to write a revisionist version of history just to avoid feeling uncomfortable about the term "darkey" or something is as offensive as actually being racist. The author is not the character. A good writer is capable of writing something that is authentic to the context of the story without inserting their own views into the characters' mouths OR being assumed to be the character.

I digressed a little bit there, sorry. tl;dr authenticity over political correctness over erasing uncomfortable things, always.
#40 - February 16, 2015, 12:29 PM

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Indeed, it's all about being authentic to the context (geographic, socioeconomic, age, etc) of your story and its characters, not to be politically correct. I find it just as jarring and inauthentic when I read something that takes place in the antebellum South (just to cite a recent example) and somewhat anachronistically has someone with a very contemporary perspective on abolitionism (obviously there were people against slavery back then or we would still have it today, but the way it was handled was very much from a perspective of someone who lives today, not someone who lived back then) and I think even used the term "African American," when that was just not what would have been correct for the time. It was clear that the author was uncomfortable with the idea of appearing racist, but to write a revisionist version of history just to avoid feeling uncomfortable about the term "darkey" or something is as offensive as actually being racist. The author is not the character. A good writer is capable of writing something that is authentic to the context of the story without inserting their own views into the characters' mouths OR being assumed to be the character.

I digressed a little bit there, sorry. tl;dr authenticity over political correctness over erasing uncomfortable things, always.

:werd
#41 - February 16, 2015, 12:42 PM
Robin
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Well said, Hannah!  :flowers2
#42 - February 16, 2015, 01:05 PM

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I'm glad people are engaging in these diversity conversations with such vigor and nuance. It's a good and vitally important thing for us to do. There are many, many good points being made in this thread, and I'm going to specifically address rae-pleasant's comments about the importance of people telling their own stories. There is a way in which I think that's a separate conversation from the one taking place in this thread, which is explicitly about how to identify racial and ethnic heritage, but there's a way in which I think it's not separate at all, but inextricably related.

I happen to believe very strongly that we all have the right to create stories about characters whose identities and backgrounds differ from our own. I also happen to believe, with equal strength, that we all have the right to create stories about characters whose identities and backgrounds are rooted in our own. However, the latter is not, to come right out and say it, a right that we all currently experience with the same degree of fullness and satisfaction. The work of advancing diversity in children's literature so that it matches the actual reality of the world we live in involves both the books being published AND the people who create, publish, promote, distribute, and sell those books.

I don't think that means all of our conversations about diversity have to be conflated every time we discuss one aspect of diversity; I think there are plenty of times when we can and should focus on something resembling a single talking point, whether it's the word choices we make when writing about people of a certain racial background, or the ways we can support an illustrator or author who identifies as someone from an underrepresented community.

However, it's becoming clearer and clearer to me that different facets of the diversity dialogue are provoked in an astonishingly high number of ways. The mere mention of a certain word can spark painful, deeply internalized emotional connections for us. I'll say that "PC" is one of those terms for me, because my perception is that it's become something that's used to diminish and invalidate statements and beliefs about diversity. That's not at all what andracill was doing when she started this thread - her intent was clearly at the other end of the spectrum, and that's important to acknowledge. Still, the use of "PC" lights a little spark of agitation inside me anyway, because the backlog of attacking, devaluing ways in which I've seen and heard it used is that big, and that toxic.

I think there's enormous value and truth in all of the comments that have been made about portraying history accurately in order to portray the progression of change with equal accuracy, and making a fierce, uncompromising effort to prioritize authenticity over erasure of discomfort. And I think there's an equal amount of value and truth in rae-pleasant's assertion about the ability of (for example) African-American authors and illustrators to tell their own stories. It's entirely possible to say that assertion could or even should be broken out into its own discussion thread; it certainly does merit a long, honest conversation in its own right. But I understand how that assertion could be (and in fact was) provoked by a discussion like the one in this thread, and I don't want to have "maybe that's a different conversation" to be the only thing I say about it. I want to acknowledge its truth.

Rae, you're right. I don't know if this thread is the most effective starting point for that conversation, and I do agree with the entirely appropriate, respectfully stated rebuttals you're seeing here, but that doesn't make what you say any less valid, or any less true. You, I, and we absolutely are capable of telling our own stories. We all deserve to have that chance. There's reason to believe we're not all getting that chance, and that needs to change.
#43 - February 16, 2015, 03:28 PM

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Nice post, Mike. These conversations are difficult to keep "on topic" (that is, however the thread started!) because the issues are so entangled -- writing, reading, publishing, and identity in all its aspects. It's easy to trip up, whether because of emotional landmines, or just because we are actually holding different interwoven conversations.
#44 - February 16, 2015, 03:41 PM
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Yes, well said, Mike.

