This study examines contemporary novels written by white authors and the Black characters they produce. Often cross-racial narratives, or narratives where the writer and characters are from different races, can present problematic portrayals of Black characters in particular. Though it is possible through careful research and practice to provide a respectful portrayal of Black characters, it is difficult. Through critical analysis of the novels The Help, Mudbound, and The Secret life of Bees there are clear patterns where portrayals of Black characters are harmful. These patterns are discussed in length while contrasted with the novel Underground Airlines, considered by Black critics to be a good example of a cross-racial text. This study reflects the need for people, especially white people, to be more critical in the literature and media that we produce and consume. It is easy to say one is against racism and committed to more diversity, but it is harder to actually produce work that doesn’t uphold racist systems. Through my presentation I will argue that it is possible for a white writer to produce a respectful representation of black characters, but only through immense research and understanding of the limitations being white puts on a writer.
Miriam White is a Louisville, Kentucky native, but has come to call Winston-Salem home over the last four years. She has focused her education on reading and writing as widely as possible to further enrich her studies and herself as a person. Her ultimate professional dream is to be a full time author writing novels that focus on fantasy with diverse casts of characters. Until she can take this on full time, she is focused on editing novels and using her power to make the publishing world more diverse. She also hopes to advocate for novels that center college age and post grad protagonists, a sector she sees a huge gap in. Miriam looks forward to venturing into the publishing world after graduation, but is happy knowing Salem will always welcome her home.