January 30, 2021

Is A White Woman Allowed To Write About Issues Chiefly Affecting Someone Who’s Black?

Carol McKay

Short StoryIn UK Now,

As a white Scottish woman, is it acceptable for me to write fiction from the point of view of a character who’s black?

I could be accused of cultural appropriation over my acclaimed story ‘In UK Now’.

It’s written from the perspective of a traumatised Eritrean refugee resettled in a tower block in urban Scotland. Noora’s (fictional) life experience is vastly different from mine, though we walk the same streets, catch the same buses, go to the same shops. She has a young daughter and is facing a decision that’s a massive culture clash, especially now she’s living in the UK.

As a writer whose work is always issue-driven and socially conscious, this is important ground for me. But am I permitted to write about it from her point of view? Or is that cultural appropriation? Have I the right to imagine myself in a BAME woman’s skin? I researched the subject thoroughly prior to writing this story and aimed to present the dilemma facing this character in a way that would lead the reader to empathise and seriously consider the issue from her position.

It’s essential for an open society that artists are permitted to explore others’ lives.