Son | Brother | Writer | Editor | Consultant
...what makes your characters Black?"
I had just moved to Los Angeles so I did the most L.A. thing any aspiring writer can do – I took a screenwriting class. I was well into the development of my story about a Black suburban family when my instructor halted me.
“What makes your characters Black?” He asked.
“Their race does,” I said in my Captain Obvious voice.
“No, like, what are the characteristics that make them Black.”
My instructor explained that I needed to create qualities (see stereotypes) that made it clear my subjects were Black. Otherwise, Hollywood would airbrush them into white people. He wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t right either. In rejecting my characters, he was rejecting me and reinforcing my “otherness” to my classmates. Damn. Not even fiction can escape institutional racism.
Well, I finished the screenplay, Black roles intact. It never sold – but neither did I.