Inspired by Binyavanga Wainaina’s article “How to Write about Africa,” The Oreo Experience presents a handful of tips on how to write about not Africans, but African Americans. (Please, please do read Mr. Wainaina’s article. Excellent, sound advice there.) There are many similarities, but a few key differences.
Find a way to incorporate “soul,” “color,” “brother” or “dark” into your title or subhead. This will immediately clue your readers into the fact that this article is about someone of color. You need to let people know that awkward material is on the horizon. Bonus points if you can work some sort of ghetto/urban/ebonics into your title, too!
Never write about middle to upper middle class African Americans. Your audience will recognize that this can’t possibly be the experience of RPB and it will ring false.
Keep it down, low. Whether you’re writing about rising unemployment and continued high poverty, how the recession is hitting blacks harder than others, the burden felt by pioneers, higher levels of diabetes or HIV, or food deserts in of color communities, remember, no one should be smiling by the time they get to your end paragraph. Articles about doctors doing amazing things, academics rising to great heights
and well-to-do families adopting kids really need to focus off of of colors in order to ring true.
And as important as it is to write this way, Oreos, it’s important to keep reading, too. If you’re not sure why you’re fighting the Oreo fight, click on any of those links in Tip #3 and you’ll be back on the self-loathing track in no time!
Be sure to check back in next week when we discuss how to cast an actor of color in your film or television show!