Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Born To Be White: How Biracial Historical Heroes Reinforce The Status Quo

I was in the shower, thinking about how much I enjoyed KJ Charles’ Unfit to Print and its two POC leads, when I had a revelation about books I don’t enjoy so much. Why do half-Indian heroes in most historical romances continue to bother me so damn much? Not just because they don’t engage with biracial identity or transracial adoption or anything of that nature in any meaningful way, but also because they reinforce the relationship between white adjacency and white supremacy. When that hit me, I practically skidded across the tub from the force of the “duh!” The whole point of these sexy dukes and earls and generally wealthy hunks with tans is that they can move in white worlds. They “belong” in ballrooms, in clubs, in the House of Lords. It’s aspirational, inspirational. I mean, heavens, we wouldn’t want them otherwise, would we?

 It kind of reminds me of that scene in The Ten Commandments where Nefretiri comes to visit Moses in the mud pits (let’s linger, momentarily, on the irony of me citing a film where two white actors playing an Egyptian woman and a Jewish man, respectively). There is naked lust in her eyes. She doesn’t mind his reversal of fortune one bit, as it allows her to enjoy his sun-bronzed and dirt-speckled chest. But, ugh, one thing bugs her: “They may be your people, but do you have to wallow with them, smell like them?” she huffs of his choice to stay and toil with the enslaved people in Goshen. Do you have to smell like them? In other words: Be as diverse as you want, embrace your heritage…but it has to be in my world, where I’m comfortable. As long as it serves me and my sexual and political needs. As long as you can still be Prince of Egypt. Be who you are on my terms. Gee, why does that sound familiar?  

Because it’s everywhere in romantic fiction by white women. Because it’s everywhere in our world. People of color, people from marginalized communities, are only useful if they are tools to maintain the status quo. If they fit in with the white cishet ideal without making waves. So, heroes like the ones in Eloisa James’ Born to Be Wilde, Katharine Ashe’s In the Arms of a Marquess, and various books by Mary Jo Putney…they are basically the Regency Model Minority. The “good” brown men who fit right in, who don’t flaunt their Otherness, who never make white people question their whiteness. They don’t go to temple. They don’t associate with any other brown folks. They only speak English. They don’t smell like curry (but sandalwood is okay!), because they don’t eat it unless their white friends have expressed interest in Indian cuisine. They think wealth and social status are the great equalizer—and in most historical romances they certainly are: The whole reason that these male characters can marry white women and live happily ever after is because they are rich enough for their racial identity to matter just a little less. Money and power allows them access, acceptability…to assimilate, not integrate.  

Applied to our current political climate, that philosophy is even less romantic. All of these dudes would be pro-45 Republicans in the US and pro-Brexit Conservatives in the UK. That’s right. We’re talking Dinesh D’Souza, Ajit Pai, Shiva Ayyadurai. (Albeit much lighter skinned, of course.) Really sexy right? Are your loins afire yet? I’m sure this would horrify many white historical romance authors who consider themselves progressive feminists. But that’s what happens when you don’t engage intersectionally, when you only look at your decisions through a white lens. When you assume that hanging out exclusively with white people, in a white society, is what all POC must aspire to. You completely miss the damage of the model minority myth, of assimilation, of how desperately trying to pander to white supremacy has led to upheaval within communities of color.   

“They may be your people, but do you have to wallow with them, smell like them?”

Yeah. Yeah, we do. And it’s better than smelling like racist bullshit.  


  1. I’m thinking some of my readers might find a bit of this interesting. Do you mind if I post a clip from this and link back? Thanks 사설토토

  2. I have been searching to find a comfort or effective procedure to complete this process and I think this is the most suitable way to do it effectively. I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work. Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts. It should be noted that whilst ordering papers for sale at paper writing service, you can get unkind attitude. In case you feel that the bureau is trying to cheat you, don't buy term paper from it. 토블리보증업체

  3. I'm really loving the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility issues? A small number of my blog visitors have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Chrome. Do you have any tips to help fix this problem? I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work. I would also motivate just about every person to save this web page for any favorite assistance to assist posted the appearance. 토토사이트코드

  4. Howdy! I'm grinding away surfing around your blog from my new apple iphone! Simply needed to say I love perusing your blog and anticipate every one of your posts! Keep up the remarkable work!| I simply needed to foster a short note to thank you for the entirety of the incredible strategies you are composing here. My long web query has now been compensated with acceptable understanding to discuss with my companions and colleagues. I 'd say that the majority of us guests are amazingly honored to abide in an eminent spot with numerous unique people with supportive ideas. I feel very fortunate to have utilized your site and anticipate a lot of more fun occasions perusing here. Much obliged to you again for a great deal of things. Woah! I'm truly adoring the layout/subject of this blog. It's straightforward, yet successful. A great deal of times it's exceptionally hard to get that wonderful equilibrium" between heavenly ease of use and appearance. I should say you have worked really hard with this. Also, the blog stacks very quick for me on Chrome. Heavenly Blog! 토토사이트

  5. Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article. Greetings to each one, it's really a particular for me to visit this website page, it comprises of helpful Information. Just pure brilliance from you here. I have never expected something less than this from you and you have not disappointed me at all. I suppose you will keep the quality work going on. This is a wonderful article, Given so much info in it, These type of articles keeps the users interest in the website, and keep on sharing more ... good luck. Thanks a lot for one’s intriguing write-up. It’s actually exceptional. Searching ahead for this sort of revisions. 블랙가입가능 토토사이트

  6. I am impressed. I don't think Ivey buddys. I am self-possessed they determination be benefited from this scene. 메이저사이트