Why is Race a Big Deal?

Question:

Your books are so great!

I was wondering about, not exactly wondering  but was surprised, that whenever a character is not caucasian, it is a really big deal.
Like when Lester stars talking about Tracy, he says she is African-American, everyone stoops chewing. Why? Why does it matter?
Or Gwen’s race is mentioned almost every time she is there- this is not true of anyone who is white, but it seems if the character is not Caucasian, their kin coler is always being talked about. Or for another example, when Alice goes to Camp Overlook, the first thing mentioned is the color of everyones kin, I do understand that that was part of the plot, them all being a bit racist, but it didn’t seem necessary to list everyones skin color first off.
I really don’t mean to be critical, and I love, love, love, your books, it was just something that confused me.
Thanks for writing!
 
Phyllis replied:
 
You make an excellent point.  The reason is that I’m mentioning it for readers new to the series.  And I tell them because sometimes writers are criticized for not having multi-racial characters in their books.  Also, in case a producer is reading the book with an eye to making it into a movie, I would like them to know how I view each character, even though they often change things around.  It’s important to me that Liz has fair skin and very dark hair, that Alice has a few freckles and burns easily, etc.  So it seems equally important that they know that Gwen is African-American.

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