I’m often asked for tips on how to respectfully depict Black people, or how to write from their point of view. Because something about my marshmallow complexion evidently screams that I’m a jackpot of insider information on Black culture.
However, I appreciate that my followers want to learn – that’s something we all need to do! So I decided the time has come to compile a masterpost on sources from real Black people, so you can get your information right from the source.
More to come, and happy writing!
25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers
10 Must-Read Books by Iconic Black Authors
12 Unputdownable Books by Black Authors
15 Black Writers We Should All be Reading
Black Enterprise – a website for Black entrepreneurship.
For Harriet – an online community celebrating Black women through history and storytelling.
Tea & Breakfast – a Black-focused website bringing you the latest in news and entertainment.
Ebony – a highly respected resource for Black news, entertainment, and lifestyle content.
Clutch Magazine – a mixture of news and editorial pieces.
7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know
100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating For People of Color
This is What it Feels Like to be Black in White Spaces
Growing Up Black in America
Tips From Followers
I’m inviting all my Black followers to offer tips on authentic, respectful depictions of Black characters and culture. If you have something you’d like non-Black authors to know, please message me and chime in!
I’m mixed race- black and white, and I think its important to mention the cultural closeness; a lot of black mothers are very overprotective, and restricting. Hair is important. A lot of my childhood memories had to do with my mom braiding my hair, or straightening it.
Here’s a bit too much information about me, which I’d very much appreciate if you kept anonymous: I am an Afro Latina, my grandma moved from Honduras to Ny when she was 15 and so my entire dad’s half of the family speaks Spanish (except me and my cousins lol). They’re all dark-medium skin like me, so when they speak Spanish it tends to surprise ppl, but they take pride in that. My dad grew up in Harlem during the crack epidemic and he saw a lot of people die, including his cousin who was shot in the head in front of him when he was about 8. He has a lot of unchecked mental problems bc of this and tends to lash out when he’s frustrated, tired, or guilty. His dad was also a rolling stone and unsupportive, so my dad tries very hard to be a better, more supportive father for better or worse.
My father met my mother when they were in college through a mutual friend. They were together for a year before they had me. They never got married. My mother’s family is what we’d call a bit bougie, so they didn’t take too kindly to this. They never outright disowned her, but a lot of the time they treat her like a black sheep. They’re a very “whisper-behind-your-back, never-confront-until-ur-drunk at-the-family-reunion” family. My mom and dad were together on and off for 23 years. Whenever my dad hurt my mom (never physically but still) and she had the means to, she would take me in the middle of the night and run to a shelter or friend. This happened about 5 times, each time my mother came back after about a half a year.
I have anxiety depression and add but great empathy, so a lot of the time I can understand what people are feeling but not why (basically I have no self awareness). I am an English senior that lives on tumblr. I am also very reserved but I’d like think I’m kind, if a tad childish. I love rpgs, marvel, and making characters but I have perpetual writers block. I also draw all over my notebooks. I’m not good with my hair though (an offense) and I used to be called an Oreo (white on the inside) in school, but I’m really just have always been a huge nerd.
I also have a baby brother who I love and pick on constantly even if I’m at a dorm. I’m very protective over him and we’re nine years apart so I tend to feel equal parts caretaker and big sister. I am very close to my family, especially my mom, who I talk to almost every day. I am always tired, sometimes to the point of not eating at all, even as I write this I am in bed. However, I love shopping and walking to seven different stores around town, even just to window shop, is how I spend some days off. Like my mom’s half, I’m pretty non-confrontational, but I’m quiet and don’t like to gossip, so my friends and family tend to confide in me a lot. But I’m pretty closed off, so I don’t tend to share myself. I am bisexual but I don’t want to talk about that, bc I’m still not sure. I don’t like to touch people or have people touch me unless I’m close to them.
My half sister is also bisexual, as well as a preschool teacher and a single mom with two adorable girls. I don’t get to see them often bc we always lived in different states. She is a very sweet lady but is very no nonsense, and will be the first to step up if someone’s in trouble. I also have a half brother, who is mildly autistic. We live in different states too, but I never see him because my father didn’t treat him right when we were younger, bc he was “soft”. He is currently living with his mom and writing a GOT-esque epic, which he is excited to tell people about.
A Writing Account From a POC
Loving to read is a bit of a double edged sword. I love the stories, the worlds they depict, and most of all, the characters. But sometimes, I find myself disappointed that most of my favorite characters in my favorite novels are not POC (person/people of color). And if they are, they are depicted as stereotypes. And as a POC and a writer, there are ways to change that. Here are a few tips.
POC are FRIENDS, not FOOD
Now I love chocolate. I love coffee. However, if I read someone describing my skin color as the color of a cappuccino, I wouldn’t be to thrilled. Saying, “Her skin was like sweet milk chocolate, the kind you remember begging your mom for through a candy store window.” I imagine would be the equivalent of saying, “Her skin was so milky white, I could imagine dipping an oreo into it.” Ew.
Not all African Americans live in the poorest part of the city
Not all African Americans are poor and underprivileged. Some of us have gone to private schools, have parents with well off jobs, and live pretty comfortably. That being said, that is not the case for all of us. So if you want to depict your character that way, just make sure you do it respectfully, and not in a way that you would cringe reading at it you were in their place.
Don’t take advantage of our history
African American history is filled with hatred and oppression. That does NOT MEAN THAT IT CAN BE EXPLOITED FOR A STORY. By all means, mention how awful it was, but do not use it to make other characters and or readers feel sorry for your character. We may want you to feel sorry, but more than anything we want you to understand that what happened was horrible and that it isn’t okay to use it any way you want.
So, yeah. Just respect POC. Even though you probably can’t imagine being in our position, be sympathetic, the same way you would want to be treated if you were being stereotyped.
If you have any other questions about depicting POC’s and want to ask a writer who is POC, I’m happy to help!
About the Author
Brooksie C. Fontaine was accepted into college at fifteen and graduate school at nineteen.