Why Walter Mosley Writes About Race

The best-selling author tells The Root that addressing issues that affect blacks is "a labor of love."

Walter Mosley (Marcia Wilson)

WM: You know, I haven’t thought about that yet. Certainly I need to see a woman in the White House, and I think she has all the experience one could possibly have to be president. More than most presidents have. But we have to wait until there’s an election to see who’s running and where she is in the vast panorama of things.

TR: Is there a particular reason you like setting so much of your work in the past, when things were a lot tougher for black Americans?

WM: It’s not really true that I do that. I go all over the place. A lot of my science fiction is in the future. A lot of what I write is in the present. I write about things that are happening and things that have happened.

TR: Do you think having diversity in terms of who is writing material for the stage makes a difference?

WM: I think that everybody should have a chance. Every person, every race, every gender, every age should have a chance. That’s not true in America, and it’s not true in the bastions of some of the most developed cultural institutions — opera, classical music, Broadway — and we need to do that.

TR: Why does it matter?

WM: It matters because this is America, and everybody is equal, supposedly has an equal chance.

TR: Do you think having diverse writers impacts what we see on the stage?

WM: That happens afterwards, but that’s not why I’m saying it. Because you could be a black person writing about Swedish history, so then I become a racist if I answer it in that way. That’s a racist answer, and I don’t want to do that. I think everybody deserves a chance. If they talk about their own people, great. If they talk about something else, just as great.

TR: August Wilson felt very strongly about having black directors direct his plays. Do you have an opinion on that issue?

WM: Do I have an opinion about August Wilson wanting African-American directors directing his plays? [Laughter.]

TR: Do you care about the race of who directs your plays?

WM: Not so much that I wouldn’t have a director of another race directing it, but I completely accept August’s argument for August, and if I never had black directors, that would upset me. But every once in a while, if I had a Puerto Rican or Egyptian or Chinese or even a white person now and again, that would be OK.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.