Chomping at the Bit Wondering: Where have All the Black Vampires Gone?

I have been watching True Blood since it premiered, unlike some of the legions of never-see-come-sees out there and while I have never read a single Charlaine Harris book yet—surprisingly. I have skimmed them in a book store and I do think that I would enjoy them very much. About as much or even more than I enjoy the shows which are very entertaining. I also watched and enjoyed all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so go figure that I would jump at the creation of a new vampire show.

I may not be at all Gothic and stuff but I do love imaginative story-lines and great characters. Ok, and I might be slightly, admittedly emo too. I’ve come to that realization. In a way that a quirky black West Indian feminist with a bit too much internal angst can be—without the requisite Hot Topic staples, dark clothes and strangulated countenance. Alas, but I do love me some black eyeliner. I know I have too much boobies and ass to be emo, swivel too much when I walk apparently and have an affinity for most variations of hot pink. But the whole emotionality thing? So got that.

Someone in my program is an emerging black science fiction writer who writes science-fiction set the Caribbean (uh-huh, you bes’ believe it!) and she and I were having a short discussion one day about the necessity of such writers. She made a point, to which I whole-heartedly agreed, that if you create an imaginative alternative realm and/or universe and black people are not there, then you are sending a problematic message. So where the heck are we huh? Keeping in mind that half the fun I imagine, of such creative endeavors is that you the writer, has sole autonomy over this world, you create who is in it, of it, how they speak, what they look like, how they communicate etc. The fantastical worlds in which some writers find themselves creating, obviously reflect their own positionality in life. And if they’re white, well…

Increasingly though, I think that it’s necessary for writers to be cognizant of the world and the characters that they are creating, however mythical the range of what said world may be. Even if they don’t, as a reader/follower of their books and/or television programs, it’s interesting to see what the representations of characters say to me or about people that look like me. J.K. Rowling obviously got that memo. Harry Potter is sprinkled with stock characters that reflect a semblance of diversity of characters and this makes sense. Characters like Cho Chung, Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, Kingsley Shacklebolt and the Patel sisters do just that. They’re in London for one, quite a diverse European city; all the wizards couldn’t be white (added to the fact that the whole pure-blood and mud-blood angle would have be less effective otherwise and be read as way more problematic).

For sure, these stock characters are not nuanced in any way that makes them particularly remarkable “authentic” representations of people of color (so to speak) but then again, it’s not that kind of book, nor is Rowling seemingly that kind of writer. And we are not provided with any information about these characters’ backgrounds to safely make those assumptions about where their cultural and ethnic allegiances lie, BUT it’s clear that they have been strategically placed to lend a layer of diversity in the wizarding world. I was (and still am) excited that they are at least, there.

Which again, makes sense, mainly because unlike vampires, wizards in Rowling’s world are born and not made. So it’s to be expected that a wide range of persons could conceivably be born with wizarding traits. Bloodsuckers on the other hand pose a different conundrum. I have the same concern with Interview with a Vampire, which I read a long time ago, as well as the film, which is set in an entirely different era which makes the absence of black vampires understandable to a greater extent.

So, while I don’t know who made the first vampire, (literally not like, creatively) though it crossed my mind while writing this piece but generally speaking, it seems like white vampires make other white vampires, so who makes black vampires? In a fantastical world where the undead are running amok, would I be intrinsically safer then, since no one would be clamoring to sink their fangs into a dark chocolate-colored neck? Presuming of course that all the vampires are white. Not vampire violence, I’m wondering, would a white vampire want to make me one of them?

I have no doubt that in such a town, I’d be just as fearful of vampire violence as the blond-haired damsel would. But would I have to worry about becoming one myself? In all of Sunnydale, I never once saw any black vampires battling Buffy in large numbers, least of all independently as a nemesis. I was excited though to see the black slayer Kendra: bad pseudo-West Indian accent and all, appearing in one story-line. So while black characters and any characters of color are great within a certain framework. I think in fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy and sci-fi—all these places are instances where you’d think, it would be really easy to insert some complexity of racial representation. But it doesn’t seem to happen as much as you would think.

