A couple days ago I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix and grumbling to my husband about how there are barely any non-white characters on the show. This came after a scene where a black man was depicted unloading a van and then gets eaten by Dracula (double whammy of a person of color depicted in manual labor and then being instantly killed off). And I had a very uncomfortable realization. In the WIP I'm editing now (my second book), I don't really have any significant non-white characters either.
I sat there thinking, "Wait - can that be right?" And it pretty much was. I had one fairly minor Asian character, but that's it. Now, I've grown up (thankfully) in a non-prejudiced family. My grandmother was one of the few white teachers who volunteered to work in integrated schools when they were first mandated in the 1950s, and my mother is famous for making a gift to NAACP in honor of her extremely racist in-laws during her first marriage. I am a huge promoter of diversity of all kinds.
Recently the HBO show Girls, which is fairly new and exploding in popularity, was called out for the same thing. The creator, writer and main character Lena Dunham had to admit that she had made her show with an almost entirely white cast of characters as well. And when you look at it, a lot of the TV, movies, books, magazine pictures, etc. have mostly white people depicted. What disturbs me about this, as evidenced by my own writing, is that even for people who consider themselves fans of diversity, we can sometimes slip into white-centric thinking unconsciously.
So, for the WIP in question I've gone back and reevaluated my main characters and made sure that there is diversity in the mix. And it's something I'm going to have to be conscious of in my writing from now on. They say to write what you know - but just because I'm about as white as you can get, other than a little Native American blood, I don't want to "write white" (and I frankly think that piece of writing advice is not the greatest anyways). Diversity is beautiful, and our writing can only be better by sharing it.
What about you? If you take a good, hard look at your cast of characters, what do you see? I know I'm not the only one, based on a ton of the books I've read. I'd love to hear your opinions below.