representation as an illustrator

okay so this is a real and serious question that I would ask of the ‘writing with colour’ tumblr only their askbox is not open. I have read through many many archives and I’m kind of stumped.

I am aware that the idea of being ‘historically accurate’ is a disastrous and racist reason to write stories with all white characters. 

Most responses I can find on the internet that deal with this basically say:

“The world wasn’t white up until some random point when suddenly PoC appeared. Look at history. See that, in fact, the world was always diverse.” 

Which is true and good.

What makes me nervous (as an illustrator who has limited control over the story but also wants to ensure I portray a diverse world) is the fear that I might erase the racism of the past. 

I know that the first Indigenous Australian police officer (in the regular Australian police) was Colin Dillon in 1965. So, if I have an Indigenous police officer in the 1940s in Australia, that’s historically inaccurate. And that worries me because I feel that I would be pretending that Australia’s history is better than it actually is. I don’t want to minimise the very recent and very severe issues that Indigenous Australians faced. (also: ongoing but that’s not the point right now.) I don’t want to pretend that the police forces of Australia have been shining enlightened beacons of equality when in reality they’ve been racist af. But I also don’t want to show a world where everyone (or in this case 5/6 of the main characters and all of the named characters) is white.

(I have no information on any other racial diversity within Australian police forces within the 1940s despite many hours of googling.)

But I guess the main point is not specific to this story but a general one I am sure I am going to come across in the future as well:

When illustrating historical fiction how important is reality when it comes to racial diversity? When there are organisations that were Very Definitely White (such that (eg) the first Indigenous member was a big deal), is it trivialising the racism of the past to make characters of those organisations non-white?

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