A couple days ago, I read a post on Twitter in which a writer mentioned that he deliberately did not specify his characters’ race/ethnicity because he wanted all readers to be able to identify with them.
I’ve heard this before from other writers, including prominent ones. It’s a problem.
If a story depicts someone who leaves their own home and interacts with others in public spaces (in other words, almost any novel ever written) but never or almost never has to consider their racial identity, THAT CHARACTER IS WHITE. This could even serve as a reasonable definition of ‘white privilege’: Only those of the dominant culture have that incredible luxury.
A POC can never go outside their own home or family circle without thinking about their racial identity in some way. The trigger is not always malicious or even negative, but it is inescapable. A POC’s racial identity IS NOT THEIR SOLE DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC–but in society, it is *always* a consideration.
So if story setting is proto ‘western world,’ and a character’s racial identity never comes up? They’re not ‘race neutral.’