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Getting Racist


Still at it! I finished a couple more chapters of Belongingness yesterday and sent them off to Melanie. She had set up a scene where my guy showed his racist side, so I followed up.

It isn’t easy to write about intentional meanness. Yes, there are bad guys out there, and they mean harm. But I have trouble getting inside them. Could I write from the POV of, say, Stephen Miller (yeah, that guy), planning a policy that separates the children of asylum seekers from their parents on purpose? I don’t think so. Intentional cruelty is like intentional sentimentality or intentional horror – I can’t write about it with conviction. I’ll either get mad (in the Stephen Miller scenario) or roll my eyes and giggle (in a scenario where I try to write The Fault In Our Stars or It).

What I can do – without working very hard, almost naturally – is write about the kind of meanness that comes from inattention and ignorance. I can get inside the head of the guy that doesn’t know what he’s saying. Indeed, I spend a lot of my time in that guy’s head.

Seriously, I wrote a scene where my hero, Cody, is puzzled by something Autumn's dad says to him. Remember, Autumn's family is Indigenous. “How …” Cody asks. “How? I mean … how?”


I wrote that straight. Only when my editor asked about Cody’s dated racist trope did I see what I had done. You may wonder how I could be so blind/deaf/stupid/unaware. I don’t know. But it seems I can.


Now I don’t know whether to keep the bit, or if it’s too on the nose. I’ll listen to Melanie.

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Richard Scrimger | scrimgerr@gmail.com | Toronto, ON, Canada