The View From My Brain
Gee, I don’t know how to research writing Characters of Color tastefully:

missturdle:

1.) It’s not hard to figure out what to do, there are plenty of resources.

People say you have to get it right, do your research, but … what else are you supposed to research? It’s not like people with more pigment in their skin have completely different personalities than those with less, any more than any individual. It’s frustrating when I can’t even figure out what the heck people are talking about.

Bam. Research step one done for you.


2.) Writing characters of color/minorities is a good thing.

I don’t like the notion that fantasy authors are under some kind of obligation to present ethnically diverse worlds. I’m English, and a fair sized part of English history consists of unwashed beardy white people in mead halls. If I’m inspired by my own history and cultural heritage, then that’s what I’m damn well going to write about. I’m not writing about some other culture just to appease the people who think there aren’t enough black characters in fantasy, or whatever. You want it, you write it. Nothing to do with me.

You’re wrong.


3.) Your all White Fantasy Land Didn’t Exist in Real Life:

…the rather medieval one has more diversity than real medieval Germany probably had […] In a world with medieval means of transport, it just doesn’t seem natural to me to mix dark-skinned people with blue-eyed blondes in one setting. I just try to give the people a colour that fits the place where they live.

You mean like the people from Africa and the Middle east who began to take over Southern Spain, as well as the Jews who were pretty well spread out throughout Europe, the Middle Easterners they would have met on the Crusades, and the incoming Mongol Hordes who spread to the very edges of Eastern Europe before the empire finally collapsed? Don’t forget that Turkey is right there, and the silk road would have gone from Song Dynasty China, through India, and ended in Turkey before moving further westwards into places like Germany. Also the attempts at the Franco-Mongol alliance would have been pretty interesting. (That’s about the 13th century - arguably smack dab in Middle Ages Europe and definite contact between France/Christian Europe and the Mongolian Empire.)

Unless you’re writing everything in the far reaches of Denmark or something, historically speaking, I call bullshit on people who have societies that are only all white ever, because it’s just inaccurate. Consider the relative closeness of Northern Africa to Spain, or Turkey to the rest of Europe, the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Crusades, Slavery existing in Europe, including England, the slave trade, imperialism, Pax Mongolica, The Silk Road, Jewish Diaspora, the Islamic Empire vs The Holy Roman Empire, Egypt, Algeria, China’s sailing across the world, The Maruyan/Gupta Empires of India, tea trades, Columbus sailing in hopes of finding China, etc, etc, etc.


4.) I mean I just don’t believe you anymore. It’s unrealistic. Seriously guys.

You’d think I’d just denied the holocaust or something. Get a grip. All I said was that I’m going to write about my own cultural experience and anyone who thinks I should do otherwise for the sake of political correctness can bugger off.

This isn’t even about being PC this is just not being wrong about everything.

good lord.

This is a terrific set of resources. If I ever do manage to write that book I intend to, these will come in very handy. And to add to the research bits. It’s not actually that hard to find information online.

Warning: info-dump coming up.

I just want to add a bit of historical knowledge about the “far reaches of Denmark”, some of which is my own background knowledge, some of which is stuff I’ve found with a few quick google searches.

As far back as the Stone Age - which is considerable BEFORE the middle ages or medieval times as you might call it - the Danes traded with people from the Mediterranean lands. How do we know this? Because stone was moved between those places. Danish flint has been found in Norway (and that, too, is a long way away - if Denmark are “the far reaches” what the hell is Norway?), and Danish amber has been found around the Mediterranean. In the Bronze Age metal was imported from the South into these far reaches of Denmark.

And now we reach the Middle Ages. Digs at Haithabu, Ribe and other Viking Age and Medieval towns show that the Danes at this time traded not just with what is now Germany, Sweden and Norway, the Danes sailed to the British Isles and traded there. They sailed the Baltic Sea and up the rivers of Russia. They traded with most of Europe. How do we know this? Because some of the coins found in the dig sites I mentioned up above are Arabic and Roman in origin.

Sure, the population density when it comes to people of colour will definitely have been less in the Scandinavian countries in those days, but to pretend that nobody even knew of the existence of people of colour is disingenuous.

If I recall correctly the first Christian missionaries started doing their thing in the North somewhere around 6-700 AD. The most famous of them in Denmark was Ansgar in the 800s. This is not even the late Middle Ages. It’s the early Middle Ages. And Christianity came from a place largely populated with people of colour. It has since been white-washed to a ridiculous degree, but you can bet your arses that people knew of non-white people up here back then.

Oh, did I mention how the politics in Northern Europe in the later Middle Ages were actually quite aware of how things were going around the Mediterranean? How people from up here did actually also join the Crusades and go to Jerusalem? How people up here joined holy orders of one kind or the other and went on pilgrimages? How they brought back knowledge and new friends? How they sometimes also brought slaves back with them? Yes, this goes far back.

So anyway, yes, if you want to write something that’s 100% white you need to not only set it in Scandinavia, the history of which most of the English-speaking world is surprisingly ignorant about considering the fetishism of our Mythologies that’s going around (Thor, anyone?), you also need to actively ignore the history of the Scandinavian countries. Not that that should be difficult, considering aforementioned ignorance.

So anyway, I realize that the “far reaches of Denmark” was a quip about how far you’d need to go to have a realistic all-white ‘world’. The thing is, on this planet I can’t actually think of a place that’d be far enough away from everything else to justify it at all. Not even Denmark in the Bronze Age.

And if you go further North into Sweden, Norway and Finland you’ll end up bumping into the Nomadic peoples of the North, who had/have connections Eastwards into Sibiria and have never been considered white by white supremacists. Heading to the islands of Iceland and Greenland? Don’t make me laugh. Though Greenland is still part of the Danish monarchy, let’s not pretend that its people are considered white Danes by any means. The racism that Inuit peoples are met with here in Denmark, which ought to count as their own country, makes it not their own country at all. And guess how long the people of Iceland and Greenland have been known to the Danes due to sea travel? That’s right. Since the Viking Age/early Middle Ages.

tl;dr

There’s no way to use History as an argument against inclusion of people of colour. Not even in the stereotypically white-washed and white-fetishized Scandinavia.