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Racial Stereotypes in Literature

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I was on Goodreads and another member posted a thread about this and it got me thinking exactly how true it is and how many of us do this. When you read a book and your introduced to the characters, do you naturally assume they’re white? Unless your told otherwise such as certain details and an actual race or even certain region, but what does your mind tell you? If your not white do you assume the character to be the same race as yourself? I mean no disrespect nor am I meaning this as racism, just merely a wonder of perspective of how people see certain characters in their books or books they’ve read without valid descriptions. You pick up a book with a person on the cover, the person is white; do you assume this person to be the main character? Do you assume that the person in the book your introduced to is suppose to resemble that of the image on the front? If your like me chances are sometimes you do just this. Your mind has already fixed on the idea that this is suppose to be portray the character and as you read the description your even more sold on the thought. Does this make us wrong? I don’t believe so, in fact I think it’s something a lot of people do without really even realizing it sometimes. So to let the main fact be known here, unless we read and are told other wise we just think the character is just like us.

Aside from what we assume and what we read how many of us think the main character is the same race as that of an author? Say the author is African-American or Indian, how many of us then believe the character is of the same race simply because the author is of that race? Again it’s not racism it’s just our minds thinking and putting the facts we’ve come up with together. Perhaps it’s a better idea to read into the details and personal descriptions of a character and then decide how we think they look rather then assuming right off the bat but again better said then done. In a book I am currently reading the main character is African-American. The author is also African-American however at first I didn’t really make the connection as it never occurred to me as to what race the character was. Before my mind got to decide the character was described as being that of African-American. This goes to show that we don’t always make guesses for the race of characters and sometimes we should wait it out a bit before deciding because there’s a good chance we will read up about it. To me, race has no affiliation or basis as to how a story is going to go and why should it? That would clearly be stereotyping and that’s not quite something anyone wants to do. It should be pointed out however that if a certain scenario or geographical region is described then are we once again assuming that people act as according to the two?


When a reader picks up a book and begins reading they are at most times going in not knowing what to expect. This is to say that if they did know what to expect and knew the description of the characters they would then know if the characters were of a certain race. This is merely a statement stating the fact that in most cases other then this, racial stereotyping is generally the idea going into reading a book. What classifies stereotyping? According to Webster’s dictionary, Stereotyping is a conventional opinion or belief; a mental printing plate. This means we assume what we think to be true based off events or because we naturally and generally think it to be so. Sorry to sound philosophical there but in blatant terms, we create our own assumptions and it is because of this that when it comes to books in most cases we all at times tend to come off a bit in the racial stereotyping department. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you don’t make it public about your beliefs of what you believe or in the most obvious not to come off as racist. There is a difference between the two and nothing is wrong with believing something to a point but again being stereotypical is good and not being racist and does not mean to offend.

The next time you pick up a book and your really into it and have not been properly introduced to the characters take a step back and think to yourself. Don’t make assumptions and keep reading or look at the details and take in all you’ve already and then make a decision as to who you think the character is. Also it is definitely worth noting that it doesn’t matter what race a character is whatsoever. It is just a curious notion when reading as to how to compare a character, hat you in your mind picture a character to look like to what the character actually looks like. Another thing that’s create about reading is that you can know full well what a character looks like and what their race is but you can still have your own idea of the character. Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t it’s really for whatever reason a reader choices to believe. Racial stereotypes may not be the essential but they do seem to be the norm from time to time and we do find ourselves doing it again from time to time. These words are not and were never meant to be offensive in any way just a mere look of analysis of how people tend to think when it comes to certain parts of reading a book. The next time a character you really like is making quite an impression on you and you also wonder think what they look like and who they are remember that it doesn’t matter one way or the other.