Some of you may know that I've been writing fiction for the past several years. One of my manuscripts, The R Word, is about to be published by my friend, Debbie Capeci, who's started a small independent house called Morning Joy Media. Over the years that I've been working on The R Word, I've been fortunate enough to receive critique from several different sources. Here are some of the major concerns people have shared with me:
"The main character, Rachel, seems too sheltered to be a modern teenager."
"There should be sex in the novel. All teenagers have sex."
"The black characters don't seem black enough."
"It's not racist enough. Someone should use the N-word."
But this next one has been the most curious to me:
"It's too racist. No one behaves that way any more. Surely the election of President Obama shows that we're past all this."
You'll have to read the novel to decide for yourself what you think (and I hope you will!), but the idea that racism is a thing of the past is a hard one to argue against. True, we've come a long way in this country since the days of The Civil Rights Movement. However, I believe that both individual and structural racism still exist. Just the other day a friend who is black told me how the local police were watching their house because there were a lot of family members coming in and out, due to an illness in the family. They'd been alerted by a "concerned" neighbor. This happened just last month, not 40 years ago. And I think the film maker Davis Guggenheim does a pretty good job of pointing out structural inequities that still exist, caused by the legacy of racism, in his new documentary, "Waiting for 'Superman.'" The film is an indictment of our American educational system and isn't specifically about race. But it makes the racial inequities of the public school system pretty hard to ignore. Catch it if you can and let me know what you think.
More on The R Word later.