I am reading a mystery series. Or at least finished the first book in the series. Now, I’m going to start this by saying I enjoyed the book a LOT. I’ve been reading a lot of “mainstream” mysteries of late because they keep my brain engaged and I’m writing an urban fantasy so there won’t be any “voice leak” into what I’m scribbling down.
I mean I really was enjoying the book, reading along and liking the construct of the main character when a single phrase kind of brought me to a screeching halt…
“…skin stained a dark brown…”
This was used to describe a person of colour, someone of East Asian descent.
I’m not going to go on an outraged rant about this. Instead, I want to have a discussion. Because people can’t seem to grasp the concept of talking on social media so I’m stating this clear and loud at the beginning of this. Because stuff like this is complex in some ways… but simple in others.
I will continue to read the series. I like the author’s phrasing and work. Do I think an editor should have flagged this word? Yeah. Do I think anyone actually saw it? See, that’s the question… do you see the words? Do you hear yourself say the things you say? Do you see the ripples they cause? Do you care?
I am going to assume it was a word flourish that was simply used. No malevolent intent just… a word. But it kind of says a lot to someone who might not be that “default” because stained has some burdens behind it. From being dirty to altered from its natural state.
My own skin colour changes often. My base is definitely darker than porcelain and if I’m in direct sun for more than half an hour, I can kiss my foundation level goodbye. I have been driving up the SoCal coast and said to my passengers, “If we don’t make a left turn soon, my left arm’s going to be five shades darker than my right.”
But I never thought of myself as stained. And neither do I want to. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they were stained away from a pure colour or dirtied because of their skin tone.
So, I will definitely watch the words I choose and ask my editors to do so as well. Small shifts mean a great deal to acceptance and tolerance. As does talking about it.