A couple days ago, I read a blog post by Malinda Lo on Diversity in YA that really struck a ... something with me, about whether or not a white person could write from the perspective of a POC (person of color).
For the record, I'm about as un-diverse as it gets. In fact, the only way I could be less diverse is if I were male. A straight, white, physically-able female American with northern European heritage. If I were to stretch myself I could admit that a few years ago, I really struggled with an anxiety disorder (OCD, to be precise), and knowing the nature of the disease, I likely will deal with it again during my lifetime. But right now, it's mostly under control and I can't even claim mental illness as a struggle in my daily life.
I was, however, gifted with: empathy, a strong moral compass, and a VERY vivid imagination.
I have never experienced blatant prejudice directed at me. At least, not that I can recall. It's never ruined a day in my life. There's no lack of characters in books and movies that are like me. There aren't laws preventing me from living my life, being who I want to be, loving the one I love. I realize I'm lucky this is the case. But I also appreciate how unfair it would be to live in that world. How frustrating, how maddening, how scary. How defeating. I have seen it affect friends and strangers, and been infuriated by news articles of beatings/ murders, and the passing of discriminatory laws.
As a result of that empathy, even lacking personal experience, I have very strong opinions on diversity and the importance that there be more of it in the media we consume. My hope is that someday we won't HAVE to have strong opinions, because it won't be an issue. People are people are people, and the sooner we all realize that and get on board, the better.
Prejudice comes, I think, from the fear of the unknown. Therefore, the best way to combat it is to take away the mystery. Exposure makes things less scary. The more people see/ hear/ read about/ LEARN about diversity, the less fear there will be.
So even though I'm a straight white girl, I write books with diverse characters. I hate that it feels a little like I shouldn't, like I can't possibly understand. Because it's true-- I will never 100% get it. For all I know, my characters are way off the mark. But if I don't try-- if I'm too afraid to try-- I will never grow, never learn more than I know, never be part of the solution, just part of the problem.
I stand by my characters in the hope that someday, someone will learn something, be a little less afraid because of me.