One famous example [of white people believing that whiteness should be the default in television] is SLIMED! An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age author Mathew Klickstein’s comment about current Nickelodeon show Sanjay and Craig: “That show is awkward because there’s actually no reason for that character to be Indian,” as if a character needs a particular reason to justify a lack of whiteness. Klickstein goes on to state that characters should only deviate from whiteness if the show is about ethnicity: “I think that it does the culture a disservice. If I were Indian or Jewish, for example, and watched something where the characters are Jewish or supposed to be, and if it’s not specific to that, then I start to wonder, ‘Why are they doing this?’ It becomes blackface.” Because, obviously, everything Indian or Jewish people do relates specifically to that identity. I don’t blog: I JEWBLOG. I don’t sleep: I JEWSLEEP. I don’t have adventures: I have JEWVENTURES. And if your work includes Indian or Jewish people, but is not specifically about being Indian or Jewish, it’s racist. Yeah, OK. ::eyeroll::
This resonated with me.
For a long time, I only wrote stories about white people. I was like, I am an American, I can write about white people and about Indians, and I don’t mind writing about Indians, but I’ll do it when I have a reason.
Then, mostly as a result of people complaining about race on the Internet, I changed my position. I decided that from now on my protagonists would be Indian-American unless there was a reason for them not to be. Yeah. Nothing more to say about it really. My protagonists don’t have anything universal to say about Indian-American-ness. Nor do I see myself as inspiring other Indians or providing an example to them. I don’t know if the world needs my Indian protagonists. I have no opinion on that. However, I’m Indian. And there’s no reason why the protags of my stories shouldn’t be Indian. For me, Indian is the default.