On top of which, vampires, especially the 21st century kind ones in True Blood seem to be involved in a kind of selective breeding program. Actually, vampires have always been kind of picky about who they let into the club-house when you think about it. They can be snooty as hell. It’s like an elite club. In “Bon Temps” where True Blood is set, no one’s making you a vampire just because. I mean, Lafayette practically offered himself to Eric on a bloody platter (granted in exchange for his life) and he was refused. Still, Eric is King Snooty and he might have had other concerns (Temporarily damaged leg. Lafayette’s also dealt drugs and presumably done some as well. It can’t be anything else. And no one is too flamboyant to be a vampire. (Don’t buy that).

But I think it’s fascinating that in a southern American town, we have seen no recurring black vampires at Fangtasia or elsewhere. (Something else that’s fascinating about Lafayette are the ways in which his character reinscribes black masculinity and unsettles the very construct at the same time. He’s bad-ass, dark skinned, out, engages in gay sex with white vamps, he will kick yours or anyone else’s ass if necessary, no ifs, ands or buts about it. And he will do so with eye-shadow).  

Heaven knows, if I was a bloodsucker, I’d want Lafayette inside my nest with his smart, funny, expertly wearing false-eyelashes self. Interestingly too, mythic literary interpretations of vampires clearly show how even when vampires attack to feed, there is a large component of desirablilty underscoring their choices. Most of all, this is seen in how they strategically decide who they choose to be “maker” of. Vampires will surely attack to kill indiscriminately and this may be coupled with feeding but they can also choose to prey on people who are appealing, or attractive to them for some reason and no other. Thus they kill and change people who look like them or appeal to them, (in personality, virtues or lack thereof, qualities etc.) in order to make them join the community, for a reason. Still, vamps by default are white, even though there are many different kinds of people in the world—all pumped full of blood, ready to be alighted upon.

[And anyway, on a sidenote, reasons black people will make good vampires include: 1. some of us are deathly fearful of the sun anyway and 2. melanin means we age excellently, so imagine what a dose of immortality might add 3. we’d probably be better vampires because of said melanin, as in not exploding into a sun-fueled fireball as quickly or as easily 4. we throw great parties (imagine the fang club now) 5. we’re innovative and resourceful (even with limited resources) and will help vamps to trick out their sleeping lairs like never seen before. No one will have to sleep in a decrepit crypt, devoid of personality anymore.] 

So far, in the television series, no one has even tried to seriously turn Tara and she’s a main black character, cavorting all over Bon Temps all hours of the night with all these bloodsuckers all over the town. Keep in mind, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know what’s explored within the books by Harris (who is white) but I think, that maybe a nest of black vampires existing in Bon Temps would have been a fascinating added layer and why not? I know we’re in the south but someone has to have made a black vampire, right? True Blood also has this great way of layering real world issues inside fangtastical ones and parodying them in clever, creative ways which adds to the smartness of the storylines.

Like vampires “coming out the coffin,” with the sexuality issues for the rest of society, or social alienation with depression and other mental health concerns, vampire rights with civil rights, the drug “V” and the fight against the proliferation of highly addictive narcotics. The notion of race in a Southern town, already touched on ever so slightly in parts of the first season, could have added a whole other dimension to a vampiric world, already riddled with outside-world issues. Added to which, vampires have all but solved the nature vs. nurture question which Godric and other conscientious vampires wrestle with constantly. But no one sees race.  Are nests just segregated or something?

I am pretty certain that there is no end of black people who are possibly happy that it’s only ‘crazy white people’ running around biting people. And, why is that? Hmmmm. If there’s a fun, dark and creepy, fantasy world being created and I am of this world, then I want to be in that one dammit! Though vampires can beat the odds at life, provided they stay away from wooden stakes, sunlight, silver, fires and rabid members of Fellowship of the Sun church, they clearly haven’t beat the social and racial odds at life. Their community and by extension, the people that they choose to extend invitations to (willingly or otherwise) reflect the real world biases that the undead are yet to transcend. Seriously though, our colors may be different but I’m pretty sure all blood taste the same. Bite that.

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26 Responses to “Chomping at the Bit Wondering: Where have All the Black Vampires Gone?”

  1. Diana Laurence Says:

    Ah, a fellow eyeliner lover! Yes, Lafayette would make a great vampire, and no, I can’t explain the lack of black immortals. Makes no particular sense to me. And kudos on an absolutely brilliant post.

