“What color are your ideas?” or “Are we just too damn sensitive?”

“What color are your ideas?” by GREER MACALLISTER


“The old chestnut “write what you know” is well-worn advice for improving the believability of your fiction, but is it more than that? How comfortable should you be basing your next book on a culture, gender, sexuality, race, class or other background that isn’t yours? This question flared up well beyond the writing community this summer when HBO announced that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, showrunners of the incredibly successful (and soon to end) Game of Thrones, are developing a series called Confederate – which “takes place in an alternate timeline… in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

The outcry was immediate. Two white writers taking on an exploration of one of history’s greatest atrocities against black people didn’t sit well with a lot of potential viewers, including writer Roxane Gay, who addressed it with an op-ed piece in the New York Times called “I Don’t Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction.” She wrote, “Each time I see a reimagining of the Civil War that largely replicates what actually happened, I wonder why people are expending the energy to imagine that slavery continues to thrive when we are still dealing with the vestiges of slavery in very tangible ways.”

Honestly, I was intrigued with the idea of an alternate timeline where the South won and slavery had evolved into our time. What IS the difference between white writers writing this or black writers? I think the potential content embedded with conflict from both perspectives can be enlightening, thought provoking, as well as entertaining.

We are a society who thinks nothing of our fellow humans and only of immediate satisfaction. We are a mentally selfish society, steeped heavily in technology. A society that, 8 years ago, saw promise in racial relations, but in this recent year, found the strife that separated us as human beings and labeled us as colors. Why not explore this type of thought?

What’s the difference of imagining the world favoring the dinosaurs and not humans? Gender role reversal? If the Nazis had won? Think about it – while you still have the freedom to do so.

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