So naturally, I have been thinking about portraying a character who is a different race than myself and also not white (this is the default race, no matter how you look at it). Ever since Zetta Elliott (African-American author of A Wish After Midnight) wrote a guest post for Justine Larbalestier's (author of Liar and How to Train Your Fairy) blog, which at some point included the sentence, "Mostly, I just wish white authors would leave people of color alone." I am taking this out of context massively, but no matter which way you slice it, this sentence was included. You can read the full post here if you so desire, and be aware, that I am not in complete agreement with the opinions expressed. Justine also said this: "I frequently wish non-Australians would not write about Australians or Australia because they so often get it wrong." This is only a wish. She's not for censorship, but nevertheless, her views on writing what you know have been verbalized.
Even though I think this is an unfortunate opinion to have, opinions like these make me worry about my inclusion of a character who is not of my own race. My book is not making any kind of political/moral/societal commentary on race. Terra happens to be black. That's the way she came out in my head, so what? Justine and Zetta would say that I should do some serious research to make sure I'm not "writing her wrong," but come on, seriously. How am I supposed to go about doing research on "mannerisms and culture of black people" without making that sound and BE essentially racist? Even if that wasn't clearly racist, if I did do research on that subject, I'd be writing a caricature of a black person and not a real, unique individual. I guess this means I'm going to write her like I'm going to write her. That's the best I can do.
Have you written a character outside of your race? Were you nervous about it?