    It may console you to know that one of the “stars” of my upcoming book “How to Catch and Keep a Vampire: A Step-by-Step Guide to Loving the Bad and the Beautiful” (Sellers Publishing) is a black vampire named Colin. He was born in Jamaica in the late 1700s, the child of African slaves on a coffee plantation, and was turned when he was 26. He took the name Colin much later in life, in the 1980s, when he started working on his doctoral dissertation on vampires in literature at Oxford. He’s a brilliant guy and a superb Jamaican cook. And also, of course, very sexy.

    Colin and his cohorts will hit stores worldwide in October, and I hope to see more “vampires of color” (which is absolutely not an oxymoron) like him popping up in books, movies, and TV.

    Diana Laurence

  2. soyluv Says:

    oh wow! thank you diana, for that great information. colin sounds to die for! (pun intended) 🙂 i’ll be looking out for your book for sure. that’s some exciting stuff to hear about––makes me so psyched to read it. and thank-you for the kudos. thanks to people like YOU, black vamps are seriously getting shown some love!

  3. Diana Laurence Says:

    Excellent pun, my dear! Thanks so much for your kind words. And the pleasure is all mine. I’m glad Andy contacted you too about getting you a copy of the book! I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think!

  4. soyluv Says:

    will do! i’ll be sure to let you know and do a write-up on it. once again, how very exciting. i’ll relish the opportunity!

  5. Macca Hanson Says:

    Great post Soy Milk! Concerning the issues, have you seen The Underworld movies? The director/creator is black and used the movie to highlight the tensions involved with interracial dating in America. [re: lycans (black); vampires (white); and hybrids (mixed). Why is the vampire mostly always considered white? I don’t know but consider this, when last have you eaten a steak rare? We, black people, GENERALLY prefer no blood at all…rare or medium rare. I could very well see a black vampire boiling the blood before consuming it! In The Underworld, the lycans didn’t really ‘drink’ the blood- they just bit and scraped (to kill).

    That book by Ms. Laurence seems interesting. I have always been fascinated by mythical stories like vampires, werewolves, gods, angels and demons. I am Christian for the most part but see these stories as sci fi/fantasy. Especially upon watching The Underworld movies, I wanted to be a lycan 😛 Whether they are true or not, is an issue for another time. Regardless, that book idea is excellent and I would hope that the Maroons played some role in the storyline. [300 was a decent movie based on a great book but what of the Maroons? They fought just as well as an Spartan army]. It would be interesting to see the direction such a character (Jamaican vampire, doctoral student) would take. Already, I am seeing more of a cultured being- more cunning instead of grit; more passive than aggressive. Jamaicans tend to be the most aggressive humans on earth- from personal experience (thanks pops!), so to have such a character too ‘cultured’, one can possibly lose authenticity.

    Just random thoughts.

    Regards
    Macca

    • Sarah Says:

      I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but Len Wiseman was the director/creative force behind the Underworld movies, and he is white.

      • soyluv Says:

        thanks for your comment. I didn’t know that fact but it’s not surprising. not too many filmmakers of color about the place and I need to check that film out.

  6. soyluv Says:

    hey macca! noooo i haven’t seen the underworld movies but they sound like i just might surely enjoy ’em! definitely will be looking those up now. thanks for that and for coming by. yay! good point about that whole notion of black people and blood…hmm…interesting angle to consider too. kinda makes me wanna think about it more. and yes, colin seems very cultured in description but as a vampire, i have no doubt that he never loses his bite (so to speak :-D) or aggressiveness. i’ll be doing a post on what i think of him and the text in which he arises too. it’s been a fun read thus far and i’m enjoying it. do come back again sometime!

  7. Tam Says:

    Great post! I have been a vampire lover since I was young and got my hands on one of my mother’s Anne Rice books. I too have wondered about the lack of black and other ethnic groups of vampires. I agree with what you said in the post, most writers create an imaginary world that matches what their world is or how they would like it to be. If a writer is white and doesn’t experience much else when it comes to different groups of people then it isn’t surprising that their imaginary world is mainly white.

    As far as the True Blood books go, I have read 7 of them and none of the descriptions in the book lead me to feel as if any of the main characters are black. Not to mention, in the book I really got the impression that Tara was white. She doesn’t play nearly as big of a role in the books as she does in the show so I think the creator of the show decided to highlight her character and make her black. Good decision on the part of the show creator.

