How do you handle the elephant in the room?

I wrote recently advising you not to be like Basil Fawlty when choosing a career. https://johnharveymurray.co.uk/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=123

I thought of him again this week, when I was in a discussion about how to handle race and religion in fiction.  It seems as if almost anything can give offence to people who are easily offended. (This includes white people who overreact on behalf of ethnic minorities.  Moves to ban Christian images from Christmas did not come from Moslems or Hindus.)

Yet avoiding the subject of race or religion seems wrong.  Not that it is the theme of the book, but there are lots of people in our country of diverse origins.  To have all the characters as white British would make the setting seem unreal.  But to bring in black or Asian characters and not have anybody mention the most obvious fact about them would seem like ignoring the elephant in the room. Like the ‘don’t mention the War’ sketch.

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Stop pretending you’re an elephant!

So what to do?  I have tried to bring in some examples of different, but, I hope, equally realistic reactions.  Some friendly banter among friends, (at one stage, an Asian woman and a white Welshwoman compare suntans)  some serious discussion of how someone had been wrongly labelled a racist by the press, someone making bad jokes about somebody’s colour and an encounter with some racist yobs.  I think all these scenarios are to be found in real life.  Some are based on incidents I have witnessed.

I hope readers of whatever background will appreciate these elements in the story without being offended.

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