In writing Well Considered, how could I, a white man, hope to get into the mind and soul of a black man and describe how he thinks and feels? And how could I do the same with my other black characters? Isn’t that invasive and presumptuous.
Still, I had to try. My story revolves around a black man, Ron Watkins, and his neighbors, some of whom are white. I did not just want to just look at them from a distance—I wanted to see them from within.
Writing Well Considered was a challenge for me—a test to see if I really could understand the thoughts and feelings of people on the other side of the racial divide. In doing so, I had to pay close attention to what my African-American friends and acquaintances said, some of whom were friends in my small book discussion group. So I listened when they said, “Oh, we don’t do that,” referring to asking what someone does for a living as a means of getting acquainted. Their openers would revolve around, “where are you from?” “And we would never say…” this and that. Their comments were generalizations of course. People are individuals and cannot all be lumped together.
But there are cultural threads tying people together. My delving into the hearts and characters of black people had to be based on black history—slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, persecution by whites, powerlessness, and the endless distancing of whites from blacks through white flight and by simply turning each one into an “Invisible Man.”
In Well Considered, I also had to describe a mix of white characters with disparate beliefs—from white supremacist segregationists to liberal integrationists. I needed all of them to tell the story. And I could not shy away from my task. Literature should not be segregated into books for whites written by whites and books by blacks for blacks, and further subdivided into all the other races, nationalities, and religions. Can no writers see how people different from themselves think and act? Of course they can. Some do it better than others.
I did not know how well I could do. But I decided in writing Well Considered that I would just do the best I could and let readers judge for themselves the veracity of my characters. This week I was delighted to find that at least one reviewer, Robert Fleming from AALBC, an African-American literary website (http://aalbc.com/reviews/well_considered.html), found my effort successful. Fleming says, “Some critics have often said white authors cannot capture the soul and passion of African American characters, but that is not the case with Richard Morris’s aptly titled novel of race, hate, eugenics, and violence.”
Now it is time for you to judge it.