    • Sarah Says:

      People tend to write from personal experience. Charlaine Harris is a white woman who lives in the South. For her to create Bon Temps, a small Louisiana town, and make all Sookie’s friends multi-racial, is not likely realistic to her experience. There are a few black characters on the periphery in Bon Temps, but it isn’t until Sookie gets out in the world that there is more variety in the race of the characters, vampires included. There can’t be a nest of black vampires in Bon Temps, do you know how small Bon Temps is? Bill is the only vampire who lives there. There are several vampires who live in Shreveport, and according to the books they range from Asian, Indian, Native American, African American, Irish, and on and on. Charlaine Harris makes a genuine attempt not to “white-wash” her world, but the fact is: she will write from personal experience.

      You are right, Tara is white in the books and has a much smaller part, but so do most of the other characters. Many characters were changed and expanded to free up the story arc in the TV show from being solely Sookie-centered. However, Lafayette was black in the books, and so is Kenya, a police deputy, as well as many supporting characters and vampires.

      • soyluv Says:

        thanks for commenting Sarah! I haven’t read the books yet, so all the insight of what’s explored therein is good to know! Hmmm..I only mentioned a nest of black vampires to throw out there as a possible angle to inject them into the story-line of the tv series because the vampire community in a small Southern could [and would] conceivably be segregated i presume–IF there were any vampires of color in any numbers to speak of in the first place. So that is what I imagine it would be like. I wasn’t implying that a nest of black vampires just get stuck into the mix just cause I said so–just considering a way that it could be done if they were there. They’d have to be THERE for a nest to exist and they’re not. And you’re possibly right, Bon Temps may be too small for that. I was just imagining. I just don’t see them a lot in the show. And if and when they are, as people have pointed out to me–they clearly made no impression on me and/or I’ve missed them completely.

    • soyluv Says:

      thanks for your input Tam! I really need to get into the books when I get a chance…

  8. Laura Gill Says:

    Diane in Season 1 was a black vampire. She was part of a vampire nest along with Malcolm and Liam, and died with them when their nest was torched.

  9. dina Says:

    Great article. I too would like to see what the black vamps are doing.

    Cannot wait to read that book.

  10. Kristie Y Says:

    Hello I just read your artilce and i enjoyed it, I stumbled across it because it was linked to a website i go to which deals with the series TRUE BLOOD and the SVM books by Charlaine Harris, it is called Loving True Blood in Dallas. As for the black vampires, they come up in some of the books or stories out there but are not usually on the front line. I know that the series True Blood had a black vampire in season 1, her name was Diane and she had a history with Bill Compton. Also, In the Twilight series there is a black vampire his name is Laurent and he is in 2 the first two books. Neither vampire mentions who their makers were. I know i have read about a few others but right off of the top of my head i cannot think of the books names, if I remember which books or series i will let you know . I will look foward to reading the book mention above by Diana Laurence

    • soyluv Says:

      thanks for your feedback Kristie! I have only read the 1st book in Twilight and haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know much about the series. Not even sure when I’ll finish reading ’em…my next aim will be to plunge into the Vampire Huntress series by Leslie Esdaile Banks that I’ve heard about online—when I get a chance. Do let me know if you come across anything else and thanks again!

      • soyluv Says:

        ok I also wanted to ammend to this and say that I am currently reading [yikes!] New Moon right now and Laurent is described by Bella as having “pallid skin” (p. 235) & “black hair” (235). I don’t think he’s black at ALL even though the role might have been cast that way in the movie for some racial variety as there seems to be no black people in Forks that Bella ever encounters that we know of. Oh well. But Stephanie Meyer’s a Mormon writing about vampires. Go figure.

  11. Lafayette Says:

    There are many black vamps in the True Blood/ Sookie world. Diane Bill’s ex ho and Lamar the King, yez hookuh’s I said king, of california to name a few.

    http://www.fanpop.com/spots/true-blood/videos/6767304/title/vampire-king-lamar

  12. soyluv Says:

    thanks for that bit lafayette! king of cali huh? sweet! can’t wait to hear and learn more!

  13. on catching vampires… « creative commess Says:

    […] kind enough to send me a copy of How to Catch and keep a Vampire late last year upon discovering my previous vampire musings and I’ve finally got around to posting on it. First off, let me say that I plowed through this […]

  14. Monika Says:

    I want to read that science fiction set in the Caribbean.

    Can it be a mixture of Star Trek TNG and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow? Please?

  15. 2010 in review « creative commess Says:

    […] Chomping at the Bit Wondering: Where have All the Black Vampires Gone? August 2009 25 comments 5 […]

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