Let’s Talk Black: Authors And Typecasting

I don’t read novels much. I prefer to learn what’s going on in society more than sitting down with a book. The articles and novels I read are both forms of fiction, but in different ways.

Fiction novels, like fantasies, create entire worlds with powers and gifts, but they’re still based in reality. Characters think like humans, have real emotional problems, or there’s societal issues that need to be addressed.

In journalism, the problems are real, but newscasters are infamous for manipulating the truth to sound more interesting. Fox Network tells viewers what they want you to know all the time.

The only real difference between the two: Bad authors think that when they have a minority character, they must fit a certain stereotype.

Just like most films, African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Indians are never casted in major roles. When they are on screen or in a novel, they fit into a stereotypical box.

It’s fine if you don’t want to write about a minority character. But what digs under my skin is when authors have a minority character speaking slang and they adjust their writing to fit the ‘proper dialect’.

Why can’t minorities just talk? I don’t mind minorities using phrases that fit their cultures, such as, ‘that’s what’s up’, ‘aye’, ‘papa’, ‘man’, or ‘dummy tight’. But I hate seeing a ‘g’ missing from ‘ing’ or spelling changes like, “dats wuz up dawg.”

Why?

If you build the character well enough in the reader’s mind, you don’t have to show their language through speech. Journalist know better, but writers, for some damn reason, often take liberties with this. For example, in an interview with Allen Iverson, he said:

It’s just like any other game. I’m used to the attention that I get defensively now. It’s ten years and it’s been the same way virtually every year. It’s no different. It’s not a defense that I haven’t seen since I’ve been out here. I just play my regular game. But they did a great job, as I said, overall. They did a good job on my early, and by the time I got it together it was too late.

Have you ever heard Allen Iverson speak? He definitely doesn’t sound this professional. Here’s an interview with the real Allen:

Let me translate that for you the way a bad author would:

Anybody te’ you dat  I miss pratize… If…if…if…if a coach say I miss praticde and ya’ll hear it den dat’s that. I mean, I mighta missed one pratize dis yea’. But dif someboday say, ‘he doesn’t come ta pratize, it can be one pratize…

You think I’m exaggerating, but I’ve really seen this type of language in writing. Why would you give this to me? What these authors don’t realize is this broken language destroys the reader’s pace. Solution: just write the language in proper form. Then tell us,

His words sound slurred like the a drunken hobo. But he’s not drunk, possibly high, but not drunk. Allen’s the type of guy that couldn’t enunciate a word if his life depended on it. The way the media’s judging him, his life does depend on it.

With the proper background information, there wouldn’t be any confusion about how he speaks. For example,

Allen Iverson was raised in one of the worst neighborhoods in America. He has tattoos on his arms and neck and still hangs with many gang members. His speech is often slurred and difficult to understand.

Do this and you’ll never have to adjust the language yourself–your readers will do it on their own.

So what? Maybe that’s just how you want things done.

It’s your style. Fine. Stick with it. I’m not saying change who you are, but I want writers to know that you don’t have to write the slang into the text. If you’re not a minority and you’re rarely around the type of character you’re writing about, you risk offending a group of people. No to mention, you could write something corny.

I once read a novel that said something similar to:

“Aye yo gurl. Why you trippin’ like that?”

Do you know how offensive that sounds? That’s how some blacks spoke in the 90’s. If you listen to new Hip-Hop artist, you’d realize that they sound a lot more professional, but still have that “hood” pop in their speech.

You need to know that blacks are actually speaking properly, in some instances, but we talk fast and slur our words. It’s like how Latinos speak Spanish quickly. When you learn their language in Spanish class, you realize you can’t hold a real conversation with a native because you’re conjugating everything perfectly and pronouncing the words too much.

Instead of the “Aye yo gurl,” you could easily say, “Are you serious? What you going through?”

Everything is spelled properly and you don’t have to shorten anything. It’s more natural and it’s something my people would actually say.

This is already a long post and we’re far away from getting to the root of this problem so I’ll create a part two for this later, but I want writers to stop making every minority so tactfully annoying. There’s more than one shade of black out there. That goes for yellows, reds, and browns as well.

 

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Black: Authors And Typecasting

  1. Loved the post. You explained this better than I can by far. its like folks do not want to accept that “different” doesn’t mean “less than” or “bad” or anything other different. Different is neither intrinsically good nor intrinsically bad. Its people’s attitudes about different that perpetuates this garbage.

    Classic case in point and I love to use the example of the Tuskegee Airmen, was that even to this day, most folks don’t realize that the 332FG (Fighter Group) was tantamount to an All-Pro NFL Team. But because of stereotypes, bigotry, ignorance, and just plain evil, they were considered to be “inferior” for no other reason then “being different” Which of course sounded a hell of a lot like the Axis who were at war with over those very principles supposedly.

    They were the cream of the crop. The best of the best. Engineers, professional pilots, teachers, musicians. Some of the finest minds and bravest and instinctive pilots this country was ever fortunate enough to be defended by.

    1. Thanks for that comment. People ignore so much history from all of America–specifically the areas it’s shaded specific colors. We’re one of the only countries that don’t acknowledge slag, ebonics and spanglish, as an official dialects. That segment of our language have specific forms and rules that are complex and beautiful. Writers that attempt to add them into their novel only look foolish by making simple grammatical mistakes in the language.

      But back to your point, it is important to embrace different an include cultures in the media.

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