Also the first part of this conversation is over 2 years old, and then was recently resurrected, so it can be hard to keep to the original topic of the post.
#45 - February 16, 2015, 03:45 PM
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Thanks Kell, thanks Arty, and yes, I completely understand the need to stay on point in each thread - redirection and reorganization are certainly necessary sometimes. I saw what looked like an opportunity to acknowledge a thought that too often seems to get quashed, so, appropriately or not, I took it. :)
#46 - February 16, 2015, 03:46 PM

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It was definitely appropriate to state your thoughts and opinions, Mike. Thanks! Many of us on the Blueboard love a really good discussion and this is certainly a very interesting and revealing one. I'm loving hearing the different points of view and experiences coming through so loud and clear. It's extremely helpful to see the differences - and similarities - in each of us and in the ways we approach our stories.
#47 - February 16, 2015, 03:55 PM
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Echoing the others, Mike -- really well articulated.

I think that's exactly what's so helpful about having these dedicated diversity boards here, so that people can start new threads on separate topics, even when they overlap. We all know how easily a thread can take a new turn into a new discussion! And that's a great opportunity to start a specific thread on the new topic.

I'm glad you took the time to write such a thought-provoking post -- and also glad you know that this is the place for all points of view. No quashing allowed! (Unless you curse at me. If that happens, I'll cry, and quash you in effigy.  ;D )
#48 - February 16, 2015, 03:56 PM

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I do workshops with kids who come from many different ethnic backgrounds and for many of them, it is the first time they've seen a person of color who has written a story and had it published. They are inspired to tell their own. I have a wonderful book that I recently discovered called Writing a Life by Katherine Bomer, which is a great resource for the classroom (and for myself too).

Vijaya
#49 - February 16, 2015, 04:13 PM
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Good points, Mike. Thanks for sharing! :)
#50 - February 16, 2015, 04:19 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
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I thank you Mike for your comment. I did feel that I was exactly on topic...My point was clear that if you have to start a thread asking about 'PC' terms in a race or culture you don't even belong to are you coming to the table with enough pre-existing knowledge to write a book...for kids...about race....in the first place or should someone who has a bit of insight from living in that perspective take a whack at it in the meantime. Before asking yourself questions like PC...ask yourself why am I trying to write this story in the first place? What is my motivation? Who is my audience? What do I offer them in undertaking this project? What preexisting knowledge do I have or am I starting from scratch? Remember, you might have to go to a public school full of Black kids, for example, and talk about this book and about race. Are you ready to do that?

I work in museums as a day job and the same issues are happening there. I wanted to study a piece of Renaissance art at another museum so the curators and my former professors said to me...can you read 16thC Italian? What courses have you taken on the subject? Show me your writing samples related to the subject? Have you been to Italy to see this work in real life? i.e....what do you have as a foundation to begin this project. Yes, I can learn more things but what is my motivation and what is my foundation of knowledge. The truth was I wanted to study the cross-cultural representations of Africans in a specific piece of Renaissance art. I had the understanding of race relations of the time plus I have the ability to talk to general audience groups about race and they have the knowledge of 16thC Italian. Together we might be able to work through this research. Having the artistic understanding, historical knowledge and language skills will help guide an art historians insight, wisdom and interpretation of a work of art so I can present that topic to a general audience or academic audience. The same concept applies to children's books.
#51 - February 16, 2015, 05:09 PM

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My dinner was burning so I had to cut my post short. Such glam lives we lead (NOT). Anyway, I'm glad Mike took the time to address so many things relating to diversity. I'm not sure I even like the term itself because each of one of us is unique and for me that's what GREAT stories bring, in their very specificity, our shared humanity.

By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that the kids at school are exposed to a great variety of literature. From the classics to contemporary works. And authors from many different countries too. So they get to see how people from other cultures describe themselves. They've had wonderful discussions about how foreigners see them vs. they see themselves. I should mention they go to a small Catholic school that's like an extension of the family.

Vijaya
#52 - February 16, 2015, 05:22 PM
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 Very well said, Mike. Wow. And thanks, Rae, for sharing your insightful words.
#53 - February 16, 2015, 05:36 PM

Mike Jung

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Vijaya, I agree that "diversity" is an imperfect term. A pet peeve that I have to make a concerted effort to control is when "diverse" is used as a modifier for a single person, because really, it's not a descriptor that works for individuals. However, we need a way to discuss these things publicly and collectively, which means a common vocabulary that's comprehensible and accessible, so I beat back my irritation about phrases like "diverse author" or "diverse illustrator," because the purpose behind usage of that word is far more important than the way it irritates my grammatical sensibilities. :)
#54 - February 16, 2015, 05:41 PM

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Crossposted with Rae ... cool that you work in a museum! My family and I try to go once a year. It's such a big deal for us. A treat.

Goodnight all you wonderful people.
Vijaya
#55 - February 16, 2015, 06:16 PM
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Locking this particular thread as the initial question is three years old and has been more than adequately addressed for the OP. However, please feel free to start new threads on related topics for current discussion. It's good conversation!
#56 - February 17, 2015, 07:44 AM

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